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Korg Education Bundle

I’m back from the Texas Music Education Association annual conference, and I had the joy of presenting one session (on forScore) as well as attending a number of sessions–and ukulele sessions. I also had the chance to hang out with Andy Ramos and to visit with Kris Gilbert, and you’ll see podcasts with them on this blog soon.

As Andy and I attended various sessions, we were amazed at how many ukulele sessions are focusing on four chord songs (C, F, G[7], Am), and the need for a “ukulele: what’s the next step” session. Kris Gilbert’s session on Saturday was the only session that moved to chords and techniques beyond the first four chords. Don’t get me wrong…the first four chords are terribly important…and I know if you are teaching a month long ukulele unit, that might be all that you can cover. That said, there is a whole lot more territory to cover.

One of TMEA’s major selling points is the vendor area, which is huge…it is a convention in and of itself. I keep my eyes out for ukulele items–and it was pretty quiet as ukuleles went. My friends at Peripole had their normal line of Luna ukuleles (and sold a bunch) but also now carry KoAloha Opio ukuleles, which I am a huge fan of.

The only instrument that took me by surprise was the Korg Education ukulele bundle. The instrument itself is by Tanglewood. A similar model was positively reviewed by Got A Ukulele last year:

The kit includes a light gig bag, a Korg Tuner, a colored string method book, and a Tanglewood concert ukulele with Aquila KIDS strings on it, selling as a kit for about $80. This is a bit more than I’d like to see, but not outrageous.

I’m a big fan of the Aquila strings, so I was very interested in the package. The two Tanglewoods that I saw (a more basic model than the Got A Ukulele reviewed item) had a very high setup (at the neck and saddle) with sharp fret edges. This is common, but you would want to see if you could buy these from a vendor who would address those issues for you before you received them.

The book, however, took me by surprise, because it asked for the A string to be tuned to G, making the ukulele GCEG. Andy Ramos and I attended another ukulele session at TMEA where the presenter suggested tuning to GCEG–and while I can’t speak for Andy, I’m not comfortable with that. I would rather encourage students to play one finger chords rather than learn an alternate tuning. The book, while it uses color charts, doesn’t integrate those colors directly in the songs, and it sort of feels like a missed opportunity. I suggested to the rep that they may want to offer packages with a book that doesn’t require the dropped tuning.

So, with the ukulele package, I would instead consider it a similar ukulele to a Kala KA-C or Makala MK-C with Aquila KIDS strings, a very light gig bag, and a tuner–with a book that I know that I personally wouldn’t use with my students. Is that package worth $80? Probably, again, as long as the vendor is willing to do some set-up work before you buy them. Otherwise, I’d direct you to a flight soprano (cheaper) or Outdoor Ukulele (more expensive) for most school environments.

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