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Why teach this rather than what you're doing already?
  • Are the majority of your students headed to higher education in music? Probably not, but real humans are goofing with ukulele for their whole lives at all ages now. Give them a gift of life-long musical learning.
  • Do you need to get an ensemble of instrumentalists ready for the spring show? Probably. And the Christmas show ... OMG. This is the place to get the best ukulele Christmas book on Earth. The best.
  • Can you stand one more day of recorder and Orff instruments? Absolutely not -- well, the glockenspiel is okay -- but people don't play any of that stuff "for reals." They do play the ukulele.
  • Would you like a pre-packaged, pre-tested, world-class program written so you can teach it in lots of different ways and meet your state's standards? Well, duh.
  • How about something you could, in an emergency, just photocopy and survive the day? It happens.
  • Does free sound okay?
  • Would someone with almost two decades of ukulele and teaching be a helpful support to you? Well, he's kind of a tool, but yeah, you'll get used to him and he does know how to make you love teaching ukulele.
  • Would you like a way to support solo instrumentalists, ensemble musicians, singers and other teachers? Here it is. And it's good.
  • And, for your advanced kids, would you like a huge resource of music they can study independently? You know you want those students to go away and practice, right?
  • How about hundreds of video lessons (for you or your students) and MP3 recordings of every single piece of music ready to download? Geez, I'm helpful despite being notoriously iffy as a video star.
  • Does the music publisher you usually use have an ukulele program? Yep, I've seen it ...  I've seen them all ... and they're (for the most part) NOT good (sorry) and they're expensive and they're almost invariably designed to add ukulele into a singing program ... don't be confused by what they'll expect you to teach. If you want to teach instrumental skills, you almost certainly need to be here. Did I mention it's free?
  • So, let's go --->

Ensemble Music for Ukulele Orchestras

Book 1: One Chord Songs

  • Frère Jacques for Ensemble [A]: PDF
    • You need to teach the solo version on Page 2 first.
    • If you have no baritones, you can skip Pages 3 and 12.
    • Ideally all players should have a chance to play all parts.
    • If you use this in your class, please let me know how it went.

General Advice

The Music: You need to learn to play a little bit. Go to the Ukulele and Baritone menu item above. Do the first 30 lessons. With your music background, you won't need to do them all before you start teaching, but you need to look at the first 17 to wrap your head around all the ways we can create solo and ensemble experiences for all your students, and make music in multiple ways. Hint: I have never not taught Frère Jacques to an ukulele student. It's the key to understanding everything else. And really, when you start teaching, follow the same order. They're arranged the way they are on purpose and will build the correct skills in the correct order. Once you've passed the arpeggio lesson #17, you'll have life-long musicians in your room. Note, the baritone program is identical to the ukulele program but it's in a different key. If you intend to have both instruments play the same song at the same time, one group will play the chords from the other group's sheet music. (It's magical.) I am always willing to write sheet music for teachers, but I'm also always way behind on stuff, so let me know what you're thinking and hopefully with enough lead time we can collaborate on a project. You can use the music on the Ukulele & Baritone tab above in any way you like, but if you use the music in the member's section, please drop me a note and let me know what you're doing so I don't get nervous and you don't get a call from a lawyer.

The Instruments: If you're teaching elementary, you'll probably be okay with all sopranos. Older students with bigger hands should use tenors. I sell Mahalo brand and then trade out the strings to fluorocarbon and adjust the frets and action. If you're in Colorado, I can make you the best deal you'll find on properly set up classroom sets. If you're elsewhere, you may end up being your own ukulele technician. If you have to buy what your purchasing department says, you'll live with whatever brand they're repping, but know most of those types of ukuleles sound like bricks and changing strings to fluorocarbon will be essential. Baritones are a great addition, but you probably only need a few of those to add depth to your classroom ensembles. If you think all of your students will progress to guitar (good lord help you ... and really, this doesn't happen), I would start them all on baritone rather than ukulele or guitar. It makes your life and their lives more musical.

Classroom Management: Keep the little gig bags and teach students to put their instrument into them properly. Use big plastic tubs for storage. Teach your more capable students to help you, and put them in charge of tuning up all the instruments each day. If you're teaching kids, they all must wash their hands before handling the instruments. If you're teaching adults, they need to shower and wear newer clothes. What the heck are they thinking leaving the house like that?

My Advice: Don't be confused by your prior music training. Perfection is for those sitting for their Masters degree performance recital ... and really nobody else. This instrument is for making music in a fun way and making lots of mistakes along the way. You should make them, your students should make them, and you should instantly forget they ever happened. Music is a one-dimensional art form and yeah you should try your best, but you should allow a wide latitude for yourself and your students to play the "jazz" version and then move on along. And, this gets controversial, I use standard notation and tablature and have the delight of students learning both systems. Academically minded people may suggest tablature is a lower order form of music notation, but after way too many years of thinking about this, and watching how classical guitar gets mis-taught, I can assure you (and I can prove it too) that tablature is the superior system when playing fretted instruments. Do both.


Other Resources

Day One Book: Here is one of the books I give to everybody. It includes:
  • Information on ukulele stuff going on in the Denver-metro (may not apply to you). It also helps with discussions about what your musicians need to own.
  • A full page on the important ways of tuning your ukulele (obviously very important). I ask my students to say "George Clooney Eats Apples" each time they meet to help with memorization.
  • Another page on important things to teach about proper posture (the most important). Get the left-hand thumb right, and get the 60 degree angle right, and everything else in the program is gonna be easier.
  • A page on standard notation and playing the C scale (for those who plan to use standard notation). Ukulele players for the most part don't use standard notation, but all musicians should understand the basics, and the standard notation in this program is used to get the timing correct.
  • Frère Jacques: This is the most important song. It teaches how to read tablature in 10 minutes.
  • My Spaghetti Monster: One song that will sound great and audiences won't sing along.
  • Three Blind Mice: This is the second most important song and the first piece where we study "TuffUke" or chord-melody -- use right-hand thumb down technique.
  • Happy Birthday: This song is a stretch, but everybody connects with it.
  • Strum Pages: Waltzing Matilda, Soft Kitty, Kookaburra, Hallelujah, Over the Rainbow, Lava. I only teach this stuff because there is an expectation all students own the chords in the Key of C. To be 100% honest, teaching chords to new students is a perfect way to get them stuck. Most students do not want to sing. Melody first! I never go over Hallelujah, Rainbow, or Lava because I've had it with those songs and students will go seek them out on their own anyway.

Three Chord Strumming Book: HERE is the way to make your life easy:

A brief commercial: Kids these days almost never know these "old fashioned" songs because they're growing up in a Disney-fied world. So I've gone back to teaching these to kids. They're easy to sing, require little or no prep on your part, have great melodies, and when I teach adults, I remind them they can teach their kids, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbors, friends, or extra-curricular clubs. Teaching the Key of A chords is far easier than Key of C chords due to the challenges of G major, and this book mirrors the easy chords on guitar allowing you to use two different instruments at the same time. (I have a guitar and baritone ukulele version of this book if you need it.)

  • Songs with red headlines have one chord.
  • Songs with green headlines have two chords.
  • Songs with blue headlines have three chords.
  • Songs with purple headlines have four chords.
  • Start by teaching A chord and playing Frère Jacques and Three Blind Mice. Try various strumming patterns.
  • Next teach D chord. make sure their left-hand index finger is on 4th string 2nd fret and that their thumb isn't ending up someplace weird.
  • To make E7, start with a D chord and then slide the index finger back a fret and drop the ring finger to the first string.
  • After playing through lots of songs, I will teach the A » F#m » D » E7 » A chord progression and write songs.

Jumping Flea Arpeggiator: Please please read the cover before diving into the book. I believe this is the most important book you can use to create advanced ukulele players. It's good and I get emails from people all over the world who've been inspired by this. You should work through each key.

  • The Book is HERE.
  • The Sound Files are HERE.

Music Theory Section: Don't miss the bottom of the Ukulele and Baritone menu item. All the stuff they told you you should teach is sitting down there.

Teacher Certification & Teacher's Manual: I've already built a certification program here in Denver, and I'll be cranking it up over the next year. Let me know what you require if you want continuing ed credit. Also, let me know what would help you need to build the right toolbox for your personal playing skills and what songs you need to make your classroom experience work for you.