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Learn How to Play Ukulele

Learn how to play ukulele chords and songs with these free internet resources, and our favorite ukulele books.

Click to read also: Fun Ways to Learn Music at Home

tips and resources for learning to play the ukulele

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How to Learn Ukulele

Ukulele is a fun and rewarding instrument to play! It can even help you learn to play guitar later, because some of the chord shapes are the same, even though it’s in a different musical key. Yesterday was the instrument’s 144th birthday, so this is the perfect time to share some of my favorite resources for learning to play ukulele.

Where to Buy a Ukulele

Since this instrument is currently super popular, you can buy it in most music stores. You can also buy them online, even from Amazon. I bought my youngest child a Mahalo ukulele when she was one year old (after she asked for it repeatedly); she still plays it today. When I was teaching middle school, I bought my students inexpensive Donner ukuleles and they worked pretty well. I’ve also bought some nicer Flight ukuleles.

What Makes a Ukulele More or Less Expensive?

A few ukuleles are expensive because they are signed or designed by a particular artist, but most are more expensive because of the materials used, the size of the uke, and quality of the craftmanship, and the ukulele’s tone. I also find that, in general, more expensive ukuleles stay in tune better – this is because the craftsmanship on the tuning pegs is better. I can also sometimes make a difference to put better strings on a less expensive uke.

Different Types of Ukuleles

Ukuleles come in different sizes, and the different sizes matter!

Soprano ukuleles are the smallest, followed by concert, then tenor, then bass.

Soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles are all tuned G,C,E,A. Sometimes the G is a high E and sometimes it is a low E. It just depends which strings you put on.

Soprano and concert ukuleles are both popular because they are so portable; it’s easier to get a concert ukulele that sounds good just because the instrument is larger. The smaller the instrument, the harder it is to get it to sound good.

Tenor ukulele is tuned the same as concert and soprano, so if you’ve learned to play on those it’s easy to swap to this larger size.

Bass ukuleles are tuned the same as the top four strings on a guitar: D, G, B, and E. If you already play guitar, it’s easy to play any kind of ukulele, but the chords will match up on a bass ukulele and not the other sizes.

How to play the ukulele chords

Because there are only four strings and those four strings are nylon, ukulele chords are pretty easy to play. You can google any chord you need; I also recommending grabbing a chord chart like this one for easy access.

Free Resources to Learn How to Play Ukulele

It’s never been easier to learn to play ukulele! There are some amazing artists and tutorials on YouTube so you can learn to play ukulele for free. I also have some recommended books and resources you can buy.

Ukulele Go! offers great ukulele chord progressions that are amazing for improving your ear and building your chord repertoire.

Outschool also offers one on one lessons and online ukulele classes you can register your kids for. They do not, unfortunately, offer classes for adults.

learn to play ukulele - resources

Online Ukulele Tutorials and Inspiring performances

YouTube is a fantastic resource for online tutorials and performances to inspire you as you learn to play. Here are a few of our favorites.

Cynthia Lin offers a series of tutorial videos and performances you can watch for inspiration.

Craig and Sarah host a lot of live events, both tutorials and concerts. Be sure to check out their Music & Meals for Maui event on September 16th, 2023.

As I already mentioned, Jake Shimabukuro is my personal favorite ukulele artist. I got to hear him perform live earlier this year, and it’s an experience not to be missed!

Taimane is another incredible ukulele artist.

Great Books for Learning to Play

Rainbow Ukulele is a wonderful book for complete beginners. It explains all about the instrument and how it works, and includes a nice range of different songs and techniques to learn. This is the book I use with my students when I’m teaching in a classroom.

Essential elements for Ukulele is also a solid beginner resource. My middle school students preferred the Rainbow Ukulele book.

Jake Shimabukuro’s ukulele lessons book is my top pick for more advanced playing.

There are loads of others you can discover; which are your favorites?

Have you ever learned to play ukulele? What are your favorite resources for learning to play? Are there any I should add to this post?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

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