Author Spotlight: Ukulele YouTube Star Emily Arrow

Author Spotlight: Ukulele YouTube Star Emily Arrow

Author Spotlight: An Interview with Ukulele YouTube Star Emily Arrow

Meet the author behind the Kid’s Guide to Learning the Ukulele 

Hello! Hello! This is Emily Arrow. She brings children’s books to life with the strum of her ukulele named “Bow”. With her background in music education, she is revolutionizing how children connect with music and literature on her well-known YouTube channel.

After graduating from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Emily started teaching elementary school music classes in Los Angeles. It was there she realized picture books along with her ukulele could help teach children to read. Now a full-time singer and author, Emily has flourished into a multi-award-winning artist. She travels the United States to visit schools, libraries, bookstores, festivals, and theaters to see children all over the country who jump for joy at the name Emily Arrow. An official Kala Brand Music Co. artist, Emily is constantly in motion collaborating on songs with picture book authors and hosting live YouTube shows, all while she wrote her own book, the Kid’s Guide to Learning the Ukulele. 

We had a quick chat with Emily while she was on tour about how she shares her ukulele magic with young musicians. See her interview below!

Kid's Guide to Learning the Ukulele

The ukulele is the perfect first instrument for kids! Inside this beginner’s guide, you will find:

  • Instructional guide for kids
  • 24 easy-to-learn songs, games, and activities
  • Introduce children to music and the benefits of playing an instrument
  • Kid-friendly fun facts on the uke’s history, fundamentals like tuning and holding positions, basic chords, and more
  • Charming illustrations and diagrams with easy-to-follow instructions for parents to teach their children

Beginner’s Ukulele Giveaway!

Five lucky winners will be selected to win a Kala Brand Ukulele and Emily Arrow’s new book, Kid’s Guide to Learning the Ukulele! Contest ends January 31, 2020. Click here to enter to win! 

So you started out as a music teacher. I’m sure you played a lot of different instruments. What led you to the ukulele as your instrument of choice?
My favorite thing about the ukulele is its size and portability which makes it an incredible teaching instrument. Because of it’s relatively “small” size, it’s also a bit softer in tone and doesn’t overpower my singing voice or the voices of kids. So after many years of playing and teaching on both piano and ukulele, the ukulele won me over for good.

Do you have any famous musicians that inspire you?
One of my favorite ukulele-driven musicians is Ingrid Michaelson, whose strumming patterns have always been a huge inspiration. Songstresses Joni Mitchell and Maggie Rogers inspire my writing style and The Weepies inspire my approach to perform.

What is the biggest challenge for a beginner ukulele player?
In the book, I share what I find to be the most challenging part of learning ukulele: tuning. The good news is, tuning is the first step. So it’s all smooth sailing from there!
What is the best song for beginners to try on the ukulele? What is your favorite song to play?
“Row Row Row Your Boat” is a brilliant first song and is the first song I share in Kids’ Guide to Learning the Ukulele. The whole song can be played with only one chord! And once a few more chords have been mastered, I love playing, “You Are My Sunshine,” which I’ve included in the guide as well. It’s a kind song to sing to a friend and always brightens someone’s day 🙂
Can you describe your favorite ukulele, “Bow”?
Bow is like a trusty friend and I always feel calm when I play Bow. It’s a beautiful shade of blue and is a tenor Kala ukulele. Because it’s a tenor, my uke is a bit larger looking than the soprano ukulele most commonly played and when I travel with it, people often ask if I’m carrying a violin because of its’ size.
Do you have a songwriting routine? Where do you draw inspiration?
I always sit on the floor when I write music and am on the fourth iteration of my favorite writing notebooks. I begin with the chorus of a song (or the part that gets repeated and is usually very catchy) and then I write the verses after. I always make sure to have a recording device rolling through the process so I don’t forget anything as I go. I also love co-writing and have regularly scheduled co-writing sessions on Skype with friends around the country. And throughout my day, I make little notes of anything that strikes me as a song idea, or as I now call them, “song seeds.” So when I sit down to write, I review my list and choose an idea I’d like to work on.
What is your favorite element, lesson, or part in your book?
My favorite part of the book is the pages for documenting your practice journey (or practice chart) at the back of the book. If you were in one of my lessons or workshops, this is the chart I would use to show you a way of keeping track of your practice time. I think it’s special and sweet and I am excited to be sharing my thoughts on practicing with my readers. 
What inspired you to write this book?
Throughout my years of teaching, I always wanted a book that could simplify the chord learning process on ukulele for kids. I believe the ukulele is an incredible instrument for beginners and wanted there to be a resource that could speak directly to young readers. Then when I opened a children’s music & bookshop, I realized an even larger need for a ukulele guide when someone purchased a ukulele for a child. 
My approach to teaching ukulele involves a system of color-coding each chord that I call “dot chords.” By assigning each of the 4 most common chords a color, learning where to put your fingers for each chord becomes a simple and fun process. So over the past few years, I’ve gathered together lessons and songs into a full guide that’s specifically written for young people. And along the way, I remembered to tun into the voice of my 7-year-old self. Because I know that a ukulele guide like this would have been my absolutely favorite book. ❤️

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