Tuesday, February 23, 2016

House Full of Music: Ukulele Edition

Just this morning a conversation on Facebook reminded me how noisy recorders are. You know the things–those plastic whistles–maybe you played on one as a child. I did. The cacophony! How did Mrs. Nelson cope with the noise of that class? She deserves a medal and a stiff drink. I forgot how noisy those things were until I brought some into my home. They're a part of Oak Meadow's homeschool curriculum, see. I still have them somewhere. Hidden.

I get that music can be hard to teach in the home, especially if the parents don't play. Recorders are great for that because you can learn as you teach, they're easy to take care of and clean, and they are cheap. I think I own 5. To be fair they don't have to sound terrible. The plastic tubes that are so often used as classroom tools are relatives of beautiful instruments. Here's a clip of medieval recorder music played on a replica instrument:

This bears no resemblance whatsoever to what will happen in your house if you keep plastic recorders in reach of your children. I have been there. Never again. I don't like to be frustrated with my kids. I don't want to yell at them. But there is something about that sound- for even 5 minutes.

And don't think you'll be better off with penny whistles. Tried it.

May I recommend the ukulele? Again with that conversation on Facebook I was mentioning: I brought up the ukulele and thought I should document here lest I forget by the time Georgi is old enough to ask for music lessons.

I was worried the strings would break, the whole thing would get stomped apart... But when Toly asked for a ukulele for his 9th birthday we went ahead and got him one. There are several other boys in our homeschool group who play and Toly wanted to give it a go. We got the instrument, tuner, book, and case from Amazon, of course (I'm a Prime junkie).

We asked around and hired a teacher with experience instructing homeschooled kids. This was important to us because we weren't looking for a rigid teacher. I frankly didn't even want the teacher to ask Toly to practice. Boy, did we get lucky. Thomas is the perfect match for our situation. He comes over, sits with Toly and plays. If Toly drifts away from the lesson, he lets him. He's great about occasionally shifting gears or asking Toly what he wants to do next. If you're in the East Bay I'd be happy to share his contact information. He's a keeper.

Georgi loves her "kitar!"

 Toly has really blossomed with an instrument. He doesn't take it too seriously but he loves it, playing a bit every day. What's really wonderful about the uke is how beautiful the sound is, even if it's just Georgiana tinkering with it. It never gives me that frustrated feeling. It's lovely.

It's easy to learn, too. There are loads of online tutorials and lessons, especially on youtube. The book we purchased is nice enough as well, not that Toly uses it. His siblings often pick up the uke and play around. It fits any size hand. It's a really accessible instrument, low noise value. It has held up to Georgiana for months–that's something. And could there be anything cuter than your kid happily strumming on a ukulele? Well, there's this:

This is a baby strumming a 3/4 violin. 

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