Mitchell Davis is currently a music education student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, born in 1997 in Sydney. Following a positive experience with music education in primary and secondary school combined with a personal interest in music as an art form and pastime, the decision to become a secondary school music teacher was naturally made.
Complimentary to studying music education, Mitchell also holds ongoing experience working casually in a youth centre in his home town of Liverpool, New South Wales. After studying a Certificate IV in Youth Work, It was here that he initially found his confidence and appreciation for working with young people to achieve positive outcomes, predominately running various sport and recreational youth programs both in local Liverpool school environments and at the youth centre’s facilities.
Mitchell’s specific area of musical expertise is in contemporary popular music. He is a guitarist and songwriter who enjoys genres such as heavy metal, extreme metal, hard rock, blues and pop. He has begun to write, release and perform his original music in order to gain greater experience in the world of contemporary music and give more value to his skills in becoming a music educator.
Mitchell Davis’ first official musical release with his band Together As One
Prior to explaining why I have made a breakthrough that will change the face of chord playing instruments for all mankind (or not), let’s catch up on where we are now. As I am writing this KAME has had it’s first in person class for the semester, which was the first dedicated class to the chord instruments we have chosen. These activities are supplemented with “contemporary pedagogies” work to be done in our own time, to give us even more scope for our future profession, mainly in terms of exploring the work of notable music educators who have pushed the boundaries for our profession. This also reminds me that I will have to write a post dedicated to the first six weeks worth of discussions (that supplemented the introductory Kodaly course in the first half of our KAME classes.
Now, time to get real. After sitting down with my ukulele this week, I rolled my eyes and thought how can I possibly come up with a practical and foolproof system (or in this case me-proof) for ukulele chords in time for the performance day? Sometimes in life it is these challenges that lead to breakthroughs, whether they are great or small in scope. I have in fact managed to create an excellent system for myself; in essence there are still inevitably several physical chord shapes to learn, yet they follow a perfect pattern by which the patterns change through the twelve note system based on what would be the relative minor notes! (meaning the patterns change at the same time according to relative minor tonics… if that makes sense). C to E major, dominant 7th and major 7th chords each have one parallel pattern (mind you i managed to find shapes for these chord types that remain mostly the same with one note alterations here and there based on adding 7ths and such). F to G# of the same three types have parallel patterns, then A to B all have patterns. If you shift those note names/ranges all down by three semitones (to the relative minor tonics… see where I’m going with this?) then you have parallel patterns for all minor and minor 7th chord shapes. As mentioned, there are still the physical chord shapes to learn, and no direct relation between the major and minor shapes, but all the shapes change based on this pattern of relative minor/major root notes, with all three types of major chords staying in one position and modifying one note as needed, and the two minor chord types for each root note staying in the same basic shape but one note changes whether it is a triad or a 7th chord (even though I’m just using root, 3rd, 7th for minors). That’s about it for this week, I’m just glad that I could figure this out once and for all, and that seems to be achievement enough, the chord shapes I’m using now are both logically organised and sound musical. I should mention that this process was inspired by the first chord instrument class we just had this week, with my own mathematical spin on it to find a system that works for me : (hopefully the last time I post a boring screenshot of this chord chart, this is THE one I will be sticking with)
I’m going to be honest here; I think I have begun to enjoy the ukulele a little more now in the past week or so, given my updating of my chord chart to learn table. Here is another updated version with some new columns which are currently unfinished although I am going to task myself to finish those by next time you hear from me :
The two new columns are for major 7th and minor 7th chord shapes through the 12 notes, beyond just the dominant 7th shapes. Last week it became apparent to me that my laziness in simply playing a C major chord without the third fret note on the high string, opting for a lovely and simple 0 0 0 X chord shape with no left hand fretting required opened up some possibilities. I am aware that in James’ (Humberstone) ukulele diary he learnt C major with that high note, so I played it and realised it is simply a doubling of the root. Shortly after I realised this means I can shift this high note around to add notes to the triad, namely the major 7th interval by moving it down from 3 to 2. Simultaneously, it occurred to me that I had basically already used this method when deciding on my Dominant 7th shapes to use (eg. C major dominant 7 is 0 0 0 1). The minor 7th chord shapes I landed on happened even easier than that. By recognising that the majority of the minor chord shapes I am using are parallel patterns on the higher 3 strings, this leaves behind the lowest (in space) string. This lowest string is a whole step below the highest string (the root note string for the minor chord shapes) meaning that a minor 7th for any root of A-E can be achieved by simply playing the same fret on the low string (eg. A min is X 0 0 0, A min7 is 0 0 0 0). I may or may not have mentioned last week that this mathematical and pattern based method of creating chord shapes for myself comes from not really enjoying the ‘all over the place’ style employed by a lot of the online ukulele lessons, despite that quality of instruction by instructors such as the fantastic Justin Sandercoe (not sponsored by the way!).
Moving on, I decided to learn a constant personal favourite and surely the greatest songs ever to just have a riff, a one chord vamp for a pre chorus, and a chorus which uses the same chords as the riff; Highway to Hell by AC/DC. Although it was less than two minutes to work out my shapes and use my chart for assistance to play the A, D and G chords, I decided to be proactive when I encountered a problem. The D to G change in my system requires a sudden move from the second fret barre to the seventh fret. In heavy metal this wouldn’t be an issue, but on a ukulele, it sounds rather strange and does not translate to this adorable unplugged instrument. I chose to keep the 222 D chord and opt for use a G major shape of 423. I was able to work this out based on the fact that my G# major shape is 534, so moving down one step resulted in G that is appropriately close physically and musically to the D chord. The pre chorus on E is awkward considering that a guitar’s E chord is meant to be lower than an A chord, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.
It’s also great to be able to play Highway to hell and not have to care that Mal and Angus recorded their guitars tuned somewhere between E and Eb, because the octave difference with the ukulele makes my ear oblivious to the difference. Imagine being Bon Scott and learning to sing along to guitars and bass that are technically microtonal… RIP Bon Scott.
This week has been a rather simple one for the ukulele. My goal was to revisit my personally made ukulele chord chart and revise the shapes I have been using. Although I have made some progress using the current shapes I know, I decided to developed a “barre chord” system just for myself. Our assessment task has stated it requires us to learn major, minor and dominant 7th chords for C through to all the non accidental root notes except for B flat as an exception.
Below is my new system; it has a clear repetitive system of moving a chord shape in a parallel manner up the fretboard just as a rock/pop/country guitar player is often taught to do. This method has been in the back of my mind for some time, although I have been conscious of the difference in sound between resonant open chords and the potential limitations of barring frets higher up the neck, making the vibrating portion of string length shorter. However, after spending the time to experiment with these differences, I do believe it is only a very small sacrifice in exchange for the easy to remember barre system.
The only exceptions to the barre patterns present are G# major and dominant 7th. Barring on the eighth fret seemed to be just too much of a sacrifice in tone of the strings, leaving too little length on the strings to vibrate. The seventh fret seemed to be the last place on the fretboard which left enough tone in the strings. Most significantly, this system has presented me with the ability to find a major, minor or dominant 7th chord on the ukulele for any of the twelve root notes. This means it will immediately translate to a classroom setting should I ever wish to employ the ukulele for accompanying student performances.
After challenging myself to better understand technique in playing the ukulele along with working out the twelve bar blues I IV V chords in several keys, I have been thinking more about the place and purpose of the instrument beyond decoration on top of existing music. While genres that include the instrument as a staple may be worth exploring, for now I will stick to western popular music for learning purposes. This process will allow me to further cement chord shapes in mind, as well as fulfil the intention of this assessment in the first place, to be able to perform chord based popular songs on a variety of instruments as the teacher in a variety of contexts.
This website (Uku-tabs) is reminiscent of Ultimate guitar, a community dedicated to sharing of transcriptions of songs for the instrument. The link provided is a long list of songs dedicated to ukulele driven popular songs, a perfect resource for learning more about the instrument in a real world context beyond the scope of this assessment.
After having spent some time studying the chord chart I created for myself, by finding patterns that I could turn into barre chord shapes to transpose to different root notes, it is time to put this all into practical use. Recently I have completed a lesson plan task in which I referred to the twelve bar blues as a great tool for fundamental songwriting and ensemble performance. For this reason I will be challenging myself to learn the twelve bar blues in keys F through to E on the circle of fifths (which all fit in the chords we are asked to learn). Learning to play the 12 bar blues using chords I, IV and V in both major and minor variants, combining in some dominant 7th shapes will make for great practice that relates to playing actual music on the instrument.
I have also thought about the technique behind the instrument. While learning the chord shapes is important, it will be worthless without good technique. Just as I did as a much younger man, utilising free online content is a great place to start for learning more about instrument technique. This video included advice on strumming, fretting, playing position and practice routines.
Following several weeks of becoming familiar with the ukulele as a new instrument, I have ‘formally’ decided to begin drilling the set of chords that we are asked to learn for the chordal instrument task. Just as a new guitarist will often spend their initial learning stage exploring the instrument and working out how to play a simple tune on their own in order to find a starting point, I needed to get acquainted with the ukulele before learning from another source.
In order to begin learning these chords more intensely, I created a table/grid with columns of C through to Bb and rows of major, minor and dominant 7th variants for each. My experience as a guitarist gave me the knowledge that anytime I found one easy shape on the ukulele neck, I could translate it up a fret or several and have the next chord I need to learn complete. This process worked well and I can now comfortably begin drilling these shapes to memory.
Approximately one week has passed since I have had my ukulele. It has been quite a laugh to begin with, the sound is just very different to most of the music and instruments I normally listen to. So far I have taught myself to play the chorus chords one of my band’s original songs “Together As One” along with the melodic main guitar riff (which I actually used for a video recording task in another music ed class the other day). I have also taught myself to play a classic extreme metal riff “Blinded by Fear” by At The Gates.
Besides all of that, down to business. The chords I have learnt so far after learning to play the chorus of my band’s original song are C major, A Minor, F Major and G Major. Seeing as how this 1 6 4 5 progression in C major was an incredibly easy way to learn and remember 4 chord shapes in a matter of minutes, perhaps I should write down 1 6 4 5 progressions in other white note keys (non accidental keys) to learn other chord shapes as well. It is definitely a more engaging and musical way to learn these shapes instead of drilling them with flash cards for example.
Under the current circumstances, our learning here at the Sydney Conservatorium is now online. As such, music ed students have been given the opportunity to fulfil a task normally given to us in a later class. The task is to learn a chord playing instrument that we do not already play. As a guitarist, the choices are piano/keyboard or ukulele. While I do plan to learn keyboard in the near future, the ukulele is a more convenient option especially with the current day by day changes in our communities.
I managed to purchase a ukulele from a music store close to home. Learning an instrument without a live teacher, instead from written or online sources and listening to records is something I am familiar with. My first year of guitar playing was through listening to Malcolm and Angus young of AC/DC, and the tab books made for their rock and roll masterpieces. James mentioned some options for online such as Justinguitar (Justin Sandercoe) of whom I am a fan of, as he creates engaging content for guitarists that I personally have used many times. I will definitely be exploring his ukulele instructional material. James also mentioned lynda.com has a free option for Sydney uni students, which I will also explore. I look forward to the challenge of learning an instrument from scratch once again.
Below is a link to ibooks resource created for the course. I may not keep this blog post and link up forever, if I choose to keep the recourse private, though for the time being it will be available to download here. In the spirit of the upcoming presentation for semester 1 2020 Tech in music ed class, it will remain public and available for the time being.
The project reflects my main interests from the realm of topics looked at over the semester, and some of the general ideas and thoughts I’ve had for creating my own educational/entertainment based resources potentially even for a youtube channel one day.
Here is the dropbox link (which is unable to give a preview directly on the page but will allow for download of the file) :
Thank you for reading and as mentioned previously, this is very much the end of the blog for it’s original purpose, however it will always remain online and will serve as a nice platform for me to keep a record of my own experiences with using technology as a future (and one day current) music educator.
Mitchell James Davis
Please let me know if you have found this page through facebook
That’s right. While it may seem like a quick turn around from posting about my project on Monday, once again I have decided to only put my best foot forward when blogging about it. Full disclosure, yes I had started some of the process of creating the Ibook when blogging about the completion of the video series (show business is all about creating illusion and entertainment). Here is the completed Ibooks version for your entertainment. Below I will discuss the making of the resource, particularly how I decided to use specific Ibooks features and how the video series I created remains the focal point with the Ibook format as an embellishment.
This is my first time creating an Ibooks resource, and I thoroughly enjoyed using it, knowing that it would create a good looking piece of work. Our lecturer James created a youtube playlist of Ibook tutorials which I took note of, however reminding myself that I will need to pick and choose from all of the possibilities (just as I mention in the music theory intro video that music theory is a set of tools that you can pick and choose from). Most notably, use of the widgets function allowed for video and images throughout the resource. In sum, the features I used from Ibooks author really comes down to embedding the videos I created throughout, along with images sourced from copyright free sources, and text boxes to supplement and further explain/consolidate the content from the video and image sources. As mentioned in my previous post, most of the production value here comes from the video series, with the Ibook mainly as a format of presentation.
I am proud of this resource, it has achieved what I set out to create. Within the five areas of music theory, learning, performing, songwriting, and recording, I have touched on the fundamentals and given some details, without going to overly extensive lengths of any specific examples, since the resource should be accessible to musicians with interest in any instrument and genre.
Thank you for reading, this is more than likely the last post related to work in this class (technology in music education), however I may revisit this blog whenever I discover an interesting piece of tech that I could use for my future career as a music educator.
Please let me know if you have found this page through a shared facebook link