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Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom: Part 4 of 6
By Sam Marchuk
1/25/2018 4:21:00 PM  

Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom Part 4 of 6: Which Curriculum/Method Should I Use?


Essential Elements for Ukulele Series

by Marty Gross

essential elements

Hal Leonard applies the same concepts featured in their proven Essential Elements series for the ukulele. This method begins with basic chords and strumming patterns for immediate student gratification. Note reading, theory, and some advanced techniques are introduced later to round out the essentials of playing. There is a large selection of recognizable folk and popular songs too, such as Home on the Range, Hound Dog, La Bamba, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Rainbow Connection, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and much more! This method also includes an access code for audio files in place of a CD. Can be used as a resource to brush up your skills, to have as a reference for their classroom, or for each student to use for practice.
Book 2 is also available with more advanced strumming options and fingerpicking techniques.

Easy Ukulele Songs Series

by Denise Gagné

easy ukulele songs
This collection is part of a series of easy songs for ukulele will have students singing and playing the ukulele in the first lesson! The focus is learning songs to sing and strum. The first 15 songs are one-chord songs, followed by 15 easy two-chord songs. The last 2 songs use three chords. The enhanced CD also has projectable PDFs with links to easy pop songs on YouTube that use the same chords, as well as recordings of all songs. The 860395 Easy Ukulele Songs Teacher’s Guide is 48 pages and includes reproducible lyrics pages and enhanced CD. Student books are also available. Advance to the next title in the series 864302 More Easy Ukulele Songs for even more one, two, and three-chord songs:

Strum It Up (21 Soprano Ukulele Pieces in Orff Style)

by Sandy Lantz and Gretchen Wahlberg

strum it up book

This new method integrates ukuleles with other classroom instruments and has full Orff-style orchestrations for your Orff music classes. Students will learn chord progressions, vocabulary, and how to accompany songs and melodies. The unique timbre of the ukulele supports the child's singing voice and allows students to hear and sing harmony accurately.
A FREE security code for online PDF files is included, along with lyric sheets (reproducible for student books, or for SMART board applications, videos, and other resource materials. Movement/dance suggestions, Polynesian instrumental suggestions, Hawaiian Language guide, and Ukulele strumming techniques are also included.

Strum, Strike, Sing, & Play: Artfully Adding Ukulele to the General Music Classroom

by Kate Hagen & Sarah Fairfield
strum strike sing and play

This ensemble-based publication introduces students to the ukulele as a versatile instrument capable of spanning multiple musical genres. The ensembles are appropriate for day to day teaching as well as performances. The lessons represent a "seed" of an idea with the intention that educators will cultivate the repertoire to fit their environment. Each lesson can be adapted, changed, or molded to fit your students' needs. Includes digital access to visuals.

Ukulele in the Classroom Series

by James Hill and J. Chalmers Doane

ukuleles in the classroom
This classroom method series is a more in-depth and sequential study and begins with ear training, note reading, rhythm, scale, strumming exercises, and over two dozen vocal and instrumental arrangements. Includes traditional English, French, Chinese, Hawaiian, African, Chilean, and Canadian songs, as well as arrangements of works by Brahms, Benedict, and Holst.
Individual student books and an advanced Book 2 are available. The series also offers additional supplemental ensemble repertoire books for planning performances:

The Complete Ukulele Course for Kids DVD

By Ralph Shaw

the complete ukulele dvd
As an educator through DVD videos, Ralph Shaw has helped many people of all ages improve their ukulele skill. Ralph starts with a lesson on tuning the ukulele and then guides the student through carefully prepared lessons that cover: playing four chords in the key of C, strumming/rhythm techniques, changing keys, playing 4/4 & 3/4 time, and understanding simple transposition. Students from the Wondertree Learning Centre will demonstrate the songs so you can play along!
Includes 15 kid-friendly songs such as He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, When the Saints Go Marching In, Frere Jacques, This Little Light of Mine, Grandfather's Clock, and more!


With so many options you can find the best method to best suit the needs of your students, classroom teaching style, and objectives. For more ideas, contact an educational consultant at 800-397-9379 to see how we can help bring ukulele to YOUR classroom!

About the Author

Sam MarchukSam Marchuk is an Education 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.


Tags: ukulele, music education, classroom
Categories: Music, Books & Resources, Music Education
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Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom: Part 3 of 6
By Sam Marchuk
12/1/2017 12:34:00 PM  

Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom Part 3 of 6: Which Ukulele Model Should I Choose for My Classroom?

Printable PDF Version

There are many different models of ukuleles available, so how do you which one you should choose for your classroom?

You will want to make sure to choose a quality instrument that will play in tune and produce a good tone - while staying within your budget. You will also want to consider how these instruments will be stored and budget accordingly as some models do not include a gig bag. (See upcoming Part 6 of 6: How Should I Store My Ukuleles? for options.)

Here are some of our most popular models that have proven themselves with our classroom teachers:

Makala MK Series Ukuleles

makala mk ukulelesFor the classroom, the 303685 Makala MK-S Soprano Ukulele really sets the standard. Branded under Kala’s entry-level Makala name, it is a traditional all-wood model that is consistent in quality, playability, and tone. It features an agathis wood body, mahogany neck, rosewood or walnut fingerboard and bridge, geared tuners, and the highly sought-after Aquila Super Nylgut strings. The bridge is set up with the strings wrapped around it and securely knotted in place – a feature not typical on ukuleles in this price range. Our teachers rave about the quality, sound, and affordability of this ukulele! This series is available in the larger concert, tenor and baritone sizes plus classroom sets:

303685 MK-S Soprano Ukulele

  Ukulele only

  Bundled with gig bag and digital clip-on tuner

  Classroom sets

303686 MK-C Concert Ukulele

  Ukulele only

  Bundled with gig bag and digital clip-on tuner 

303687 MK-T Tenor Ukulele

303688 MK-B Baritone Ukulele


Kala KA-15S Soprano Ukuleles

kala a ukulelesThis model is based on the Makala MK-S all-wood version but has several upgrades with only a nominal price difference. If you have the budget these upgrades are worth the investment and include:

 - GraphTech NuBone nut and saddle (vs. plastic on the MK-S). This denser material transfers more vibration to the instrument top, producing a fuller sound with more volume

 - Pearloid tuning buttons (more decorative than the plain plastic buttons on the MK-S)

 - Laser-etched design around the sound hole


See more info on this model here:

  Ukulele only

  Bundled with gig bag and digital clip-on tuner


Makala MK-S/Dolphin Ukuleles

dolphin ukulelesIf you are looking to add some color to your classroom, Makala’s Dolphin Series ukuleles are a great option! Based on the MK-S all-wood model this series features a molded plastic body over a wood top and are painted in a variety of bold colors (black, blue, green, pink, purple, red, white, or yellow). This model has many of the same features as the all-wood version, including Aquila Super Nylgut strings, metal frets, and rosewood or walnut fretboard and bridge. The plastic body makes for a brighter tone than the wood model, with plenty of volume – but also making it washable and extremely durable. The plastic body may hold up better for locations that are warmer and have high humidity. This model includes a non-padded gig bag. More info and available options.


Westwood Ukuleles

westwood ukes

Our Westwood series of ukuleles offer many extras at a great value. Constructed of basswood, these ukuleles also include a non-padded gig bag, a strap, and pre-installed strap buttons. Available in soprano, concert, and tenor sizes and classroom sets:

304101 Westwood Soprano Ukulele

  Ukulele only

  Classroom sets

304102 Westwood Concert Ukulele

304103 Westwood Tenor Ukulele


Kala Waterman Ukuleles

watermanThe Kala Waterman ukuleles is another inexpensive option and a great value! While the Makala Dolphin series has a plastic covered body with wood neck and metal frets, the Waterman ukuleles are constructed entirely of plastic (except for the geared metal tuners). That makes this ukulele completely waterproof and a fun option with the color choices and available finishes. Solid color models are the most popular and affordable, while translucent, and even a glow-in-the dark model, are available for just a bit more. Each Waterman ukulele includes a non-padded carry tote. The larger concert size is also available in this series. Here is a link for more available options!

Be sure to remember that the strings on any new ukulele will stretch quite a bit when being tuned up for the first time. They may take some time to settle before staying in tune. Check out this article on how to break in new ukulele strings. Have any questions or comments? Contact one of our Education Consultants at 800-397-9379 to see how we can put together a set of classroom ukuleles to best suit your budget and needs!

Read Part 4

About the Author

Sam MarchukSam Marchuk is an Education 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.

Tags: ukulele, music education, classroom
Categories: Guitars & Folk, Music Education
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Make Thanksgiving More Fun with Music & Song
By West Music Company
11/20/2017 8:50:00 AM  

Make Thanksgiving More Fun with Music & Song

family thanksgivingFACT #1: Thanksgiving brings whole families together like no other holiday.

FACT #2: Turkeys take a very, very long time to cook. 

Put those facts together, and it’s clear that you’ll need some fun activities to keep the whole family engaged. What better way to promote family harmony than to share great Thanksgiving traditions of music and song?


1. Thanksgiving Meal-Themed Instruments, Music and Movement

Rhythm games with drumsticks are perfect for a holiday that is all about a turkey dinner. Kids are always excited to play with percussion instruments, but the fun is doubled when they can make “punny” connections between the music and the upcoming meal.

To ratchet up the rhythmic fun and burn off some pent-up energy, sing some classic oldies that celebrate the elements of the feast and make everyone want to get up and move. Continue the turkey theme with dancing to “Surfin’ Bird,” but don’t forget the side dishes—it’s “Mashed Potato Time,” after all! When everyone needs a breather, the guitar strummer in the house can lead a sing-along of “American Pie.”

2. No Football Game Is Complete Without a Halftime Marching Band!

The backyard touch football game is a Thanksgiving tradition for many families. It is also an opportunity to give aspiring musicians in the family a chance to shine by putting together a “halftime show.” Whether they play instruments like the violin and trumpet or more use simple items like shakers, letting the kids plan and perform a marching band routine during a break in the big game will have them glowing with pride!


3. Music the Pilgrims’ Way: The Joy of Rounds

For the most part, Pilgrims favored singing over playing instruments, and they especially loved rounds. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” nicely and humorously connects a Thanksgiving Day sing-along to the story of the Mayflower. If you are feeling competitive and know lots of people, you can try beating the current Guinness World Record for singing a nursery rhyme in a round. The current record was set in 2013 at the Richmond Maritime Festival in Richmond, British Columbia with a group of 180 singers!

4. Fun Family Musical Craft Project: Traditional Wampanoag Water Drum

If there were any musical instruments at the First Thanksgiving, they were most likely brought by Native Americans from the Wampanoag Nation. Learning how to make a version of the traditional Wampanoag water drum is a fascinating group craft activity.

You can find instructional videos online on how to make a water drum. Involve your kids in its construction and playing. Children, both young and old, are enthralled by the way the tone of the drum changes with the water level.

Hear how the traditional Wampanoag water drum sounded.

5. Turkey Trots Through the Years — A Century of Song and Dance!

For musical Thanksgiving family fun, the Turkey Trot reigns supreme. This musical activity has it all—dancing, turkey-themed lyrics to sing together, and the opportunity to click drumsticks in time with a lively rhythm.

There are multiple songs and dances called Turkey Trot. The original dance was developed in the early 1900s to ragtime music. It is a lively, athletic dance similar to the later Charleston, featuring big, bird-like kicks and wing-like arm movements. Composer Joseph M. Daly wrote the piano rag “Turkey Trot” in 1912 at the height of the dance’s popularity. Daly’s infectious, upbeat melody will inspire any young piano players in the house to search music books for ragtime sheet music.

Over five decades later, the Turkey Trot soared in popularity again when Motown’s Little Eva (of “Locomotion” fame) recorded the single, “Let’s Do the Turkey Trot.” Her live performances of the hit featured dancers re-creating the original ragtime dance. The bouncing beat also fit the popular dance styles of the 1960s, ensuring that the Turkey Trot was indeed back and here to stay.

Today, there is yet another Turkey Trot dance, created just for kids and perfect to get them through that last hungry half-hour of torment as irresistible aromas fill the house. It is set to the tune of the Hokey-Pokey, with human body parts replaced by turkey body parts like wings, tail feathers, and of course, drumsticks.

Music Is the Best Reason to be Thankful

Thanksgiving musical activities unite families in a spirit of fun, but they mean so much more than that. The ragtime Turkey Trot can be traced back to the mingling of African and Irish music, and dance traditions in the Piedmont region of the Eastern U.S. The Wampanoag water drum dates back centuries, while the Pilgrims carried the European round singing tradition to America’s shores. Music truly is the universal language that unites us all. That is definitely something to be thankful for, all year round!

Tags: holidays, Thanksgiving, family, fun, early education, music education
Categories: Music Education
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Why Choose Lessons for Your Child?
By Chris Eck
11/11/2017 11:12:00 AM  

Why Choose Lesson for Your Child?

child private lessonsEvery day we are surrounded by facts about the amazing life benefits of music education. A multitude of studies confirm that children experience extremely positive academic, emotional, and developmental boosts from engaging in musical activities. We embrace the fact that a healthy education not only includes music and the arts, but emphasizes them as a daily necessity. One additional way that parents can show our commitment to building a musical life for children is to work with independent professional teachers in a private, individualized lessons program.

Benefits to Private Lessons

While school music programs are a great starting point for young musicians, they cannot always provide the one-on-one instruction your child needs. Classroom teachers and directors must diversify their energy across a wide range of areas, while a private lessons instructor can work on specific goals with each student on an individualized path.

Private, individaul lessons with a qualified instructor can provide amazing progress, whether kids are preparing for honors groups on an orchestral instrument or building the skills they need to perform a favorite pop song. Also, a private music teacher acts as a role model for young learners. They can show that hard work creates results, and that great things happen when we put our energy and our hearts together!

Finding the Right Instructor

Selecting a private instructor to work with your family is the first step. To get the most out of the lessons, choose a teacher that is a good match in temperament and style with your child. Getting to know the teacher’s expectations and having solid communication in place are also essential. At West Music, we offer one-on-one instruction in our comfortable studios with professional teachers. All teachers have verified professional credentials and go through background checks. Parents can review their biographies, schedules, and policies on our webpage at www.looking4lessons.com. Parents can also learn more about West Music's overall lessons program, including group classes and adult instruction, at www.westmusic.com/lessons.

Keep music an active part of your family routine by investing in private, individual lessons! Not only will your child progress faster, they will reap the many cognitive, social, and emotional benefits that come with learning to play an instrument. Most of all, they will develop a life-long appreciation for music and the arts as they Play now. Play for life!

Related Articles


About the Author

Chris Eck Lessons DirectorA lifelong teacher and musician, Christopher Eck thrives on sharing creative enrichment with many people.

As the Education Director for West Music, he enjoys connecting students of all ages to meaningful musical experiences every day. As a private guitar and ukulele instructor, he is able to explore his own passion for playing music and to celebrate learning as a way of life. His student-led lessons focus on technical proficiency, applied theory and creative expression.

Chris studied Music Theory and Composition, Classics, Education and Child Development. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Iowa in 2005, with several credentials and certificates along the way.

For many years, Chris worked as an early childhood lead teacher and administrator in the Iowa City area. He has always had an honored place in his work for children and young adults; teaching, mentoring, caregiving and facilitating in schools, libraries, hospitals and homes since 1990. He is a frequent presenter at professional development events for educators in Iowa and the Midwest.

Tags: lessons, beginner musicians, band, orchestra
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Conservatory, Music Education
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Proper Posture Is the Key to Playing for Life
By West Music Company
10/23/2017 5:41:00 AM  

Proper Posture Is the Key to Playing for Life

Almost every instrument requires some repetitive motion and therefore can lead to injury over time. Even young players can injure themselves over the course of just a few months. The good news is that there is one sure-fire way to protect your child from strain and injury, and that is to maintain good posture!


The Elements of Good Posture When Playing an Instrument

Good playing posture goes from head to toe. The guiding principles are:

  • Maintain a solid frame, that way bones can do their work, easing the burden on muscles.
  • Stay relaxed but engaged – not tensed up, but also not limp.

A great way for a student to develop proper posture is to work quite literally from the “bottom” up.


proper postureMusician’s Positioning on the Chair

Musicians in good posture sit forward in their chairs. Exactly how far forward is a matter of comfort and body type. Some musicians are poised right at the chair’s edge, but most have their weight centered a little farther back.


Chairs Have Straight Backs—So Should Musicians

Your child should sit with their chest and shoulders raised to a straight, yet comfortable position. A comfortably straight spine allows hours of play. Stiffness, however, is a recipe for fatigue.


Down Below, Flat Feet Will Go

Keep feet comfortably at rest on the floor.  They do not have to remain frozen like a statue, but having your child regularly resettling into “rest feet” position is helpful in maintaining consistently good posture.


"Coat Hanger" Shoulders

To the greatest extent the instrument allows, music students should keep their shoulders level while playing.  To help visualize this, some musicians like to imagine a coat hanger with a tank top on it: it can sway a little, but if it tilts consistently or sways too far, the shirt falls to the floor.


Keep a Level Head

Remember that the head should face “straight ahead”. Dropping the chin or “turtle-necking” forward are easy, but unhealthy, habits for young musicians to fall into. Encourage your child to make a mental note to regularly check in on how their head and neck are positioned.


proper playing postureInstruments Do Not Charge for Travel: Bring It to You

Once proper posture is attained, new musicians should fit the instrument into the frame they have created, rather than bending and twisting themselves to fit around the instrument. The temptation to lean forward and “meet the instrument halfway” is very strong, but it puts a tremendous strain on the back and neck. Musicians at every level should regularly practice assuming good posture without their instruments, and then gently bring their instruments to their poised, relaxed bodies.

Special Encouragment for Violin and Viola Players

Playing the violin or viola poses special challenges for posture. Learning to hold these instruments while staying true to the principles of good playing posture is not easy! Encourage your child to be patient with the process and to speak up immediately if they ever feel discomfort or strain.


The Payoff of Proper Instrument Positioning: Lifelong Playing

Music is one of a very special few human pursuits that a person can engage in as actively at age 79 as they did at age nine! By helping your child learn and reinforcing the fundamentals of proper posture, you can ensure that a lifetime of satisfaction awaits them.

Related Articles

Tags: beginner, posture, health
Categories: Conservatory, Music Education
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Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom: Part 2 of 6
By Sam Marchuk
10/10/2017 3:27:00 PM  

Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom: Part 2 of 6: What Size Ukulele?

ukulele sizesIn Part One of this series, we discussed the many benefits of bringing ukuleles into the classroom. In part two we go over the four sizes of ukuleles available and which might be best for your students. Continue reading, or download this printable PFD version.

The first thing to know is that there are 4 different sizes of ukuleles to choose from: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The smallest of these, the soprano, is the most common for beginners. This is due to it having the lowest cost of the bunch, making it the best value when purchasing a classroom set. It is also considered the “standard” ukulele size, dating back from its original roots in Hawaii in the late 1870s.

Children and adults alike can enjoy soprano size ukulele and will be pleased with the bright, signature sound, portability, and cost. But what about the larger concert or tenor sizes, which feature the same tuning? If your budget allows, there can be several advantages if you decide to use a larger size ukulele in your classroom.

Advantages of Using a Larger Size Ukulele

Fuller, Deeper Sound

A larger resonator body allows the lower tones to resonate, providing a fuller, deeper sound. This creates a more well-balanced and pleasing tone over the soprano model.


The larger body and longer neck may be more comfortable to hold, which may put the instrument in a more natural playing position for some students.

Less Cramped

More frets and space between them. This will allow for easier finger positions when moving up the fretboard as fingers will become less cramped.

More Range

This may be more useful if you are offering advanced classes where you will play beyond the first position (past the first 5 frets). Concert and tenor ukuleles typically have a higher range with 17 or more frets to a soprano’s 12. The extra frets may come in handy and add more interest when playing with a ukulele ensemble.

Student's Perception

Students may view it as more as a true musical instrument and less as a novelty/toy. The larger ukulele size becomes more guitar-like to play and listen to.

Concert or Tenor?

Only a bit larger than a soprano, concert size ukulele may be the ideal choice for many of these reasons. For this reason the concert size is often referred to the in-between, or “Goldilocks” size for its perfect blend of characteristics of the soprano and tenor.

The tenor ukulele is also an option, with it having the fullest sound due to an even larger body than the concert size. But it can become considerably more expensive than the soprano, especially when purchased in sets, and feel too large to comfortable hold for younger students.

What About Baritone?

The baritone ukulele tuned differently to a fourth lower than the other ukulele sizes, which are the same pitches as the top four guitar strings. Therefore, the baritone is in a different key and requires different fingering from the soprano/concert/tenor. See this article for more information on ukulele tunings and size comparisons: Models and Tunings and Sizes, Oh My! How to Choose the Right Ukulele for You.

Other Considerations

For demonstrative and personal use, teachers may want to opt for a larger or different model ukulele to make their instrument stand out from the student models. That may be another example where concert or tenor may be a good choice for them, even if their students use the soprano. Check out Makala’s MK Series of mahogany ukuleles, available in all 4 sizes:

Read Part 3


Ultimately, the deciding factors are going to come to the budget you are working with, and the use of ukulele as an introduction or advanced lessons. Contact one of our Education Consultants at 800-397-9379 to see how we can put together a set of classroom ukuleles to best suit your budget and needs!

About the Author

Sam MarchukSam Marchuk is an Education 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.

Tags: ukulele, music education, classroom
Categories: Guitars & Folk, Music Education
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How Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?
By West Music Company
10/9/2017 9:21:00 AM  

upset girl practicingHow Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?

Everybody knows that musicians improve by practicing. But the question of how much time your kids should spend practicing isn’t as simple as “the more, the better.”


Finding the Sweet Spot

The right practice routine is one that ensures enough progress to keep kids motivated while keeping the whole process fun. Practicing too little, and they won’t improve, which will lead to becoming discouraged. Practice too much, and they risk developing physical injuries or mental exhaustion that will keep them from pursuing their musical dreams over the long haul.


Practice as Close to Daily as Possible

Many books suggest a certain amount of total practice time per week. The problem with that approach is it suggests that one marathon session at the end of the week is as good as seven brief, daily practice periods. That simply isn’t true. The more daily time on their instrument (or DTOI as some music instructors refer to it), the more progress they’ll see in their playing—and the more their practice sessions will feel like a daily reward instead of a weekly obligation.

daily time on instrument


Improve Something New Every Week

Set them up for success by having them pick out one simple thing each week that they’d like to improve about their playing. Maybe it’s remembering to maintain good posture or playing a scale at a steady tempo, with no rushing or hesitation. Have them devote a couple of minutes of daily practice time to that one skill, and every week they will have proof that they’re getting better! Stay as close as you can to a daily routine and never let your practice schedule get so heavy that you feel drained and start losing your sense of excitement and fun.


One Goal No Musician Should Set

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” There is no such thing as a perfect musician or even a perfect performance of a piece of music. Our human imperfections are part of the beauty of the music we make. Besides, if your kids ever become perfect, they would have no way to get better, and what fun would that be for them? Always remind them that practice is about becoming better, not becoming flawless.

And of course, practice should always be paired with instruction from an experienced teacher. West Music is here to help guide children to become better musicians and offer more direction outside of class when they need it. Check out our selection of group classes and individual lessons to take their skills to the next level.

Related Articles

Tags: beginners, music education, practice
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Education
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It's Science! Basic Acoustics: Frequency, Wavelength & Pitch
By West Music Company
10/2/2017 5:39:00 PM  

It’s Science! Basic Acoustics: Frequency, Wavelength & Pitch

Music is the wondrous meeting place of art and science. Part One of “It’s Science!” explained how the volume of a sound is determined by the amplitude of the sound wave. Sound waves have many other characteristics besides amplitude; otherwise, dropping a dinner plate would sound like playing a trumpet!

Frequency: Why “Re” Is Different from “Mi”

piano hamersWhen you watch waves roll onto a beach, you not only notice how high the waves are (their amplitude), but also how rapidly they follow each other. If you were to count how many wave crests reach the shore in a minute, you would be finding the frequency of the waves. Likewise, frequency of a sound wave is measured by how many air vibrations reach our eardrums every second.

Frequency is what makes one note different from another, in a very simple way: higher frequency means higher pitch. Booming bass notes have very low frequencies, while piercing treble notes have very high frequencies.

Fun fact: Frequency doubles every octave. Therefore, the frequency of the note middle C is exactly twice the frequency of the note C an octave lower.

The question all of this raises is, if frequency determines pitch, why don’t all instruments sound the same when the same note is played on them? This question reveals the “great secret” of musical instruments: they never produce just one frequency at a time! Each time you play a note on any instrument, in addition to the main frequency (the note we can identify), a whole bunch of other waves with different frequencies and smaller amplitudes are created. These other waves are called the “overtones” of the main note. We don’t register them in our minds because they are so much quieter than the main note, but we do hear them; they shape our perception of the timbre (quality of sound) of the instrument. Each instrument produces a different blend of overtones, which is why a violin never sounds like a flute.

No wonder studying music helps students do better in math and science!


On the Same Wavelength: How a Trombone and a Slide Whistle are Basically the Same


courtesy of GIPHY Trombone Shorty

 Returning to waves hitting the beach, you could also measure the distance between “peaks”—that is, how many meters separate one wave crest from the next. This measurement is the wavelength of the waves. Wavelength and frequency are closely related: If you change the wavelength of a sound wave, you also change the frequency, creating a new pitch. That explains why pressing down the string of a cello or guitar with your finger changes the note that you hear: By shortening the length of string that is free to vibrate, you shorten the wavelength of the sound wave, so the frequency changes, too.

Fun fact: The hammers of a piano strike the strings 1/7 of the way along their length in order to silence the 7th overtone of the main note, which is often considered harsher in sound.

Similarly, the valves and keys of brass and woodwind instruments alter the instruments’ air columns to change the wavelength of the sound waves created. An even simpler way to change wavelength, however, would be to shorten or lengthen the entire air column. That is how a slide whistle works, and why it is a very old instrument. A slide trombone works in exactly the same way—each time the slide is moved, the wavelength of the sound waves gets longer or shorter.


Putting It All Together: The Great Bass Mystery Solved


The relationship between wavelength and frequency is actually very specific: As frequency increases, wavelength decreases. In other words, if a note has a very low frequency, it will have a very long wavelength. If the frequency of a pitch is very high, its wavelength will be very short. As it happens, wavelength determines how far a sound wave can travel. Shorter wavelengths die out more quickly as the wave moves through the air.

That is why you only hear the bass and drums when a band is playing at the far end of the park. The low-frequency notes produced by basses and tom-toms have ultra-long wavelengths, so they travel much farther than the higher-frequency, short-wavelength notes of the guitars, singers, and cymbals. It really is all science!


The Science in Practice: Audio Engineering


People who apply scientific ideas to real-world problems are called engineers. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the people who run recording studios or operate the sound equipment at a concert are called sound or audio engineers. If you are interested in exploring the world of acoustics more deeply, we offer a variety of products to get you started in audio engineering.

Tags: music education, STEAM
Categories: Music Education
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Starting a Ukulele Program in Your Classroom: Part 1 of 6
By Sam Marchuk
9/20/2017 6:19:00 AM  

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:

Printable PDF Version

Why Teach Ukulele?


School ukulele program

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

school music ukulele

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:

g chord on guitar c chord 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 MarchukSam 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.

Tags: ukulele, music education, classroom
Categories: Guitars & Folk, Music Education
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How Parents Can Help Their Young Musician
By West Music Company
9/13/2017 4:34:00 PM  

How Parents Can Help Their Young Musician

Learning a musical instrument often represents a child’s first opportunity to discover how a routine of individual practice leads to ever-increasing rewards. For parents, it’s a rare chance to help their child discover a love of music, plus the satisfaction that comes with mastering a difficult new skill. With all the benefits musical training offers in terms of mental, physical, and emotional development, it is no surprise that parents want to “get it right.”

Starting from the Same Page: The Importance of Connecting with the Teacher

Children always struggle when two trusted adults send seemingly contradictory signals. It is critical to connect with your child’s music teacher(s) from day one. Make sure you are delivering consistent messages about goals and practice habits. Discuss any differences of opinion, with the goal of finding common ground so that your child never feels torn.


after music lessonLesson Recap: The Key to a Successful Week of Practice

A child’s first practice session after a lesson is the most important practice of the week. Before that session occurs, get your child talking about the lesson. To the greatest extent possible, let the child be the “expert” as you play the role of curious companion. Helpful questions to ask include:

What do you remember best about the lesson?
What was your favorite thing your teacher told or showed you?
What did your teacher say that made you feel especially good?
What did you share with your teacher that was really important to you?
Do you remember something the teacher asked you to work on that seems like it will be difficult?
Did you and your teacher set any goals for the week?

If your child seems to have forgotten an important aspect of the lesson, try to lead the conversation in an open-ended way: “Did your teacher say something about keeping your fingers curved?”


Setting Up a Designated Practice Space

If possible, set up a “music corner” somewhere in your home, so that practicing becomes a special activity that happens in a special place. Children love any area that is to some degree exclusively theirs; having such a space for music shows how proud you are of your child’s undertaking. Seek their input when decorating the music corner—ideas include inspirational posters, a shelf or colorful box for music books, a smartphone or camera stand to make it easy to record videos to share with friends, and a whiteboard for noting important reminders or logging practice time.


cello girlSharing the Path: Practice Time as Parent-Child Togetherness Time

When you sit with your child during practice time, offer frequent encouragement, pointing out specific improvements you have seen over the last week or two. Once again, use guiding questions to help your child articulate successes and struggles:

What do you like most about that piece?
What part of the piece do you feel like you can play best right now?
What is hardest about playing that piece?
What kind of mood do you think the person who wrote that piece was feeling?
Can you imagine a story that would explain what that piece is about?

If your child needs new challenges for practice sessions, visit our Music, Books, and Resources page together and explore the wide array of sheet music, tools, and more to expand their repertoire.  If you are currently looking for a teacher or extra instruction outside of school music classes, West Music offers classes and individual lessons to families in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.


Focus on the Joy

There is no greater gift you can give your young musician than reminders that music brings people happiness. The sight of your face lighting up at the sound of every note and phrase will be your child’s greatest source of motivation.

Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our music education experts a call at 800-373-2000. 





Tags: practice, practice tips, lessons, young musician, beginner
Categories: Conservatory, Music Education
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