As I was compiling a list of some of my favorite guilty pleasure songs, I realized that “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “YMCA” by the Village People have the exact same chord progressions. So I made a mashup video because why not? Here’s how you can play along with me. . .
A guilty pleasure is something you enjoy against your better judgment. I started thinking about songs that fit into this category after hearing a Fergie song while I was in the grocery store. It took all of my self control to continue shopping like a normal person and not start crooning in the cereal aisle! I’m trying to embrace my musical tastes a bit more these days, and that—for better or worse—includes the awful songs I’m ashamed to admit I love.
Here’s a round up of five of my guilty pleasures, including the original music videos—all of which are special in their own right— plus links to uke tutorials and/or chords and lyrics in case you want to play along. Are you ready to cringe? :)
If you’re a new ukulele player trying to play along to a Youtube video, you may have been frustrated by how fast-paced some uke tutorials can be. That frustration usually stems from the fact that you’re comparing your abilities to someone (the Youtuber) who’s been playing for a lot longer than you! The ukulele has a reputation for being an easy instrument, but after you experience the high of learning your first few chords and playing your first few songs, you start to realize that there’s a lot more work to be done if you want to develop as a musician. So pause the video. Allow yourself the time and space to work on the techniques in the video at your own pace. Then try playing along with the video at a slower speed. The fabulous Katie from One Music School has a video that walks you through how to adjust the speed on any Youtube video:
Earlier this month I got to do something new—I taught a group of parent educators who lead music classes at their kids’ parent-participation school. The music classroom is already stocked with ukuleles, and the parents who lead the K-3 music program wanted to learn how to play the ukulele so they could share the fun with their students.
I led a beginner’s ukulele workshop designed to address their specific needs, covering the basics of how to play chords, how to strum, and shared tips for teaching ukulele in a classroom setting. We had a great time playing through six songs that will be fun for them to share with their students, and they knocked my socks off with their singing! I wish I had a recording to include in this post—they were harmonizing by the second song!
Here’s a review from Rosa, one of the women who attended the workshop:
A few other Moms and I took Melissa's Ukulele Workshop. Our children attend a Parent Participation school and we all teach music and were looking to pick up basics to better understand how to teach the uke. What a lovely experience! Melissa was thorough, concise, kind, and best of all, made learning a new instrument feel easy. We played several songs made up of just a couple of chords and troubleshooted basic hand shapes and positions that made playing chords so much easier. I highly recommend taking any lessons from Melissa, she's incredibly capable and was made to do this!
If you’re looking for an easier way to teach ukulele in a classroom setting, or if you’d just like to take a lesson to see if the uke is for you, contact me and we can plan a workshop just for you!
Keeping a steady beat is your primary goal when making music, but it can be a challenge! Beginning musicians often start out playing at a moderate pace, then gradually increase their speed over the course of a song. It’s only normal—one of the skills we must develop is the endurance to play for longer periods of time. Playing with an even tempo is just one more aspect of your playing that needs some attention, and playing with a metronome is an effective way to improve your consistency. Download a free metronome app on your smartphone or open this free one in your web browser. Enter in a reasonable BPM, put in your earbuds, and get strumming!
I teach a beginner’s ukulele course in San Jose, CA, and while I do share modern popular music with my students, I primarily teach using well-known folk songs. I occasionally get asked why folk music???? — just like that, with a really big question mark at the end— and it seems that folk music has developed a reputation for being outdated and/or not very fun or interesting. That’s not the case! There’s a lot to love about folk music, and here I’m sharing four reasons why folk music is perfect for beginning musicians:
Ukuleles are quite portable as far as musical instruments go, but there’s another instrument you’re always in possession of— your voice! So why not sing while you play? Every time you sing, you’re training your ear to hear the melody (even if you’re stumbling to find the right notes) and paying closer attention to your tempo. My own experience has taught me that a voice is like any other instrument—just as your uke playing can improve, so can your singing. So give it a try. You’ll probably have more fun if you do!
Having trouble carving out time to play your ukulele? Maybe you’d feel more motivated if playing it wasn’t a solitary activity. Here are a few ideas to help you make your practice a more social experience:
One of the biggest challenges beginning ukulele players face is figuring out how to get in the habit of playing consistently. Tomorrow I launch a new weekly series to help with this issue. I’m calling it Habit Hacks, and every Thursday I will post tips to help you build and maintain a consistent ukulele practice (and I’ll explain why I refer to it as an ukulele practice). Check back here tomorrow for Habit Hack #1!
Happy New Year!
One of my goals for 2019 is to post more consistently on the blog, and in preparation for all the new content coming this way, I’ve implemented some big changes on my main blog page. On the old blog, there was no search function and the posts were listed in an endless scroll, which wasn’t terribly user-friendly. With this new design, I’ve added a search bar in the sidebar, changed the layout so it’s easier to see more posts with less scrolling, and (toward the bottom of the page) highlighted posts by category for more browsing:
You’ll also find these buttons down toward the bottom of the page, making it easier to browse posts by topic:
Coming Soon: More Content!
I’m enjoying the last few days of my kids’ winter break, so starting next week I’ll be posting with more regularity with video tutorials geared for beginning ukulele players and more habit hacks and tips to help you stick with your ukulele practice. And I may make a few more design tweaks to further improve the usability as I get used to the new layout.
Happy New Year, and happy strumming!
PS: I run my website using Squarespace, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to start a blog or website. It was relatively easy to make these changes with my absolutely non-technical background.
My primary goal for Musical Mama is to share the joy of making music, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I had to do just that. If you engaged with me in some way, whether you took lessons from me, attended a workshop, read a blog post, watched a video, or purchased one of my books, THANK YOU!
2018 has been a big, exciting, and challenging year for me. I’m usually too eager to start working on the next new thing to look back on the past, but I’ve been encouraged by my husband and a couple of friends to do a little reflecting. So, per their request, here’s a look back on some of my milestones from the past year. Here are four “hits” and two “misses”:
O, Come All Ye Faithful is about 300 years old. Did you catch that? THREE. HUNDRED. YEARS. OLD. Its melody is beautiful and feels like a precursor to the songs that came out of Appalachia (one of the places of origin for modern American music). Perhaps that’s the reason why I tend to prefer more stripped down interpretations of this song and/or have a country twang to them. Whatever the reason, it’s a fun one to sing and strum. Enjoy!
If you enjoyed this video, please consider buying my Christmas songbook or my how-to book, Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners (both are available in digital download and paperback formats). Your support makes it possible for me to share high-value content for uke players for free here on the blog. Thank you, and happy strumming!
True facts: I once dressed up as Elvis for Halloween (in my early 20s), I once road-tripped to Graceland by myself (also in my 20s), and I even had an Elvis lunch box once upon a time. You might say I’m a fan of his (you’d be right). In this video I contain my impulse to do an Elvis impersation as I sing his hit, Blue Christmas. I’ve paired it here with a strum that incorporates rests (down-rest-down-up-rest-up-down-up). If that strum’s not in your toolbox yet, just strum down-up-down-up.
If you’ve been watching the other Christmas videos I’ve posted, you may notice that these songs have something in common: they’re all arranged in the key of C. If you were performing for an audience, you probably wouldn’t want to play your entire set in one key because things would start to sound a little repetitive but for hobbyists, spending time with one key can make a lot of sense. The more you play in the key of C (or any key, for that matter), you’ll start to notice that some chords keep appearing over and over, revealing some of the patterns in popular music. You’ll also train your ear to hear the relationship of the chords within a song, and that helps you lay the groundwork for playing songs by ear. The key of C is the easiest key to play on the uke, so it’s the friendliest key for beginner’s to start playing in. My ukulele handbook for beginners and my Christmas songbook include guides for transposing songs into different keys.
Related link: How to Figure Out the Key of a Song
As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I am sharing some play-along videos of songs included in my new book, Oh, What Fun! Christmas Songs for Ukulele. Yesterday I shared the upbeat, jaunty tune of Jingle Bells, and tonight I’m sharing a dreamy waltz: Away in a Manger. Away in a Manger is in 3/4 time signature. and that means we have to strum (and count) in sets of three. You may find that you’re so familiar with this song that the rhythm comes naturally to you, but if it doesn’t these video posts can help explain things:
If you enjoyed this video, please give it a like and subscribe to my Youtube channel. And please consider buying my Christmas songbook (available as a digital download and paperback). Your support makes it possible for me to share high-value content for uke players for free here on the blog. Thank you, and happy strumming!
Did you know I wrote a Christmas songbook? It’s called Oh, What Fun! and it includes the chords and lyrics for thirteen popular holiday songs. I’m currently working on recording, editing, and uploading play-along videos for every song in the book, and thought I’d share some of the videos here on the blog on the days leading up to Christmas. All of these play-along videos are formatted with the chords and strum pattern shown at the beginning of the video, and as I play you’ll see the chords and lyrics big and bright on the right-hand side of the video.
Jingle Bells is a song almost everyone knows, and that makes it an ideal song to strum and sing with others! Play along with me, won’t you?
PS: You can adjust the speed of the video by clicking on the Settings icon, then clicking on Speed. If you’re a beginning uke player, you may want to slow it down to .75 or .5 speed. Happy strumming!
Mitch Chang is an ukulele teacher, an event producer, and the brains behind the the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival. Mitch’s vision for the festival “is to make it as easy as possible for families and ukulele fans of all ages, interest, and ability levels to discover/rediscover the ukulele where they will be supported and encouraged,” and he delivers! It’s an all-day extravaganza of performances, workshops, and fun. I taught beginner’s workshops at this year’s festival, and I was so impressed by what I saw that I wanted to learn more about the man who made it all possible. Thank you, Mitch, for giving me a peek behind the scenes!