Note: This is a guest post from Eduardo Uke of EasyUkuleleSongs.com.
Hello my ukulele friends! I have a question for you. Have you ever felt stuck while learning to play the ukulele?
Then this is the perfect time we go over the ultimate guide to learning how to play the ukulele faster.
From my experience playing different instruments, the most difficult part is getting stuck with the feeling of no progress.
If you’ve ever felt like there is a stumbling block in your way or a barrier holding you back from getting to the next level of your ukulele learning journey – then this guide is for you my friend.
The goal of this guide is to completely remove stumbling blocks in the form of bad habits and incorrect routines. Once these are out the way, just imagine how fast you will see progress and breakthrough in your ukulele adventure.
This is above all meant to be super fun. Which is the reason I encourage everyone to take up the uke in this podcast episode. So continue with a smile 🙂
How would you define music first of all? I see music as a beautiful array of sounds that work together and support each other. Almost like a rainbow. You see how the colors are diverse yet they flow together in the same direction in unison. Pretty neat right?
This takes us to our first tip that you absolutely do not want to miss if you want to make effective and efficient progress.
1. Develop the habit of tuning your ukulele before playing
Playing a ukulele that is out of tune may frustrate your experience when attempting to learn new songs. You’ll find the notes you strum don’t quite match what you are listening to. Learning the chords to a song while your ukulele is out of tune will get you stuck. You may know where to place your fingers on the fretboard but the actual notes you are playing are not the intended notes from a tuned ukulele.
For this reason, before you start playing, you want to make sure that the first thing you do is tune your ukulele. There are a couple of ways to do this but the best way is to use an electronic tuner or the Ukulele Tricks online ukulele tuner.
The electronic tuner I usually like to buy is Snark SN2. This is the one I use myself and does a great job with accurately detecting the tunings of each string. As long as you take care of the tuner, it will last a long time.
2. Maintain Form and Good Posture
Holding the ukulele correctly is one of the most important fundamentals to get right at the beginning. An uncomfortable position will hinder your experience while learning. Poor posture can add unnecessary strain on certain parts of your body. Since you want to have fun while learning the uke, it would be no fun to feel strain in your muscles or joints.
If you’re sitting down while playing the uke, make sure to sit upright. Try your best not to arch your back as this is an unnatural position. Keep your back straight.
Next you want to support your uke right below your chest. This is the optimal area to hold the ukulele. You use your forearm to hold the body of the ukulele in place. The hand you use to hold down chords on the fretboard is the final support for the positioning of your uke.
3. Learn the Top 5 Most Popular Ukulele Chords
The majority of songs you learn as a beginner will very likely have these chords. The top 5 are:
- C Chord
- G Chord
- F Chord
- D Chord
- A Chord
You can search for these chords in the Ukulele Tricks Chord Library.
There are hundreds of chords you can learn. But the reality is that the great majority of songs out there use these popular chords.
To practice these chords, I suggest for you to learn these chords using a metronome at a slow pace and steadily increase the tempo or speed while taking breaks in between.
So for example: play the C chord at 65 BPM for 1 minute. Take a 10 second break, then repeat this 3 times before you move to the next common chord. After you get the hang of this, for the last of these top 5 chords, feel free to increase the pace.
4. Take Breaks and Repeat
There is a science and art behind learning how to play an instrument (or anything else in fact). The process I’m referring to is developing what is called “Muscle Memory”.
It’s the way your motor activity or movements are recorded into memory. Your memory will record the chord progressions you are playing, for example. So if you are playing the C chord, then you play E minor, then F repeatedly–this movement becomes so ingrained in muscle memory that it becomes easier to play without conscious effort after repetitions. So playing the song becomes more automatic without as much focus.
To make the most out of learning how to play songs ‘effortlessly’ you must take breaks often. As you repeat songs and different chords, you want to take breaks often so that the muscle memory can take the time to record your practice.
You’ll find that every time you go back to playing the song, it indeed becomes easier and more automatic to play.
5. Use a metronome to play in time
Music is precise when it comes to time. I’ve had the wonderful experience of recording in studios before. One of the very first things to do before recording is to use what is called a “Click Track”. This is a recurring beat that keeps everything in perfect timing. So when the musicians record the different instruments they all play according to the same time.
You might be wondering, “How can I play in time?” For this you need to use a metronome. It is an electronic tool that simply beeps in sequence. You can set the speeds it beeps in. So just to give you an example, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is a song that plays at just about 85 Beats Per Minute (BPM). So you would set the metronome to 85 BPM and play according to the beats.
Here is the ukulele trick that will get you learning faster… Are you ready?
The trick is to play slower. That’s correct, playing slower is the trick to learning faster.
The way you would go about this is to first set a goal. Let’s say the goal is to achieve playing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” comfortably. This then means that your goal is 85BPM. Let’s now break this down to mini goals and you are on your way to playing the song like never before.
Your first mini goal is to play this song at the rate of 65BPM. This speed is significantly slower than the original pace of the song. This is intentional and is the first goal to achieve before moving forward. Once you play the song chords at 65BPM, for your next goal, increase the speed to 70BPM. Continue to add 5BPM increments until you are playing the song at 85BPM.
As I often like to say, practice makes progress. For best results, do not rush through your first goal.
6. Hum Song Lyrics While Playing Slowly
One of the most enjoyable things to do while playing the uke is singing your favorite songs. If you find singing and playing ukulele at the same time to be challenging then all of the tips we previously covered will benefit you greatly.
In this tip, we want to hum while playing and using a metronome so we can pace ourselves. Make sure to start with only a basic down-down strumming pattern. We then want to play a certain section of a song repeatedly while humming the song lyrics.
The reason why we will hum the song verses is that we want to get familiar with playing the uke at the same time as getting used to using our voice. Our focus is more on the strumming of chords with right timing and just barely singing–all at the same time. Lyrics wouldn’t be a concern at this point. We just want to get comfortable doing this.
If you use the strategy of using a metronome to pace yourself at a slow tempo and steadily increasing, you will see success in your progress.
7. Sing While Playing Basic Strumming Patterns
Now at by this stage you are getting accustomed to playing in tune, on time, and navigating between chords easily. You can also play your select song while humming it comfortable.
Now we want to shift our focus and give more attention to actually singing the words of the song. At this point you should continue using a basic down-down strumming pattern. As you play the song with a metronome at a slow tempo (for example, 65BPM) you should now sing the words. At this very slow pace you will be comfortable playing the chords and keeping rhythm of the song. Using the the above tips you will certainly learn how to play ukulele faster.
As you progress in singing and playing at a faster tempo with the basic strumming pattern, feel free to get more creative and use other strumming patterns.
This sums up the best learning tips that will help you learn faster and therefore progress faster. To recap this guide, here are the pointers to always follow for best results:
- Always tune your ukulele before playing
- Make sure to use comfortable and natural posture
- Learn the most popular uke chords
- Repeat what you practice and take breaks often
- Use a metronome to be consistent with timing
- Learn to hum a song while playing
- Sing and strum a song at the same time with the above tips
I hope you enjoyed this article and that it becomes a standard you will use to learn faster and become a better ukulele player. If this guide helps, share it with your friends! We’d also love to hear how this learning process has helped you in the comment section below.
This is Eduardo Uke – over and out!
Eduardo Uke is an avid ukulele teacher and podcast host. Want more tips on learning to play the uke easier and faster? Subscribe at his website EasyUkuleleSongs.com and receive a free ebook today.