How To Learn The Ukulele

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The History Of The Ukulele

As popular as it may be, the ukulele has only be around for about 140 years. Plus, although its name comes from Hawaii, the instrument itself didn't originate in the 50th state. The roots of the uke actually extend back to Portugal.

The SS Ravenscrag took off from Portugal in the late 1800s with three Madeiran cabinet makers on board who were amateur instrument designers. The three had already created a couple of stringed instruments comparable to the guitar known as the rajao and cavaquinho, and Joao Fernandez, one of the three, began playing his instrument upon arriving in the Hawaiian Islands in celebration of landing after the long, long trip. Local Hawaiians were astounded by the jumpy movement of Ferndandez's fingers, and thought his style was flea-like. Thus the name "ukulele," which means "jumping flea," was spawned.

A second legend says that the name is a combination of the Hawaiian words “uke,” which means a reward or gift, and “lele,” which means “to come.” We'll let you decide which story you prefer, but either way, the uke quickly became a mainstay in Hawaiian culture. According to the Hawaiian Gazette in August 1879, “Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, [and] have been delighting people with the nightly street concerts.”

How To Play A Ukulele

The uke is similar to the guitar in its shape, but aside from its size, the ukulele has one major difference: it has four strings rather than six. That leads to some serious differences in technique. Ukulele chords and guitar chords can be very similar, but the ukulele requires extremely nimble fingers, and is an excellent choice for a child’s first instrument

Its simplicity can also lead to a quicker learning curve, and that helps keep music practice fun. The uke is also great for pickers and non-pickers alike, as its thinner strings provide more spacing for your fingers if you’d prefer to play fingerstyle.

For the beginner ukulele student, like Lessonface CEO Claire Cunningham (learning to play the ukulele online in the video below), there’s no better teacher than Khabu Young to lead the process of figuring out how to learn the ukulele online. 

Where To Buy A Ukulele

One of the beautiful things about buying a ukulele is they can come at a very reasonable price. You can even grab a beginner ukulele for around $20, though a good instrument will likely be at least $100 - this "Tattoo" Concert Uke looks like a winner. There are plenty of options to choose from, including electric and acoustic ukuleles.

Size-wise there are a ton of ukuleles to consider, but four standard-issue options: the 21” soprano ukulele (the standard-bearer), the 23” concert ukulele, the 26” tenor uke, and the 30” baritone ukulele. The soprano uke and the concert uke are more common than their bigger brothers, the tenor ukulele and baritone uke, but they’re all great options. The bigger the uke, the bigger or “warmer” the sound will generally be.

There are other types as well, such as the banjo uke, which is much louder than most ukuleles, the pineapple uke, which is more box shaped, and even an armadillo uke, which is actually made out of an armadillo shell - creepy, no?

The important thing is to buy a uke and start learning though, so don’t fret too much over which type of uke to choose. If you’re having any problems, feel free to message one of our online ukulele teachers via the LessonFace message system. Just visit one of their profiles and click on the “Contact Instructor” link, and then you can book a lesson and get started learning how to play the ukulele.

Book An Online Ukulele Lesson

Lessonface is an easy-to-use video chat platform that has expert ukulele teachers ready to offer beginner ukulele lessons and on up. Khabu teaches intermediate ukulele lessons and expert uke classes as well, for uke students as young as seven all the way up to seniors (watch the short video below for evidence).

Brian Barnes is a veritable string master, with a background in not only the ukulele, but the mandolin, banjo, and electric, acoustic, and jazz guitar also. He too, like Khabu, teaches children’s ukulele lessons all the way up to expert ukulele lessons online.

So, if you’re ready to play the jumping flea, book an online ukulele lesson today with Brian or Khabu and learn to play the ukulele in no time.

Which uke do you want to learn on? Tweet us @lessonface.

Click here to book an online ukulele lesson or here to learn more about how Lessonface works. You can also check out our blog here to read more about Lessonface and our teachers.


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