Why it’s never too late:
The number one comment I hear when I tell people that I teach music is that they wish that they would have learned an instrument or that they have no musicality whatsoever. I am here to tell you that music is an inherent part of being a human being. Music is everywhere and music is a part of everyone’s life whether you realize it or not. One of the skills that I enjoy is being able to pick up a ukulele/guitar wherever I am and share my favorite songs with people. With patience, $50-$100, and practice you too can experience music through ukulele. It does not matter how old you are, and you can go at whatever pace fits your lifestyle. It is all about having fun making music.
Where to start:
You are going to need a ukulele and you are going to need a tuner. These two items alone will determine whether you stick with it or give up after 2 or 3 attempts. Ukuleles under $100 are all around the same level so get what fits your budget. The one comment I will make is that if you have bigger fingers consider getting a tenor ukulele as the fingerings are the same but the frets (spaces where your fingers go) are wider. Here are two recommendations for a starter uke:
The company Kala makes quality ukes that will last a long time. They use Aquila strings so they will stay in tune better as well.
For bigger hands I recommend the following uke:
A little more spendy but definitely worth it if you have bigger hands.
Finally you will need a good tuner. The number one people give up is because they don’t even realize they are playing out of tune. Why doesn’t my ukulele sound like the song I want to play? It is because you haven’t tuned it properly. I teach students year round how to tune and play ukuleles and I am here to tell you if they can do it so can you!
With these items in hand you are ready to start learning!
The ukulele is tuned GCEA in order of the string closest to your face to closest to the ground. It is a little counter intuitive because the G is tuned higher then the next two strings but you will get the hang of this. When you use the tuner, it should land on the green for each letter. Here is a video demonstrating tuning. At the end I play all strings in order for you to check your tuning.
Learning to play:
Reading chord charts is easy. Lets start with C:
The bold black bar at the top is the nut of the ukulele – usually white in color.
The strings are then numbered 4 being farthest left then 3, 2 and 1 farthest right.
So for a C chord, they are telling you to put your 3rd finger (ring finger) on the 3rd fret of the first string.
Just think KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Start with the chord C. Why? It is only a one finger chord and you can start playing right away. With C under your belt, you can learn C7:
next, again another one finger chord. From there you should learn F:
and after F you already have Am because you just remove one finger.
The last starter chord you will need to play most songs is G.
My number one tip for this is to make sure your fingernails are pointing to the back of the ukulele instead of up at your face. Your fingers will have more room and you will be able to switch easier. You now know how to read chord charts and you will be able to learn any new chord you will need from now on using the same skill set.
Here are some more chords for you to try!
Pick a song:
If you want to experience success, you need to practice music you enjoy! Pick a song and look it up on YouTube. Usually you will find an easy version of the song and an advanced version of a song. Stick with the easy versions as they will use the chords we know! You can literally type into Google – Chords to “Your Favorite Song” and most sites will bring back music for your favorite song.
I teach my students to play Eleanor Rigby using Am and F.
Here is an example of strumming 4 times for every chord. Change chords where the words are highlighted in matching colors!
In addition, keep your strumming patterns simple at first. If all you can do is down strums, that’s fine! It’s supposed to be fun so keep it that way! As you practice you will gain confidence and can then start exploring different strumming patterns.
Play along with the recording for songs that are in the same key! The whole point is that you get to perform your favorite songs. As a bonus, you can also sing along as you play building up another skill set!
I wrote this very short guide on purpose because it should be fun to go explore all there is to ukulele online. Let what you want to learn guide your practice and ask questions here if you need help! I love teaching and I have been teaching ukulele for 3 years now. It is something I am passionate about and whatever I can do to bring more music into your life, I am in!