Shirt: Outerknown. One of my most worn shirts of the summer! Shorts: Super old, but these J.Crew ones are amazing (I have them in green and need to get them in another color! The only reason I’m not wearing them here is because I wore them the last three days in a row and it was getting excessive. I need them in more colors! ????)
Could there be a better, happier blog post for a Friday afternoon? I THINK NOT!
You guys. I got a Ukulele this week, and it’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time. Maybe ever? It arrived on Wednesday and I posted a little clip of me playing the first song I learned yesterday and got soo many questions, so I decided a blog post was needed!
Buying Your First Ukelele: All the details + why you should get one!
Why did I buy a ukulele? Some background:
I have been singing basically since I could talk. I always loved choir and was very involved in choir in high school. (High points were singing in Carnegie Hall and getting over my fear of singing in front of people and landing the coveted “Mamaaa-a-a-a” solo in Bohemian Rhapsody and singing it in front of the whole school.) Shout out to the most incredible choir teacher, Mrs. Tutnick! ????
My family on both sides is very musical! However, after high school, I really didn’t have a way to stay involved with music, aside from frequenting the Karaoke bar that I lived above for the majority of my early twenties. ????
I have been missing singing and MUSIC so much in my adult life, and the fact that I never actually learned how to play an instrument always made me a little bit sad. I think I was always reluctant to try because I have always HATED sight-reading and I thought you had to be able to read music fluently in order to learn how to play an instrument. (Surprise… THATS NOT TRUE!)
You don’t need to know how to read music to play ukulele!
I had heard that ukulele is the easiest instrument to learn, and last Sunday, I woke up at 5am wide awake, and somehow ended up googling, “how easy is it to learn the ukulele?” and “Do you have to read music to play ukulele?” (you know, as one does) and discovered the answers were “quite easy” and “absolutely not.” I then spent the rest of the morning watching Youtube videos of Ukulele tutorials and decided this was definitely something I could do!
Which Ukulele is best for beginners?
I did a lot of research on this (I can’t recommend Youtube enough!) and turns out, there are four main types of Ukuleles! I highly recommend watching this video, “Ukulele sizes: Which is best for you?” because it’s what helped me decide which one I wanted!
Soprano ukulele: This is the most common, most budget-friendly ukulele. This is the smallest in size and has that classic high-pitched ukulele sound. Beginners most often start with a Soprano or a Concert ukulele.
Concert ukulele: A concert ukulele is a little bit bigger, and therefore, it has a bit of a deeper, richer sound. I was drawn to this one over the Soprano because I liked the sound better. (Again, the video above will help you listen to the difference!)
Tenor ukulele: I actually like the sound of the tenor ukulele best (it has such a beautiful, rich sound!) but it’s not AS beginner friendly since it’s even bigger, it can be trickier to hold as well as transition between chords since the frets aren’t as close together–so it can be a LITTLE bit harder for a beginner to learn on if they have small hands. (Like me! ????)
Baritone: Even bigger than a tenor, this one is not recommended for complete beginners because the strings aren’t the same as other ukuleles.
My Ukulele: The Kala Concert Ukulele
After doing some research, I found that the Kala Concert ukulele was a great starter purchase for me. It’s got great sound quality, not super expensive, and I liked that this little bundle came with a tuner, which is a must-have! Kala sells lots of different ukuleles and ukulele starter kits on Amazon. (Both for Soprano, Concert and Tenor!) There are many good brands out there though! Another REALLY cool buy I just discovered right now is this Enya Smart Ukulele–it lights up and shows you where to put your fingers for each chord! Seems like a great way to learn quickly, and it’s actually just as affordable as a regular uke! (Something to consider?)
Before buying on Amazon though, I would also recommend checking out music stores in your area to give your money to a small business if you can! They will be able to recommend the best uke for you! I actually ATTEMPTED to do this, but the two music stores I tried contacting wouldn’t return my phone calls or emails!?!? Because I’m wildly impatient I just resorted to ordering this one on Amazon. ???? But if you CAN help a small business, I always encourage doing so!
What else do you need to play Ukulele?
Another must-have is a ukulele tuner! There are also tuner smartphone apps you can download as well, and I’ve experimented with that as well, but honestly, having a little tuner that you can grab and clip onto your guitar just saves you the hassle of trying to find your phone, open an app, etc! Like I said, the bundle I bought came with a tuner but you can easily buy one separately as well. This is a helpful tutorial on how to tune your ukulele.
You definitely don’t need a pick to play the ukulele, the strings are MUCH softer than guitar strings–but when you first start out, your fingers will definitely get sore/numb. I’ve found I like using the soft felt picks sometimes when my strumming finger needs a break–they also produce a prettier sound since I haven’t quite nailed the whole strumming technique yet. Again, not necessary at all, but could be helpful!
You will need to tune your ukulele before each use. It takes two seconds, don’t worry! For the first couple weeks you have your uke, you will need to tune it a LOT more often. I tune mine constantly (like, every 20 minutes probably–the damn E string is always flat!) but that will lesson with time as your uke adjusts!
Helpful resources for learning the ukulele:
I CANNOT recommend following Bernadette Teaches Music more! She is SO lovely and her tutorials are so helpful, and her personality will make you smile! She has a “start here” series which is a really helpful place to start. I actually spent hours watching her videos while I was waiting for my uke to arrive, and I think that helped immensely in “hitting the ground running” so to speak! I also really recommend watching her “transition” videos from how to transition from specific chords to another. The transition to G chord always screws me up and her tutorial has been very helpful in that regard!
I also highly recommend both Ukulele-tabs.com and Ukutabs.com for looking up ALL THE SONGS. They are both basically the same concept and both great resources. What I do now is type into google “X song ukulele chords easy” and then whichever of the two sites has the highest-rated version will come up, haha! These sites are great because they show you all the chords that you need to know in the song as well as the finger placement required to make the chords!
Beginner ukulele songs: What song to learn first?
Many resources you’ll find online will have you starting with things like Clementine or other very basic kids songs, but that’s boring and if I am not into what I’m doing I will quickly lose interest ???? That’s no fun. So if you’re like me, I recommend starting with “Riptide” It’s basically comprised of three main chords (Am, G, C–plus F in like one place!) and they are main chords used in hundreds of songs.
I was able to pick this up very quickly–like, the same afternoon my Uke arrived! (So…Wednesday. Two days ago!) I’d say I was able to roughly (very roughly) play it in less than an hour. A bit more practice and I was able to play most of it from muscle memory without looking the chords to transition. Can I play it FAST? No–haha! I also only know the basic down strumming pattern and haven’t gotten to the point where I’m able to do a harder strum yet, so we’re talking very BASIC level of being able to play. But–come on, in a couple hours?
I was so pleasantly surprised–it’s really not as hard as you think it will be!
From there I moved to learning “Have you ever seen the rain” yesterday afternoon, which uses those same chords! (Although I found it much harder to play because the sequence isn’t the same, as it Riptide.) After working at it for a while, I got it down!
Once I learned Am, C, G, F, and got better at transitioning between them, I realized I could then also play “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz (again, just by following the lyrics/chords right here!) That’s what’s so cool about the Ukulele is that it really is simple and many songs are comprised of all the same chords! Three songs in two days? I’ll take it!
The more you practice, the easier it gets. It’s astonishing how quickly the muscle memory kicks in! I also recommend taking some short breaks frequently. For whatever reason, I find if I spend TOO long working at something, I get worse instead of getting better. If I come back to it later, it makes an enormous difference! So if you keep trying and failing to grasp something, take a breather and come back. You’ll probably nail it quickly after that!
All in all, even if you think you aren’t able to play an instrument, I bet you can! I think everyone should have a ukulele!! The amount of joy it has brought to my life in such a short time is priceless. And couldn’t we all use a little more joy right now? ????