How easy is it to learn to play the ukulele

What is the ukulele? That little guitar with a very particular sound

It is a string instrument that offers many possibilities and, contrary to what we might think, few limitations.

Technically, the ukulele is defined as a plucked string instrument that generally has four strings, which can be double.

When you start with this instrument, you will be able to discover numerous artists who master it to perfection and perform songs from completely opposite registers.

Learn to play the ukulele

Yes, learning to play the ukulele is an excellent idea. we leave you a basic guide with everything you need to know to encourage you to play your first songs.

How to play the ukulele

Origins and evolution

The ukulele is not a toy. Neither is it a miniature guitar, although knowing how to play the guitar helps - a lot! - when starting out. It is a traditional instrument from Hawaii, widely used also in Polynesia.

To know its origins, we will have to go back to the end of the 19th century and, specifically, to the Portuguese island of Madeira, from where a British ship with more than four hundred crew sailed that was heading to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane plantations. sugar of the place. As the story goes, one of the crew grabbed his cavaquinho , a popular Portuguese four-stringed instrument (also called a braguinha ), and began to play a song with him that left everyone totally enthralled.

The natives called it "ukulele" which literally means "jumping flea" ("uku" is "flea" in Hawaiian and "lele" means "to jump").

The crew members, after the contract in the sugarcane plantations ended, stayed in Honolulu and began working as carpenters. They made furniture, but also musical instruments. At a certain point, it occurred to them to create a hybrid from the cavaquinho.

It is precisely believed that it was at this time that the ukulele was born, an instrument considered today as essential in any traditional Hawaiian group.

What characterizes the ukulele?

The ukulele, or Hawaiian guitar, is a plucked 4-string instrument , usually made of nylon.

Much more resistant and less sensitive to climatic variations than those of which they were made in the beginning.

One of the most important things in playing the ukulele like a pro is understanding its mechanism.

Cheap, chain-produced ukuleles cannot be properly and durably tuned. They are more toys or decorative objects than real musical instruments.

Do you want to buy a ukulele? Check the different models and types and choose the one that best suits you. Traditionally, in Hawaii, the ukulele was made from koa , a type of hard wood that gave it a distinctive round sound.

Today, we can find ukuleles with a headstock and a box in koa, but also in spruce, walnut or mahogany.

There are four categories of ukuleles , classified according to their size.

To begin with, ukulele teachers advise choosing among the coolest models, whose sound is very Hawaiian:

  • The soprano . 12 "to 13" from nut to saddle, with a 12 "to 17" fingerboard. It has between 12 and 14 frets. It is considered the standard size since it ranges from 53 cm in length in total.
  • The concert . Between 35.5 and 40.5 cm from nut to saddle, with a 14 to 16 inch fingerboard. It has between 15 and 20 frets. It measures about 58 cm in total.

There are also larger ukuleles:

  • The tenor . Between 16 and 18 inches from nut to saddle, with a 16 to 18-inch fingerboard. Its longer neck (measuring 66 cm) allows you to play arpeggios. Produces a lower sound.
  • The baritone. M ost of 45.5 cm from the nut to the saddle, is a pitch of more than 18 inches. Its total length is 76 cm. It is tuned in a different way and its tonality is more powerful. It is a model used by experienced interpreters.

However, sopranine ukuleles and bass ukuleles are also built, which would be just the extremes, as well as electric or acoustic versions.

In any case, don't buy your ukulele without first knowing all the possibilities on the market! When deciding on a ukulele size, you have to pay attention to the following questions:

  • the size of the hands;
  • what bell are you looking for;
  • what experience do you have;
  • if you intend to transport your ukulele or always leave them at home.

Of all these issues, the most important thing is to pay attention that the player's hands fit the instrument.

In general, an adult is more comfortable playing a concert or tenor. For example, if you are inexperienced with stringed instruments, you'd better start with a concert because it will be easier to grip and the tension on the strings will help make it appear more in tune.

I always asked for advice on buying a ukulele that offers good value for money. Typically, you can find a good ukulele on a budget between $70 and $ 3,000 to start with with accessories included. Also consider investing in a ukulele tuner and method.

Should you learn to play the ukulele?

The answer is yes. If you need additional reasons to encourage you to play the ukulele, read on!

Because you can discover the ukulele community

There are different communities around the world that are passionate about this instrument. These clubs are present, above all, on the other side of the Atlantic where the Hawaiian culture is given more importance. But Argentina is no exception and as soon as you start to get your first notes, it will not be difficult for you to find forums on the Internet full of other fans like you of the ukulele ...

Because you can make friends easily

In addition to being able to enrich your musical repertoire at the hands of Internet groups devoted to the ukulele, if you are passionate about this instrument you will also be able to make friends with great ease.

The ukulele is the ideal instrument to take out around a campfire on the beach, during a walk or during a barbecue with friends at night. Thanks to this string instrument, you will not go unnoticed.

Because it is easy to learn to play the ukulele

The ukulele is easier than the guitar and allows you to enter the world of stringed instruments without the need for great effort. It will be enough to retain three small chords (C, F and G) to be able to play the most popular pieces of folk, jazz, pop, rock ... With the ukulele you can play all musical styles.

What's more, with just a few chords you can impress the less experienced audience: your viewers won't notice your mistakes compared to the guitar, for example.

Why not take a few hours to learn to play the ukulele from scratch?

Because the ukulele costs less than other instruments

Forget about the exorbitant prices of guitars, pianos and violins.

Beginners will have to take into account the price of:

  • The ukulele,
  • the protective case,
  • spare strings,
  • and a tuner.

Fortunately, you will be able to find "all-inclusive" packages of ukulele equipment. You can go to a physical store to chat with a seller, or compare prices online.

Because the ukulele is easily transported

It is normal to hear drum, electric guitar or trumpet musicians complain about having to move around with their instrument, which can turn into a complete nightmare.

Ukulele musicians, on the other hand, don't even have to part with it. They can easily transport it in a suitcase and even a backpack. In fact, it is considered hand luggage when taking a plane.

There are different sizes of ukulele:

  • The 10 '' Sopranine
  • The 12 '' Soprano
  • The 35.5 cm concert
  • The tenor of 40.5 cm
  • The 45.5 cm baritone
  • The sopranino and soprano sizes are perfect for beginners who want to demonstrate their skills and talents as musicians to others. By being able to play the instrument everywhere, you will be able to review the chords regularly and perfect yourself in a few months.

    Because it is suitable for many musical genres ...

    The ukulele is a very transversal instrument and will allow you to play a great repertoire of musical genres: from classical music to rock, through reggae, pop or folk. Also, this instrument allows voice accompaniment, so you can combine voice and instrument.

    Because the ukulele contributes to your development

    In addition to developing your musical skills, practicing the ukulele will help you reinforce memory, attention, concentration, listening and creativity. It will also allow you to delve into other cultures and learn from them. If you also sing, you will be able to enhance language, intonation, diction and knowledge of other foreign languages.

    If you are in a group, the ukulele will also help you develop social skills such as: solidarity, respect, tolerance, responsibility, communication or teamwork.

    Finally, its sweet sound provokes a feeling of joy and well-being that can help you relax at any time.

    Because the ukulele is for all ages

    The ukulele has been in fashion for years ... And the main reason that explains its success is because it is a perfect instrument for all musicians, and especially for the youngest. Also, for children with special abilities, the ukulele can help them stay focused.

    However, it is also perfect for the elderly. The proof? The ukulele has been used in different therapies - such as stimulation of the elderly with Alzheimer's - with incredible results.

    Learn the basics of playing the ukulele

    The advantage of playing the ukulele is that you can get started quickly putting out songs and having fun. In fact, just by mastering 3 or 4 chords you will be able to play some songs.

    How to play the ukulele?

    Start with:

    • Tune your ukulele: Usually, we agree on the concert ukulele in sol-do-mi-la (GCEA). The G corresponds to the top string (the thinnest), as you hold the instrument. I invested in a ukulele tuner , it will be very useful for you.
    • Learn to place your fingers on the strings following a tablature : they are read, as with the guitar, from left to right.
    • Train yourself to press the strings , down to start, with your index finger.
    • Work on the position of the fingers and your skill by alternating the chords and working the links.

    If you don't want to attend guitar lessons with a teacher, on the internet you can find excellent tutorials and blogs to get you started with the ukulele easily. The advantage of this instrument is that it is quite easy to play, even without knowing music theory.

    Step by step to play your first chords

    For the simplest chords on the ukulele, just place one finger. Practice not to be demotivated from the beginning, but you will also have to work on the major chords (the happiest and most festive) and minor chords (which sound much sadder).

    Among the essentials for beginners, practice, above all, the following four:

    1. C (C major),
    2. G (G major),
    3. Am (A minor),
    4. F (F major).

    Later, you will be able to expand your range of chords with A, Em, Dm, Bm ... and gain dexterity and speed with your left hand.

    Consider buying a ukulele chord dictionary that will help you progress. Thus, you will have all the ukulele tabs at hand.

    Learning ukulele: what rhythms can you play?

    After mastering the most basic chords, the goal is to learn a few simple rhythms. With these bases, you will be able to play a great variety of songs.

    The rhythms, or strumming patterns , are the most difficult to master. You have to train yourself to strum the strings from top to bottom, in rhythm, to get the desired effect.

    1. First, I learned to count the 4 beats in rhythm . You can help yourself with a metronome to do it for you.
    2. Later, start with the easiest rhythm : pluck the G strings down, trying to keep the same rhythm every time.

    To obtain a sound, we do not press the strings at the level of the mouth (the hole located under the harmony table), but between it and the base of the neck.

    Now you will be able to start learning other rhythms , with variations in the way you strum the strings (down and up).

    Some examples:

    • Shuffle : (Down Up | Down Up | Down Up | Down Up), the hand always makes the same movement, from bottom to top.
    • Church : (Down | Down Up | Down | Down Up), you have to learn to keep the rhythm when we do the back and forth in one beat.
    • Calypso : (Down | Down Up | Up | Down Up), a bit more difficult, but can be quickly mastered.

    Once you are clear about how to sound these chords, you will be able to continue learning increasingly complex rhythms, or start other performance techniques, such as picking . Instead of strumming all the strings, we just strum one. A technique that requires a bit more practice, but that will allow you to vary your repertoire.

    You can also take guitar lessons to speed up your progression.

    Learn ukulele with YouTube

    When you start to get interested in the ukulele, the first impulse is to watch videos on YouTube.

    It is at this moment that you will realize the infinite possibilities offered by this instrument used by professional performers, famous artists or passionate musicians.

    Do you want some examples?

    Did you know that Madonna plays the ukulele? I discovered his version of True Blue ...

    You can also find incredible videos of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, created in 1985. This formation has seven ukulele players, who take up a wide variety of titles. From the music of Shaft , through The Good, the Ugly and the Bad , Ennio Morricone or Je t'aime, moi non plus  de Gainsbourg ... His concerts are incredible.

    Another advantage of YouTube?

    You will be able to choose from a large number of tutorials to learn your favorite songs easily. Among the classics, we obviously find:

    • "Over the rainbow", the famous version of IZ,
    • "What a wonderful world" by Armstrong,
    • "Stand by me" by Ben E. King,
    • "Allelujah" by Leonard Cohen.

    There is something for everyone, you will also be able to find more original guitar lessons online . If you love reggae, blues, rock or popular music, it will not cost you anything to interpret your favorite titles on the ukulele.

    Learn to play the ukulele thanks to the Internet

    1. Applications to learn to play the ukulele

    In the 2.0 era, learning a new musical instrument is very easy.

    Ukulele pedagogical apps are a good alternative when it comes to studying music professionally . Internet users will be able to easily access teachers' advice online and can even ask their questions on social media.

    Ukulele apps allow you to access an interactive ukulele to review basic chords, but also allow you to discover new musical repertoires, depending on the level.

    The most popular ukulele apps for smartphones are :

    • Real ukulele . This is one of the most realistic ukulele apps. Its interface is very easy to use and the sound quality will catch your attention because the notes it plays have been recorded with a live ukulele. Contains songs and a variety of chords with tablatures, as well as adaptation to two types of ukuleles: nylon string and steel.
    • Easy Ukulele - Ukelele Tuner . This application will help you tune your ukulele easily when practicing for a class or playing in front of your friends. This is perfect for beginners because it allows you to tune quite accurately.
    • Tuner for guitar, ukulele . It is a stringed instrument tuner, compatible with guitars and ukuleles. Depending on the type of instrument, you can choose one type of tuning or another.
    • Ukulele Fretboard . It is a very easy-to-use app that allows you to explore scales, chords, and become familiar with the fretboard. It is completely free and can be very useful for tuning your ear for chords.
    • Yousician: master the guitar . He is a kind of personal music teacher in the digital age. It will help you learn to play the ukulele fast (in addition to other instruments such as piano, guitar or bass). It is compatible with acoustic and electric instruments. This app allows you to learn at your own pace and provides feedback on your precision and coordination, so it will help you improve whether you are just starting out or are already a true ukulele professional.
    • Learning Ukulele Lite . This application is ideal for those who are starting to learn the ukulele because you will not need any basic knowledge, just have a ukulele. Through the first two sessions (to access the rest you have to pay), you will be able to learn to play step by step.
    • Ukulele classes . Learning to play the ukulele will never have seemed easier than when you started learning with this app. With videos and tutorials you will be able to learn to play the ukulele.
    • Ukulele Chords & Scales . Finally, this application contains more than 1069 chords and scales, which you can view on the fretboard, play and listen to them.

    On the other hand, ukulele simulators are perfect for tuning in more radio. The free ukulele applications available for iOS and Android will allow you to practice outside your home and review the chords anywhere, for example, before a concert.

    In just a few clicks, I got a lot of help for your review sessions.

    2. Places to learn the ukulele

    There are many virtual lessons for guitar and ukulele, as well as free guides to learn how to tune the instrument. However, the more advanced lessons will require a more personal follow-up: many music schools give access to online guitar lessons  through a subscription system.

    teach yourself the ukulele

    The subscription price may vary, depending on the rate that the student chooses and the teacher's experience.

    Beginning students can be satisfied with the free lessons available on the web because these will allow them to learn the basic chords and the simplest songs for this level.

     Here is a non-exhaustive list of online guitar and ukulele lessons :

    • Tutellus
    • Ukulelespain
    • The Musical Compass: UkeCole Lessons
    • Virtuosic
    • Udemy: Express Ukulele
    • Guitar in pajamas
    • Ukulele Tabs
    • IMusic School
    • Online guitar course
    • Ukulele Masterclass.

    Our advice is to delve into the various forums that exist for ukulele fans. Internet users often give free advice and offer scores for different levels: from beginner to advanced.

    Some websites are also dedicated to teaching ukulele in a faster way : in just a few sessions you will be able to retain the most popular pieces.

    Take ukulele lessons

    There are different alternatives to taking classes with a ukulele teacher.

    Learning to play the ukulele in a music school

    Thanks to its increasing popularity, the ukulele began to be taught in some music schools for some time.

    Ukulele students can choose a private music school in order to benefit from training by qualified teachers. Learning at a music school will allow you to perfect the instrument and share your passion with other ukulele fans.

    These types of private centers are recommended for those who wish to start a professional career in the world of music . On the other hand, the rates are usually high: for example, to awaken your musical sense, you will have to have a budget of thousands of pesos per month (not counting the registration before starting).

    Learn to play the ukulele with a private teacher

    Learning with a private teacher is the solution for rapid progress on the Hawaiian instrument.

    At learn to play the ukulele, many of our classes offer their first hour of class for free . In this way, you can have a first contact with the teacher and establish a schedule, while the teacher evaluates your level. In addition, you have the possibility to set your goals and ask your questions.

    In general, private tutors have a catalog of songs that are learned gradually as the private lessons progress. Thus, you can explain what musical style you are looking for and what your musical preferences are.

    To find a ukulele tutor, there is nothing simpler than using one of the following options :

    • Advertisements
    • Private guitar lesson agencies
    • Ads in music schools
    • Ads in newspapers
    • Word of mouth

    Usually the private teacher knows several string instruments. In this way, you may be able to improve the ukulele, but also discover other instruments such as the acoustic guitar.

    Wait no more and get in touch with a ukulele teacher for easy progress in just a few months.

    Practice ukulele to progress faster

    To learn to play some songs on your ukulele and reach a good level, there is no secret: you have to practice regularly.

    Do not be discouraged. At first, it is not easy to memorize the chords and link them automatically. If you follow these tips, you will be able to progress quickly in learning the ukulele:

    • Memorize the fingering to get your fingers on the strings.
    • Persevere and practice the scales every day. This will help you memorize the chords, link them better and master the arrangement of your fingers.
    • Improve your skill by practicing. The small size of the instrument doesn't make things easy at first, but you will get used to it. Little by little, your fingers will be more flexible and precise.
    • When you start to learn a song, keep repeating it until you play it perfectly.

    To help you with the scales, let's briefly review five fundamental scales for learning to play the ukulele.

    In addition to helping to improve finger technique, scales help us to have some control over the ukulele and to focus our ears on the tone we are playing or working on. You may not know are the scales but, just in case, they are sequences of ordered sounds that express musical ideas.

    Five scales that can help you get closer to songs and music in a much more intuitive way:

    • C Major Scale
    • Pentatonic C Scale
    • Blues scale
    • D minor scale
    • Flamenco scale

    Of course, before learning all these scales at the same time, it is important to learn how to play them. The important thing is to start with a scale and work it until you have mastered:

    • Choose one of the scales and start working completely independently.
    • It doesn't matter which one you choose first, although generally you start with the C Major or C Pentatonic scale.
    • Try to use the thumb of the right hand and place the fingers of the left hand correctly.
    • Look at any video to get an idea of how to place your fingers.
    • Download the tablature of the scale and practice it.
    • Always try to scale in ascending and descending order.
    • Use long notes to start. Start by entering short notes little by little.
    • Learn the scale by heart: internalize it through a song and transcribe what it touches to a score, since it is important to write the scales that we learn on a ruled sheet . If you are able to write what you play, you will have more control over the instrument.

    If you want to progress faster, take ukulele lessons with a private teacher. This docnote will only teach you the basics, but will also give you very useful advice. Keep in mind that by learning with an expert musician, you will avoid taking bad habits. Also, you will save time by following a progressive ukulele method adapted to your situation as a beginner.