10
Feb 14

Teaching Kids The Ukulele: UkeGeeks In The Classroom

Sometimes one really can’t see the forest for the trees, especially if you’re the park ranger. Take, for example, this awesome idea from grade-school-uke-club-organizer-extraordinaire Charisse:

“I host (volunteer) a ukulele club at my kids’ school.  I’m teaching 3-5th graders how to play ukulele and I find myself making lots of song sheets for them. [I plan to] “trick” the chord maker into printing blank chord pics above the lyrics. It’s been a good learning tool for the kids to have to write in the fingering for the chords, but my handwritten diagrams are so messy.”

OK, that’s awesome! And turns out it’s easily done. Here’s how.

whats-the-chord-kids-ukulele-exercise

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11
Sep 13

Using the Visual Chord Builder

One area that’s always dogged the UkeGeeks song editor (aka “Song-a-Matic”) has been custom chords. Until now the only way you’ve been able to define your own chords has been by hand typing klunky ChordPro “define” tags. Sure, it gets the job done, but who can remember the syntax? (trust me on this, I’ve the memory of a gnat and am always referring back to the documentation).

Chord-Builder-Editor-Overview

  1. Chord Name. Should match the chord names you’ve used within your song [ChordName]
  2. Add Dots. Pick this tool to draw dots on the fretboard. Clicking on an existing dot deletes it.
  3. Set Fingers. Pick this tool to add the recommended finger to an existing dot. 1 to 4 correspond to index through pinkie finger. Repeat clicking a dot removes the finger number from that dot. Click the tool to cycle through the fingers. The “zero finger” removes finger numbers.
  4. Starting Fret. The number of the first fret on the diagram.
  5. Slide Up. Moves all dots “up” (towards the top of the diagram) by one fret.
  6. Slide Down. Moves all dots “down” by one fret (towards the bottom of the diagram)
  7. Chord Diagram. This is your drawing surface. Click with either the Dot or the Finger tool.
  8. ChordPro Define Tag. This is the chord definition statement that will be added to your song.

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05
Nov 12

“Chord Magic” – Unleash Your Fretboard with Four Chord Shapes

Following the break at Saturday’s Pluckin’ Strummers we got a quickie lesson that made my head spin by dint of its simple, power-packed awesomeness: namely, that you only need to learn four shapes to play every major chord!

I’d already experienced the fun of “moveable” (or “closed”) chord shapes and though I’d picked up some patterns they were mostly a random set of awkward finger poses. Now, however, they suddenly made sense!

Read this article: “Ukulele Chord Magic”!

(yes, it’s on a site for renting a Kauai vacation home, but isn’t that all the more reason to respect how well done the lesson is?)

Here’s your executive summary: Each chord “family” — Major, Minor, 7th, Augmented, whatever, it makes no difference — has only FOUR chord shapes!

Yup.

Four major chord shapes. Four minor, etc. All you need to practice is moving them up and down the fretboard.

Spicing up a song with alternative chord “voicings” is suddenly easy.

(Note: If you don’t recognize a few of them (like your “G” major) remember that Major chords are, by definition, only three notes (the “why’s” and “how’s” of chord construction and theory are beyond me, and thankfully, irrelevant for playing them). This means that since the uke has four strings we’re doubling up on one note. Sometimes we’re lucky and can choose a simplified fingering, giving our fingers a break while still covering the three required notes. So we have options. That’s why the “G” chord shape is, to my original eyeballing, unrecognizable as being identical to the F#’s, but it is!)

Anyway, invest the fifteen minutes. Pour a coffee and settle into “Ukulele Chord Magic”!

(Note #2: Why begin with “seventh chords”? Because, while you might want to begin with the majors, the spacing on the seventh chords is clearer and better illustrates the technique and its simplicity. I discovered this while making the colorized diagrams shown above.)

(Last Note: the diagrams show the standard 12-frets found on soprano ukuleles — your tenor uke has substantially more, so you just keep repeating the patterns!)