Top 10 Tips for Beginners Learning Ukulele
Synopsis: The ukulele is a phenomenal way to introduce people of all ages to the magic of music. From kids learning about music for the very first time to adults interested in taking up a new hobby, the ukulele has mass appeal.
The ukulele is a phenomenal way to introduce people of all ages to the magic of music. From kids learning about music for the very first time to adults interested in taking up a new hobby, the ukulele has mass appeal because it’s so easy to learn for beginners. Virtually no other instrument can be picked up as quickly as the ukulele can be, and this is due to the instrument’s small size and simple operation.
But for many people not experienced in music, the ukulele can still be a challenge to learn and master, even with its sizable benefits. Here’s ten great tips to help you get started. We’re covering everything from what ukes to buy to tips on how to get the most out of playing them.
What ukulele should I buy?
The ukulele is such an incredible instrument due in large part because of how simple it is. Most ukes are comprised of four strings suspended over a hollow wooden body. But sadly, not every ukulele is created equally, and some simply aren’t worth purchasing. The idea of “you get what you pay for” applies to the world of instruments in a big way, and what might seem like a great deal online could easily translate to an unplayable instrument in real life. Here’s a few tips to help you buy a great ukulele:
Tip #1: Ukuleles priced under $30 probably aren’t worth buying
There’s loads of cheaply priced ukulele options out there, and many appear to be reviewed well. Proceed with caution! If you want the best chance at buying a great instrument that will last and work well for years, prepare to spend at least $50. Ukes are simple instruments, but the instrument can’t sound good and function properly without the right materials and thoughtful construction. Cheap instruments almost always translate to poor playing experiences, and some are so poorly made that they end up turning people away from music and not to it. You can find great ukes in the $80-$400 range with the quality drastically improving the higher the cost.
Tip #2: Think about size when making your purchase
Ukuleles come in four different sizes: Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. The ukulele size that works for an adult man isn’t going be the best choice for a 7 year-old girl, so purchase yours accordingly.
Soprano: This is the smallest traditional ukulele and the size most of us associate the instrument with. This size is ideal for young children and smaller than average adults.
Concert: Instruments in this range are bigger, louder and a bit easier to play than Soprano models.
Tenor: Ukuleles in this size range begin to sound and feel a bit like classical guitars. This makes them ideal for guitarists and looking to branch out and learn a new instrument.
Baritone: These are the largest and least popular ukulele sizes. Falling somewhere between a guitar and ukulele, these instruments aren’t as easy to transport and play as traditional ukuleles are. They also feature a different tuning than most ukuleles. These instruments are typically reserved for very large adults or musicians seeking to add an unconventional new instrument to their repertoire.
Tip #3: Do your research before making a decision
If you want to get the most out of your ukulele, make sure to do plenty of research beforehand. Remember, something that looks like a great deal online can easily be arranged with paid reviews and other deceptive practices. To avoid falling prey to scams, you’ll need to research what brands are producing the best ukuleles from multiple sources. Reading message boards, articles and reviews from different websites can help give you a sense of what instruments are worth pursuing and which ones you should avoid.
Beginner tips for learning the ukulele
Like we mentioned before, the ukulele is one of the friendliest instruments out there for beginners. But even with that advantage, there’s still some introductory challenges to learning this instrument. Here’s a few tips to help get you started:
Tip #4: Keep your uke in tune with an electronic tuner
Every instrument with strings relies on a unique system of tuning. Depending on how tight or loose an instrument’s strings are determines what pitches they’ll play. This means that tuning is an absolutely crucial part of playing the ukulele correctly. Keeping the ukulele in tune ends up being the biggest challenge for new players––especially for kids.
Most uke models are tuned to the pitches of G-C-E-A. These days, there’s plenty of apps and websites that can help a player tune by ear, but the easiest way players can keep their strings in tune is with electronic clip-on tuners.
Tip #5: Start by learning simple chords
Chords happen when multiple notes are played at the same time. There are many easy chords that can be played on the uke, including ones that require only one finger to be pressed down. The best way to get started playing the ukulele is to memorize a few simple chords and focus on transitioning from chord to chord in rhythm. This not only builds your knowledge of chords but also the muscle memory you’ll need to play your instrument. Chords make up the vast majority of playing material on the ukulele, so the faster you pick up chords, the faster you’ll be able to play music on this instrument.
Tip # 6: Look up tabs to learn your favorite songs
Once you know some basic chords, the best thing you can do to solidify your new musical knowledge is to put it into practice. The internet is a boundless resource for free tabs and song information. Simply search for your favorite songs and you can find most popular music presented in tab or chord form for the ukulele. But it should be noted here that not every resource for free ukulele tabs will be accurate. As a general rule, the more popular the song, the better the crowd-sourced tabs will be. This tip is important because it represents the fun part of learning the ukulele.
Keeping your ukulele looking and sounding great
Accessories and maintenance end up having a big impact on the ukulele’s sound and playability. For example, the instrument can’t be played with a broken string. Here’s some simple tips to keep your instrument looking and sounding great:
Tip #7: Select the right gauge of string for your instrument
A string’s gauge determines how thick it is. In general, thicker gauges are reserved for larger models of instruments while thinner ones suit smaller ukuleles. Putting a heavy gauge of string on a Soprano or Concert model can result in not only bad sound but also an increased difficulty in playing.
Tip #8: Use a capo to make difficult chord shapes easier
Capos are small metal devices that clamp on to the ukulele to change the instrument’s range. There’s a few reasons these devices can help your instrument sound better. First, there’s many songs out there that require a capo to be played. A skilled player can work their way around this by learning difficult chords and mastering transpositions, but this takes time and a lot of practice. Capos take the fuss and time of that process by allowing players to play their favorite songs with ease.
Secondly, capos give players tons of new options as far as sounds go on their instrument. They’re an inexpensive way to add loads of new tools to your sonic toolkit, so be sure to pick one up.
Tip #9: Take your ukulele in for routine maintenance when needed
Uke’s are usually easy to maintain, but they do need some extra attention and care every once in a while. In particular, when a string breaks, it needs to be fixed immediately because the uke can’t be played otherwise. Most instrument shops can quickly address issues like broken strings along with other common instrument maintenance issues. If you’re unfamiliar with musical instruments, your best bet is to take your ukulele in to be looked at by a professional when issues occur. There are plenty of how-to guides out there for uke maintenance, but it’s usually best to leave things to the professionals to avoid wasting time and money and costly instrument mishaps.
Tip #10: Practice often and above all else, have fun
We’ve saved our most important tip for last. By design, the ukulele is inherently a fun instrument to play which means that you’ll have the best chance for success if you prioritize fun while learning it. Create goals for your playing like being able to sing and play at the same time or to learn all the chords in your favorite song can help you make lots of meaningful progress. The more you enjoy playing, the better chance you’ll have at mastering this amazing instrument. And be sure to play as often as you can. Many students thrive by sticking to a regular practice schedule, so be sure to get one started if you need to. Good luck!