The ukulele is a great instrument for both kids and adults. If you can't afford music lessons, it's easy to teach yourself. It's also easy for parents who have little or no experience playing an instrument or reading music to teach their kids. Add to that, they're affordable instruments to buy. You can get a decent ukulele for around $40 and a good ukulele for around $80.
The ukulele is also a great starter instrument for kids who want to learn to play guitar. It may be difficult for children under age 9 or so to learn to play the guitar. Ukuleles are smaller, so it's easier for little hands to form chords. They only have four strings, making it easier for smaller children to remember the finger positions of chords and notes. The experience kids gain from strumming and changing chords can make guitar learning easier later on. This is also great for adults who want to learn an instrument but who don't want to deal with too much complexity.
How to Learn for Kids
There are a few different ukulele learning books available aimed at kids.
Alfred's Kid's Ukulele Course 1 - There's also a book 2 or you can buy a combo of both books called the Complete Series. Get the version that comes with a DVD. Book 1 only introduces 4 chords: C, C7, F, and G7. That doesn't sound like much but it's perfect for beginners. It can be difficult for younger kids to remember chord positions, so introducing just a few that can be used for many songs is fine for the first months of learning. And you should be able to find lots of songs using these common chords. The book also introduces the notes E, F, G, A, B, and C. Some of the songs have a mix of chords and notes. Book 2 introduces more notes and chords. If you feel book 2 may be too confusing for your child, you can skip it for a while and continue to focus on learning songs with chords.
My First Ukulele For Kids: Learn To Play: Kids - This book focuses on four chords: C, F, and G7, and Am. Like the Alfred book, it's a great introductory book that doesn't overwhelm new learners.
Yousician - This is an app that uses interactive learning. Kids may need help while they use it, but learning is so gradual, they should easily be able to follow along. The app listens to you play and provides feedback, instantly letting you know whether or not you're playing the right notes at the right time.
How to Learn for Adults
Alfred's Basic Ukulele Method (Book, CD & DVD) - The great thing about this book is the DVD, which gives visual examples. It teaches chords, reading music, and strumming patterns. This is a very popular starter course.
Ukulele for Dummies - This comes with both audio and video but it's all online. So if you don't want to have to deal with CDs and DVDs, this gives you all the benefits of the Alfred course but with more convenience.
Play Ukulele Today!: A Complete Guide to the Basics Level 1 Bk/online audio - It's always better to get a learning book with audio examples if possible. And even better if you don't have to deal with CDs., which can get lost or damaged. The book includes 60 songs and a chord glossary.
Yousician - This is an app that uses interactive learning. The app listens to you play and provides feedback. You will instantly know whether or not you're playing the right notes at the right time. Learning is gradual, which makes it great for both kids and adults.
How to Find Songs to Play
The best way to find songs is to use Google. Absolute beginners can search for "ukulele songs with 2 chords" and "ukulele songs with 3 chords" to find lots of simple songs. For kids, try to find songs with at least two chords your child already knows. Over time as you introduce new songs, your child will learn far more chords. Again with younger kids, you don't want to rush them. Learning too many chords might start to confuse them. It's better if they know 7 to 8 chords very well than 20 they constantly get confused.
YouTube has many ukulele tutorials
YouTube has ukulele tutorials that can be helpful to adult learners and parents. A child may or may not want to watch them. If they do, that's great. If not, you can watch and learn what you need to pass onto your child. Some people post videos showing how to play particular songs as well.
Try to practice every day including on the weekends. Ten minutes or so should be enough for younger children. For variety, learn a few songs at a time. This can be especially helpful with children who may become bored practicing the same song over and over. Early on, those songs may feature the exact same chords but the point is to hold your child's interest. They'll also feel like they're making more progress if they're learning lots of songs.
When learning a new song with a child, focus on learning chord position and changes first. Ask them to find the position of each chord in the song. If they don't remember help them. Do this a few times. Then work on changing the chords without strumming. Once they can do that, have them play the whole song. It may take younger children weeks to remember the chords and master chord changes.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2015 LT Wright
David Buckner on February 02, 2016:
This is awesome! I love playing the ukulele as well, & I love how easy it is to pick up and play. The unique part about ukuleles (aside from a few others) is that they're easy to start, but there's no limit to how complex and beautiful they can sound. Awesome article, thanks for writing!
LT Wright (author) from California on September 03, 2015:
I've found with my kids that short practice sessions every day are more effective than longer practice sessions a few days a week.
stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on September 03, 2015:
Hi, Very good advice for getting kids to play the Ukulele. I like to start kids out on the guitar at 8 or 9, I had had good success with this age. You are so right in practicing every day. No practice and there is no success. Great Hub,Stella