These Are the Best Online Ukulele Lessons for Adults
Learning Ukulele is easy. Now don't take that too literally, it's not like eating-a-donut easy. But the Uke makes sense: it is designed and built pragmatically: to be played, by anyone, in most situations, and most importantly - with panache! It's a stylish little instrument with a sonic personality built in.
The general skills of music are as necessary with the Uke as any other instrument:
- Listen - you gotta pay attention to what you hear and feel.
- Think - if you don't know what you're going for, how will you know whether or not you get it?
- Play - it's a verb. Music is something that we DO.
- Repeat - first time is a fail, guaranteed. That's why we adapt until it's right, and repeat that.
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Break It Down! Why Ukulele Learning Is Easier When You Break It Into Bite Size Tasks
Small instrument: Big possibilities
The uke does tend to be easier than most other instruments to learn. See below for more on that. It's simply because it is littler and easy to manage. Funnily enough this makes ukulele a rather apt metaphor for the topic of Music itself! Music is a vast subject which is made manageable by breaking it down into learnable portions.
But it is still a vast subject. So let's use our metaphor and see how you could break ukulele playing down into littler tasks:
- CHORDS HARD? How 'bout remove that 'S'? make it singular: find a song with only one chord. (A specialty of mine that I love to do. I have a bunch. and when I want a new one to show a student something, I'll write one.)
- LEFT HAND DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT HAND IS DOING. The left hand pushes the little bitty strings down onto the little bitty neck, while the right hand strums up and down frantically. Do they naturally coordinate? Do your hands feel so familiar with these tasks that they can just autopilot like they do during the rest of your day, the non-uke portion of your day? Doubtful. There are ways to separate things out so you can focus on first one hand, then the other. Once each has gotten a bit better at its independent tasks, they will behave much better when you put them back together.
- THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Playing a song is easier, more fun, and sounds far better when you have it comfortably memorized. When you know where you're going and don't need the map, the journey is way more smooth. This one's easy for us to relate to, we memorize all kinds of things. Thinking of a song - they tend to have sections - verse, chorus, another verse, bridge, etc. Take the example from our image above. Jen was working on a song by Crosby Stills & Nash; we broke it down into segments because it's easier to learn and also memorize one part at a time.
Is Ukulele a Lot Easier than Guitar? Yes, by Precisely 33%
Many people begin playing ukulele because they believe it is easier than guitar. This is true but the simple fact does not provide you much to go on. So let me detail it, quantify it, and hopefully give you a bit of direction:
Why is ukulele easier?
Fewer strings. That's it.
There are a couple of other factors but this is the main one. Here, I made a nice graph to show you!
There are more factors at play here, some that narrow the gap between the two instruments and some that widen that gap. Briefly:
- Finger Friendliness. The uke uses strings made of extruded nylon (also some manufacturer proprietary materials, which are basically nylon). This stuff is relatively soft and easy on the fingers. Classical guitars use it too. However most guitars use steel strings (both acoustics and electrics), and these are harder on fingers. Gap: widens.
- Finger Friendliness II. Feeling tense?? Tuning strings involves cranking up their tension; steel strings require far more of that. Gap: widens.
- Finger Friendliness III. Stretch! The frets on a uke are much closer together than on a guitar. This means less stretching is necessary. Gap: widens.
- Hold Me Tight! The ukulele comes in four sizes, the guitar comes in many; but in all cases the uke is much smaller. Some people claim this makes the uke easier to hold. Maybe. For the majority of adults, even short ones, the uke sits on the lap very low. This makes it harder to reach the strings with your fingers, and if you are over about 5'6" the uke kind of disappears into your lap. Gap: narrows.
- Chords. Chord shapes are very similar between these instruments. Basically uke chords are abbreviated versions of guitar chords. This is indeed easier, but in using the chords the water gets murky. You see, humans hear harmony/chords and interpret them by Bass Notes, the lower pitches. Uke has no bass notes. So when you're trying to hear if something sound right or good to you, you're not gonna hear what your ear instinctively wants to hear. Gap: holds steady.
- Riffs, Baby! Riffs, melodies, scales, these are some of the coolest things we play. Think Smoke On the Water and other songs like it. Those little melodic bits are quite tricky on the uke because it's range is so small and, again, no bass notes. Gap: narrows.
One Last thing: Music Skills:
- Right and Left Hand Coordination
- Song Memory
- Playing Along with Self, Others, Backing Tracks, Recordings.
- and more . . . .
These are EXACTLY THE SAME for guitar, ukulele, or any other instrument at all.
Gap: Narrows. Big Time.
SO - There's some data for ya. The hands have it a bit easier on the ukulele. Not all things are equal. Music is music. Got more questions? I'd love to answer them: write me.
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Only 2 Sizes of Ukulele Are Best For Beginners
It is not difficult to find a nice quality ukulele to play. It is also not difficult to spend a bunch of money on an instrument that does not suit your needs. Cost and quality are linked, but SIZE is a more important consideration. Here is my hearty recommendation:
You should start with one of these two sizes. They are most in line with most people's body sizes AND they are better built and easier to play.
Not Soprano. I never suggest the cute little Soprano uke. This is definitely the most iconic size, it comes in the most fun colors too! But a lot of these are constructed more like visual artifacts than musical instruments: cheap materials not designed for sound, wobbly components, and worst of all: terrible to try to keep in tune! The other drawback to Sopranos is size. They are truly tiny and I have seen many children have trouble keeping their hold.
Not Baritone. These are super cool. But their tuning differs from all other ukes; baritones are normally tuned just like a guitar (the top four strings of a guitar, it still has 4 strings like all ukes). So the main “uke-ness” is much less.
Go with a Concert or a Tenor. If you want more info, the below chart is from the venerable Martin Guitar company.
Have Fun Shopping! There's a lot out there! Please feel free to write if you have questions before you purchase. I am eternally excited to help new music learners equip themselves gracefully. Write Jay.
Denny with his first Ukulele, which he got on a ship! IN Hawaii!!
. . . . about as OG as one can get, with a uke. 😉
Older, wiser, bigger, better uke!