Learning Project

Decisions, Decisions...What to learn for my Major Project

After some careful thought about what I wanted to learn for my major project for Ecmp355, I've come to the decision that I want to learn how to play the Ukulele.  There is actually an interesting back story as to why I've chosen to learn how to play this instrument, so pull up a chair, grab a nice beverage and read on.
During my internship this past semester I created a class blog for my students and their first blogging task was to blog a response to the following question: "In our world today peace is wanted by most people of the world, yet it appears to be such a rare commodity. Why is this? If so many people want peace, why don’t we have it?" I was really impressed with my students because I read so many wonderful and thought provoking responses on each one of their blogs. However, there was one response that  the whole class seemed to like the best, not because of what the student wrote, but because of the video they posted to go along with their response.  The particular student described peace and what a peaceful world could be like using the song "Somewhere over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole as their inspiration.
Here is the same music video that the student posed on their blog:

After the student posted this video, my class fell in love with the song and almost everyday before religion class we would listen to this song before we began.
I still keep in regular contact with my students using our class blog, and last week another student had commented on the original post with this song on it.  So as I read the comment I couldn't avoid the temptation to click play and listen to the song once again.  As I listened to how beautifully Israel Kamakawiwo'ole plays the ukulele in this song, I knew right then and there what I wanted to learn as my major project this semester.  Using this song as my inspiration, I want to successfully learn how to play the ukulele and learning how to play this song as a particular goal.  I think learning the ukulele will be a skill that I can transfer into my classroom and my teaching for the rest of my career!

First Ukulele Video Blog Entry

So, I guess I still had more to say about Michael Wesch's Youtube video, "An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube".  Once I finished my previous post a little while ago, I grabbed my Ukulele and started surfing Youtube for some videos that could help me out.  As I was watching different videos, I couldn't help but think about the section in Michael's video about peoples first time vlogging and how awkward and difficult it can actually be.  As I was thinking about this, I remembered that I had actually decided last week to document my first day with my Ukulele via Video Log.  So I fished the video out of my Photo Booth and gave it a watch.  Man oh Man did Michaels video ever preach the truth! My first attempt is probably one of the most difficult things I've had to watch myself do.  I had no idea how to sit, what to do with my hands, where I should look, and even how to talk (I talk so fast at some points that I'm not even sure I'm speaking English) To my surprise I also had a visitor in my video that I didn't even know was there.  He however doesn't seem to mind being on camera seeing as what he does through the course of the video. 
Take a look if you want to see an Awkward first attempt at a Vlog:

What do you think? Was it as hard for you to watch as it was for me?

Progress Report: Learning the Ukulele

So I've kind of been slacking off here and haven't been posting much about my progress on learning the Ukulele! I've actually filmed 2 more Video Blogs since I posted my first one, I just forgot to post them on my blog, so I'll post them both in this post for you to see.
Vlog #2:
This Vlog was an interesting for me because I filmed it shortly after my first one and I learned quite a valuable lesson about the Ukulele: There are two different kinds, Soprano and Tenor.  You'll be able to view the costly lesson that I've now learned in my Vlog below:

Vlog #3
I actually filmed this one quite recently (Yesterday) which was about two weeks after Vlog #2.  I feel like having learned how to play guitar over the past few years is really helping me learn how to play the Ukulele as well.  While they are both two separate instruments they do have some common elements to playing them such muscle memory for your fingers and similar use of chords and the use of Barre Chords for more advanced playing (I still haven't gotten these down on guitar, and I've been playing for two years).  However there are some very big differences that I'm having trouble adjusting to such as strumming with your index finger instead of a pick, much smaller frets and the one that I seem to have the most trouble with is holding the Ukulele between you elbow and upper body while trying to change chords without dropping it.  However I feel like I have indeed made quite a bit of progress of the last few weeks as I am able (for the most part) to play a skeleton version of the song that inspired me to learn the Ukulele, Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.  While I am only able to play the first verse I think it's a pretty good start, I know if I keep practicing I'll be able to get the song down in no time.
Here's my third Vlog, let me know what you think! Oh and again I apologize for my guests in the background, I don't know what it is about me Vlogging that gets the attention of so many different guests!!

Ukulele Update 3 & 4

It's been a little over a week since I last posted about my progress on the Ukulele.  I've actually got two videos to post, but rather than make them separate blog posts I figured I would post them both into the same one to save on time.
The first video you will see documents my progress from my last video.  I've learned a few new chords to help me play the song "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" as well as a new "Hawaiian" strumming pattern so it sounds closer to the original song.  You will also notice that I'm playing with a pick in the video, which is a little unorthodox, but you'll see why I decided to play that way for this Vlog.  Also good news...No animals appeared in the making of this Vlog!!! I triple checked to make sure I didn't have any stowaways before I started recording.
So here's the first of my two videos for this post:

The second video is my first real attempt at filming myself playing the song.  In the middle of the song I tried my hand at singing (unsuccessfully) but I've only got the Somewhere Over the Rainbow half of the song down.  I haven't really tried playing the "What a Wonderful World" half of the song yet.  When I filmed this I was kind of surprised that I actually sang a bit because I've never ever tried singing in front of any one before (aside from national anthems at sports games).  I think I found it easier to do because it was only me and my camera and I won't be able to see the look on peoples faces as they watch it which is nice!!
Here's my first attempt at playing the song on the Ukulele:

Ukulele Update 5

So here's my newest Video Blog post on my learning the Ukulele. I'm sorry it took me so long to post it but hey, at least it's up now right? Anyway, this post was interesting to make because throughout the past four V-logs I've been trying new ways to strum the Ukulele and in this one I tried yet a new way.  In my last post I started using a guitar pick because I had an injured finger which actually worked pretty well.  However, whenever I listened to the version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole it just didn't sound right.  So I decided that I would try a more natural way that could combine picking an individual string as well as strumming all the strings when I play the song.  My solution was to pick the first note of each chord using my thumb and then strum upwards using my index finger.  It took is still taking me a while to get this style of strumming down pat, but I have to admit I do prefer playing the Ukulele this way!
I want to apologize a head of time for how fast I talk in this post, I'm honestly not sure why I talked so fast throughout the entire video.  Just comment below and I'll post some subtitles if you are having trouble following!! As well just a heads up the video is by far my longest, running a whopping 9 minutes and 15 seconds.  I don't remember talking and playing for that long but I guess the saying is true, time really does fly when your having fun!
Thanks and Enjoy the video:

Ukulele Update 6: Jam Session

So instead of posting another video update of myself talking into the camera and playing a little Ukulele for you, I've done something a little different for this post.  Earlier this week I talked to two of my classmates who were also learning instruments for their learning project and we thought it would be kind of cool to do a group video-blog and try to learn a song together and record our progress playing our respective instruments.  This was a really interesting experience for me because I wasn't sure what to expect going into it because up until this point I've only practiced playing the Ukulele alone.

At first it was definitely a challenge because we all had to pick a song that was easy enough that we would all be able to play.  The song we selected for our first Jam Session was "Free Falling" by Tom Petty. I liked our choice for this song because it was relatively easy to learn as it was only a 3 chord song.  On Ukulele I only had to play the D, G and A chords so it didn't take very long to figure out.  The second aspect of the Jam Session that I found challenging was definitely our timing as a group! As you will be able to hear in the Podcast and see in the Video is how off our timing is in the beginning of each.  I didn't realize how hard it is to actually nail timing down when you play in a band because when you listen to music it just seems so natural and easy, but as we learned, it takes some practice.  By the end of our recordings you can definitely see some improvement in our chemistry together as a (band?) and our next session will definitely be much easier than our initial attempt.

We are definitely going to get together in the near future to film another group Video Blog and we would love some help from you on what song we should learn next as a group as well as a possible band name for us!

Here's a podcast version of our first V-Log (I turned it into a podcast instead of a V-log because for some reason the camera picked up the light in the room like a strobe light effect and I found it difficult to watch and felt it might be easier for you to check out if it was audio only!)

Here is our second V-Log that we recorded with much better lighting! You can definitely see some improvement in our timing as compared to how we sounded in the podcast.

My group members for this Jam Session were Kirk Fiege on Piano and Nick Barnes on Guitar.  You should definitely check out their blogs to view their individual progress on learning their respective instruments as well!

Ukulele Update 7 + 8

It's been about two weeks since my last update so it's about time that I got around to posting another V-Log on my progress.  Like usual I've filmed two V-Logs that I'm simply putting into one post because they really flow with one another.
In my first V-Log I was looking to try out another strumming style than the one I was previously doing. (just to switch things up!)  The style I ended up testing out is called a "Chunk".  Chunking is essentially just strumming the Ukulele then muting it with the palm of your hand all in one strum.  At first I had some trouble doing it the way I was being taught, so I decided to try it an alternative way that you will see in the V-Log.  I also tried learning part of a new song as well (The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars) which I am actually quite enjoying because it's not as hard to learn as some other songs on the Ukulele.  Oh and the site I learned how to "Chunk" from is Ukulele Underground.
V-Log 7
( I apologize in advance, for some reason the original recording was corrupted at the beginning and the sound is a half a second off.  I've tried re-uploading it numerous times to Youtube but it is the initial recording that is the issue.)

For my second V-log I recorded myself once again playing the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.  Since my goal by the end of my project was to be able to play this song, I like to record myself after each V-log so I can see my progress over the updates!
Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think:
V-Log 8

Ukulele Update 9

To my amazement I only have one V-log for you to check out in this post! Usually I like to post two v-logs per blog post because I tend to talk forever in the first V-log and then get to the playing in the second.  Well do I ever have a treat for you today.  Somehow I managed to cut down the amount of time I talk and fill it with some of my Ukulele Skills!
Today's update is a little bit different from my past ones because I'm not actually posting about my progress on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World". Today I'm working on an entirely new song that I will be able to play in my next Jam Session with Kirk and Nick.  The last time we talked, we decided we should put a little more work into a song individually before we actually get together to play and record our results. There was quite a bit of controversy over what song we were going to play together at our next Jam session.  Kirk was really adamant that we learn his favourite song (Friday by Rebecca Black) and Nick was even more demanding that we learn his favourite song (Baby by Justin Bieber).  However, they both heard the voice of reason and agreed to my selection (Let it Be by the Beatles)
Below you will find my first crack at the song.  Oh and I got the tabs from Ukulele-Tabs site.

Jam Session #2

Back after popular demand, The "band with no name" finally reunited for highly anticipated second Jam Session.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, after much deliberation, we decided to learn "Let it Be" by The Beatles.  Once we got started, we contemplated how we wanted this Jam Session to go and how we could make it better than our first one.  Eventually we decided that instead of all trying to play the song at the same time, we would each take turns individually playing different pieces of the song.  By doing this, we were actually able to hear each persons progress with their instrument and appreciate the diversity of sound that our different instruments creates.  As we were playing we thought it would be fun if, while each person was playing their potion of the song, the other two would sing song together.
Overall I found that our second Jam Session was by far our best and I'm really impressed with the progress that both Nick and Kirk have made over the semester.
Take a look for yourself, and let me know what you think! Oh and we still need a cool band name so any suggestions would be appreciated haha

Reflection on Learning Project

As I mentioned in my previous post, the semester has unfortunately come to a close today.  Which means the end of my favourite class ECMP 355.   While this class may have come to an end, that doesn't mean my learning and progress with the Ukulele has to.  So don't fret, I still plan to continue to learn and post more updates on what I am learning on this blog!

In my first post for this learning project, my only real goal was to learn enough of the Ukulele so I could play the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ol.
However, as the semester progressed I began to realize how much more learning I was able to experience as a result of this project.  Instead of simply documenting my progress in Blog Posts like I initially planned, I tried out my first ever V-Log after watching Michael Wesch's Youtube video, "An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube. Although my initial V-log felt really awkward and proved to be a little difficult for me to do, I decided I would continue to document my process in V-Log format rather than writing.  This turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during this learning project because making the V-Logs became easier and more natural as I made them.  I really began to enjoy them and I feel that they allowed you, my readers, to really experience my learning with along with me.

As my progress continued on the Ukulele I was also very fortunate to have various people post encouraging and helpful comments on updates.  Using the comments I was able to connect with various people across the internet who were happy to share resources and helpful tips with me as I continued my journey. The contributions of these people were crucial to my success in this project so I am extremely grateful for their help and support. (Special Shout Out to Zachary, randilyninspired, Leslie, William Chamberlain, cynthiaschultz1, Brenna Moser, Kirk Fiege and Alec Couros)

Another aspect of my learning project that I didn't anticipate at the beginning of this project was the collaboration with other students in this class who were also learning instruments for their learning projects.  After working with Kirk and Nick on a few Tech Tasks in ECMP 355, we talked about getting together and trying out a "Jam Session" with all our instruments.  This turned out to be an awesome idea because it not only made the learning project even more enjoyable but also allowed us to work together and experience what it was like playing our instruments in sync with other instruments.  It also allowed me to expand my learning to more than just the song I intially selected to learn.  Through both Jam Sessions I was also able to learn how to play Free Falling by Tom Petty and Let It Be by The Beatles.  I can honestly say I had some of the most fun during this project creating Jam Session #1 and Jam Session #2 with Nick and Kirk. 

As I conclude this blog post, I can confidently say that I have really seen progress from the beginning of this project to where I am today! I really wanted to post a V-log for you, however, the string on my second Ukulele just snapped this morning.  However, I plan on replacing it this week and will definitely post a final V-log on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" because I really want to show you have much progress I have made this semester.  I'm very happy that I made the choice to learn the Ukulele for my learning project because I feel that it it will become a useful tool in my future as a teacher.

Once again I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my learning through my process.  I would also like to say a special thank you to my Professor, Alec Couros, for his constant encouragement throughout the semester and for just being plain awesome!

If you would like to review any of my previous Learning Progress Updates you can view my Learning Project Page.

Also a quick shout out to Cynthia for helping us take the Light Photography pictures on this post!

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