My first big hurdle in playing the ukulele was convincing my daughter that I could be trusted with her ukulele, her prized possession.
Great, I have a ukulele and I’m ready to start playing.
It seems, it’s not as simple as that. When researching as to where I should start, there was so much information on the net that I decided to break the learning process into different parts.
1. Tuning the Ukulele
Before I started I had to tune the ukulele. I found readily the following sites to help me with this process. The problem with these sites was that you have to do the tuning by ear and that the sound (note) emitted by plucking each string was slightly different on each of the two websites. I then found an app on iTunes that was very helpful to me in the tuning of the ukulele. I eventually did get the ukulele tuned as close as I could get it by ear. I’m glad I found this app as I found that I needed to tune the ukulele every time that I played it.
2. Holding and Strumming the Ukulele
The next hurdle that I had to overcome was holding the ukulele. As the ukulele is quite small I found that trying to hold and strum the ukulele was quite difficult and my hands seemed to be too large for the small instrument. I experimented quite a bit with positioning so that I was able to strum the strings rhythmically. There are many YouTube sites that deal with strumming the ukulele. This was both a solution and a hindrance as there were so many clips that it can become quite confusing and contradictory in methods and styles. I eventually found a YouTube clip on strumming that suited me. I also found out that you strum a ukulele in different ways depending on the song that is chosen to play. Just another hurdle that I must overcome, and my song choice might well depend on what strumming style I am able to master.
3. YouTube Tutorial
This then led me to choose a song to play and learn from the tutorials provided on YouTube. The song that I eventually have chosen to play is called Stand By Me by Ben E. King. This song was not my original choice, but was chosen after I was having difficulty with the chord changes on my first choice.
Gee (2013) discusses reflective learning in his book, The Anti-Education Era. He discusses the fact that reflective learning is not taught formally in schools and that, “Much of formal schooling is devoted to listening to and reading language, not to taking actions in the world that are relevant to them” (p.16). and that, “…students can see no clear and compelling goal for learning in formal classrooms” (p.16). With this in mind as I was practicing the tuning and strumming techniques with the ukulele I found this to be accurate. If there was no ultimate goal to achieve in a student’s learning then the knowledge/skill presents itself as learning for learnings sake with little or no practical application. But with my ultimate goal of learning to play a song on the ukulele I could see that by doing the formal learning before hand, this in turn helped me in achieving my goal.
While attempting to complete this challenge and in contemplating Gee’s (2013) reflective action, he states that, “Real learning requires new experiences connected to goal-directed actions and to ways of properly assessing the results of our actions in terms of our goals” (p.208). I also found this to be true in the sense that by taking on this challenge, which I thought would be relatively simple, I have had to constantly review and adapt in order to achieve my network learning challenge. Did I overestimate my skills? Yes!
Gee (2013) talks about digital learning being profound but when combined with face to face interaction the learning has greater potential to produce the best results. I believe that this would be true. The challenge prevented me from seeking help from my daughter (a competent ukulele player) and I feel that had she been able to provide personalized advice with the particular difficulties that I was experiencing, the learning would have been quicker and probably more effective. Although some would argue that the process of working it out yourself embeds the knowledge more deeply, I would argue on this occasion, that to be shown the skill accurately from the beginning would result in better learning. Because the YouTube tutorial was not interactive and I was having difficultly with the strumming technique, there could be no diagnosis about where I was having problems. The YouTube clip was simply an instructional video offering no interaction between user and instructor.
Gee, J. (2013). The Anti-Education ERA: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning (First ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Free Ukulele Lesson – How to Tune and Hold Your Ukulele – Video Dailymotion. [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6ae3x_free-ukulele-lesson-how-to-tune-and_music
UkuTuner – Keep that thing in tune! [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ukutuner.com/
Ukulele Tuner on the App Store on iTunes. [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/ukulele-tuner/id327762565?mt=8
Ukulele Lessons – Right Hand Strumming Beginner. [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-X_FxbUJZM
How to strum a ukulele! [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eqH_jZp1Ow