Bringing Your Child to Private Lessons

I know how hard it is to coordinate childcare and find a class that's held at a time that's convenient to your schedule. That's why I've created the private lesson package, which gives you the option of bringing your child to lessons with you! 

  A Duplo scene created by a three year-old during his mom's private lesson

A Duplo scene created by a three year-old during his mom's private lesson

Private lessons are held in my home in West San Jose. Please plan to arrive a few minutes ahead of time to allow your child an opportunity to settle in before we get started. Children who attend the lessons typically enjoy the novelty of being in a home environment with new-to-them toys. However, if your child has a favorite toy or activity, please consider bringing it to the lesson with you. You’re also welcome to bring a snack for your child. 

Babies

Your baby’s needs come first, and we fit the lesson plan around them. Babies love hanging out on a soft blanket and listening to their parent sing and play. If your baby likes to be worn, please bring your carrier to the lessons. The ukulele is very lightweight and small, and it's fairly easy to play while baby-wearing (front or back). You may find your baby enjoys your playing so much that s/he falls asleep during the lesson! 

Toddlers

Children this age have pretty short attention spans and may try to join in the fun when they see mommy trying to focus on the lesson! I've seen a wide range of behaviors, and we work around your child's needs— some toddlers prefer to stay right next to their parent during the first lesson while others play nearby with blocks or color with crayons. By your second or third class, your child will likely have adjusted to the structure of the lessons and will be more likely to engage in the age-appropriate activities I have set out prior to your visit. 

Preschoolers

Kids in this age range are more likely to partake in activities like coloring, play-doh, or building with blocks or train tracks. Prior to your arrival, I set-up some play stations based on your child's interests. They tend to stay happily engaged in the activities, which makes for a smooth lesson for you! 

School-Aged Children

If your school-aged child is attending the lesson with you, I recommend you have them bring along whatever activity (book to read, activity book and markers, etc.) you think will work best. 

Special Needs

If your child has special needs, please contact me to discuss arrangements. 

 

Have a question? Please email me at:  hello@musicalmama.com or get in touch through my contact form

Feeling the Difference Between 4/4 and 3/4 Time Signatures

Unless you're a regular reader of sheet music, you probably don't spend too much time thinking about time signature! But time signature is an important piece of information that tells you about the rhythm of the song you're trying to play, and it dictates the count of your strum. 

4/4 time: A song in 4/4 time has four beats per measure and is counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. 4/4 time is also called “common time” because it is the most common time signature for pop, rock, R&B, folk, etc.

3/4 time: A song in 3/4 time has three beats per measure and is counted 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, and so on. This time signature is also quite common and is often referred to as waltz rhythm.

In my beginner's ukulele course, we learn strums for playing in both of these time signatures. Beginners occasionally get confused about the difference between the two, so I've created a video to help with that! 

Note: If you're clapping along to a fast-paced song, you'll no doubt have to increase the speed of your claps! If you're clapping to a slower song, you'll be paced similarly to the examples in the video. 

Popular 3/4 Songs: 

Oh, My Darling ClementineDown in the ValleyMy Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, Amazing Grace, Lavender's Blue, Rock a Bye BabyLittle Boxes, and a LOT of Christmas songs are all in 3/4 time. Which one are you most familiar with? Try clapping out the 3/4 pattern as you sing it! Looking for more contemporary tunes to test this out with? Quora has a list of pop songs in 3/4 time. And playlists.net has a playlist of some, too. 

Another example of a song in 3/4 that comes to mind (because my kids have been listening to it on repeat!) is "Gaston" from Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. Be prepared to clap quickly with this one, as it's pretty fast-paced! 

 

Popular 4/4 songs:

Almost everything else! I refer to 4/4 time as the default time signature. It's the rhythm most beginning musicians start out playing, and it's the time signature our ears are most accustomed to. 

 

More Unusual Time Signatures:

If you've totally nailed 4/4 and 3/4 rhythms, you may want to familiarize yourself with more complex time signatures. If you have a child who's 5 years or younger, I highly recommend attending a Music Together class! Each song collection includes at least one or two songs in a less common time signature. I've seen songs set in 6/8 (similar to 3/4), 7/8, 5/4, and 12/8. (I'd include links to songs but can't find versions on Apple Music, Spotify, or Youtube). 

For more casual listening, Quora has a list of songs set in unusual time signatures

Feel the Beat! 

When you're making music, the absolute number one goal is to keep a steady beat. This is so much easier when you're actually channeling the rhythm of your music through your body. The clapping patterns in the video are a great way to start feeling the beat which, in turn, improves your overall strumming. Plus, it involves no special equipment, and it's something you can easily do when you're hanging with your kiddos! 

Do you have a hard time keeping the beat? Or do you naturally have a good sense of rhythm and timing? I'd love to hear from you

PS: Searching for the Gaston video sent me down a Youtube rabbit hole that uncovered this little gem of Josh Gad, Luke Evans, and Alan Menken singing it live at a Disney event. 

 


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Dance!

New musicians have a lot to juggle when learning the ukulele-- the strumming, the chords, the singing, and (most importantly) maintaining a steady rhythm for the duration of the song. People frequently think of learning an instrument as a chore involving a lot of homework, like locking yourself away in a room to practice for a set amount of time every day. Fortunately that's not true, because that sounds pretty awful to me! There are many ways to work on your skills without even picking up your instrument. One idea I really suggest you try is.... Dance!

Here's why:

Feel the Music

This is really what we're trying to do when we play an instrument— feel the music! In addition to mastering the mechanics of music making, we want to bring our songs to life. When you dance, you're essentially translating a song's rhythm and emotion through your movements. It doesn't really matter how sophisticated your movements are. Swaying or bopping in time to the music is good enough, unless you're Lil Buck. Then you can do things like this:

Improve your timing

Beginning musicians typically find it challenging to maintain a steady beat for the duration of the song. Dance can be great training for your musician's mind in this way. In dance, your movements have to match the rhythm of the song, and transferring that rhythm through your entire body is wonderful training for your internal metronome. 

Improve your musicality

In dance, we're essentially approaching music from the other side. We're working with a finished product (a song) and translating it into another language (dance). Working your way backwards into a song, whether you're dancing at home with your kids or in a ballroom, thinking about the emotional tone or narrative arc of a song is good practice for your singing and playing, especially as you branch out into playing different genres and styles. 

Whose Body is it Anyway?

If you're a parent (especially a mom), it can feel like your body doesn't even belong to you. It starts with pregnancy, when you give over your entire being to growing a baby. Then you have a baby who is completely dependent on you. Then that baby grows into a toddler who literally doesn't know how to stop touching you! Dance is a great way to reclaim your body as being your own after all the changes that pregnancy and parenthood can bring. 

Dance with Your Kids

Just as most kids love to sing and make music, most kids love to dance! Dancing is another form of self-expression and it's a wonderful way to relax and play with your children. Do your kids love to choreograph elaborate routines? Or do they like to wiggle and spin? If dancing feels super awkward to you, try following their lead. Be open to being silly and not worrying about how good your moves are. You'll have more fun that way. :)

 

What to Bring to the Lessons: My Ukulele and Tuner Recommendations

This post contains affiliate links

So you've signed up for lessons? Yay! This is so exciting! Now let's make sure you have what you need. There are really only two things you'll have to bring to the first lesson: a digital tuner and a ukulele. Here are my recommendations for obtaining those items with only a modest initial investment.  

The Tuner

A good digital tuner is as important as your instrument. It won't matter how great your playing is if you're out of tune! My current favorite is the Snark SN5X. You can find it on Amazon Prime for about $10, and it has a big bright interface that makes it easy to tune up your uke. There are other methods for tuning instruments, like phone apps and pitch pipes, but I find the digital tuner to be the easiest, the fastest, and the most accurate way to tune up an instrument. 

 

The Ukulele

If you already have a ukulele:

Great! Make sure it's a soprano, concert, or tenor ukulele. Sopranos are also called "standard" ukuleles, and it's the small, friendly size you typically picture when you think of a ukulele. Concert and tenor ukuleles are bigger and have a slightly different sound, but sopranos, concerts, and tenors all have the same GCEA tuning, which is what we use for the course. The only ukulele that won't work for the Foundations course is the baritone ukulele, which has a different tuning. 

If you don't already have a ukulele:

Start with a cheap one. I recommend the Diamond Head and Mahalo brands. Both companies make really happy looking entry-level ukuleles that are available from Amazon Prime for around $30. Choose one in your favorite color or one that matches your decor at home! It doubles as a sculpture, you know. :)

Why I Recommend Starting with a Cheapie:

If you were just learning how to drive, you wouldn't learn on a Ferrari, would you? And it wouldn't make much sense to go car shopping if you didn't know how to drive, would it? How would you even know what to look for, or what features were important to you? If you buy an expensive ukulele, I think you're more likely to look at the instrument as a burden than a source of joy. You may feel guilty for not already knowing how to play it, or feel a responsibility to practice instead of viewing it as a source of fun. You won't feel that pressure if your start-up costs are low. 

Learn to play first. Then you can make an educated decision on what kind of ukulele you'd like to buy. And most importantly, once you've upgraded, please pass your starter uke on to your child, so s/he can play with you! 

Updated 3/2/17: I've received multiple requests for a recommendation that's a step above the candy colored Diamond Head and Mahalo ukuleles. If you'd prefer to invest a bit more in your instrument, Kala is a brand that makes several ukuleles with good tone and good construction in the $50-150 range. Happy strumming!

What Beginning Musicians Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon's Classroom Instruments Series

Have you seen any of the songs performed in the Classroom Instruments series on Jimmy Fallon? The Roots, Jimmy Fallon, and a musical guest (or band) all cram into a small room, where they then jam to the guest's hit song, playing only "kid" instruments like maracas, toy xylophones, and, of course, a ukulele. It's pretty much my favorite thing ever.

Check out this video of Idina Menzel singing a song you're probably sick of hearing! What do you notice when you watch it? Two things stand out to me: 

1- The movement

There they are, all squished together, yet no one looks uncomfortable or stiff. In fact, their bodies are all in motion! Do you see how they're all transferring the rhythm of the song through their movements? They're feeling the music! Maintaining a steady rhythm can be difficult when you're learning a new instrument, but that steady beat becomes a lot easier to maintain if you allow yourself to relax and feel the music!  

2- The joy

Can you count the smiles? Doesn't it look like they're all having a blast? Making music with others can be incredibly fun, even when you're just learning how to play, and even if you make mistakes! Did you catch how Idina Menzel started singing the second verse too early? (The goof happens at the 1:29 mark). She laughs it off and keeps going. When you begin any new venture, musical or otherwise, mistakes are bound to happen. Please don't let them interfere with the joy of learning something new! 

Care to see another example of movement and joy? Check out the Classroom Instruments version of Call Me Maybe: 

And with the holidays rapidly approaching, we can't forget about the Classroom Instruments version of the best Christmas song of all time: 

Are you ready to learn the joy of making music? Contact me for more information on the Foundations beginner ukulele course!