Learning Ukulele: The Ultimate Guide
by Rodrigo Sanchez, Jun 24, 2022 . 9 min read
Welcome to Learning Ukulele: The Ultimate Guide. Here, you are going to learn everything you need to know about learning this wonderful instrument.
In this guide, we’re going to answer the most common questions relating to learning the uke, shed light on some related issues, and dispel some myths that may hinder your progress.
The popularity of the ukulele has skyrocketed, particularly in the last decade. This is due to three simple and extremely convenient factors that make this instrument quite appealing. Firstly, the ukulele is cheap. Even if you get an “expensive” model, it will likely be cheaper than most other instruments. Secondly, they are easy to learn. Sure, you will have to spend some time with the instrument, but you will likely be able to play it quickly. Thirdly, they are portable and easy to store. You can carry a ukulele anywhere, as they take very little space.
As for the perennial question of how long it takes to learn to play ukulele, the most honest answer is it depends. If you do focused practice for 30 minutes a day, you will be playing simple songs within a week. On the other hand, if you pick the uke once a month, it may be well over a year. It all depends on you!
So get ready to start having loads of fun. Without further ado, here is your ultimate guide for learning ukulele.
In order to learn an instrument, you need to have one. So we’ve put together this brief buyer’s guide so you can inform yourself and get to know the ukulele for you.
There are four main types of ukuleles, and they are distinguished by their size. The smallest one is the soprano, which also happens to be the most common. Next, we have the concert uke, which is a bit bigger. It is followed in size by the tenor, and finally the baritone uke.
There are other sizes of ukulele, both smaller and bigger, but those are not as common. As varied as the sizes can be, the materials used in the construction of the uke can also vary greatly. This mostly applies to the woods used but can extend to other details like the tuners, nut, etc. These choices also have an impact on the price of the uke.
The great thing is that you can get a good ukulele for less than 100 dollars. These instruments still have good quality and will surely get the job done. This is especially true if you are just a beginner.
Since these ukes are quite inexpensive, you may want to consider spending some money on lessons. Getting a ukulele teacher may be of great help to learning it the right way from the beginning. However, know that this is not mandatory, and many folks have learned the uke just fine on their own.
Tuning explanation and tutorial
Tuning your ukulele is crucial. An out-of-tune ukulele will not allow you to learn, and will just sound terrible. The good news is that is relatively easy to tune a uke.
The first thing to understand for tuning your ukulele is that each string has a pitch. Hold your ukulele as if you were going to play it. The string closest to the floor or your lap is the first string and the one closest to your face is the fourth string. The 1st string is tuned to an A, the 2nd string is an E, the 3rd string is C, and the 4th string is a G. The tuning pegs turn clockwise to tighten the strings and counterclockwise to loosen them. This video is likely the best way to see and understand how tuning a ukulele is.
The Basics: chords and strums
Simply said, you will play chords with your left hand and strum with your right hand. In other words, your left hand will be the one responsible for pressing the strings individually in order to create chords: the building blocks of uke playing. At the same time, your right hand will strum the uke right in front of the sound hole, in order to make a sound. Both hands work in tandem and must be accurately coordinated.
There are several strumming patterns for the uke. In this guide, we’re going to give you the two simplest. These two strumming patterns will allow you to play a plethora of songs, as soon as you can play a few chords.
The first pattern to learn is down, up, down, and up. All you have to do is strum down, and then back up, and repeat that. Do it slowly at first, and then repeat until you start to get the hang of it.
The next pattern is down, down, down, down. This one is almost self-explanatory. Simply strum downwards on every beat. Try to hit all strings evenly and do not rush.
Chords are the result of you strumming two or more notes at the same time. They are the building blocks of harmony. You will be playing chords almost all the time when playing the uke, so make sure you learn them well.
To play chords, you need to place your fingers on specific string at specific frets. The frets are spaces divided by lines along the fretboard. Your first fret is the closest one to the headstock of the uke, and it goes up from there.
That said, let’s play the F chord. Place your finger 1 (index finger) on the second string first fret. Then place your second finger (middle) on the fourth string second fret. There you have it, your first ukulele chord is an F!
Now let’s learn a C chord. Use your ring finger (3rd finger) and place it on the 3rd fret of the bottom string (1st string). There you have your C chord.
Once you get the hang of playing chords, you are ready to learn some easy ukulele songs.
We are living in a great time to learn about a vast variety of topics. Learning ukulele is certainly one of them. There are seemingly endless resources, from apps to tutorials and everything in between. Naturally, some are better than others.
One of the best tools you can get is Roadie Coach. Coach listens to your practice and provides you with customized feedback in an instant. This hardware and app combo will help you with chords, strumming, and song learning.
The hardware conveniently attaches to your uke and features a high-quality microphone to capture your playing. The app features a vast song library that gives you plenty of options to learn. Simply said one of the best and most comprehensive tools to help you become a better musician.
After you spend some time strumming and chords, the best way to keep learning the ukulele is by learning some songs. Below is a list of songs that you can start working on. This is truly where the fun begins.
Shape of You
Somewhere over The Rainbow
The songs above make up a fun repertoire that you can play alone or share with friends and family. Besides being fun, they also contain very valuable lessons and will help you tremendously in your journey of learning ukulele.
Advanced: Next steps in ukulele learning, establishing a routine…
With time and dedication, you will likely want to move on to more challenging songs. Doing will so will increase your technique and overall ability on the instrument. At this stage, you can even move beyond just doing chords and strumming, to playing some single lines, intros, and interludes. Believe it or not, you will likely have even more fun!
Naturally, in order to get to this stage, you will need to develop a practice routine and keep at it.
You can even delve into more advanced concepts like alternate tunings and songwriting. Although this will be very exciting, it may also come with the inevitable self-doubt and even frustration that most proficient musicians experience. It is key to understand those bad days will happen every so often, so you can keep at it.
Recording yourself is one of the most effective and fun things you can do for your playing. You will hear exactly what you sound like and what your trouble spots are. This is one of the most direct ways to truly zoom in on the areas of your playing that need work. Perhaps it is changing to a certain chord on a song, or maybe your strumming is a bit rushed. Whatever the case may be, recording yourself will reveal it.
With time, you can also start recording your own songs, or even covers to share on your YouTube channel and other social media outlets.
The great thing about recording today is that it is relatively inexpensive. You can get the basic recording equipment you need without having to spend a lot. As a matter of fact, chances are you already have some of this equipment.
With just a computer, microphone, interface, and headphones, you are ready to go deep into the incredibly rewarding world of recording and music production.
We hope that you use this Learning Ukulele guide to the best of your ability. Think of it as a first step into the wonderful joy that playing the uke can bring. Besides being a super fun and exciting endeavor, playing music is a fantastic brain exercise and helps keep you youthful and energized. Please leave us a comment below and tell us how your ukelele playing goes.