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3 Ways to Learn to Play Ukulele

You have a ukulele. You were given one as a birthday gift, or found one at a thrift store. Maybe you inherited one from a relative or just plain bought one for yourself online or at your neighborhood music store. Awesome! Welcome to the world of the ukulele!

But now what?!

You stare at your ukulele in the corner not knowing what to do. Better yet, where do I even start. Here we are at an ukulele stand off. This could last minutes... hours... days... and even years!

That feeling of learning an instrument for the first time is pure excitement. There’s nothing quite like it. However, that excitement can be met with the sinking feeling of being overwhelmed.

“Where do I even begin?“

First, pick up your ukulele. Take a deep breath in... hold... and let it out. Good! You just completed the first step...hehe! Next tune it up. To find out about the new tuning methods check them out here. This may take a little while but when your ukulele is tuned up your ready to learn. Now here are 3 ways to learn to play ukulele.

Method #1: Being Self Taught

John Mayer (the self taught guitar master), courtesy of Mathieu Bitton/REX/Shutterstock

So you‘ve heard it a million times before. People who tell you that they were self taught.

“Wow you can really play the piano, did you take lessons?”

“Nope, I‘m self taught!”

”Your voice is amazing, did you have a vocal coach growing up?”

”No, just a natural!”

If they can do it, could you teach yourself the ukulele? Of course you can!

Taking the self-learning route consists primarily of reading books and searching online for free lessons. Google and YouTube searches are a great place to start. Even checking out ukulele blogs. Like this one where you can learn the 10 ukulele chords everyone should know (shameless plug).

The biggest benefit to the self-teaching method is that you set the pace and best of all it’s FREE! This takes off the pressure of instructors and saves you money as classes can be expensive. But being self taught comes with an investment of time and the added energy of sifting and sorting through the information yourself. Also the lack of accountability can cause you to lax in the practice department. Keeping yourself motivated to learn is critical in being self taught.

Being self taught will encourage the development of your own playing style. You will have complete control of what and how you are learning. This is so liberating!

Though if this is too intimidating and you don’t have the free time to teach yourself, method #2 may be right for you.

Method #2 Classes and Private Lessons

Attending classes and taking private lessons are some of the best ways to improve your skills in the shortest amount of time. It’s like having your own personal trainer or coach at the gym showing you exactly what to do. An ukulele coach! The best classes and private coaches/teachers will help in identifying specific learning goals and set sign posts for you to get there.

For starters, many beginning ukulele players have the goal of fingerpicking a few simple solo pieces within a year. But a ukulele teacher will most likely say, “No, fingerpicking is too advanced. You should master strumming first.” The student may resist this musical wisdom at first, but its usually right. Pushing too fast is like building on a concrete foundation before it has had the proper time to set. Everything you build later will not be plum. So having teachers and private instructors will guide you on the right paths on your ukulele journey.

Although the cost of private lessons can add up, taking classes or hiring a private teacher is worth it! You may not like being corrected or told to practice more but in the end this accountability will help with your ukulele proficiency. Be sure to search for the right teacher. Get references and check reviews when possible to find the right fit. A great teacher can bring greatness out of you. The opposite sadly is true as well. So search wisely for your Jedi.... I mean Ukulele master.

But what if there are no ukulele masters near you? Lets check out method #3.

Method #3 Online Ukulele Courses

Aldrine Guerrero of Ukulele Underground

Nowadays, for many, online ukulele lesson courses make a lot of sense. There are many great ukulele teachers on the web. They bring the budding ukulele player these amazing benefits:

-Go at your own pace in your own home (this alone is worth it)

-Access archived lessons anytime, anywhere

-Follow step-by-step, easy-to-follow practice plans

-Watch the online teacher demonstrate a technique multiple times

-Save time searching for free lessons and accurate chord charts

-Pay less than the price of a single private lesson

-Connect with a worldwide community of likeminded ukulele enthusiasts

Not to mention, you have the support of an online teacher to help answer your questions and provide encouragement incase you get stuck along the way. Another bonus of taking online courses is that everything is flexible since you don’t have to set up appointments where you need to plan commuting to and fro. You can log on whenever to see archived classes, or check in at scheduled times for live classes.

A seeming downside to taking online ukulele classes is you don’t have an in person teacher sitting in the room identifying your mistakes as you play. However, uploading online video has never been easier! Online teachers would love to seeing you play, offering their feedback and guidance. With online lessons, you have a dedicated space to improve your skills. If your interested in this approach, check out this amazing online resource here. I‘ve been a huge proponent of Ukulele Underground! They’ve been offering up great online resources for over a decade.

So which way and method are you gonna choose? Can you combine methods together? Of course you can! In the end it’s your journey. Now stop reading this and get started!

May the choice be with you!

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