The ukulele is a fun and unique instrument, and there are many benefits to learning how to play. It’s lightweight and portable, so you can play anywhere. It sounds great on its own or in combination with other instruments.
However, many ukulele players feel in over their heads when they’re first starting out. It’s exciting picking up a new instrument for the first time, but that excitement can quickly turn to frustration and self-doubt if you don’t improve as quickly as you were hoping.
The solution? Take the time to develop good learning habits as soon as possible and put those habits to use each and every time you practice. Here are some tips that’ll have you playing like a pro in no time:
Play Slowly… to Play Fast
When you first begin learning to play the ukulele, playing quickly may seem like the ultimate goal. But as a beginner, playing too fast can lead to poor form, which can become a habit that’s hard to break later down the road.
Play slowly and accurately, ensuring that you achieve a clean sound with no muting or buzzing. As you practice, you’ll build up your muscle memory over time and will naturally be able to play more quickly once you’ve mastered the skill.
Master Smooth and Swift Chord Changes
Many new ukulele players get caught up and frustrated by changing chords. Don’t overthink it! Like anything else, becoming a pro at changing chords takes practice, practice, and more practice. Dedicate some of your training time to getting comfortable with switching between chords, looping them together over and over until you can do it without much effort.
The trick is to work with small groups of chords to begin with, in commonly-used sets. For example, practice transitions between the C, F and G chords until they’re smooth. Then practice C, G and D. Or another way is to pick a song you’re working on and really drill the chords from that song in all different orders and strumming patterns.
Need help figuring out the chords, or already itching to go further than the first few? This guide to learning the 21 most important ukulele chords has you covered.
Yes, it’s monotonous and tedious, but being comfortable with switching between chords will make all the difference when you start learning to play entire songs on your ukulele.
Keep a Steady Rhythm
Once you’ve nailed your chord changes and are ready to start learning songs, try your best to keep a steady tempo. Some beginner ukulele players unintentionally create jerky, stop-and-start sounds because they’re trying to follow a rhythm that’s too fast and can’t change chords smoothly.
Always practice with a slow, steady, and even tempo that allows you to keep a continuous flow of music, with every strum sounding clear and on-beat. This habit will become second-nature and it’ll make playing faster songs much easier in the future. If you’re struggling, practice with a metronome to help even out your timing.
Record and Review
One of the best methods for improving your ukulele-playing skills is to make audio and video recordings of your practice sessions. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which mistakes you’re making as you’re playing, so watching and listening to yourself afterwards can be extremely insightful.
Pay attention to any muting or buzzing that you hear and make notes of what your hands were doing when any mistakes occurred. See if you can make any improvements to your form and keep a steadier tempo.
Join a Uke Group
The ukulele is a fun and social instrument, so get out there and start playing with other musicians! Whether they play the ukulele or another instrument, playing along with fellow musicians will inspire and energize you. If they’ve been playing for longer than you, watch and listen to how they play and try to mimic their behavior. If you’re both beginners, practicing one-on-one will seem like less of a chore and you can grow and learn together.
Incorporate these tips into your practice sessions until they’re natural habits and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you improve. The ukulele is an amazing instrument that’s worth learning to play well, so start developing those good habits early.
Need some additional help getting started with the ukulele or making your practices more efficient? Want to chat with other musicians and be a part of a supportive community? Join Musical U today and start achieving your musical goals!
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