17.11.10

Ukulele beginners tips - How much should I practice ukulele?

This is a very difficult question to answer, but one I get asked a lot - how much should one practice ukulele, and how much is too much (if thats possible)


I dont know whether we will get to the bottom of that answer, but I hope this post talks around the subject enough to give you comfort if you are confused or concerned.

First off, whilst you will read a lot on the web about how easy the ukulele is, its important to understand that the statement is relative.  For an absolute beginner, no instrument is particularly easy to learn (well, perhaps maracas), and stringed instruments present their own problems in terms of finger tip pain and the need to build up flexibility (see my post HERE ).  With the ukulele, you will be able to strum a basic song very very quickly, and I do often boast that I could get somebody playing a 2 chord song in half an hour.  That is NOT the ukulele mastered though - that can take a lifetime!

The other important thing to learn if you are starting out, or perhaps thinking of purchasing for a son or daughter - PRACTICE IS THE ABSOLUTE KEY.  It really is.  There are no shortcuts, no special tips or accelerated programmes to leaning the ukulele - like so many things, it takes hard work, dedication and effort.   You will therefore have to practice, and regular practice is best.

How much to practice - well that depends on your mindset, how quickly you want to learn, and what level you are at.  A beginner may well need to sink more hours into practice than, say, and accomplished player will want to in order to keep on top of their game.  Certainly an hour or half an hour a day would be great, more if you have the time.  Ten minutes each weekend will, I suspect, make your progress so slow, that you will probably get frustrated and potentially give up.

How much practice is too much?  Thats a really hard one to answer.  I would suggest you are practicing too much if


  • You are not enjoying it any more
  • You are not noticing any improvement between sessions
  • You are in serious pain
I actually think the first bullet point is the most serious - push anything to the point it becomes a chore and no fun any more and you risk doing so much damage to your attitude and passion that it may not recover.    You need, however to watch the signs - many beginners dont enjoy practice out of frustration, and they need to break through a wall - dont give up too early.

So keep at it - dont be daunted - you will break through, and suddenly you will see your ability grow quicker - believe me, its worth it.

My tips for absolute beginners starting out

  • download a chord chart from HERE - dont be daunted.  Start off by ensuring you know at least a handful of the most common chords.  Common chords are those that appear mostly in the songs YOU want to learn, but I would say A, Am, Bm, C, C7, D, D7, Em, F, G, G7 to start with.  Make sure you know them immediately someone shouts one out and you can move your fingers to the chord cleanly.  Dont try and learn each one in your first session, pick two and work on them until they are etched in your brain
  • Practice your strumming technique and find the posture and approach that FEELS right to you.  There is no right and wrong.  I dislike sites that provide songs with the exact up and down stroke notation for when to strum - you need to learn to feel the rhythm of the song you are attempting and find your own style (unless you want to copy it parrot fashion, but thats no fun in my eyes)
  • When you have the chords mastered, ensure that you can switch back and forth between ANY of them instantly and at will
  • Whilst doing all of the above, have  a few simple three chord song sheets on hand to use for practice - dont limit your practice just to technique - you need to have fun.  Spend the start of your practice session on the boring stuff, then the second half on a song as a treat.
Beyond the above, you will become an actual player.  You can then start to worry about more exotic chords, palm muting the strings, learning scales and finger picking, but dont worry about any of those just yet - nail the basics.

I hope this post is of use, and if you have any questions whatsoever, do get in touch.

Most importantly - KEEP AT IT

5 comments:

Ian said...

I've just started on my journey with the uke, I'm getting the pain you describe but I can work with that. My problem is moving between chords, I can move from C to F and back but G is causing me a few problems. Are there any tips you could give me.

JohnM said...

@Ian: If your struggle with the G chord is frustrating your ability to play a song, then my suggestion is to try a G7 instead as it's easier to switch between it and F. I'm not saying you should abandon the G chord though - keep practising and it will come together. This is just a suggestion because learning the uke is meant to be fun, not a chore.

Dave W said...

I too am a newbie( own my Uke for 2 weeks now) and I am really struggling to make swift chord changes; the G7 instead of G is a fine tip and I will use that for a while ( at least till I can achieve the G quickly and I can hear the difference between them ! ).....I guess its the P,P,P that needs to be adhered too......I am not a quitter I WILL get there

for my part my best move so far is to join a Uke Club...the help you get is amazing, everyone is so very friendly.

great site....love it
Dave

Barry Maz said...

Thanks Dave. Yep, practice practice practice. It's worth it!

Lady Atherton said...

I have absolutely ZERO musical skill (I don't believe two months of piano lessons 30 years ago counts as musical experience), and in an effort to encourage my middle school age daughter to practice her upright bass more regularly, decided to try the ukulele...it seemed the most user friendly and unintimidating. After the past few months of frustration at the lame folksongs my book had me learning, I am so happy to have stumbled upon your website. I am enjoying your attitude and methods of encouragement. The practice advice on this page is fantastic (and applicable to my daughter) Now if only I could find a site as reliable and encouraging for the bass...

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