How long it takes you to learn ukulele depends on your goals as a musician. Ukulele teacher Willy M. shares his advice for beginners getting started…
Many people want to know how long it takes to learn to play the ukulele. The answer for that is simple:
That grabbed your attention didn’t it! Well, it takes more than a couple minutes to learn to play, but it doesn’t take very long to learn the basics about how to get started playing the ukulele.
When it’s boiled down to its simplest form, there really are only two things you need to learn to play the ukulele: chord formation and strumming. If you can form simple chords, and you can strum, you can start playing songs you like to sing!
What’s the Hardest Part of Learning to Play Ukulele?
The hardest thing I find with new students is that they have a hard time narrowing down what they want to learn how to play. Sometimes, a student will come to me and say something like, “I want to learn how to play ‘Flake’ by Jack Johnson on the ukulele.” It’s pretty easy to figure out how to teach them.
But more often than not a student comes to me and says, “I want to learn how to play the ukulele.” “Great,” I say. “What do you want to learn to play?” “I don’t know.”
That doesn’t help me much as a teacher. It’s helpful for me to know why you decided to play ukulele instead of say, the tuba, or saxophone, or mandolin, or something like that. What is it about the ukulele that grabbed your attention? If I know that, or know the particular song you like, then it helps me narrow down what I should be teaching you.
How a Music Teacher Can Help You Learn to Play Ukulele
Different musicians stress different techniques when they play. Is strumming the thing that really perked your ears when you wanted to learn how to play the uke, or was it perhaps a fingerstyle player? What about chord forms? Is the player that inspires you someone who uses simple chords, complex chord voicings or are they more of a lead player?
These are things that help me as a music teacher determine what success means for you. If I can figure out what you will consider “playing the ukulele,” then it will help me get you to the point where you are “playing” the ukulele.
Some people can take years of music lessons, only to be disappointed that they never could play what they wanted to play. I started out that way. I had years of music lessons with a teacher that only taught me what she wanted me to play. I never got to play anything I wanted, so I gave up.
Years later, I took it back up again, and really excelled at music. But by that point I had found a teacher that really helped me play what I wanted to play. That made all the difference for me.
The Bottom Line
So to answer the question “how long does it take to play the ukulele,” it depends on your definition of playing. Do you want to sit around the campfire and strum a few songs? Or do you want to be the next Eric Clapton of the ukulele? Strumming a few songs doesn’t take much time. Becoming Eric Clapton, that’s going to take a little time and a lot of practice!
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, NC. He is the author of the Dead Man’s Tuning series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80’s. Learn more about Willy.
Photo by aaron gilson