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.


The ChordPro text for that (fake) song is:

{title: What's The Chord?}
{subtitle: Listen to the song and fill-in the chord diagrams}

{define__? frets 0 0 0 0 fingers 0 0 0 0}
{define___ frets 0 0 0 0 fingers 0 0 0 0}
{define1:___ frets 0 0 0 0}
{define2:___ frets 0 0 0 0}
{define3:___ frets 0 0 0 0}

Sweet roll [__?]powder carrot cake [___] pudding [___]tiramisu!
Tootsie roll biscuit chocolate bar [___]sugar plum danish
Apple pie [1:___]candy canes [2:___]lollipop jelly.[3:___]

(love Cupcake Ipsums)

We can name our chords whatever we wish: here we want some “fill in the blank” spaces so we may opt for just underscores (“____” or “____?”) or numbered blanks (“1:___”) as long as we include chord definitions for them somewhere (we can omit the “finger” information — fingers are always ignored on the zero-th fret/nutte).

To spruce it up I’ve chosen the “Jelly Beans” theme (you can change themes from under the “Appearance” menu — it’s the bottom-most item)

Another option is to provide the chord names and have the students draw the diagrams. To do this we’ll just override the program’s built-in definitions.

draw the missing chord diagrams

Here’s that song’s markup:

{title: Popular Chord!s!}
{subtitle: Draw the diagrams for these 5 popular chords}

{define: C frets 0 0 0 0}
{define: F frets 0 0 0 0}
{define: G frets 0 0 0 0}
{define: Am frets 0 0 0 0}
{define: Bb frets 0 0 0 0}

[F]Bonbon, I love [C]gingerbread & [G]marzipan
I [Am]love carrot [G]cake.
Candy [Bb]ice cream [C]powder oat [G]cake
[Am]Tiramisu jelly [F]beans [G]sweet dessert!

One more option is to hide the big diagrams and show empty grids just above our lyrics like this:

Draw the chord: tiny diagrams above lyrics (kid's uke lessons)

(Both options are under the Appearance menu: “Don’t Show Reference Diagrams” and “Names & Diagrams Above”)

I am quite envious of those kids in Charisse’s club. Such the clever trick, methinks. And it took about 4 minutes.

Made my day that she’s doing this. Much thanks!

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