If you’ve seen “Lilo and Stitch” then the ukulele most definitely reminds you of the iconic scene where Stitch dresses up as Elvis Presley and dazzles everyone at the beach with his strumming a ukulele along to “Devil in Disguise” by the King of Rock and Roll himself.
At this point, you’re probably wondering, “how can I become as impressive as Stitch at playing the ukulele?”
Surprisingly, it only takes learning a few basics and you’re good to go! It’s actually one of the easiest instruments for children to learn.
How Fast Can I Learn to Play Any Song?
You’ll most likely pick up the basics of a ukulele in 10 minutes. Put in mind though, it’ll take around 3-6 months to be more comfortable playing songs, maybe less for easier tunes. You’ll also definitely have room for improvement after that.
So, to play this funky instrument, you have to learn two things: chord formation and strumming.
The majority of the songs are created using a few chords (C, G, F, D, and A). If you master these, playing any song will become a piece of cake. So, choose two chords and keep practicing them for a while.
To switch between chords, your hand should stay on the fretboard and you should find an easy and quick way for your fingers to find the next chord and back again.
Using a chord chart will be extremely beneficial.
This will help you get accustomed to how songs are usually performed. Start slowly and make sure you’re doing it right.
Next comes the strumming part. After you’ve got a grip on how to play the chords and how to alternate between them, it’s time to make these chords come together by learning how to strum. Most basic techniques are either up and down or down and down.
You can develop more advanced strumming techniques to up your uke game, later on.
Choosing the Right Ukulele
With the many alternatives available on the market, it can get confusing to know which works best for a beginner like yourself. Size and price must be the main determinants of the choice you make.
Ukuleles come in four sizes: Soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The size you choose should make you feel comfortable and it won’t strain your hand muscles too much.
The size you choose will also affect the sound that it produces.
Investing in an instrument that you’ve begun learning can seem unimportant and most people believe buying the cheapest uke works fine till you’ve mastered the hobby…or till you’ve given up.
However, it’ll give you so much frustration if it breaks easily or doesn’t stay in tune for long.
Finding a moderately priced ukulele (between $50-$100) will make sure your journey focuses solely on you actually learning to play and not fixing your uke every two hours.
Top 3 Ukuleles for Beginners
Here are 3 of the highly recommended ukuleles for beginners, within the price range that I’ve mentioned above.
Best Overall: Donner DUC-1 Concert Ukulele
This ukulele is light and made from mahogany wood, which makes a loud and bright tone while playing. The rosewood fretboard makes it a more comfortable instrument for beginners.
You won’t need to constantly tune it, as the tuners are chrome-plated.
It comes in a bundle that includes a strap, nylon strings, a tuner (DT-2) and a ukulele bag. The strings on the ukulele and the spare ones are easy on the fingers and high quality.
The only downside to this ukulele is that it may produce buzzing sounds while playing.
- Full, rich sounds
- Doesn’t require constant tuning
- High-quality strings
- Bundle includes many useful accessories
- 30-day return policy
- Affordable price
- Buzzing problems
Best LightWeight: Lanikai LU-21 Soprano Ukulele
Also made from eastern mahogany, this uke produces warm and smooth tones. Like the Donner, it has a rosewood fretboard and chrome-plated tuning pegs.
The ukulele comes with the strings already attached, so you’ll avoid the hassle of stringing them yourself.
It also comes in a bundle with a clip-on tuner, a bag, and an instructional DVD.
The drawbacks of buying this ukulele include: producing quiet sounds due to its size (soprano), which is the smallest of uke types, and costing a lot more than other options that have similar features.
- Sturdy build
- Very lightweight (easier to hold and carry around)
- Deep, rich tones
- Instructional DVD (teaches you the most common chords and techniques)
- Relatively expensive
- Small size produces quieter sounds
Best Design: Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele
Like the previous models, the body is also mahogany and the fretboard is rosewood as well.
This means that it produces similar deep, warm sounds, but the only difference is that due to its concert size, the tone is almost as loud as a guitar.
It’s also very lightweight, portable, and the satin finish gives the ukulele higher durability and an elegant look overall.
- Great for playing for an audience
- Good value for money
- Comes in other sizes (soprano and tenor)
- Might slightly hum
- Almost sounds like a guitar (not what most people seek in a ukulele)
Tips to Make You Progress Faster
Aside from learning the basics of a ukulele, there are many other factors that will affect your learning progress. Here are some tips on how to make sure they work in your favor.
Stringing Your Ukulele
Whichever ukulele brand you choose to buy, you must always make sure that you have good strings. If not, your playing will sound dull and you’ll feel discouraged, thinking it’s your wrongdoing.
If your ukulele comes with low-quality strings, you can buy your own.
It’s also recommended that you change the strings every six months during the first year. This ensures that your ears are being trained to hear the right sounds.
All four strings should be replaced and not just one, and here’s a video to show you how:
Tuning a ukulele also plays a major role in producing nice and vibrant sounds. If you’re learning a song with an un-tuned uke, you’ll be frustrated that it doesn’t sound like it should.
A tuner will help you out. With the many options available (physical or online tuners), it’ll be easy to tune your ukulele (no fretting needed!).
Sitting in an uncomfortable position while holding the uke will put a strain on certain body parts and make your practice time un-enjoyable and ineffective.
Make sure to keep your back straightened and support the uke with the area under your chest. Your forearm should be holding the body of the ukulele in place.
Have a Song in Mind
Having a song that you want to learn how to play will also motivate you, as well as help your instructor (if you have one) know exactly what basic chords and strumming techniques to teach you first.
Watching Yourself or Other Players
Recording your journey will help you see the progress you’ve made and will help you see what mistakes you’re making and work on avoiding them.
Seeing other people play can be an encouragement for you since you’ll just want to progress as fast as you could to reach their level.
Play Slower, Learn Faster
Learning the chords slower with a timed beat, using a metronome, will enhance your playing quality and help the different chords register within your muscle memory.
This means that your hands and fingers familiarize themselves with the moves and the switching between chords at a timed pace, which you can increase later on.
Taking regular breaks is a must to enable your brain to register your motor activity.
Manage Your Practice Time
Many beginners always wonder how much practice is good enough. I say, this question is relative because each person’s learning capabilities differ. However, an average of 30 minutes daily can be effective.
Don’t push yourself to the point of frustration. Learning the uke should be fun and relaxing, so limit your practice time to make sure you’re actually enjoying it.
A fun tip is to split the practice session, where the first part you learn new techniques and chords and the second part you learn to play a song that you’ve been wanting to learn.
Humming is a great idea when practicing chords or learning a song so that you won’t be distracted with remembering lyrics and your focus stays on your hands.
Practice Makes Perfect
This saying has always been true, as no skill in the world can be mastered without trying and failing, then trying once more until you finally succeed. That’s why you should be patient on your ‘learning how to play the ukulele’ journey.
Make sure that your practice time is both effective and efficient. You should be learning all the right techniques and chords, but you should also be wise about the time you spend learning each.
Your goal will determine where this journey ends for you. If you simply want to learn how to play a song or two, learning a few basic chords and techniques will suffice.
However, becoming on the pro-level of Elvis Presley Stitch will take a lot more time and hard work, which pays off when you’re playing for a crowd and you hear their cheers.