Updated: Jun 15
Is the ukulele easy to learn? Now this is a great question! Working in the ukulele business going on 11 years and this is a question I often get asked. Whether your a parent of a potty training toddler, a budding middle school indie pop singer, or a recently retired periodontist, this is a burning question. Before I answer it I must go back to my own upbringing to when I learned my first instrument. And if you were in elementary in the United States from the 1940’s till about the early 2000’s you probably already know what instrument this is. Have you already guessed it? It was none other than the Flutophone!
If you remember walking around elementary schools during this time period you may recall hearing “Hot Crossed Buns“ or “Mary Had a Little Lamb” blaring through the air. And thats it, those 2 songs. Don’t get me wrong. I remember looking forward to receiving mine in first grade, just to be let down when I realized my vision of me rocking out didn’t match with reality.
Hehe! I digress. Just trying to process those repressed adolescent memories. Just like the memory of receiving a green JanSport backpack from Santa when my older brother got a bike... I digress again, sorry!
Back to the question up top. The Flutophone is an easy instrument to learn. But it wasn’t versatile. And it wasn’t fun. You were left playing nursery rhymes and that was it. Then the came the break through in my musical journey! When I was in the fourth grade I got the opportunity to learn the ukulele. It was a part of a new initiative to rekindle the passion of the performing arts in Hawaii‘s youth. So instead of the Flutophone, students were handed ukulele. Did it work? I sure think so since it spawned a new generation of incredible ukulele players. These would include Kalei Gamiao, Taimane Gardner, and Jake Shimabukuro. This was due to the fact that the ukulele is the perfect instrument for beginners.
All of that to say this... YES the ukulele is easy to learn! Now heres why...
First, the ukulele is not intimidating. Unlike it’s guitar counterpart the ukulele has only 4 strings. It’s also a lot smaller with the soprano size ukulele being only 21 inches long (533mm) and weighing less than a pound (.5kg). This makes the ukulele easy to hold and carry around. Anyone over the age of 3 can carry a ukulele. Try carrying around a piano!
Secondly, ukulele exclusively use non metal strings. These strings are softer and easier to press. Acoustic guitars, being larger and utilizing longer scale lengths require more finger pressure to play notes on it’s steel strings. This can dishearten beginners as they struggle to hold down chords. On the other hand, learning and playing chords on an ukulele is easy! In fact, I’m teaching my 7 year old son how to play ukulele and in his first half an hour lesson he learned how to play 5 chords! He can find them on the fretboard, press the strings, and strum through them. (Proud dad here, I know, I know!)
And when I meet with people who‘ve never touched a ukulele before and want to learn, they can start playing chords in less than 5 minutes. 5 minutes! They laugh and chuckle at how simple and fun it is. With a little more practice they should be able to play simple songs in a matter of days. Many songs are composed with 3-5 chords. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is.
Lastly, the ukulele is easy to learn because of the vast library of online resources available. Ukulele instructors and and enthusiasts upload free tutorials and play alongs daily on all the main digital platforms. Chances are your favorites songs are already online and ready to learn! These online resources allow you to learn the ukulele in the privacy of your home, at no cost, and no shame. Haha! Ricky Somborn, seen in the picture above started playing ukulele almost two years ago. He even has a IG post and YouTube video showing the progress of his skills over the years. Its incredible to see where he started to where he is today. Watch his progress video here. Get ready to be amazed!
Hopefully I‘ve convinced you to pick up this small, simple, and amazing instrument. It really is an easy instrument to learn and play. I know, I know, easy is relative. But seriously... it is easy to learn. Now if your interested in getting your first ukulele, check out my post on the subject here. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!