Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom Part 1 of 6: Why Teach Ukulele?
Are you looking to start a ukulele program in your school but not sure where to start? You don’t need to be an accomplished guitar/ukulele player or have a big budget to add ukulele to your curriculum. Here is what you need to know if you are considering starting ukulele with your students:
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Why Teach Ukulele?
Ukuleles are Educational
Many skills are developed that are essential not only for creating music, but in learning other subjects while building character, and responsibility, too!
Musicianship: Students will learn tuning, strumming/rhythm, accompaniment, melody, singing, hand coordination, sight-reading, and many other skills while learning the ukulele.
Mathematics: Students can see the string becoming shorter in length to create a higher pitch. As another example, the open A string makes the note because it vibrates at a frequency of 440 hertz. If you fret this same string exactly halfway up the fretboard, it results in the string vibrating twice as much at frequency of 880 hertz, the A note an octave above.
History: Students learn about history with the development of the instrument, how it is made, how sound is produced, and what events were occurring at the time.
Culture: Students can learn about the origins of the instrument, its history, and the culture of the music being experienced.
Social Skills: Students assist classmates with learning, develop teamwork in playing together, and creativity in making their own songs!
Responsibility: Students learn how to care for their instrument, track their practice time, and monitor their progress.
Ukuleles are Affordable
Ukuleles for your classroom do not require a major investment to start and can cost a fraction of the amount you could spend for a set of guitars. With good quality instruments starting at just under $40 each, a full classroom set of 25 instrument can be purchased for under $1000.
West Music offers discounts for classroom sets and can create a custom package to meet your specific requirements and budget needs. On leaner budgets, some teachers may have students share a ukulele, making 10 ukuleles sufficient for use among 20 students, for example. This can be a good opportunity for the students to work on movement or rhythm skills while awaiting their turn on the ukulele.
Many educational grants and other funding opportunities are available to help teachers fund instruments for their classroom. Be sure to check out West Music’s Funding Resource page for ways to expand your classroom materials: edufund.westmusic.com.
Ukuleles are Easy to Learn…and the Perfect Lead-in to Guitar
Because of its smaller size, the ukulele is easier to hold than a guitar. The ukulele uses the same fingerings as guitar, but with only 4 strings instead of the guitar’s 6 strings. This makes learning how to play chords much simpler, allowing the student to focus on individual skills such as strumming, than combining chord changes with more complex finger positions on a guitar.
For example, the major C chord on the ukulele requires one finger to be positioned on a single string, whereas the same chord would require three fingers, all on separate strings, on a guitar. Here is an example, showing 3 fingers to make the same chord shape on guitar, versus only 1 finger on ukulele:
Plus, the ukulele’s softer, all-nylon strings are much easier on the tips of beginner’s fingers than guitar’s steel strings. All of the skills learned are transferrable too…if you can play the ukulele, you can use the same techniques to play guitar!
Ukuleles are Versatile
The ukulele is an instrument students can play alone or with a group, regardless of the skill level or genre. Plus, it can be used to accompany while singing or with other instruments, songwriting, or alone with instrumental arrangements.
Ukuleles are Portable
With all of the fun your students will have, they will want to take it everywhere - which is easy to do with the convenient size of ukulele!
Ukuleles are Fun…for Life!
Students are enthusiastic to learn such a diverse instrument that can be used to express and discover themselves through music. Because of its versatility and similarity to guitar, ukulele players can use their skills to enjoy making music outside of the classroom and throughout the rest of their lives.
With so many benefits, it is easy to see why ukulele is becoming a staple in classrooms across the nation. Time and time again I have heard from many of our classroom teachers, informing us the ukulele class is the highlight not only for them, but for their students as well. This level of enthusiasm has helped spawn after-school ukulele groups and other extra-curricular activities.
Read Part 2
Don’t be left out — Let us know what we can do to assist with a ukulele program in your school! Contact a West Music Education Consultant at 800-397-9378 and we can help you equip your classroom.
About the Author
Sam Marchuk is an Educaton Consultant for West Music specializing in folk instruments and curriculum for the elementary classroom. He has been playing ukulele since 1998 and is an avid collector of vintage and contemporary ukulele models.
As an Education Consultant, Sam assists with the selection and acquisition of instruments and curriculum with teachers across the U.S. He enjoys matching up players of all skill levels and classroom teachers with the right ukulele to fit their personality, style, and budget.
Sam has demonstrated the potential of the of the ukulele at numerous state and national music education conferences, helped with the startup of ukulele programs across the U.S., and has taught beginning ukulele at the annual Strathmore Ukulele and Guitar Summit in Rockville, MD.