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Ukulele Lessons

GUEST,Guest - Lin 16 Jul 14 - 11:59 PM
PHJim 17 Jul 14 - 12:31 AM
GUEST 17 Jul 14 - 01:09 AM
GUEST,Guest - Lin 17 Jul 14 - 02:31 AM
Leadfingers 17 Jul 14 - 05:08 AM
maeve 17 Jul 14 - 06:36 AM
JennieG 17 Jul 14 - 07:50 AM
Doug Chadwick 17 Jul 14 - 09:55 AM
GUEST 17 Jul 14 - 07:02 PM
GUEST,Guestful Codger 17 Jul 14 - 07:03 PM
PHJim 17 Jul 14 - 09:50 PM
Ernest 18 Jul 14 - 10:59 AM
Tootler 18 Jul 14 - 08:24 PM
GUEST,Stim 18 Jul 14 - 09:42 PM
GUEST,Guestful Codger 19 Jul 14 - 06:24 AM
Don Firth 19 Jul 14 - 03:43 PM
GUEST 19 Jul 14 - 06:46 PM
Tootler 19 Jul 14 - 07:25 PM
GUEST 19 Jul 14 - 07:43 PM
GUEST 19 Jul 14 - 07:47 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 20 Jul 14 - 12:13 PM
GUEST,Ed 20 Jul 14 - 12:47 PM
Don Firth 20 Jul 14 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Ed 20 Jul 14 - 01:39 PM
Don Firth 20 Jul 14 - 05:04 PM
PHJim 20 Jul 14 - 10:20 PM
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Subject: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Guest - Lin
Date: 16 Jul 14 - 11:59 PM

I have never played a ukulele before and only had a few lessons on a guitar many, many years ago - so I am really am a beginner. Have not played the guitar for many years and only know a few chords anyway.
The lessons (not private lessons) are in a small class of adult students. I saw an advert in a local paper for the lessons.

It will cost $50.00 (total) for four lessons - 1/2 hour for each lesson.
Is that considered a good price for lessons? (not private lessons)

Also, is it a difficult instrument to learn if you are a beginner?
I know any instrument can be difficult for a beginner but since I do not know anything about ukuleles I was just wondering if it is considered somewhat difficult to learn for most people?

Any feedback of others who have taken beginning ukulele classes would be appreciated. Did you enjoy your lessons and would you recommend learning to play this instrument?
I am not looking to become professional or anything, just thought about trying it for fun and learn something new.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: PHJim
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 12:31 AM

I charge $20/half hour for individual lessons. $50 for four lessons sounds reasonable to me, depending on the abilities of the teacher.
The ukulele is an easy instrument to play at a basic level, but in order to become a proficient player, you must put some effort into it.
Many uke players seem to be satisfied with strumming simple chords to accompany their singing. Others treat it as a serious musical instrument and play complicated instrumental solos on their ukes.

Roy Smeck Ukulele

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 01:09 AM

Much better to join a ukelele group for free or trial taster to see if you like the sound and feel of ukeleles wnd decide which size is best for you. The smaller models can be a challenge to fret for big hands.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Guest - Lin
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 02:31 AM

No "free" (trial) ukulele groups in my area. Not too many classes nearby anyway.
I don't have a ukulele but I think the class will have some that students can use there. I don't want to invest in one yet until I know if it is something that I will want to continue with after the four lessons are over.

The smaller models will probably be good for me though as I have very small hands.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Leadfingers
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 05:08 AM

Be wary of 'cheap' Ukes - Intonation ca be a problem .

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: maeve
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 06:36 AM

Lin- Sounds like a great opportunity to test the waters. A nearby library here is offering ukes on loan, and there are similar offerings at other libraries in various parts of the US. Schools have taken up the uke banner as well, using them in school music programs, and uke groups and clubs are showing up in many towns worldwide.

Have fun!


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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: JennieG
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 07:50 AM

Lin, a couple of years ago our local music school started up lessons and they have been very popular. For a while we had two groups, a beginners' group and the more advanced group for those of us who could already play, but they merged some time ago as our beginners came on so quickly! Some of them had never held an instrument before, couldn't read music, didn't think they could play - and they have surprised themselves. We have a lot of fun.

As to whether it's a good price for lessons I can't say, as prices here in Oz are different.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 09:55 AM

The ukulele is a fun instrument to play and shouldn't be beyond the reach of anyone with even the most basic of musical ability. Group lessons are a great way to learn but it seems a bit pricey to me. Even if the cost has to cover hire of a venue, it wouldn't take many students in the group for the instructor to be raking in far more than the $20/half hour that PHJim charges for individual lessons.

I am in a fiddle club that operates as a mutual self-help group. We hire a village hall one afternoon per month. With an average turnout of around 15 people, we cover our costs at £3 per person for 21/2 hours, including a cup of tea and a biscuit. Donations for performances and any excess from the monthly subs allow us to buy in expert help for workshops and the like


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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 07:02 PM

Dare I mention that YouTube has tons of beginner level tutorial videos, all for free? For instance, check out Ukulele Mike. These lessons are pretty comprehensive, covering everything you need to know, from holding the uke to playing blues and riffing, with lots of chord, strum and fingerpicking patterns along the way. This stuff isn't rocket science, or even checkbook balancing; mostly, it's a matter of repetitive practice to train your mental and physical coordination.

So I'd advise redirecting that lesson money into getting a really decent uke, as well as the near-indispensables whose costs can soon dwarf that of the uke itself. For instance, a gig bag will run you $20 or a soft case, $40; a clip-on tuner, $20; a set-up, $30-40. You'll want a chord book, song books, spare strings, a uke thong or strap, a capo, a string winder and maybe a case humidifier or stand. Plan to spend at least $300 initially on gear and set-up alone. The more you invest, the less you'll treat your aspiration like a whim. If this sounds like too much money, forget about starting until it does sound reasonable; then you may be serious enough to give it a sporting chance. If the YouTube lessons don't suffice and your desire to play is still keen, that's the time to consider personal lessons.

Buy an "economy" or "mid-range" instrument, bypassing the "cheap" and "entry-level" models. Your uke needs to look so alluring that you want to pick it up every time you see it. It needs to have a delightful, rich, bell-like tone, be a real instrument. It should have great intonation all the way up the neck, and no fret buzz--sour chords are a real killjoy. When you go shopping, take along someone experienced (at least in guitar or mandolin), to check out things you might not know to check or know how to check.

Important: check for side-of-the-fingerboard fret markers, the single most under-appreciated feature. When playing in proper position, you can't really see the markers on the face of the fretboard, and they're often obscured by your own fingers, while side of neck markers are always visible. The most standard side markers on ukulele are at the 5th, 7th, 10th (not 9th!)and 12th frets. It's best when the 12th (octave) fret is marked with double dots, particularly if the uke has a 15th fret marker as well. Avoid a uke with a marker at the 3rd fret on either the face or side--this creates visual uniformity/clutter when you want a simple, visually distinct pattern. Really, who can't visually count to three??

If you can stretch your budget a bit, get a solid-wood top; you'll instantly appreciate the richer sound and greater volume, and you're almost guaranteed of a better quality instrument. It can be the make or break point between playing and not playing, and the improvement is far beyond the modest price increase. But with solid tops or all solids, ensure your instrument stays humidified, especially if you live in a dry climate. (Planet Waves Small Instrument Humidifier, $8 online; distilled water: $1 per a gallon. For rewetting the sponge you'll also want a squeeze bottle with a pointy top. Never use tap water or bottled drinking water.)

Look for uke bargains on craigslist; wonderful deals pop up regularly, and you can check out the instruments thoroughly. I bought my first two ukes through craigslist for (respectively) 1/3 and 1/2 off online discount prices, factoring in the extras (bag/case, extra strings, books). Both ukes were in excellent condition.

Also consider "blemished", "factory second", demo or "damaged box" instruments. Big discounts for often negligible flaws.

If you go the online route (big savings over local retail prices), Mim's Ukes should be your first and last stop: personalized advice, many pics of the actual ukes for sale, and custom pro set-up included in her prices, effectively undercutting all the competition. She's a joy to deal with. Uke Republic also has a terrific reputation and includes set up, but expect to spend more. For all-solid mahogany ukes, you can't go wrong with Mainlands; buy direct from the maker, set up included in the price.

If you buy from anyone else, immediately take your new uke to a reputable music shop that sells and repairs smaller instruments like mandolins and have your uke "set up". Consider set up mandatory. Most new low-end ukes come from the factory with overly high action, making them difficult to play. The "action" is the height of the strings over the fretboard, particularly critical in the upper neck. New players generally do best with a low action, but if you plan mostly to thrash, you'll want a moderate to higher action. Set up consists basically of three things: lowering the action to its optimal range for your intended style of play, filing down frets where necessary to minimize "fret buzz" anywhere on the neck, and "compensating" the bridge contact points if there's a slight intonation drift. I suspect a major reason people give up on ukulele is because they never had their uke set up, so they have to expend more force to play it; the sound suffers and it just doesn't feel good.

Definitely buy a "uke thong": a neck strap that goes under the uke and hooks into the soundhole. Buy it before you even settle on your uke. By far the greatest initial (or ongoing) difficulty confronting a new player is how to support the instrument when trying to simultaneously fret and strum or fingerpick, which require freedom in both right and left hands and arms. The thong doesn't totally support the instrument like a traditional strap, but the only additional support you require is to rest (not clamp!) your right forearm against the body. This single aid will make uke playing so much easier from the start. If you later acquire more ukes (a common addiction), you can use a single thong with all of them, rather than having to fit each one with its own strap or master the awkward, un-ergonomic traditional method of holding. I recommend the thongs from harpdude on eBay (~$15).

Buy a mandolin or banjo capo; one of the elastic band jobbies will suffice. Songs charts you find will seldom match the key you'd have chosen for your vocal range; with a capo, you at least have a chance of using the charts given while singing in a more comfortable key.

Even if you have "small hands", I strongly argue against the soprano size. Those ukes are annoyingly shrill, over-plinky, harder to tune accurately, harder to fret cleanly and due to the narrower tolerances tend to play out of tune in the upper neck. If you're a virtuoso you may be able to make a soprano sound good but in the hands of mere mortals they're cause for deportation.

One very important thing often grossly neglected in the initial stages of learning is this: don't just learn a chord's name and shape, also locate the root (the named note) in the chord shape, noting which string and fret it's on. (Note: Many major and minor triad chords "double" the root; that is, the root is played on two of the four strings, either in unison or an octave apart. But, to my mind, only one of these roots is "primary": the one shared with the corresponding 7th chord.) Mark the root(s) boldly on new chord charts. Think of the root whenever you practice chords and chord changes. The utility of learning the explicit root position(s) may not be apparent at first, but this knowledge will prove invaluable later on, when you start equating first position chords to moveable chords, relating chords to families sharing the same root string, mapping chord progressions onto relative root movements, finding chord alternatives higher on the neck (where the root moves to a different string following a simple pattern), transposing ... you get the idea. So just focus on roots from the get-go and you'll thank me later.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Guestful Codger
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 07:03 PM

Grr, that last message was from "Artful Codger".

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: PHJim
Date: 17 Jul 14 - 09:50 PM

Some great advice from Artful Codger. Just a few things I'd disagree with. I would forget about the capo and learn to transpose.
I haven't tried the uke thong, but I do find a strap of some kind is necessary. If you are just strumming chords, you might manage without a strap, but for any kind of lead work, you will need it, so you might as well get used to it. I use a braided leather shoe lace for most of my ukes, but my metal bodied reso uke is heavy enough that I use a one inch wide strap.
If you find a uke with an inlay at the 3rd fret that you really like, don't let that extra inlay deter you. I can't even recall which of my ukes and banjoleles have one. The advice about the side dots is good. Some folks hold the instrument so that they can see the fretboard, but some, like me and Artful, need the side dots. These are relatively easy to apply if your uke doesn't come with them. I have applied them to 2 guitars, a banjo and a uke. I merely drilled small holes in the side of the fingerboard and filled them with either white paint (on an unbound board) or a white glue and rosewood dust paste (on a bound board). Charcoal dust could be used in place of rosewood dust or you could use a putty stick of the appropriate colour.
Since I own a number of guitars, banjos and mandolins, I do own a few string winders, but I have never used them on a uke.
I have a few ukes with friction tuners, but I prefer geared tuners.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Ernest
Date: 18 Jul 14 - 10:59 AM

As said before, Artful Codger gave good advice. The only things I would disagree about is the necessity of a chord book and song books - there are quite a few of both available on the web which you can get for free.
Here are some pages with links:

Link Collection 1

Link Collection 2

Happy strumming!

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Tootler
Date: 18 Jul 14 - 08:24 PM

To answer the OP's initial questions.

I found ukulele relatively easy to get started on. Most people I've come across have been able to achieve sufficient basic competence to be able to play simple strummed 3 chord song accompaniments in a few weeks. From there it's a matter of where you want to go. It's a serious musical instrument and can repay a lifetime's study or it's an instrument you can pick up and put down for your own pleasure and play a pleasing sounding accompaniment.

As other's have said Artful Codger has provided some useful advice though I disagree with some of it. I disagree with his arguing against the soprano. That's a matter of personal taste. I like my sopranos but, contrary to popular belief, hand size doesn't really come into it. I've come across people with great big sausage-like fingers happily playing soprano ukulele. It's true you need to be more careful about finger placement and there are more likely to be intonation issues but proper setup should deal with the latter. The former is a matter of practice.

Secondly, though a strap is useful, and with the larger sizes getting near essential, I would avoid the uke thong. The idea of hooking something into the sound hole makes me shudder. Too much possibility for damage. Much better to pay to have strap buttons fitted. Alternatively, investigate the uke leash. ( That's what I use. A strap which loops round your upper arm and attaches to the headstock. It gives enough support to the left hand to leave it free to move between chords easily. My banjo uke is heavy and I use an actual banjo strap for that, so it does depend.

I've mixed feelings about the capo. It's a useful tool but I find it gets in the way. Like most ukulele players I own several ukes and use them in different tunings instead.

I would add Hawaii Music Supply ( to the list of suggested shops. They have a stellar reputation and properly set up every uke they sell. I've not used them myself as I'm in the UK but they are uniformly recommended on the ukulele underground forum.

When I was starting out, I found "Got a ukulele" site very useful ( and he has a couple of useful books which add extra information not found in tutor books.

Look up "Uke Minutes" on You Tube. Short tutorial videos from basics upward. Aldrine Guerrero who produces them is a well respected ukulele player who knows what he is talking about. Possibly better than many lessons.

I also recommend joining the ukulele underground forum. It's a mine of useful information and has a beginners forum:

Finally, don't let anybody tell you you must do this or you must do it that way. It's your ukulele and you know what you want to get out of it.

Enjoy the ukulele

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 18 Jul 14 - 09:42 PM

If nothing else, Artful D suffers from TMI syndrome.   A lot of advice, no matter how well intentioned or how well founded, just confuses those who are just starting out.

A beginner can't go far wrong in purchasing a Kala KA-S, an easy to play soprano uke that sounds great and can be found for around $70--as far as lessons go, a stitch in time saves nine, meaning that when someone who knows how to play shows you how to hold a uke and finger and strum those chords at the beginning, you will move farther faster, with nothing to unlearn...

And yes, I love Aldrine Guerrero, but he's not there in the room to tell you whether you've got it right or not.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Guestful Codger
Date: 19 Jul 14 - 06:24 AM

I've never caused the least soundhole damage using a thong--the ones I use encase the flat V-bend metal hook in a ribbon of finish-friendly durable nylon, which also reduces the profile so you don't bump against anything as you strum (a problem with some thong designs). You're far more likely to mar your instrument through energetic strumming or having the uke slip away from your right arm when using a leash (though a leash must provide more neck stability, and a strap gives the best stability and security). So worry not about thongs. Plus, with a thong it's the work of seconds to switch between ukes--any ukes--with no prior preparation.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Jul 14 - 03:43 PM

I've played guitar, particularly classical guitar, all my life (well, since I was in my early twenties), using it mostly to accompany folk songs and ballads, with an occasional bit of show-off from my limited repertoire of classical pieces.

Within recent years, I've had some shoulder problems that make playing a full-size classic next to impossible, so I've been using a small travel guitar. Works okay, but not entirely satisfying.

A friend of mine introduced me to the Yamaha GL1 "Guitalele" (CLICKY), a 6-string baritone ukulele or a very small guitar, depending on how you look at it.

She is sort of an accidental instrument collector. Her main instrument is the classic guitar, but she also sings in the Medieval Women's Choir. She has a batch of instruments like a medieval vielle, a hurdy-gurdy, and I don't know what all. Anyway, bless her heart, she has loaned me her Guitalele to see if that works for me.

The tuning is the same as the guitar, but one fourth up, as if one put a capo on the fifth fret of a guitar, so the chord fingerings and scale fingerings are the same, but up a fourth, i.e., an E chord on the guitar is an A on the Guitalele, a C chord comes out and F, etc.

The main problem I have with the instrument is in getting my bratwurst-size left hand fingers to negotiate the frets, which, on that short a scale, are pretty close together. But it shows promise.

It's a nice sounding instrument, too (a piece by Turlough O'Carolan), and capable of some pretty serious music (CLICKY). To me, especially on the O'Carolan pieces on YouTube, its tone is quite reminiscent of the Celtic harp.

I offer this as something worth investigating.

By the way, I think Nancy said that the Guitalele cost about $100, give or take a couple of nickels.

Don Firth

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
Date: 19 Jul 14 - 06:46 PM

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Tootler
Date: 19 Jul 14 - 07:25 PM

Someone brought a Guitalele to a folk club I was at one night. I had a try. Nice instrument, Just one problem...

Too many strings :-)

Seriously, sounds like it might work for you, Don and let you keep on playing. Has to be good.

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Subject: RE: Guitaleles and guileles
Date: 19 Jul 14 - 07:43 PM


When I first heard about the Yamaha guitalele, I did a little online research and the reviews I saw weren't very glowing; it sounds like they've made some improvements since then and dropped the price as well. For only $100, it's well worth a shot.

They say it's a baritone size, but that's a bit misleading: the string length and body size are consistent with a tenor uke, and the top four strings are tuned exactly as on low-G tenors, not as on baritones (which are usually tuned like the top four strings of a guitar). It's only the longer headstock that makes them approach baritone overall length, and consequently you might need a baritone gig bag or case. But the Cordoba guilele, which is the same size, is advertised as like the tenor uke, and is commonly paired with a Cordoba tenor ukulele gig bag--that's probably a safe bet for the Yamaha as well.

Yamahas are significantly cheaper that the Cordobas, but that's because they have laminate rather than solid spruce tops and meranti (shorea) rather than mahogany back and sides. I suspect the Cordobas have better construction. The Yamaha nut width and string spacing is slightly wider--that's a significant point to me; one reason I like Kala ukes is because many of their tenor models feature wider nuts.

Cordoba offers an electric cutaway model (the CE). Gretsch also sells a guitar-ukulele, the G9126, in both acoustic and electric cutaway models.

Thanks for mentioning the guitalele, Don.

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Subject: RE: Cordoba Guilele
Date: 19 Jul 14 - 07:47 PM

Hmm, just rechecked the specs on the Cordoba guilele and found that the nut width (46mm/1.8in) is comparable to the Yamaha's, maybe even a tad wider.

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 20 Jul 14 - 12:13 PM

If you prefer lessons to learning on line, I know a great young guy who teaches ukulele (and guitar, and harmonica) to folks all over the world via Skype. Check him out: Tad Dreis

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 20 Jul 14 - 12:47 PM

If you prefer lessons to learning on line, I know a guy who teaches via Skype

In what sense would that not be online?

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Jul 14 - 01:18 PM

Are you familiar with Skype, Ed?

It would be like regular, individual, one-on-one lessons, except that that the teacher and the pupil are not in the same room. Like "videophone" in science fiction. In fact, that's exactly what it is (the future is here now).

Not like watching a pre-canned lesson on the computer. A lesson over Skype is happening in real time, with two-way communication and immediate feedback.

In fact, I've been thinking about giving guitar lessons over Skype. If you have a computer with Skype, it saves the cost of renting a studio, driving to the studio and finding a place to park, etc., etc. And the pupil(s) don't have to leave their own home to take lessons.

No reason it shouldn't work as well as lessons face-to-face--which, in fact, it would be.

Don Firth

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 20 Jul 14 - 01:39 PM

Fully familiar with Skype, Don.

Perhaps you're not entirely familiar with what 'online' means. Maybe you should look it up?

Not that it very much matters

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Jul 14 - 05:04 PM

Well, there's online and then there's online. How would taking a lesson over Skype be all that different from taking the same lesson in person? The teacher can demonstrate in real time, the pupil can try what he's just seen in real time, and the teacher can comment and correct in real time. Mission accomplished.

How does it differ in any essential way?

Don Firth

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Subject: RE: Ukulele Lessons
From: PHJim
Date: 20 Jul 14 - 10:20 PM

There is a slight delay with Skype, making it impossible for the student and teacher to play together. That is the main difference.

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