Teaching over 10,000 students in the Strumming Tricks online video lesson course has given me direct line of sight into your biggest beginner ukulele challenges.
It’s normal to feel discouragement and even frustration as you’re first learning.
It can even feel like you’re the only one facing those challenges or like there’s something wrong with your capacity for making music.
More often than not, you aren’t alone.
See if you’ve faced any of these top five beginner ukulele challenges.
1. Getting a Ukulele (Making the Decision to Learn)
Deciding to learn to play ukulele is no small decision.
For some of you, you’ve gone most of your life having never picked up a musical instrument. You might think you just aren’t a musical person or that you weren’t given the “lucky” musical gene.
Or, perhaps you’ve tried to play music before but have royally failed.
Some of you have even been told by a past music teacher that you just don’t have what it takes to play music.
A student of mine shares a bad experience with a music teacher who discouraged him from making music
Facing up to these internal or external criticisms can be crippling to learning – even before you’ve picked up the instrument!
No wonder it can feel difficult to muster up the courage to go to the music store to find a ukulele to buy.
To help with this, I’ve assembled a ukulele buying guide to help you find the best ukulele and you can join me in the free Learn to Play Ukulele Today video lesson course once you have your new ukulele.
At this step, it’s important you don’t overthink your decision to learn to play ukulele.
Yes, you can do this.
Just get a ukulele!
I’m here to show you how to play.
2. Dealing With Sore and Clumsy Fingers
Once you’ve managed to get a ukulele, it’s off to learning your first ukulele chords.
Chances are the simplest chords will feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever done with your hands and fingers.
If you’re older and manage arthritis, it can feel even more difficult.
When first learning to play ukulele chords, it takes the pads of your fingers a couple weeks of consistent, regular practice to build up calluses.
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Got a quick ukulele tip for you, but first say hello to my fretting hand 👋🏼 One of the biggest challenges beginner ukulele players face is sore fingertips and hands. You can’t see in the picture but the tips of my fingers have developed tough calluses over the years with consistent playing that make it so chords are much easier to play. In the early stages, it’s important to keep practice consistent to toughen the fingers up, but remember to give your fingers rest between practice sessions to heal. It’s all apart of the process. With a bit of time and practice, you’ll find that chords which once seemed impossible are much easier to play!
Remember learning chords requires a whole new set of muscles which often will be lacking in strength and dexterity.
The best thing you can do when first learning to play ukulele is to commit yourself to repetition and regular practice sessions.
In the beginning stages, you’ll be eager to play all the time, but if you notice the pads of fingers becoming too sore to successfully fret chords, then, take a day off and come back to it. Your fingers will have a chance to rest up and get stronger.
And for those of you with arthritis, be sure to speak first with your doctor before playing, and be patient with yourself. I have many students who manage to play with arthritis but patience and short practice sessions will be key to your success.
3. Finding Time to Practice
Life is busy, and while enthusiasm to play ukulele can help you get started, something more is required to become a proficient ukulele player.
Jumping from YouTube video to YouTube video can help, but there’s more to practice than discovering the latest YouTube video from yours truly.
Playing ukulele in a way that produces results, or allows you to make the music you dream of playing, requires a plan.
Yes, practice isn’t sexy, but it doesn’t have to be dreadful.To help make things easier, read my lesson on “How to Practice Ukulele When 15 Minutes is All You Have” to discover a fun and enjoyable way to structure your practice sessions to see the fastest results.
4. Singing and playing at the same time
When you’ve learned chords and how to strum, it’s time to play songs.
You probably want to sing it out nice and strong but once you do everything all kind of falls apart.
Why is it that?
It’s important to realize that singing and playing at the same time can hang up even the most advanced ukulele players. For example, I’ve been playing ukulele for over 20 years, and every now and then I’ll be learning to play a new song, and as soon as I start to sing out loud I lose the strumming or forget what chords I’m changing to and from.
If you think about it, singing and playing at the same time requires you to perform multiple things at once very proficiently and in perfect synchronization.
Your fretting hand has to automatically know what chord to change to next without hesitating or pausing.
Your strumming hand has to keep that steady pattern going without reverting to some other strumming pattern.
Oh, and then, you have to sing the song in tune and in time!
Whew. That’s a lot.
In the Strumming Tricks course, I tackle the problem of singing and playing at the same time head on, but the important thing to remember is that it takes time to proficiently perform all these different tasks. Spend the time and practice needed for each step before putting it all together.
5. Learning to Play the Songs You Love
To play the songs you love on ukulele, there are three key steps:
- Learn the song’s chords
- Find the right strumming pattern for the song
- Put the chords and strumming together to sing and play the song
That’s all there is to it. Easy, right?
Sadly, it isn’t that simple!
One of the mistakes new ukulele players make is trying to learn songs that are too difficult, like trying to learn how to play Hey Soul Sister which incorporates one of the hardest ukulele chords – the dreaded E chord.
As you begin, it’s important to progress and master the easy songs first before moving on to the harder ones.
Learning easy songs first allows you to gain confidence and the skills needed to understand a song’s count and how a strumming pattern is created from this. The first songs I recommend learning on ukulele are in the free Learn to Play Ukulele Today course.
If you’re struggling to make music on ukulele, then, there’s no better step than to join me in the course.
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