How I Teach Ukulele


The Ukulele is a great instrument for everyone – children and adults. Its small size and light weight make it easy to play, and its versatility makes it great for many different styles of music. I like to say, “The violin is for creating beauty and building character. Ukulele is for fun and fellowship “. I teach ukulele primarily as an accompaniment instrument. I want people to have fun playing the ukulele and singing songs they enjoy. However, I also teach instrumental techniques including reading TAB and traditional music notation for those who are interested.

For beginning students, I teach an incremental progression of songs. We start with one-chord songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Are You Sleeping,” and then proceed to two-chord songs like “He’s Got The Whole World” and “Skip To My Lou.” Students then advance to three-chord and “three-and-a-half-chord” (3 chords plus optional 4th chord) songs such as “When the Saints Go Marching In.” They will then learn several songs using the same 3 or 4 chords. I believe it is important to master the basic 3 or 4 chords in one key before learning more chords.

Students quickly learn 3 basic strums that can be used with many songs. When they are comfortable with these 3, they learn another 3 or 4 strums that can be used with many different songs. They also learn some simple finger-picking.

For beginning students I teach well-known folk songs and children’s songs. These songs have simple melodies and few chords. Most students know and can sing these songs. This makes it easy to learn how to accompany them with the ukulele. I have a series of instructional CDs that I have developed for these songs. The CDs have multiple tracks for each song. Typically, for each song, there will be tracks with: 1) vocal and ukulele, 2) just ukulele, and 3) spoken chords, vocal (at lower volume), and ukulele. With these CDs the student does not have to refer to song sheets or other written materials. Students learn more quickly and thoroughly when they are learning “by ear” rather than with written materials.

With intermediate students, I work with their individual interests. This may involve: new strums, transposing, music theory, finger-picking, alternate voicing of chords, barre chords, etc.

Advanced beginners and intermediate students will play music from many different genres: folk, children’s songs, reggae, pop, ragtime, Hawaiian, Beatles, tin-pan alley, turn-of-the century pop, etc.

916-248-6002 Call Bill for more information or to schedule an introductory lesson!