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View Full Version : "Like" This Post If You Agree: Method Books Don't Have To Be Based on Folk Music !



Estudiante
11-23-2016, 07:21 AM
Yeah, I know you can't "Like" a forum post, but anyway...

There's nothing wrong with North American folk music of course, I just don't love it. But nearly all ukulele method books are based on that genre, using the same small pool of at-least-sort-of-familiar folk tunes, with maybe Ode To Joy or In The Hall Of The Mountain King thrown in to round things out.

I started out with Hal Leonard Ukulele Method 1, like thousands of other people. Pretty much all American Folk music. The other readily available Methods are mostly the same. Nothing wrong with that, but why not offer these same methods, but with editions based on repertoire from other genres - like Classical, Hawaiian (that's probably a more limited market), Celtic, Gospel & Hymns or etc. This repertoire is old enough to avoid copywrite issues. And based on the genres of ukulele songbooks available on Amazon, and the variety of tunes and tabs posted on leading uke websites there is plenty of interest in these other genres.

I like hymns, classical and Hawaiian. Thankfully, I discovered a two-volume Hawaiian music-based method book, so I can learn with music I actually enjoy. However, my first choice would be a classical-based repertoire method, something like a Christopher Parkening classical guitar method retrofitted for ukulele. But somehow I don't think Christopher P would go for that.

Croaky Keith
11-23-2016, 07:57 AM
A lot of the songs/tunes are out of copyright, & that is why they get used so often, but like you, they mostly don't suit me either, especially as they are foreign to me & unknown. ;)

I think they should have a mix of genres - nothing wrong with a bit of classical, as well as some rock 'n' roll & blues! :)

Rllink
11-23-2016, 09:03 AM
Agreed. Americans don't like that music either. Even if there is a song in some book that I like playing, the rest of them do not inspire me in the least. I've given up on books. I'm learning "method" by watching other people play, from festival workshops, and by just plain stumbling on it while playing songs.

thereadinghouse
11-23-2016, 09:13 AM
I am also not a fan of that "old timey" music. I prefer classical guitar style uke pieces and chord melodies. Recently someone turned me on to pdfminstrel.wordpress.com. They have a really nice selection of classical pieces along with other more unusual tabs.

kypfer
11-23-2016, 01:08 PM
... everything that Bill1 said!

Once the "basics" are in the bag you're free to carve your own path ... I used a book of Welsh folk tunes to help me learn to read music and a selection of renaissance lute music, transcribed into tab specifically for the re-entrant ukulele, to familiarise myself with the fingering.

Each to their own ... horses for courses ... YMMV etc. etc. :music:

Estudiante
11-23-2016, 01:12 PM
Hi, Bill.

REALLY??! THIS??! "...It's not about what you like. It's about learning how to play..." and "...It makes no difference if you like it or not..." REALLY?? Maybe you're just having a bad day and the time to let off steam came while you read my post? Que tengas un buen dia, amigo. :-)

Django
11-23-2016, 04:51 PM
I actually like old-timey music. I also like and play Celtic, 1920s jazz and some classical. For me, folk music has a purity, and can be played with varyied expression. Play with the timing and tempo, and folk can become a whole new song. Switching keys can change the mood. I play a lot of Delta and country blues on the guitar just because it is fun to play, but when I was starting out, I played lots of music and exercises that I did not love, but learned from them. Some of them became favorites and they expanded my appreciation of music. You may never enjoy roots music, but it will probably provide a good foundation so that you can move on to the music that speaks to you.

I think that Bill1 may be blunt, but I would be hesitant to read too much into his comments. There is a lack of inflection that can be misinterpreted. If he had replied to me in that same way I would probably read it as sound advice and appreciated his honesty and been happy that he took the time to share his experience. Good luck and I hope that you enjoy the journey.

Croaky Keith
11-23-2016, 10:28 PM
The problem with these books is that they do put (a lot of) people off. ;)

You will spend more time practicing something you know & like, compared to trying to play something you don't know or like, it's just human nature. :)

EddiePlaysBass
11-24-2016, 01:51 AM
It is not about what you like. It is about learning how to play your ukulele. The so called Old Timey folk tunes are very good examples for beginners to use to learn how to play a ukulele or another instrument and how to read music, as well as being free of some copyright issues. The tunes have stood the test of time as being good vehicles for the learning process. Other tune books have come and gone over the last 100 years. Most beginners are just not ready for more complex music.

While I get what you are saying, I can't agree with most of the above.

For one: it is so about what you like. Playing songs you enjoy playing will motivate you to practise.

The mentioned songs are not "good songs for beginners to use because they stood the test of time", but rather stood the test of time because they get recycled in a multitude of books. Because they are free of copyright issues.

The method books I enjoyed the most, and learned the most from when I started playing bass, had melodies and tunes and bass lines written for the book. I learned how to play bass by doing just that, and if every book I had bought would have the bass line to "On Top Of Old Smokey" or whatever, I would have given up. Don't care for that tune, and there's absolutely no reason for me to learn it or any similar tune.

A method book should give you tips, technique, pointers and exercises to work on, and work with. It should be fun and challenging. Just my opinion, of course. I currently have bass aerobic books for bass and ukulele and while I prefer the bass one, I totally dig what the uke one is doing.

bunnyf
11-24-2016, 02:32 AM
I think OP's idea of a method book that has versions for different genres is excellent. I would much prefer gospel, classical, or other styles, than much of the music found in many method books. I don't want to spend my practice time playing "On Top of Old Smokey" and "Little Brown Jug". I have to think that it's possible for a clever person to swap out songs currently in a method book with copyright-free songs from a different genre that will teach the same lesson. I don't think it has to be a "peas before dessert" kind of situation. Learning and enjoying do not have to be mutually exclusive. While music selection/style is not my primary reason for choosing instructional material (more important aspects would be things like clarity, presentation, focus, organization, etc) but it would certainly would be nice to also have motivating music you actually enjoy practicing.

thereadinghouse
11-24-2016, 02:51 AM
While I get what you are saying, I can't agree with most of the above.

For one: it is so about what you like. Playing songs you enjoy playing will motivate you to practise..

A method book should give you tips, technique, pointers and exercises to work on, and work with. It should be fun and challenging. Just my opinion, of course. I currently have bass aerobic books for bass and ukulele and while I prefer the bass one, I totally dig what the uke one is doing.

I totally agree. "Oh Susannah" and "I've Been Working On The Railroad" are not inherently the perfect "learning music" songs, they're just the songs that are most widely used in method books. There's no reason why the methods you're supposed to be learning with those songs can't be taught using a different song.

The same is true for teachers. I've had two uke instructor. Both are very good musicians, both are actual music teachers and both have taught me a lot about theory and technique. However, my current instructor has tailored the lessons toward the classic, blues and jazz music I prefer while my past instructor taught more classic folk music focused lessons. Theres nothing wrong with either way but the ftact that I'm now playing music I really enjoy, music I find beautiful and exciting, makes me really look forward to practicing and going to my lessons. That enthusiasm gets me to practice more and, thus, has made my practice improve at a much greater rate.

Django
11-24-2016, 03:03 AM
When I was in my teens I could play some backup on guitar whIle my friends played lead. When I was 30 I took a guitar course at a local school. There was a lot of theory and I did not recognize a single song, but the teacher was a Berkeley grad and was a great, but blunt teacher. I learned more in those 16 weeks than I thought possible. It gave me a foundation that has served me well.

On the downside, we began with a class of about 20 students and finished with 2. So I can see both sides.

I flew hang gliders for 15 years, 12 with an advanced rating and 6 as a certified instructor, (the last 4 as an advanced instructor). Students came up to soar with the birds, but soaring with the birds follows lots of study and many days on the training hill, (typically a couple years of training before you are at the intermediate level). Less than 2% of these students ever got to soar with the birds, but for those that put the time into tho fundamentals, it was worth it. The enjoyment as a student is sometimes the satisfaction of achievement and the dream of the goal that you seek. There may be good method books with exactly what you want to play, but for me, I would rather have a method book that helps me to achieve my goal. If it can be comprised of songs that I love already, that would be great.

For the record, I have never played On Top of Old Smokey. Fortunately for me, playing guitar for 30 years allowed me to bypass the method book this time, so I probably shouldn't say too much because I have not actually seen or reviewed the available beginner method books for ukulele. The musician's journey is never really complete, so you better enjoy the journey.

A very sound rule to developing a skill is to have an ultimate goal in mind, but to always have the intermediate and obtainable goals along the way to prevent being overwhelmed by the ultimate goal. Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Rllink
11-24-2016, 03:24 AM
I totally agree. "Oh Susannah" and "I've Been Working On The Railroad" are not inherently the perfect "learning music" songs, they're just the songs that are most widely used in method books. There's no reason why the methods you're supposed to be learning with those songs can't be taught using a different song.

The same is true for teachers. I've had two uke instructor. Both are very good musicians, both are actual music teachers and both have taught me a lot about theory and technique. However, my current instructor has tailored the lessons toward the classic, blues and jazz music I prefer while my past instructor taught more classic folk music focused lessons. Theres nothing wrong with either way but the ftact that I'm now playing music I really enjoy, music I find beautiful and exciting, makes me really look forward to practicing and going to my lessons. That enthusiasm gets me to practice more and, thus, has made my practice improve at a much greater rate.
Agreed. I don't know why people think that music has to be dull and uninspiring to make it some how practice worthy. Frankly, people who spend all their time playing dull and uninspiring music become dull and uninspiring ukulele players. Either that, or they quit. As far as the "if all you want to play is three chords" argument, give that one a break. You can certainly learn more than three chords playing fun music that you like, and there is certainly a lot of music with more that three chords that is fun to play. I think that eating one's peas first, before desert is not a good analogy. We aren't talking eating here. One has to eat to live and eat well to be healthy, one does not have to play the ukulele. I don't want to pick on Bill here, but I disagree with the "no pain no gain," theory of music practice. It is way too easy to lay down a ukulele and not play it at all if it isn't fun, and be no worse off for it. Not a lot of people are happy to trudge along and pay their dues before they get to play something that makes it fun, especially when they are first starting out, and especially when there are songs that they can be playing that they like.

But moving on, and back to the original question, I think that they put those same old songs in all the beginner's books because people's tastes in music is so varied that the publishers couldn't afford to cater to them all. So they just put songs in there that are pretty much benign, and like everyone says, they are free.

EddiePlaysBass
11-24-2016, 03:41 AM
There may be good method books with exactly what you want to play, but for me, I would rather have a method book that helps me to achieve my goal. If it can be comprised of songs that I love already, that would be great.

That's why I prefer the types of books I tend to select for bass tuition purposes: they don't contain known songs, but rather riffs, melodies etc. Some, like a walking bass book I am studying from, will contain "chord changes" that are eerily similar to old (copyright-free) jazz standards. But there, you are applying directly the things you learned a page or two back. The upstroke/downstroke variations and chord changes inherent in some of these old folk tunes could just as well be taught using different songs or by creating your own exercises (such as the Uke Aerobics book does, for instance).

Having said that: I don't think there is anything wrong with using these copyright-free songs. Obviously it will work for some, and it won't work for others. I won't buy any such book because I do not care for that type of repertoire. And since I do not care for that repertoire, I see absolutely no reason and feel no incentive whatsoever to learn any of those songs.

jollyboy
11-24-2016, 04:42 AM
I've bemoaned this very point myself on more than one occasion and I completely agree with the general consensus that the song selection in method books (for beginners) is often uninspiring and predictable. I also agree that the main reason for this is to do with copyright issues.

I also agree that learning to play the ukulele should be a fun, engaging activity and not some hair shirt donning exercise in building character. I don't see any inherent virtue in gritting your teeth and slogging your way through endless tedious repetitions of When The Saints, Li'l Liza Jane, Go Tell Aunt Rhody et al.

Looking at what others have posted I wonder if publishers aren't maybe shooting themselves in the foot here, simply to avoid paying royalties. At least a couple of people have commented that they don't/wouldn't buy method books simply because of the type of songs included.

When I started out I quickly realized that I needed to find stuff to play that was to more my taste but that was also simple enough to not overstretch my very limited abilities. I was thinking I might try to put together a pdf of about a dozen easy songs - mostly pop, reggae, rock'n'roll, country and maybe a couple of punk classics ;) - don't anyone hold their breath but I might get around to it one day...

Django
11-24-2016, 04:59 AM
There are some exemptions to copyright laws when it comes to a piece of music being used solely for instruction. I am not a lawyer, but maybe someone in the community can clear that up.

No matter how good a book is, chances are that as it progresses you will have to learn some songs that you do not like in order to progress to the next song. Wuth guitar, I always found the exercises to be more useful than the songs and I would use them to warm up, (and still do). I do not love the exercises, but they are very useful.

If you take lessons from a good instructor, they will probably be able to put together arrangements of the songs that you want to learn that are targeted to your level of playing, (it will cost extra). If you go that route, you will not need the book because you will be compiling your own.

Finding a book filled with your favorite songs that progresses from easy to intermediate or difficult as it teaches you techniques with each song is unlikely. Musical tastes are too personal and varied for an off the shelf book to have exactly what everyone is looking for. Personalized instruction is really the only way to get that. You can always use the techniques from a method book and apply them to sheet music that you compile.

Rllink
11-24-2016, 05:27 AM
Well, I think that some people want only to learn to play the ukulele, and so they concentrate to that end, and in doing so it is a discipline that gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Others want to use the ukulele as one part of a bigger picture. They want to play music to entertain themselves and others. They want to use it for social reasons. I think that each has a different approach and mindset.

kypfer
11-24-2016, 08:32 AM
There are some exemptions to copyright laws when it comes to a piece of music being used solely for instruction. I am not a lawyer, but maybe someone in the community can clear that up.


Probably not the case ... copyright is "just what it says on the tin" ... the right to copy, a right that can be assigned for whatever reason (often involving the exchange of money). Copyright is often, but not exclusively applied to written/printed material ... loosely translated as "can't photocopy printed music" without permission but may well be extended to include the creation and/or distribution of a printed representation of an original work. That is to say, preparing a transcription of a copyrighted tune then publishing that transcription in a manner that might be deemed to have lost sales of the original work, even if no charge was made for the copy!

Do not confuse copyright with "performance rights", which is where a fee is paid to allow the performance of a particular piece of music. This is a whole different bag of parameters, which, theoretically, could include the guy on the corner busking ... certainly any situation where income or profit is generated for whatever reason, including charitable causes!

The other problem to consider is that the various legal considerations can and do differ between countries. What you can "get away with" in the USA may not be the case elsewhere, or vice-versa ... if in doubt, don't do it. The legal costs involved can be prohibitive and "ignorance of the law is no defence" in many countries!

YMMV ;)

jollyboy
11-24-2016, 09:03 AM
There are some exemptions to copyright laws when it comes to a piece of music being used solely for instruction. I am not a lawyer, but maybe someone in the community can clear that up.

The caveat here is pretty straightforward (and pretty standard I believe) - copyrighted music can be used royalty-free for the purposes of education or instruction but only within a non-commercial context (such as by a school). So, a published book, sold at a profit, even if it is an instruction book, doesn't count.

Django
11-24-2016, 10:03 AM
Thank you for the clarification. That may be why some ask for a donation.

zztush
11-24-2016, 12:15 PM
I am teaching my friend since last month. We are using Ohta-san's Method book. We are practicing happy birthday about two month so far. I choose this method book for him because it looked easy. Most method books of ukulele are difficult. If the book is good difficulty for you, it works very good and you learn fast. But it is too difficult, you can not learn, you may get even worse. This happens to us very often with ukulele method books. OP says that he's found good Hawaiian book and he want to learn classical guitar method on ukulele. I think they are more difficult than Hal Leonard Ukulele Method 1. Happy birthday is very good song for my friend. Even such easy song we've took about two month so far. I think the problem of OP is not American fork musics. The book may be just too difficult to him.