Ukulele Tips for Beginners – 14 Experts Share Common Mistakes

Ukulele Tips for Beginners – 14 Experts Share Common Mistakes

Finding the most useful ukulele tips for beginners is controversial. Every time I asked around, I got different answers because learning is clearly a subjective endeavor. So I decided that knowing what the common mistakes were could be a useful way of breaking that endless cycle of trial-and-error that beginners make. I figured that avoiding mistakes would accelerate and simplify my learning.

Our expert marketer Minuca Elena reached out to 14 musicians around the globe and asked them the simple question:

What are the most common mistakes beginners make when learning to play the ukulele?

I summarized the key takeaways and what I found to be useful tips, but read on to see what each expert says in their own words.

Key Insights and Tips

Here’s what our 14 experts have to say about the common mistakes beginners make when learning to play the ukulele, as well as some tips that can up skill your playing:

  • Focus on learning a few basic chords first rather than many chords quickly. Mastering C, Am, F and G and you can play thousands of songs.
  • Don’t restart a song from the beginning when you make a mistake. Isolate and practice tricky sections slowly, then incorporate that into the full song.
  • Give equal importance to rhythm and the strumming hand as you do to fretting chords. Use a metronome and start slow.
  • Don’t overthink it. Have fun, know your learning goals, find an enjoyable teacher, and learn songs you like. Remember it’s a journey.
  • Practice consistently in short regular sessions rather than long occasional ones. Commit to lifelong learning.
  • Learn proper posture, hand placement and holding of the instrument to avoid discomfort. Use a strap if needed.
  • Maintain proper tuning and listen to the proper sound. An out-of-tune uke can hinder learning.
  • Get a protective case to avoid damage, especially when traveling. Handle the uke with care.

Steve Kaiser – The Music Room

Oftentimes, beginning ukulele students will try to learn a lot of chords within a short period of time.  An alternative approach is to learn a few chords, which can then be used to play many songs.

A good place to start is for the student to learn C and Am. Each chord uses only one finger! Oftentimes, the student will be able to fluently transition between these chords in the first lesson.  That being said, a student can learn a two-chord song on day one of their studies!

In terms of goals, the student should strive to learn C, Am, F, and G within the first one to three months of development.  With these chords learned, they will have the facility to play thousands of contemporary and classic songs!

Eddie Perez – Musician Authority

A common mistake I often see with ukulele beginners is restarting the entire piece whenever they make a mistake.

This leads to spending less time on challenging parts and missing out on mastering the rest of the song. It also creates a habit of rushing through the easier parts after repeated restarts.

To tackle this, focus on isolating the tricky sections, practicing a bit before and after for context. Gradually work through these parts at around 50% speed before incorporating them into the whole song. Using a metronome is essential for consistent timing.

My approach involves spotting tough spots in a new song, concentrating on them by starting slow and gradually speeding up. Recording and reviewing your playbacks is crucial for self-improvement. Slow practice paves the way for speed, and purposeful practice differs from casual playing. Treat learning as a skill, and you’ll soon become your own effective teacher.

Cliff Hillis

I’m not a fancy ukulele player by any stretch.

This may sound silly, but when I first picked up a uke I started trying to learn chords and didn’t realize that the tuning is simply the top four strings of a guitar, only in a different register.

Everything changed after I realized that, ha! For someone who is learning ukulele as their first instrument, I’d say start off learning a handful of basic chords rather than trying to study a complicated tab for a song.

Start simple and build from there. You can do quite a bit with a handful of major and minor chords.

Bulat Nasibullin

Here is my list of most common mistakes when learning to play the Ukulele:

 

  1. Not focusing enough on the rhythm hand. The Ukelele can be a very interesting instrument rhythmically just like guitar. Beginners tend to focus only on the fret hand to get the fingers right for the chords and neglect the rhythm part of the equation. A lot of the most famous Ukulele led songs such as Somewhere over the rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, the rhythm part is just as important as the chords themselves.
  2. Not learning theory. Music theory is boring! Having taught kids music for a number of years this is the most consistent thing I hear. The Ukulele is complicated music theory wise because the strings are not tuned like other string instruments. The strings are not tuned lowest to highest as you go down them such as a guitar or a violin, the first string is a high G then C-E-A, so the second highest sounding string is the first one of the four. If you don’t understand at least a little bit of theory about how chords are structured it can get very confusing.
  3. Finally, I’m going to throw in here all the common things that people do wrong when learning ANY musical instrument including Ukulele:
  • not practicing consistently (5 mins every day is better that 35 minutes in 1 day)
  • expecting too much too fast, you have to give it 1 year at least just like any other instrument
  • trying to learn things that are more advance at the beginning, everyone wants to play a beautiful piece right away but you have to start with the boring, simple stuff first.

Evan Oxhorn – Stock Music Musician

When it comes to learning how to play Ukulele, the most common mistake beginners make is to overthink it! Learning an instrument should be fun, and by focusing too much on the technical details, you run the risk of giving up before you get good.

To make sure that you’re having fun, there’s a few things I recommend doing.

First, know why you want to learn ukulele. Is it to be able to accompany yourself singing? Do you want to add a new instrument to your repertoire? Whatever it is, keep the goal in mind when you’re practicing so you can stay focused on it when things get challenging.

Second, find a teacher you enjoy learning with. Maybe it’s an in-person teacher, or maybe it’s a YouTube channel, or someone on Tik Tok. It doesn’t matter who, so long as the person makes learning fun and enjoyable. If your teacher doesn’t feel like a good fit, you should try to find a new one.

Finally, learn to play songs you enjoy! Practicing scales and chords is really important and will make learning songs easier, but don’t forget to break up all the technical learning with some time spent playing songs you love.

David Andrew Wiebe – Music Entrepreneur HQ

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make in learning any instrument, including the ukulele, is not practicing enough. Now, over-practicing can have its drawbacks and can even lead to injury.

But most beginners are not practicing anywhere near enough to be worried about that. The learning curve is quite shallow when you’re first getting started, and you’d be amazed at how quickly you can improve on your instrument if you simply put in the time.

From finger exercises and scales to simple melodies, I have seen some students take their playing to surprising heights in just a few lessons. If you’re not passionate about your craft, do everything in your power to become passionate about it!

Surround yourself with ukulele magazines, books, videos, and more. The best students are those who are committed to being lifelong learners.

 

Luca Diadul

The ukulele is a wonderful instrument. More accessible and less expensive than a guitar, yet able to play all the same songs. It’s a great way to kick off your musical journey!

Of course, you might run into some pitfalls along the way. Here are three common mistakes beginners make when first playing and how to avoid them.

  1. Holding the instrument incorrectly

Not only can holding a ukulele incorrectly lead to a worse sound and a more difficult playing experience, but it can also be painful and uncomfortable.

To avoid this, make sure the body of the instrument rests against your chest, held comfortably in place by the forearm of your dominant hand (your strumming hand). Support the neck of the ukulele between the thumb and fingers on your other hand, your wrist in line with your arm, and the neck elevated above the palm. Try to avoid wrapping your thumb over the top of the fret board, instead positioning it squarely against the back of the neck. This will give you more flexibility to reach and play chords while also helping to keep your wrist straight and pain-free.

If you still find yourself really struggling to hold the ukulele comfortably, consider getting a strap! The strap will do the work for you and you can focus on playing the most beautiful renditions of your favorite songs.

  1. Inconsistent rhythm and strumming

It’s easy to focus on chords and melody when first playing any instrument, but rhythm is just as important to practice. Many beginners struggle with maintaining a consistent and steady strumming rhythm, which can lead to an uneven or choppy sound.

The best way to practice your rhythm is with a metronome. Start slowly – slower than you think you need to – and count along in your head or out loud to the beat as you strum. When you’re comfortable with the slow speed, gradually increase the tempo until you are comfortably able to play the song at the original speed. Not only will your playing sound better, you’ll also be able to fit in seamlessly when playing with other musicians!

  1. Giving up too early

The first time I picked up a guitar I was about 10 years old, but I didn’t start playing seriously until almost 15 years later, despite a regular interest in the instrument. What was the hold up?

I was intimidated. It was uncomfortable to play the strings, and I was worried that it would take too long to develop callouses on my fingers. The fretboard and chord combinations were unfamiliar and overwhelming. I couldn’t do this!

Except I absolutely could. With a little bit of dedicated practice, these initially daunting ukulele obstacles will quickly disappear. It’s important to remember that learning any instrument is a process that takes time and patience. Set realistic goals for yourself, celebrate small victories, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you encounter difficulties. Seek inspiration from your favorite songs or players, and consider finding a supportive community or taking lessons to stay motivated. The key is to persevere and keep practicing regularly. With dedication, you’ll see improvements over time and find great satisfaction and fun in your ukulele playing!

Marcy Marxer – Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer

Being a beginning ukulele player is fun and exciting. It can be so exciting that some players might forget to look through the chords and chord patterns before the song starts. This can cause surprises. Shall we call them “accidentals?”

It helps to take the time to look over a song before playing to see if there are any areas that could use a refresh. Sometimes, familiar chords in an unfamiliar order can cause a stumble. For instance, changing from an Em to a B7 feels totally different from changing from Em to A7. Surprise!

I also suggest using a metronome for practice and starting at a slow tempo. Feel that groove! Then, move the tempo up a little at a time. A steady tempo played slowly sounds better than a fast tempo with stumbles. Enjoy!

Alissa Musto

I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when learning to play the ukulele is not bothering to learn music theory and instead just memorizing chords by their shape.

The chords on the ukulele are different from guitar chords and sometimes more “advanced” jazz chords are actually easier to play on ukulele than a basic triad, plus they add nice color and variety to a song.

I think people also tend to strum too hard on the strings and because the frets are smaller then on a guitar, end up holding down multiple at the same time by accident.

 

Marc Gallagher

Learning to play the ukulele is an exciting journey, yet beginners often encounter some common mistakes that can impede their progress. One prevalent error is neglecting proper tuning. Failing to tune the ukulele correctly can result in an unpleasant sound, which can be discouraging.

Another common issue is incorrect posture and hand placement. Beginners may not realise the importance of maintaining a relaxed yet stable posture and holding the ukulele correctly. Poor posture and hand positioning can lead to discomfort and limited mobility while playing.

Strumming technique is fundamental in ukulele playing, and beginners often struggle with inconsistent strumming patterns and timing. Developing strumming skills and rhythm is crucial for playing songs fluently.

Many beginners rush into playing songs without mastering basic chords first. Learning and transitioning between chords smoothly is essential for playing songs fluently and without interruptions.

Finger strength and dexterity are crucial for fretting chords accurately. Beginners sometimes skip finger exercises and chord changes, hindering their ability to play smoothly.

Impatience can also be a significant obstacle. Learning any instrument takes time and patience, and beginners may become frustrated when they don’t see immediate progress, which can lead to a loss of motivation.

Lastly, ignoring music theory is a mistake. Understanding even basic music theory concepts can greatly enhance a beginner’s ability to learn and compose songs.

Awareness of these common mistakes can help beginners take proactive steps to avoid them, making their ukulele learning journey more enjoyable and successful. Regular practice and seeking guidance from experienced players or instructors can also aid in overcoming these challenges.

Ellia Bisker – Charming Disaster

Beginner ukulele players don’t always realize that it’s important to keep your instrument in tune – it trains your ear to hear what it’s supposed to sound like, and it’s much more pleasant for the people around you while you’re learning! A clip-on electronic tuner is an indispensable tool for this purpose and they’re pretty inexpensive.

Other common beginner mistakes are avoiding some of the basic chords that are a bit more challenging – the open E is a particular culprit, and it’s too bad because you really want that one in your chord vocabulary.

But the biggest mistake in my opinion is trying to learn to play as a technical exercise, without playing along with songs.

Whether they’re recordings or songs you’re singing yourself, they give you a rhythmic structure, and being able to play along even in a simple way provides the positive feedback and motivation that you really need as a beginner.

You don’t need more than three chords for most pop songs, and then a whole world opens up.

Ramiro Somosierra – Gear Aficionado

Although it’s a rewarding experience, learning to play the ukulele is not without its difficulties. Many basic errors that beginners make that impede their advancement are frequently made by them.

Neglecting proper finger and hand placement, which makes it harder to build chords and produce clear notes, is one key error.

An out-of-tune ukulele can prevent the development of a good ear for music. Ignoring correct tuning is another problem.

Additionally, a lot of novices speed through song learning, leaving little time for the development of muscle memory and technique. Impatience can impede advancement. The development of skills is also hampered by inconsistent practice. Establishing a consistent practice schedule is crucial.

Last but not least, avoiding tutorials and advice might result in misunderstandings and undesirable habits. Avoiding these blunders and approaching your learning with care and attention will help you become a better ukulele player.

Andy Fraser – Guitar Inside Out

One of the most common errors is neglecting proper tuning. Many beginners underestimate the importance of tuning their ukulele before playing. A slightly off-tuned instrument simply won’t sound right. This in turn to can slow progress and because it sounds ‘off’ discourage proper practice.

Regularly checking and adjusting the tuning is key to sounding right when you play and enjoying your practice.

Focusing solely on playing songs without developing proper technique is another common pitfall. Beginners might rush into strumming without mastering things like basic finger placement and chord transitions. It’s understandable – we all want to play our favorite songs.

But it’s important and will ultimately be beneficial to dedicate time to learning proper hand positioning, fingerpicking techniques and chord changes. Building up a strong foundation in technique will lead to quicker progress.

Consistency is key when learning any instrument, not just ukulele. Some beginners underestimate the importance of consistent practice.. Making progress requires regular practice sessions, even if they’re short. Skipping or missing practice will mean much slower development and could lead to frustration.

It’s easy to get annoyed and feel like you’re not as good as you feel you should be. You can avoid this by creating a practice routine that suits your schedule and sticking to it. If you do you’ll see steady improvement over time.

Emily Hurd

My biggest mistakes when I started playing the ukulele were easy to avoid. First, I should’ve learned the right fingering on the chords, just to smooth my transitions and play less awkwardly.

Second, I wish I had learned how to hold the instrument properly: fretting on the uke is actually pretty easy if you’re not trying to hold it like a guitar.

Third, I wish I had bought an instrument case for it right away. Just because a ukulele is small and relatively sturdy doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be handled carefully. I broke two nice ukuleles in my early years just through mishandling on tour.

Key Takeaways

In summary, our 14 experts had much to say across a variety of topics when it came to giving us some ukulele tips for beginners. The most common advice? Focus on fundamentals like consistent practice, proper technique, quality teaching, reasonable goals and patience to effectively learn the ukulele.

Are you struggling with strumming?

With our book and course, you’ll become a fluent 3-chord strummer.

Get your copy now!

Consistent Practicing Makes Permanent Improvement

Consistent Practicing Makes Permanent Improvement

Consistent Practicing for Permanent Improvement

Do you want to learn to practice better? Do you want results when you work on something new? Well, we’ve developed a new membership program called Practice Makes Permanent to address these goals. In this membership program, you’ll get guidance on how to practice consistently and mindfully. You will have a permanent improvement in your ukulele skill.

To show you how it works, we thought showing my consistent practicing would be helpful. Over a period of several weeks, I have used the same charts I created for you. In my videos, you can see how consistent, slow practice creates improvement over time. I may be working on harder music, but the principle is the same. Consistent and mindful practicing makes permanent improvement.

Jenny’s Practicing Videos

I hope these videos will show how improvement is hard to detect when you’re doing it. But if you record over a period of 3 to 4 weeks and listen back to how you sounded at the beginning, you can hear growth. Journaling about what works and what doesn’t is helpful too. Marking things off on a chart, to keep you on track works wonders!

I recorded three different songs or etudes. The first song was a fingerpicking etude that moves up the neck of the ukulele. Here is my progress over 4 weeks on this etude. An etude is a study that works on something that is hard. It’s supposed to teach you how to get better at that technique.

Fingerpicking Etude

Watch videos of me practicing this 4 measure phrase over the course of 4 weeks. It takes a while, but daily repetitions build competence.

Spanish Fandango – Working on the “Hard” Part

Then, I worked on “Spanish Fandango.” I only recorded the hard part for you. Watch here to see my progress over 4 weeks.

Spanish Fandango is a beautiful piece from the classical guitar tradition. It is composed by Henry Worrall and arranged for ukulele by N.B. Bailey.

Spanish Fandango Performance

After practicing the fast part at the end A LOT, I could play the whole piece. Enjoy!

“Ain’t She Sweet” and “Five Foot Two”

I am also working on learning chord melodies. Enjoy my progress over four weeks ans I learned these two songs. 

Using Practice Charts and Journaling Helps a Lot

I used charts for 4 weeks and made videos at the end of each week. I also recorded my thoughts about my progress (or lack thereof LOL) in a journal. Here is a picture of my practice chart and journal.

The Practice Makes Permanent Program gives you charts and journaling questions to guide your practice.

Jenny’s Consistent Practicing Journal Entries

7/2/2021

“Ain’t She Sweet” and “Five Foot Two” are getting better. In “Five Foot Two,” there are some mistakes and it is too slow. I’ll record in a week after I’ve practiced it.

In Spanish Fandango, a lot of the notes are unclear, because the finger is not close enough to the fret. I’ll keep working as described above and review progress in a week.

7/4/2021

Practiced everything on the chart. Took 30 minutes. Did fun stuff at night before bed. (Blues and Ukulele Book)

7/5/2021

Practiced everything on the chart. Found this link for “Spanish Fandango.” Had to do the 16ths at 50% speed. Can play the rest of the song at tempo. Bookmarked the link for tomorrow. Practicing with the YouTube video was helpful. I could hear if I got it right and I could slow the music down a lot.

7/10/2021

Since my playing was so sloppy on “Spanish Fandango,” I’m going to practice it at a tempo where I don’t mess up. I won’t try to go any faster until I know it better. “Five Foot Two” and “Ain’t She Sweet” are coming along well, so I’ll play these songs at moderate speeds to maintain them. The Etude is getting better

7/11/2021

It would be great if I could add singing to “Five Foot Two” and “Ain’t She Sweet.” That makes them more interesting and is an added challenge. I know “Five Foot Two” a lot better. The etude is improving. “Spanish Fandango” is too hard. I’m going to practice it at moderate tempos only, so I don’t learn sloppy habits. Go slow to go fast.

7/12/2021

I went through all the songs on the chart. I figured out new inversions of chords for “Ain’t She Sweet” for singing and memorized the lyrics. “Spanish Fandango” is getting better.

Practice Makes Permanent Program

  • Teaches you how to practice

If all these practicing tips interest you, find out more by going to our new membership program. We call it the “Practice Makes Permanent Program.” We’ll teach you how consistent and mindful practicing makes permanent improvement.

  •  Gives you practice charts and a journal

Each lesson comes with a practice chart and Questions for Reflection. These charts and questions will help you to do what I did to learn my music better. When you plan your practice and reflect on it, you make progress. Remember, consistent and mindful practicing makes permanent improvement. Good luck!

Do you want to learn how to practice better?

In our “Practice Makes Permanent Program,” we’ll teach you how to practice. You’ll get an online membership that gives you specific practice guidance on how to improve at your ukulele.

Sign Up Today!

Practice Makes Permanent – Ukulele Practicing Strategies

Practice Makes Permanent – Ukulele Practicing Strategies

I believe that practice makes permanent. So we named our latest ukulele endeavor the “Practice Makes Permanent Program.” Before we learn more about this program, let’s go through some ukulele practicing strategies.

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Have you heard this one?

A young tourist stops an older man on the streets of New York. He’s in a hurry because he is running late. As he runs up to the older gentleman, he asks, “Sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The older man answers the tourist, “Practice, my friend, practice will get you there!”

You’ve heard the old saying “Practice makes perfect.” But that is not completely true. Practice makes permanent is more accurate. Learning how to practice is an important skill. And we are developing a new product to help you get there. It will be our “Practice Makes Permanent Program.”

If you only play a song up to the “hard part” and always stop there, you are practicing how to mess up at the “hard part.” There are better strategies to help you learn your music. In this article, I’m going to address practicing strategies for real improvement.

 

Ukulele Practicing Strategies

Here are many of the things you can do to make your musical journey more rewarding.

  1. Growing musically is part of a life-long journey.
  2. Being part of a musical club is motivational and inspiring.
  3. Using online apps to help with practicing
  4. Systematic practicing builds musical skills

Do you want to learn how to practice better?

In our “Practice Makes Permanent Program,” we’ll teach you how to practice. You’ll get an online membership that gives you specific practice guidance on how to improve at your ukulele.

Sign Up Today!

1. Continuing to Grow as a Musician

During the pandemic, I had more time to practice and to take lessons. As a public school music teacher,  I know a lot about teaching and learning music. But I wanted to get better at ukulele and learn new styles of playing. Adding new strategies to my musical toolbox is fun and rewarding.

I took lessons from Lil’ Rev to learn fancier techniques for solo playing. Along the way, I  learned strategies for practicing these new music styles. Strategies I’d like to pass on to my fans!

You can click here to learn more about Lil’ Rev and the wonderful books and courses he offers.

 

2. Being Part of a Musical Club

It’s easier to get better when you are with other people to share the journey. Getting this feeling was difficult when schools were closed. My 5th-grade students had a beautiful piece on one of the pages of their method book, “Theme from Symphony No. 9” by Dvorak, also known as “Going Home.”  Yo-yo Ma recorded a version for solo cello from his project “Songs of Comfort.”

I played this video for my students who were struggling to learn their version of this piece of music. They were all inspired to learn this piece and play it solo for each other in the Zoom sessions. I told them that they were part of a worldwide club of musicians who can play this piece of music. Yo-yo Ma is a professional, but they are musicians in training. They are part of the same club.

As ukulele players, we can be part of musical clubs both online and in person. We can be part of an online group that is working to improve ukulele skills.

Joining an in person club is incredibly fun and rewarding too. Check here to find well-known ukulele clubs. You can also like to go to meetup.com  to find ukulele clubs that meet in your area.

 

3. Using Online Apps to Help with Practicing

We are fortunate to live in the 21st century and have computers in our hands every step of the way. With our cell phones, we have access to many practicing tools.

 

Practicing with YouTube

  • Listen to a song on YouTube to internalize the melody, harmony, and rhythm. If we are more advanced, we can internalize the musical style of the song.
  • Strum along and have the chords and lyrics on the screen for us. These videos are called ukulele play-alongs. Click here to see a play-along for Buffalo Gals, one of the songs in our books.
  • Slow a YouTube video down to play along. I find 75% speed often works the best when I’m learning a song. (This works great if you’re trying a fancy strumming pattern for the first time.)

Practicing with Your Cell Phone

  • Record audio on your cell phone and then play along. For example, you can record the strumming pattern of a song. Then you can practice the finger-picked melody along with your recorded accompaniment.
  • Make a video of yourself playing one of your songs. Then, watch and decide what you want to do better. You can also share these videos with fellow musicians and ask for advice.
  • Tune with your cell phone. Here’s a uke tuner.
  • Use a metronome to help us keep the beat with your cell phone.  Or, if you type “metronome” into your browser, you’ll get to a beat keeper immediately: online metronome.
  • Buy an app (such as Acapella) to play many parts at the same time in a video. Here is an example of me using the Acapella app to record a song in two parts.
  • Join an online community of strummers to practice our songs. Strum Machine is one of my favorite apps for practicing songs and gradually speeding them up.
  • Find free “slow blues” accompaniments to practice blues improvisation and make a song sound different each time.

 

4. Being Systematic with Practicing

With so many possibilities, it can be overwhelming to decide how to practice. That is why we’re designing our “Practice Makes Permanent Program.” As part of this program, you’ll get the following benefits:

Specific guidance on how to practice

We’ll show you how to use our free video courses and other resources to jumpstart your ukulele progress. You’ll go through all six of our books and get specific guidance for each chapter. As you learn, you’ll see your progress as you write and record what you’re doing.

Membership in a community of musicians through our closed Facebook Group

Here is where you can post your practice videos. You can get feedback from other community members on how they mastered specific problems. People will share their practice tips where you can learn from them.

You’ll create a journal and portfolio of your progress over time through all six of our books

The first 20 people who sign up will be Beta testers. For a $30 per month membership, we’ll take you through all six of our books. We’ll give you specific practice guidance along the way. You will have the chance to log in to a gated area of our site to access these resources. After 20 people have signed up, we’ll open the program to the general public at $45 per month. As long as you maintain your membership, you’ll be grandfathered into the lower price.

So, if you’re interested in making your practice count towards progress, click here.

Do you want to learn how to practice better?

In our “Practice Makes Permanent Program,” we’ll teach you how to practice. You’ll get an online membership that gives you specific practice guidance on how to improve at your ukulele.

Sign Up Today!

What is the best instrument to learn first?

What is the best instrument to learn first?

What is the best instrument to learn first?

People often ask, “What is the best instrument to learn first?” While this is a good question to consider if you’re new to music, it is a little bit like asking, “What is the best food to eat?”

The Ukulele Sisters play eleven instruments and have taught thousands of beginners. So we definitely qualify as balanced ‘’music eaters’ and ‘chefs’, to stretch a metaphor.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding what is the best instrument for YOU to learn first.

Pick the instrument that inspires you

The best instrument to learn first is the one that inspires YOU. Learning music is fun at first but it’s also a lot of work. Most of the beginners I have taught are surprised at how much work it is to learn an instrument. So you want to pick an instrument to learn first that calls to your heart. There are always challenging spots in learning anything. Picking an instrument you love will help you keep going when things get tough. To sum it up: learn the instrument that you love most first.

A second factor in deciding which instrument you like is your response to its sound. Do you respond to the gentle plucking of a harp or the energizing beat of a skilled drummer at work? Maybe you love the singing, surging legato of romantic piano music? Or does cool smooth saxophone playing make your day? Use your emotions about sound to help you choose an instrument to spend time with.

What’s your goal?

Another consideration is the musical style you’re interested in. If you want to play a particular type of music, learn an instrument that’s central to it. For example, if you want to rock out , learn electric guitar. If you love Scottish Highlands reels, learn bagpipe. If you love Beethoven symphonies, choose violin or cello.

Are you working towards becoming a professional musician? You need to know piano to get a music degree even if you are majoring in another instrument.

Do you just want to have fun and maybe perform sometimes as an amateur? Any of the non-piano instruments could work great for you

Why pick only one instrument?

Learning more than one instrument will dramatically increase your understanding of music. The more you understand about music the easier it will be to learn your chosen instrument.

I’ll talk about this more below, but each instrument focuses on one aspect of music. For example, the drums provide the rhythm or beat to the rest of the band. Rhythm guitar provides the middle of the music and some of the beat. Single line instruments like saxophone usually play melody parts.

group of musical instruments

Here are the best instruments to learn first

OK, so here’s my ranking of the best instruments to learn first along with my reasoning. Remember, everyone will have their own view on this topic and that’s how it should be. I hope reading my ranking will help you make up your mind on which instrument to learn first.

1. Piano

I have played and taught piano for decades so of course I am biased. But lots of other people also think you should learn piano first. Western music is organized by scales which are basically stair steps of sounds. The spaces between each sound are either half steps or whole steps.

Pros:

Great visuals: The half and whole steps are laid out clearly on the piano keyboard. So learning piano can help you understand the structure of all Western music. You can just look at the piano keyboard to see how each pitch is related to another pitch. That’s why all music schools require students in all majors to learn to play the piano at a basic level.

piano keyboard

Make a complete song: It’s easy to play more than one note at a time on the piano. That means you can make a a complete musical texture by yourself on the piano. You can play the tune (what a singer would sing) and the background (what the backup band would play) at the same time. You can’t do that with a single line instrument like the saxophone or trumpet.

Gigantic pitch range: The highest note on the piano is higher than the highest note an orchestra can play. The lowest note is lower than the lowest instruments in the orchestra can play. This means that piano music can have incredible contrasts and drama.

Stays in tune: The piano has thick wire strings under a lot of tension. Pianos are tuned by professional tuners and usually stay in tune at least 6 months. So you don’t have to fiddle around with tuning before you can start playing.

Lots of styles to play: You can play classical, rock, blues, folk, and even popular tunes on the piano.

Sound great from the beginning: Even cats and dogs can get a sound out of the piano – remember Nora the cat? You don’t see a lot of videos about animals playing violin or saxophone.

Cons:

Big: The piano is large – about 6 ½” wide and at least 6” deep if you include space for the bench and someone sitting on it. That’s a lot of space for one instrument especially if you are sharing space with others.

Expensive: Sometimes you can find an old upright piano being given away for free. But, you get what you pay for. An instrument worth playing will cost at least $500-$1000.

Loud: The acoustic piano is quite a bit louder than some of the other options listed below. If you are sharing your space with someone who is working from home, you may have to limit your practicing times. Another option is to get an electronic keyboard. Then you can play with headphones when you need to be quiet. Electronic keyboards are very popular these days. However, an electronic action is not as good for practicing on as an acoustic action. But being able to play more hours makes considering an electronic piano a good idea. And your keyboard can create all kinds of sounds such as harpsichord, organ, and strings.

Takes a long time to master: The piano has 88 keys and three pedals. To play it you need to use all 10 fingers plus your feet at the same time. It can take a long time to get the coordination needed to play it well. By long time, we’re talking 10 or more years of lessons with a skilled teacher.

Not so great for popular music: The piano was most popular in the 1830s through the 1920s. It is perfectly suited for music from those years: classical music and jazz. Playing pop, rock, hip hop and rap on the piano can be tough. It’s pretty hard to play music that was originally played by 3-4 skilled musicians with only one brain.

2. Ukulele

Well of course on a site called ukulele.io we are big fans of ukulele. Here are some of the pros of learning ukulele as your first musical instrument.

Inexpensive: You can get a serviceable instrument to try out for less than $100.

Portable: The Beatles often took ukuleles on tour because they are small and easy to stow and carry. You can even get waterproof carbon fiber ukuleles to take to the beach or campsite.

Small and easy to hold: The ukulele comes in four sizes. Find out how to choose the perfect ukulele size for you here. The first three have the same tuning and the fourth (the baritone) has a different tuning. Even the largest ukulele is quite a bit smaller than a guitar. So, if holding a guitar is a stretch, the ukulele will be a great fit for you. Read more about ukulele sizes here.

Play harmony: Like piano and guitar, you can play complete chords on the guitar. You can even play the melody plus the chords at the same time which is called ‘chord melody’. It’s great to be able to play a complete song by yourself.

Easy to learn without a teacher: Ukulele is very popular right now. So there are many online ukulele tutorial videos, books, and courses. You can check out our offerings here.

Easier than guitar: The ukulele has only 4 strings not 6 or 12 like the guitar. That means that the chord shapes you make with your left hand are simpler and easier to learn.

Great for popular music: Lots of popular songs sound great on ukulele. If you like music that has guitars in it, you will like the ukulele

Happy upbeat sound: Many people associate the ukulele with happy mellow feelings. And who can’t use more of that in their life?

Great for playing with others: Lots of people join ukulele clubs to play in a group with other strummers. There are clubs all over the world. Facebook is a good place to look for a ukulele group.

Or you can improvise or play duets with a friend. Many of our books include the melody written out in ‘tab’ plus chord symbols to make it easy for you to play duets. (Tab is an easy to learn way of writing down music.) One person can play the melody while the other person strums the chords.

Sound good fast: The four strings of the ukulele sound great all by themselves. And that’s before you learn how to play your first chord. It’s not that hard to learn to strum the ukulele, so you can play complete songs within a week or two of starting. In fact, our introductory book teaches you 21 songs in 6 days. They are easy songs of course. But you are creating complete songs with a melody plus an accompaniment all by yourself.

3. Guitar

Pros:

Lots of popular songs to play: The guitar is the main instrument of pop, rock, folk and country music since the 1950s. Which means that it is a great instrument to learn if you want to play any of these styles.

Affordable: You can buy a beginner quality acoustic guitar for around $200. No way could you start on piano or acoustic bass in that price range

Easy to jam with a friend: Like ukulele, you can easily play with a friend. One of you would strum chords and the other can pluck melody notes and/or sing. Just decide what scale you’re playing in and you’re ready to go.

Expressive: You can affect the sound you make by how you strum or pluck the strings with your fingers. It’s a very direct and intimate music making experience.

Acoustic vs. Electric? Again, this depends on what style music you want to play.

Acoustic guitar is generally more affordable to start, and electric guitar is a bit easier to play. The choice is yours and there is no wrong answer.

Cons:

Lots of guitarists: There are a lot more guitarists than any other type of musician. This means that the competition to play in a group is a lot tougher.

Too big: For some folks, the guitar is just physically too big. Or maybe getting your small hand to wrap around the neck and cover six strings is too much of a stretch? In that case, we recommend the ukulele.

Which is better – piano or ukulele/guitar?

It all comes down to what you would like to do with your music. Do you want to learn some of your favorite songs, or play around a fire with some friends? Then I would recommend ukulele or guitar. If you would like to get deeper into music and maybe learn some classical pieces, I would suggest piano.

4. Bass guitar

Affordable: Beginner bass guitars are super affordable. Lessons are cheap and abundant online and elsewhere, and finding sheet music is very easy.

Different from guitar: Bass is a separate instrument from guitar. It is larger than a standard electric or acoustic guitar. It has four strings rather than 6 or 12 and its sounds are lower than the guitar. Because it is low, it usually works with the drums in a band to create a rhythm.

The electric and the acoustic (stand up) bass have the same strings. If you play the acoustic bass, you can really easily learn electric bass or ukulele bass because the fingerings and notes are the same. This also means that acoustic bass students can practice on an electric bass guitar at home! Being able to stash an inexpensive instrument at home will save you money and a lot of schlepping.

Big: The acoustic (stand up) bass is big.  In fact, it is so big you might have to buy a new car to tote your instrument around. But you can get a smaller size bass for younger students. If you go with the acoustic or stand-up bass, it is really big – and expensive. 

Strings are hard to press: to get those low tones, the strings need to be thick. That makes them harder to push down, which can tire out your hand and arm.

Usually in the background: If you like to be in the front playing a solo, you will not like the bass. Most of the time the bass works with the drums and rhythm guitar to create the supporting texture of a song.

5. Violin & Cello

Beautiful singing sound: These two instruments are the main part of any orchestra. They make a beautiful smooth singing sound. Some of the greatest classical music has been written for them. Violin also shows up as a fiddle in bluegrass, country and folk music. Violin even shows up in jazz played by artists like Regina Carter and Stephane Grappeli. There is a wonderful jazz violinist in the HBO series ‘Treme’, along with a lot of brass players.

Available in smaller sizes: It’s easy to get smaller size violins and cellos for children. They are available in ¼, 1/8 and 1/16 sizes. Read more about smaller violins here.

violins and cellos in orchestra

Easy to learn in school settings: Many schools have orchestra programs which offer lessons and loaner instruments to students. One of the Ukulele Sisters has a day job as a middle school orchestra director.

Always a group to join: Orchestras need lots of violins and cellos. So if you become proficient you’ll always be welcome to join a group. There are many amateur orchestras for adult players to join too.

Definitely will need serious lessons: These instruments are not easy to learn. It can take a while before you can make a good sound. You’ll need one on one lessons with a professional teacher.

With the right teacher, the Suzuki method of instruction can be a great option. Read more about the pros and cons of the Suzuki method here. 

Expensive: Even the cost of a starter instrument is on the higher side. Most school orchestra teachers recommend that you rent an instrument from a reputable dealer. You want someone who will handle repairs when needed, and look for a rent-to-buy program. It’s best to work with a business that is located near you so you can bring the instrument in to the shop in person.

Violins and violas are $20-$35/month depending on where your rent. Cellos are double that.

If you get to the point where you need a professional quality instrument, watch out. You could be spending thousands of dollars on just the instrument. The bows that you draw across the strings to make the sound are sold separately and can also be quite expensive.

6. Saxophone & other wind instruments

Wind instruments are a large group of instruments that you play by blowing into a mouthpiece. The flute is an exception – it is played by blowing across a hole. The oldest known musical instrument is a fragment of a bone flute from 60,000 years ago! Other popular wind instruments besides the flute are clarinet and saxophone.

Saxophone is easy to learn and is available in a variety of types and sizes. The alto saxophone is the most suitable for beginners. You can learn more about different kinds of saxophones here.

Easy to learn in school settings: As with orchestras, many schools also have band programs. Playing in the band can be a fun way to learn music and connect with other students in your school. I loved playing flute and piccolo in my high school’s marching band.

Not that many groups for adult wind players to join: Many wind players drop music once they leave school. When they don’t have a way to play with other people anymore it’s not as much fun. This was my experience. I didn’t get chosen for my university’s orchestra and never played flute again. For many years I wished that I had learned cello instead of flute.

There are not so many bands and wind groups for adults to play in because there’s not that much music written for band. Wind instruments like saxophone and clarinet sound great in rock and jazz. But wind instruments like oboe and flute are mostly limited to playing in orchestras. And orchestras usually need only one or two of each type of wind instrument. So you have to be really good to make the cut. The TV series Mozart in the Jungle tells the story of Hadley, an aspiring orchestral oboist.

Many years to master: There are lots of self-taught saxophone and clarinet players out there. But most wind instruments need training and discipline over many years to master. If you have a strong desire to learn one of them you definitely can do it. Just know that you will have to be very organized and identify a good teacher early on in your learning journey.

7. Drums

Fun: Drums are another instrument with a long history. It can be easy to make a sound at the beginning. But once you try to play with both hands and one foot at the same time, things become more challenging. Once you’ve passed this hurdle, you’ll get to a decent level where most rock blues and pop songs are playable. pretty quickly. In fact, choosing to play drums can be the quickest way to get proficient at playing a single instrument

Man playing drum

Lots of opportunities to play: If you get moderately skilled, you’ll have lots of chances to join bands. And it’s a good thing, because very few people have ever written a percussion only song.

Expensive: At first getting your drum kit set up will be expensive. Once you have a basic set up you’ll be OK for a while. Then you can gradually add different drums and cymbals.

Noisy: The drums are loud. Very loud. So many learners train on an electric drum kit to help neighbors keep their sanity.

8. Brass instruments such as trumpet

Easy to learn in school settings: Many school music programs offer lessons and loaner instruments. Playing in the band can be a fun way to learn music and connect with other students in the school.

Fun: Brass is great for the school marching band or orchestra. And it can be a ton of fun to be in the band at school sporting events. I mean, watch those dancing tubas in the Stanford Marching Band! Are they having fun or what! There is even a very famous college football play that included the band members.

However, when you no longer have the support of a school program, it can be difficult to keep your instrument up.

Not that many groups for adult wind players to join: As with wind instruments, there are few adult music groups that need lots of brass players. Adult orchestras only need one or two of each brass instrument, so you have to be good to get chosen to play. You can play jazz and some rock and pop on brass instruments. But brass instruments are not so common in styles besides classical.

So, if you’re learning a brass instrument at school, try to plan on how to continue once you are out of school. A good plan can be to learn a second instrument such as ukulele, piano, or guitar. That way you’ll be able to keep playing music when you leave school.

Very loud: Brass instruments are used when the music needs a loud or piercing sound. Think marching band and army signals. But neighbors most likely will not be enthusiastic about hearing daily brass practice. You can get a practice mute or play with just the mouthpiece some of the time. But you will need regular practice time when you can play your instrument unmuted.

So what is the best instrument to learn first?

Now that you’ve learned about the many options, I hope you’re ready to choose what instrument to learn first. If you are feeling overwhelmed with information and pros and cons – don’t freak out! Choose SOMETHING to get started. Even if you only try it for a month or two, you’ll learn a lot about music. And the knowledge you gain will help you as you move on to a second instrument.

Playing music as an adult is a great way to socialize and express yourself. Working with music will help you develop your creativity and thinking in new ways. In fact, music is often used to help folks rehabilitate from strokes.

So what do you think? Which instrument will you try to learn first? Let us know in the comments.

Are you struggling with strumming?

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What are the Best Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players?

What are the Best Christmas Gifts for Ukulele Players?

So, you’re wondering what are the best Christmas gifts for the ukulele player in your life? Here  are 30 ideas  for things your loved one might be excited to find under the tree. We’ve listed the approximate price to make it easy to stay within your budget.

FYI Ukulele Sisters gets a small commission for purchases made through links in this post. The commission doesn’t affect the price you pay.

Practical Ukulele Christmas Gifts

Here are some suggestions to help your loved one be more comfortable and sound better as they make music.

1. Music Stand - $25

A sturdy, high quality music stand is a great place to store music. And it’s a lot more fun to play ukulele if books and music sheets are not falling on the ground all the time.

2. Clip-on Tuner - $15

A clip -on tuner makes it a snap to get a ukulele tuned up and ready to rock out. Snark Tuner is the go-to brand for clip on tuners.

3. Capo - $10

Ukulele capos make it possible to adapt sheet music to different keys. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means. You can learn more about it with our post about using a capo.

4. Ukulele Strap - $10 - 20

Slip into something more comfortable with a ukulele strap. Having a strap to hold up the ukulele makes it much easier to play the ukulele.

There are two kinds. One of them goes over your head and does not require an end button. The advantage is that you don’t need to take your ukulele to the shop to get an end button added. The disadvantage is that you still have to keep a hand on your ukulele to make sure you don’t drop it.

The other kind of strap needs a button installed onto the ukulele. The strap is then attached to the button which means you can use your hands to do something else and not drop your ukulele. The downside is that you might need the help of a music store to get a button added to your ukulele. And some people don’t like how the buttons look.

Oldtime Music has published a nice review of the top 7 ukulele straps. 

5. Chord Chart - $10

A ukulele chord chart to post in your practice space will make it easier to quickly find the chord shape you need at the right moment. We like this laminated ukulele chord chart.

6. Felt Picks $10 - $15

If your ukulele player does not like using their fingers to strum and is worried about damaging their uke, a felt pick could be the answer. This combo pack of a capo and felt picks is a great deal.

7. Humidifier - $15

Ukulele humidifier. Many ukuleles are made of wood, which prefers a modest and constant humidity level. If you live in a dry climate or have a lot of drying indoor heat in the winter, a ukulele humidifier is a MUST. Unless you really like buying ukuleles…

8. Ukulele Stand - $25

Ukulele stand: Having your ukulele out of its case and ready to grab for a quick practice session is makes it much easier to fit music into your daily life. This zebra wood stand is good looking and a good price too. 

9. Wall Mount - $15

A wall mount also makes it easy easy to grab a ukulele, but it also turns your musical instrument collection into a decorative statement.

10. New Strings - $10 - 15

Strings wear out over time and need to be replaced. Having a spare set is a great idea. Aquila is a standard string type that lots of folks use. Be sure you get the set of strings that matches the size of ukulele belonging to your musician.

Soprano strings

Concert strings

Tenor strings

Baritone strings

Fun Ukulele Christmas Gifts

Enough with practicality! What about some playful, fun gifts for ukulele players?

Ukulele Christmas ornament – there are a lot of cute ones out there. We liked the strumming Santa and the blown glass ukulele with flowers.

11. Ukulele Christmas Ornaments - $10 - $15

There are a lot of cute ones out there. We liked the strumming Santa and the blown glass ukulele with flowers.

12. Hawaian Shirt - $35 - $50

13. Lei - $15 - 75

And what is the perfect accessory for your Hawaiian shirt? Why a lei, of course. If you’re going with fresh flowers, your local florist might be able to deliver something or get in touch with the Hawaiian Lei Company

 

14. Ukulele T shirt - $15 - $25

If your loved one isn’t much for collared shirts, how about a Ukulele T shirt? Our favorite is the one with cats found here. There are also fun “ukulele girl” shirts out there.

15. Mug - $15 - $20

If a shirt isn’t in the budget, how about a mug with ukulele chord stamps or fun sayings.

16. Socks - $15 - $20

Ukulele socks are another affordable choice. From colorful to neutral there are a lot of choices.

17. Hat - $15 - $20

If your loved one likes to cover his noggin there are a lot of cute choices available. We liked this neutral one and this more colorful one too.

19. Fun Ukulele Case - $25

Sheet Music is Always a Great Christmas Gift

Of course, we are authors so we are biased. But most players will always be happy to have new tunes to try. Do your best to buy something at the right difficulty level and when in doubt it’s best to get something easier rather than harder. It’s not so fun to get a new book and not be able to play any of the songs in it. 

20. 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way - $15

by Rebecca Bogart and Jenny Peters. This book is for someone who has never played ukulele before. It covers five basic chords (C, C7, F, G7 and Am) and three fundamental strumming patterns by working through the six days and 40-plus lesson videos.

21 Easy Ukulele Songs for Christmas ukulele book cover

21. 21 Easy Ukulele Songs for Christmas - $15

Also by Rebecca Bogart and Jenny Peters. This book features great sounding yet easy to play versions of classic carols. It’s intended for beginning ukulele players who have learned the C, F, and G7 chords and a few basic strums. Includes a free video course.

22. 21 More Songs in 6 Days - $20

by Rebecca Bogart and Jenny Peters. Your uke lover will learn the most important intermediate ukulele chords, how to fingerpick melodies and accompaniments, and new fancier strumming patterns. Plus, this book has an introduction to blues improvisation and basic music theory. 

23. Learn Easy Ukulele Chord Melody Today! Online course - $100

If your ukulele player has been complaining about wanting more variety in her playing, she might love the gift of our chord melody course. It’s only for sale through Dec. 15, but once purchased can be accessed any time.

25. Hymn Kits - $250

For those who love playing sacred music, our hymn kits will give them lots of tunes and skills for making great arrangements.

26. The Daily Ukulele - $30

by Jim and Liz Beloff. This fabulous book is full of good songs – most of the recent tunes are from the 60s and 70s. There is no lesson information, but if your uke lover knows five chords, they should be able to tackle some of the songs.

27. The Daily Ukulele Leap Year Edition - $35

by Jim Beloff. More fabulous songs from Jim. This second volume has more modern tunes by groups such as Black Keys and Green Day.

28. Easy Songs for Ukulele - $10

29. Fiddle Tunes for Ukulele - $15

Also by Lil’ Rev. Great little guide to old time familiar tunes arranged for ukulele.

30. Disney Hits for Ukulele - $15

23 songs included. This book is for someone who’s played for at least a couple years.

We hope you’ve found some gift ideas that will work for you in this post. If not, check out our shop for all Ukulele Sisters’ products. Or our recommended ukulele products page

Do you have a great idea we didn’t mention? Let us know about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

You want to fill your home with Christmas cheer! You know a few chords and strumming patterns. And you’d like to play the melodies too.

Look no further. Our Christmas book offers all this and more!

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Do different strumming patterns get you confused on the ukulele?

Do different strumming patterns get you confused on the ukulele?

Do you get confused when you try to figure out how to strum a song on the ukulele?

Is a sheet of lyrics and chords confusing to you? Is sheet music confusing? Do you know your chord shapes, but not what to do with them?

If you are feeling confused about strumming patterns, don’t worry! This is really normal. We all get confused when we’re first trying to figure out which pattern goes best with a song.

When I was first learning the “island strum,” I was also teaching General Music to 3rd, 4th and, 5th-grade students. There were 45 students in my class and some of them were definitely more interested in looking cool than in learning how to play the ukulele. It took me 8 months to master the “island strum, because I was teaching and disciplining at the same time.  I knew I had it when I could sing “Over the Rainbow,” strum the ukulele, change the chords at the right time AND discipline the kids who were acting out! It takes time for strumming to become that automatic!

In this article, I will give you 5 “go-to” strumming patterns that you can use when learning a song. Then I will give you some ideas on how to go about learning a new song and feeling confident with strumming.

 

Strum #1: All down strums on the beat

When you first start learning a song, start with all down strums like this:

 

Strum #2: Even strumming of down-up, down-up on every beat

 
When you get good at this pattern, add the up strums like this:

 

Strum #3: Uneven strumming of down-up, down-up on every beat

Sometimes you need to divide the beat unevenly, so the down is longer than the up. You can say the rhyme “Jack and Jill went up the hill” to get the sense of this beat. Here’s what this strumming pattern looks like:

There are two other “go-to” strums that I use which I will describe next. With all strumming patterns, you keep a down and up motion going all the time. The down movement is on the beat and the up movement is off the beat. You make some of the beats and some of the off beats silent to create the different strumming patterns.

Boom-Ditty Strum-Down, Down-up, Down, Down-up

The first pattern is Down, Down-up, Down, Down-up. It is sometimes called the “boom ditty” strum and looks like this.

The Island Strum: Down, Down-up, Up-Down-Up

The other common strum I use is sometimes called the “island strum.” It goes Down, Down-up, Up-Down-Up. It is quite syncopated because you don’t play on Beat 3, one of the strongest beats of the measure. Because you play on the off-beat of the third beat, the strum has a fun kind of feeling. It works for lots of songs. I’ve included two videos below where I teach this strumming pattern in the songs “Over the Rainbow,” and “Five Foot Two.” By watching these two lesson videos you will get the sense of this strumming pattern and how to practice it. The strum looks like this:

Here are two videos for learning “The Island Strum.” The first video has me going back and forth with Rebecca so that you can practice the pattern on each chord change of the song. It is the one that really breaks the strumming pattern down.

 

Learning the intro to “Over the Rainbow”

Five Foot Two is a great song to learn “the island strum”

You can get the sheet music to “Five Foot Two” with the strumming pattern written out in our book Easy Ukulele Songs: Five with Five Chords. 

 

So, you’re pretty good at 3-chord songs now. You can do simple strumming patterns. You may even know some other chords. You’d like to take your playing to the next level.

Where do you go from here?

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Varying Strumming Patterns Within a Song

When you change the strumming patterns within a song, it makes the song more interesting. Check out this video of “Red River Valley” where I change strumming patterns each verse. I will teach you how to do each pattern within the video.

 

Red River Valley – a different strum for each verse!

Three other ideas for practicing strumming pattens:

  1. Check out an app called Strum Machine that helps you hear the beat of your songs and play along.
  2. There are also ukulele play-along videos that help you to get the feeling for strumming. Here is a link to Stay With Me, a beautiful song with only three chords.
  3. If you’re trying to figure out how fast to strum, look at another article I wrote about strumming.

So, I hope you find these ideas helpful and have fun.

Happy Strumming!