Are you taken by the infectious Hawaiian tones of a ukulele? Can you already play a stringed instrument like the guitar? Or do you want to pick up a new hobby and learn a musical instrument? The ukulele is ideal for both seasoned guitarists and complete beginners also looking to learn something new. Not to say that it is an easy instrument to learn, but compared to the guitar or piano for example, its small stature and only having four strings makes it easier for beginners and simpler to pick up for people who already play six stringed guitars. So if this sounds right up your alley why not take up a ukulele course?
I’ve never tried to learn an instrument...
This is what beginner lessons are there for! Don’t worry, everyone has to start from somewhere, as long as you’re into your music and enthusiastic about learning an instrument, then you’ll do just fine. And as mentioned, the ukulele is very much a less daunting instrument to learn than a full on guitar.
What will a course involve?
Ukulele courses are available at different levels, from beginner to advanced, and most are flexible to your work and time constraints so you’ll be able to find a course that suits your needs. Lessons vary in that you might be taught in a group or it might be individual tuition one on one with your teacher. Depending on the course provider, you may be given a ukulele to learn with, but if not, don’t let your bank account fret, compared to guitars and other instruments, ukulele are relatively inexpensive. You can pick up a beginner ukulele for as little as £20! Or if you fancy splashing out then you can get a good mid range one for around £120.
As a beginner, you will be shown all the basics of music and ukulele playing from tunings to strumming and basic chords also. Getting a solid grasp of the techniques to strumming and understand some music theory like timings is key before learning any songs in full. You will find that some chords are very simple to master while other are a lot more tricky and take some getting used to and finger training. But once you nail down around four, or even just three of the basic chords, you will find you’ll be able to play many songs with them which will be great for practising and building confidence.
With more advanced courses, great for those looking to improve their ways around a ukulele, you will look at more complex music theories and chords and techniques like finger-picking which is a tad more complex than strumming. From there you will be able to pick up more difficult songs with the new techniques and knowledge you have learnt.
Facts and history
- The ukulele actually began life in Europe despite the popular belief of its origins being in Hawaii. While it’s not untrue to say that, the ukulele came to Hawaii through Portuguese immigrants as a similar four stringed instrument called the Machete in the late 1800s.
- The ukulele actually comes in various sizes – soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
- The ukulele somewhat went off the radar after World War Two but regained some popularity in the 1990s thanks to Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who sang covers of ‘Over The Rainbow’ and ‘What a Wonderful World’.
- Since then popularity has taken off, especially with the emergence of YouTube. Many videos of ukulele covers have gone viral and more people are taking up the instrument because of its perceived simplicity and reasonable price.
Famous ukulele players
Ryan Gosling – Famous actor and ladies’ favourite Ryan Gosling is also known for his musical prowess as well as his acting. In the film, Blue Valentine, Gosling wrote and performed a lot of the music himself and performed one number live on the Jimmy Kimmel Show on the ukulele.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Hollywood hard-man and WWE Superstar, ‘The Rock’, has the reputation of someone you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. However, off camera and out of the ring, The Rock is a friendly face who knows his way around a ukulele.
Frank Skinner – Legendary comic, Frank Skinner is a huge admirer of George Formby who was a British entertainer and ukulele player in the 1930s and 1940s. Skinner took it upon himself to learn the ‘banjolele’, which is a cross between the ukulele and banjo and often plays it in his stand-up routine.
Multiple legendary musicians – Presley, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Costello are just a few musicians who have added the ukulele to their already impressive repertoire of musical talents.