Welcome to the ’Learning Ukulele’ advice page. I’m Ken Cockburn. I learned to play at my local u3a, Warrington, and I understand the challenges of learning to play an instrument in later life from first-hand experience. I have led a beginners group for several years and helped many perplexed players. Try me, your problem may not be unique.
Learning the Ukulele
Do you regret never learning to play music? Do you want to keep up with your grandchildren? You can play the ukulele in just a few lessons. Forget George Formby, you can play anything – Google ‘(any song), ukulele video ’ and see what it can do.
There are groups all over the country, singing and strumming chord accompaniment to popular songs from the 20’s to today, all with a big grin. It’s cheap, too; £35 will buy a starter instrument and electronic tuner, and that’s all you need. No music theory or scales to learn: just contact your nearest group and have a go.
Why not take a look through Ken's Beginner's Pack: UKULELE BEGINNER'S COURSE V4 (1.28 MB)
This is perfect for any u3a member looking to get started, or as notes for a leader, covering all you need to play with a group. It covers choosing and tuning a uke, strumming and the first 16 chords and more. Graduated practice songs are included.
To complement the Beginner’s Course, there is also a Stage 2 Course, intended for players who wish to progress beyond the basic chord set and simple strumming. In five main sections, covering rhythm, barred chords, keys, ornamentation, tabs and an introduction to finger-picking, etc., the course is suitable as a source for leaders or lone individuals. It can be downloaded as here: UKULELE STAGE 2 COURSE V2 (1.34 MB)
Playing the Ukulele
I can state with confidence that even if you have never played an instrument before, you can play the ukulele! It’s relatively cheap and easy to play, and is much more versatile than many people realise.
To play, you don’t need to read music or learn any theory; you can start from absolute zero. The majority of players strum chords as an accompaniment to singing, while some progress to finger-picking. The uke is not normally used for melody playing, as its simplicity means that other instruments are a better long-term choice.
Choose an inexpensive soprano instrument (you will enjoy trading-up later), learn how to hold it and tune it with an electronic gadget, and then three or four easy chords, and you are playing. Playing together in a group is great fun, and performing at gigs is exciting. Music is a never-ending source of enjoyment and interest, and will add a new dimension to your life.
Forming a Group
Playing an instrument is both a mental and manual skill. Teaching can show you how, but competence can only be achieved by practice. However, forming a group to learn and play together provides the motivation to continue and progress. Leading a group is an exciting way of immersing yourself in music as well as building a support group to enjoy developing the skill while having fun, and it often occurs that when a group is started, an existing instrumentalist appears, able to assist and direct the development process.
I can provide practical help on:
- What is involved in learning
- Cost, availability and choice of instruments & equipment
- Help on learning/teaching the ukulele, step-by-step
- Setting-up a ukulele group, group size and objectives
- Selection of teaching material, length of courses
- Sources for song-sheets/song books
- Left-handed players
- Internet sources – song-sheets, tutorials, chord charts, etc
- Suggested follow-on activities
For specific information, contact me using the contact form above or at