*note: this will be an extensive post as I could not meet my mentor in time for the last post and have to catch up with this one*
It is now week 6 and I feel pretty on task with the stage I am at with my in-depth. I have managed to finally meet with my mentor, successfully finished lots of progress both individually and with my partner, Melissa and have worked out all the songs I will have for the March and the May concert.
Mentor-ship – Connection with How to Have a Beautiful Mind
This past Tuesday, I finally met with my mentor which was a big stress off my shoulder. I have been worrying about getting together with my mentor (Ms. Kate) since we both had ridiculously busy schedules but it was always on the back of my mind bothering me. Although she still needs to hear back from the police station for her criminal record check, we have managed to set up a time when we can meet up regularly.
My first impression of my mentor was that she had an absolutely lovely voice with a British accent. She also brought with her two little children who are adorable and along with my mom and my sister, the 6 of us all had dinner together.
Below are the three aspects of How to Have a Beautiful Mind that we had to focus on for our 2nd post:
- How to Agree: One particular question I asked my mentor is how I can get in the groove of things. My musicality isn’t very wide in the sense that I play what I’m expected to play, but my body is pretty stiff throughout the whole thing. This has been something my mom, my teachers, and my peers have told me many times and something I personally wanted to change. Ms. Kate gave me great advice, “Bring the ukulele around everywhere and play it all the time”. I really agreed with this statement as with the piano and violin, I was very limited to the places I could play such instruments, but the ukulele is small and portable which means I could play it anywhere and at any time!
- How to Disagree: When playing the ukulele, you could either strum the strings with your hands or with a pick. I asked Ms. Kate, “What is the difference between these two strumming ways?”. She told me that with a pick, the sound would be louder and would produce a more ringing, resonant sound whereas with my hand it would be more quiet and subtle. She said that she personally preferred the hand (which I disagreed with) because it was how the instrument was made to be. I then asked, “Shouldn’t we use picks as ukuleles continue to develop into modern society?”. Her response was very well worded, “Well, if we continue to look for just new developments, are you going to remember why you’re looking for that new development in the first place?”
- How to Differ: At one point during our session, I brought up a point that had been bothering me for quite some time, “I couldn’t sing”. With this Ms. Kate immediately responded with, “Of course you can, you just don’t know it”. She explained to me that my vocal chords are fine, they just haven’t opened up and that I have never gotten proper training for them. I was a bit hesitant to reply after this because genuinely disagreed with this statement but kind of laughed it off. However, when we were practicing together, I started to hum along to the song and my mentor immediately caught on. “Oh, so you can sing!” is what she said and I started to realize, maybe after a bit of practice, my singing wouldn’t sound so bad.
Here are the two ways I tried to make our mentor ship lessons even better for our 3rd post:
- How to be Interesting: Ms. Kate and I connected well with our stories and experiences that revolved around music. I learned that my mentor “first found her guitar in the attic when she was 16 years old” and asked her dad if she could start bringing it to school because she thought “I would look cool like an artist”. However, she started to “learn[ed] a whole bunch of chords, and songs, and started making [her] own songs and experimented with various chords. She told me that during “tough times, if one turns to music, it gets better, and the more emotion, the better an instrument will sound”. We also love watching America’s Got Talent and as she is British we bonded over how amazing Grace VanderWwal is and how that gave both of us inspirations with the ukulele.
- How to respond: When Ms. Kate told me the story of how she first started an instrument, I responded with a story of my own. I talked to her about the joy of music and how I felt like it was “stolen” from me sometimes because of all the practicing I had to do. I first stated the violin and piano because I wanted to and was often fascinated about the sound it could create. At first, I was enjoying myself, however, when things got harder, I had to practice more and more and I began to lose the very reason I started playing the instruments all along. Playing ukulele has really brought forth the passion I had for music and really brought back the love I had for my instruments.
Throughout the whole session, I could really feel that Ms. Kate really loved doing what she did and she had a great passion for music.
Apart from the three songs I began to practice 3 weeks ago (Lava, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and Little Grassy Shack), I started a couple of more songs to practice. I think that it’s really important to practice a variety of songs so that I am more familiar with the rhythm and to start getting into habit my ukulele zone. I only learned a total of 3 new songs because I still had lots of practice to do on my Little Grassy Shack song, however, learning these new songs along with its strums and different chord structures have once again, taught me a thing or two more about the ukulele.
“Riptide by Vance Joy” is a fun little pop song that surprising sounds good on the ukulele. I only came across this song when my sister saw it and wanted me to play it as she recognized the tune. My sister is a big help when I practice my ukulele as she often sings for me when I play so I can get the rhythm of the song.
- Chords: Am, G, C
- Three different strum patterns!
- Chuck strum for the verses: (down, down, up, down X)
*X = you play the chord and stop it with your fingers really quickly after*
- Classic island strum for the chorus: (down, down up, up down up)
- One strum for the bridge: (down)
The next song is called “I Don’t Know My Name” and has recently been really popular among teenagers. It was first played by a British girl named Grace VanderWaal on a popular show called American’s Got Talent which is an American audition program. She received the gold buzzer with this first song, and continued on to win the whole show at 12 years old! This song gave me lots of inspirations and her voice along with the ukulele just gave me the chills.
- Chords: Am, C, F, G
- Strum pattern
- Island strum but you are required to play it slow, regularly, and fast throughout the song (down, down up, up down up)
- One strum for slow parts: (down)
The last song is “Pearly Shells” which is a classic Hawaiian song. Along with the Lava song and Little Grassy Shack, this completes the three little song we will be playing at my mom’s Montessori along with Melissa. We have chosen all Hawaiian songs for the day as my mom’s students are currently studying a Hawaiian unit.
- Chords: G, C, A7, D7
- Strum pattern
- Nice and simple pattern (down up, down up) however you need to accent the down motion and play it hard – soft – hard – soft
I will continue to practice my songs to get ready for the mini concert at the Montessori school during Spring Break. I will also practice 6 new songs for the final in-depth performance in late May. *Explained further in partnership*
Melissa and I met on Family Day and discussed our progress as well as our next steps. We managed to figure out the piano accompaniment part for the three Hawaiian songs although we had to mess around with the music a bit because there isn’t a “real” piano sheet music for two out of the three parts.
We managed to find the piano part to the song so it ended up working out!
Jiwon: strumming the chords in an island strum pattern
Melissa: playing the melody of the song
Little Grass Shack
We looked the song up and this is such an old song that it was the hardest to find anything for. I only barely managed to find an ukulele tutorial that actually made sense and there was no sign of piano music. For this song, Melissa and I had to do a lot of re-adjusting and we both agreed that she should just play the basic chords that were the same as my ukulele chords.
Jiwon: Play the correct strum and lots of plucking for the melody
Melissa: Basic chords that match with my ukulele chords
Although we couldn’t find the official piano part for pearly shells, we managed to find a recording of someone playing this song on the piano. As I have a lot of experience with playing the piano and Melissa is musically blessed, we managed to find the basis structure of the song and how Melissa should play it.
Jiwon: Play the correct strum and put some plucking for the melody
Melissa: Left hand will play the chord divided in a 5 – 1&3 structure, right hand will play the melody with single notes
We also figured out the kind of songs we wanted to play for our final in-depth night performance. Although it will remain as a secret for now, we will be putting together a whole bunch of songs from the same genre. As they are all songs the audience will know and have heard of at some point in life, it will be easy for them to enjoy the song. Overall Melissa and I had a great time and although we sometimes got distracted (Gordon Ramsay is the king of all food related things on earth) we managed to do everything we wanted to for our first meeting together.