Most people dream, at least occasionally, of learning to play a musical instrument. Many of those who try hope to get it the first time they pick up an instrument. Sure, those of us who fall into this category may be a bit lazy. We’re all a bit lazy.
But many more will turn to musical instruments that they imagine will be easy to learn. This is not unreasonable, and there are some instruments that are easier to learn than others.
However, there is no musical instrument that can be fully mastered in just a few hours, or even in a few days, except maybe the tambourine, man.
But if you are one of the many who would like to learn to play an instrument competently and don’t want to spend many hours each day in finger-breaking practice sessions, there is hope: the ukulele.
How Long Does it Take to Learn to Play the Ukulele?
As you certainly know already, the ukulele is similar in shape and comparable in many ways to a guitar. But unlike a traditional guitar, the ukulele is smaller, lighter, has fewer strings, and requires less pressure to be exerted on the strings to strike different notes.
What all of this means is that learning to play the ukulele is easier than learning to play the guitar.
In fact, some say that you can learn to play the ukulele in just two minutes! If that’s got you excited, you’re not alone. The fact is you can learn to play enjoyable ukulele music very, very quickly.
If you want to master the instrument, you will need years of practice. But the good news is that because getting started is so much easier with the ukulele than it is with most instruments, practice becomes more rewarding more quickly.
Encouraged? Good. Then we will describe the process of learning to play the ukulele at the beginner’s level. From there, you will be well on your way to enjoying thousands of hours of play and building your skill to any level of proficiency you wish!
Learning to Play the Ukulele in 2 Minutes
Keep in mind that what you’ll be able to learn in two minutes is a very basic set of skills that will enable you to play something other than annoying noise that will have the upstairs neighbors angrily banging broom handles against the floor.
The two things you will need to get a handle on to achieve this basic level of beginner’s proficiency are strumming and basic chords.
Strumming is the easiest way to make sounds come from any stringed instrument. Because a ukulele is simple in structure and form, strumming it is demonstrably easier than it is on other instruments.
It takes less force to cause the strings to vibrate to a satisfactory level, and it is much easier on your hand fingers.
Strumming the entire set of strings on a full sized guitar is much less satisfactory. This is due to the fact that a guitar has a much greater range than a ukulele.
You can compare learning to master the ukulele to climbing a small hill. Some effort is required, and the payoff will be moderate. Learning to play a more complex instrument is like climbing a vast mountain that offers a panoramic view of nearly half the globe.
But maybe you prefer the view accessible via that small hill. If that’s the case, you’re in luck!
Performing some simple, gentle strumming will be easy. You can run the back of your finger nail across the strings to generate a friendly and enjoyable sound. Perform this gentle strumming action as many times as pleases you until you feel comfortable with the motion.
To perform a more complex strumming skill set, you can move on to strumming back up the strings with the back of your thumb nail. Try this until you are comfortable doing so. At this point, you should be able to practice switching back and forth between these different strumming methods.
If you opt to use a guitar pick, you can do both of these actions even easier and faster. Don’t get too excited about your early success, or you might break a few strings!
Learning to form chords ads another layer of complexity to the process. At first, it’s a lot like trying to do a patting action with one hand while doing a circular action with the other at the same time.
For the first few minutes, both hands will tend to want to do the same action. But with practice, you can “teach your hands” to do different things at the same time.
We recommend getting comfortable with strumming before moving on to learning and using chords. However, when you’re ready, you can find simple diagrams of chords online with a simple keyword search.
Many chords require you to hold your fingers in a configuration that is strange and uncomfortable at first. To play at a high level of competency, you will need to learn many chords and be able to switch between them quickly and accurately.
But for now, it is enough to learn one chord. Make it a simple one, form the chord and strum in different ways.
At this point, it is best to simply enjoy the feeling of strumming while striking a chord. If you’ve never played a musical instrument before, this should be pretty exciting.
Take the time to master forming this chord with your fingers. Then begin to move the chord up and down the fretboard of your ukulele. Before too long, you will be able to experiment with a small range of tone and tempo.
Congratulations, you’ve completed your first two minute ukulele session!
Now, let’s talk about improving on this basic level of musical competence. Don’t worry, if you like you can stop where you are, enjoy it, and move on when you choose to.
Finger Picking and Plucking
Once you’ve spent a few sessions practicing your strumming and your chord formation you can go one of two ways. You can practice more complex chord formation, or you can become a finger picker.
Finger picking is much more complex than strumming, about 4 times as much. But it allows you to perform more complicated musical pieces.
The alternative to finger picking is plucking individual strings with your thumb or finger. Naturally, finger picking once mastered, is much, much faster.
But it’s also much harder. If you do decide to move beyond strumming, plucking is probably a more natural phase of progression.
Either way, you go, once you decide to move beyond strumming, you’re going to feel like a beginner again… because you are.
Of course, moving beyond strumming and learning complex chord structures will defeat the purpose of learning to play fast. If learning to play fast is where your heart is, then you can look forward to many hours of relaxing play. Simply park yourself under a shady tree, strum, and sing…
“If you like the ukulele lady, then the ukulele lady like-ah you…”
There really is something to be said for any instrument that can be played quickly and easily, that needs only minimal maintenance and does not need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to work.
It’s a joy, and the sheer value to effort ratio is pretty danged hard to beat.
Plus, if you really want to climb the peaks of ukulele mountain and become a pro- only time and effort stand in your way.