You have a ukulele!
That feeling of learning an instrument for the first time is pure excitement. There’s nothing quite like it. However, that excitement can also be met with the feeling of overwhelm and a big fat question:
Where do I even begin?
With your ukulele in hand, what do you do now? How do you take this strange alien object called the ukulele and turn the sound it makes into beautiful, inspiring music?
If you’re a beginner and don’t know where to start, here are the four options you have before you to learn how to play ukulele.
Oh, and full disclosure:
I (obviously) teach online ukulele lessons here at Ukulele Tricks, which is one of the ways to learn to play ukulele that I mention below, however, let me be clear, online lessons aren’t always for everyone. Keep reading to learn what way of learning is best for you.
Learn Ukulele Method #1: “I Taught Myself Ukulele”
So your friend told you they “taught themselves” ukulele.
If they can do it, can you teach yourself ukulele?
Most likely your friend did not discover the twelve-tone equal temperament tuning theory upon which all Western music is based and translate that to the ukulele in order to make music. No! They probably had some help.
The self-learning route of learning to play ukulele consists primarily of reading books and searching online for free lessons. Chances are your friend googled learn how to play ukulele and got started (which by the way, isn’t it amazing we can do this?).
What your friend might have found though is that the feeling of overwhelm started to set in after they made it past learning the most basic ukulele chords:
What do I learn next?
What are the steps I need to take to play [insert favorite song here]?”
Am I even doing this right?
Those who have a prior musical background, such as singing in choir or playing in band when they were younger, can rely on a self-teaching method with better results because they’ve “been there and done that” before with another instrument.
The biggest benefit to a self-teaching method is that you set the pace and it’s pretty much free, but it comes at the price of a larger investment of time and energy sifting and sorting through the information.
Takeaway: If you have a lot of time, books and free online resources are out there to help you play ukulele, but this information can be disorganized and overwhelming to a new ukulele player who has never played an instrument before in their life.
Learn Ukulele Method #2: Find a Ukulele Group
From India to Australia to America, there are groups of ukulele players that meet all over the world on a regular basis to experience the joy of making music together.
A student of mine Lynda sent me this photo of her ukulele group meeting
What’s great about a ukulele group is that the pressure and focus is not all on you. The best ukulele group leaders will lead the group into playing songs with individual parts that you can play whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
The downside to learning to play ukulele in a group setting is that some groups are focused on performing more than teaching, which means sometimes you can feel left in the dust if there is a song that you can’t quite figure out how to play.
For this reason, many ukulele group participants will supplement their learning with any of the other ways of learning. However, most of the time ukulele groups are pretty easygoing and happy to help lend support and insight.
Takeaway: Finding a ukulele club or group in your local area is a great way to experience the joy of making music and learning skills along the way, but many new ukulele players will find they need to supplement their learning with other learning methods.
Learn Ukulele Method #3: Book a Private Lesson
Private lessons are one of the best ways to improve your skills in the shortest amount of time. It’s a lot like having your own personal trainer or coach at the gym showing you exactly what to do.
The best private teacher will be able to help you identify you’re learning goals and provide a path for you to get there.
For example, many new ukulele players have a goal to fingerpick a few simple solo pieces on ukulele within a year. This is a great goal and very realistic by the way!
Students of mine have had this goal only to have a private teacher tell them, “No, fingerpicking is too advanced. You should only learn strumming.”
There’s no faster way to suck the joy from learning to play an instrument than a teacher who tells you that you can’t do something. Sure, there might be prerequisite steps you need to take before you play intricate chord melody on ukulele, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start moving towards that direction today. If your private teacher is unwilling to come around and support your goals then look elsewhere.
Although the cost of private lessons can add up, a private teacher will work individually with you on achieving your goals, evaluating your progress, and providing specialized tips.
Takeaway: Although a higher cost, finding a private ukulele tutor who helps you identify you’re learning goals and provides a path for you to get there is invaluable for saving yourself time and making the music you love.
Learn Ukulele Method #4: Online Ukulele Courses
Nowadays, for many, online ukulele lesson courses make a lot of sense.
There are considerable benefits like:
- Pick the style(s) you wish to learn
- Follow step-by-step, easy-to-follow practice plans
- Watch the teacher demonstrate a technique multiple times
- Go at your own pace in your own home
- Save time searching for free lessons and accurate chord charts
- Pay less than the price of a single private lesson
- Get support and answers to your questions from a teacher online
Online ukulele lessons, like the Strumming Tricks and Fingerpicking Tricks courses I teach, are much different than the self-learning method where it’s up to you to figure out what to learn. You still set the pace but instead of wasting time trying to sort through the information you get the most important steps to follow with clear practice objectives to be able to make the music you love.
Less searching. More playing.
Not to mention, you have the support of an online teacher to help answer your questions and provide encouragement incase you get stuck along the way.
There are downsides to online ukulele lessons. For example, you don’t have a teacher sitting in the room with you identifying your mistakes as you play, however, uploading online video has never been easier, and most online teachers would love to see you playing ukulele and offer their feedback. I know I would!
Many of my students find online ukulele lessons while participating in a ukulele group to be the best of both worlds. With the online lessons, you have a dedicated space to improve your skills, and with the ukulele group, you have a space to share and enjoy your gifts with others.
Takeaway: The main benefit online ukulele lessons provide is that you go at your own pace learning to play the styles that interest you while also significantly reducing the amount of time and money spent on books and private tutors.
How Will You Learn Ukulele?
There’s not a right or wrong way to learn ukulele.
Many ukulele players have had success with any or all of these methods. The most important action you can take today is to set your course and start your journey. Making the music you want to make starts with the small steps.
If you’re feeling stuck and don’t know how to make the music you love, then, I’m also here to help.
There’s so much to learn and you have the exact steps you need to become a better ukulele player and experience the joy of making music.
Why don’t you join me?