I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

My students at this point of the year have learned 6 chords.  Yes, if you study ukulele independently, you can probably learn all 6 in one 30 minute session.  I’m dealing with a number of students who didn’t choose the instrument (usually there is a correlation between those that don’t want to sing and those that don’t want to play–they just don’t want to be there) and therefore, I have to move slowly enough that I don’t lose a majority of the kids before this point.

Last year, with a month, we learned these same 6 chords.

In my philosophy, I teach C, F, and G first.  Then I teach the 7ths that lead to those chords (G7, C7, and the Hawaiian D7).  Next we will move to the subdominant chords and the submediant chords.  I’m not teaching my students that terminology–but I am teaching them where chords lead.  This is because music follows these conventions, and if they learn and practice these progressions, they will be ready for most music.

G7 and G go to C; also F -> G or G7 ->C

C7 goes to F

Hawaiian D7 goes to G; also C->Hawaiian D7->G

We talk about how a 7th chord has a specific purpose and pulls strongly to a specific chord.

I think the next chords will be Am and Dm, followed by Em.

I am still avoiding barre chords (Bb will be our first), although in warm-ups I am having them “barre” from the fifth fret up to the first and back, just to get them used to barring in the meantime.  The D7 barre won’t be introduced for a while.

At any rate, I need some music for students to practice the Hawaiian D7…one of those songs is I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.  I found it in the Key of C, which is ridiculously too low for most singers other than a true Bass or a true Alto.  While you could certainly substitute other chords, the intent of the arrangement is to give practice with the Hawaiian D7.  I am also working on a version of Red River Valley with the Hawaiian D7 (the existing version, I believe, shows regular D7).