View Full Version : I may be teaching uke lessons... Help and input please!

03-01-2010, 02:27 AM
So I'm certainly not a professional musician, but I can say that I've impressed many people with my ukulele playing.

The owner of a local music store expressed to me how he's had so many inquiries about ukuleles and ukulele lessons, and since he considers me to be the most knowledgeable player he knows, he thought I might be interested in teaching lessons. This conversation was just the other day, and I don't have any students yet, but now that I'm the "go-to guy" I feel like I should have a couple of lessons prepared just in case someone commits.

He mentioned to me that many people are learning from the internet (like I did, but I had ten years of bass playing with bits of formal music lessons here and there to start with), but are having trouble picking up some things. Maybe they learn by doing, who knows.

But can anyone give me any feedback on what would be useful to teach in ukulele lessons that are difficult to get from the internet?

03-01-2010, 03:17 AM
I've never taught ukulele, but have taught in college and lots of industry short courses. I think you would be well served to find a few books you can use. The books are not so much for you, as they are for the students to keep them on track, but they also make good outlines of what you need to cover. You can always supplement the books with other material, as you see fit. Of course what book(s) you use will depend on the level of the players. Mel Bay and Hal Leonard publishes a few beginners ukulele books. Ukulele Method Book 1 & 2 by Lil Rev are good for beginners and quite inexpensive (less than $10).

Of course, you could also just teach them some chords and strums and get them a chord chart. Throw in a few riffs and fills and start downloading tabs and go from there.

03-01-2010, 03:30 AM
i understand that your future students won't be kids and already have some basic knowledge. so it might be a good idea to sit down with them and find out what they expect from you as a teacher. that way you could plan together your next steps.

03-01-2010, 05:04 AM
Check out James Hill's "Ukulele in the Classroom", excellent resource for all teachers. (ukuleleyes.com)
Try and take a beginning workshop, then develop a lesson plan around that workshop.

03-01-2010, 05:11 AM
i learned guitar without any method books, and i really enjoyed it. part of what made it fun was that i could play songs I liked to listen too. find out what he likes and get a chordbook to play that music. start with chords too, unless their too hard. chords help make your fingers strong quickly.

03-01-2010, 06:52 AM
As someone who learned from the internet, music theory and actual technique are things I would have liked to have. I basically learned a few chord shapes, and got a few songs with chords laid out over lyrics and went nuts, I formed some bad habits I'm still working to break, and things like scales and picking and transposing were a lot harder to pick up over youtube than to have someone explain it to me face to face.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
03-01-2010, 07:14 AM
You may have already seen my 'Disposable Method' Booklet. But here it is just in case:


The idea behind this is that until the student/uke player can recognize, form and play a
minimum of, say 10, chords and can change from chord to chord without looking at their
hands/fingers and without interupting their strumming, they may NOT be ready to play
"songs", that is, to accompany themselves singing a melody.

I realize that getting ready to play the uke by learning and gaining skill in the above, can
seem like a lot of grunt work. However, think about how you play. I imagine you 'know'
at least 10 chords and can transition from chord to chord without much trouble, that is,
you can start a song and play through without unduly adjusting the beat/rhythm of the song.

So you've already done the grunt work and can enjoy playing because you don't have to
worry about recognizing, forming, and changing chords in time with the music.

The new learner, not being able to recognize, form and change chords in time with the music
has too many things to think about as the song progresses. Hence, the grunt work of learning
several chords first and practicing changing from chord to chord at a regular tempo (slowly at
first, then faster).

As noted, the Practice Sheets are NOT melodies, in that the chords are 'played' at 4 strums each
and NOT with reference to the melody of the 'song'. Once the chord changing has been mastered
then the Practice Sheet is replaced by the original Song Sheet and the studnet should have the
confidence to 'play' the song since they know they can play through all the chords perfectly.

anyway, this is the basis for my first lessons with just about any student. I believe this sets them
up to practice on their own, and if followed, will help them develop a mental treasury of useful
chords that will free them to play many other songs. The method is disposable in that, after learning
a few songs in this way, there will be no need to continue as the student will have enough practice
and skill development to simply look at any song sheet and proceed from there.

Enjoy your students and encourage them to keep uke-in!

03-01-2010, 07:25 AM
Uncle Rod, Thanks for the link great resouce and nice method.

03-01-2010, 08:51 AM
One thing you might consider is offering, say, a 6-week class for beginners. This could be done at a lower cost for the students than private lessons, yet you'll make more per hour. Limit the class size (5-10?) so you can still give plenty of individual attention. I think a lot of people would enjoy a group setting. They get to have fun playing with others and there's less pressure on them than private lessons. Of course, you could still offer private lessons for those that want them.

03-01-2010, 10:58 AM
You may have already seen my 'Disposable Method' Booklet. But here it is just in case:

This is great input! It seems pretty similar to the method I had already been cooking up in my brain... People who want to play the ukulele (as a first instrument, that's who I'm thinking is going to show up for lessons) will probably want to know practical things that will get them started on the road to actually playing songs.

Do you mind if I borrow (heavily) from your methods? Can I use your book? I didn't want to force students to have to buy a book, but if you mind, I'll develop my own stuff.

And thanks to everyone for the feedback.

03-01-2010, 11:22 AM
One thing I forgot to say is make them pay, without an investment in the class or lessons they won't practice.
No matter how good you class and/or lessons are without practice they won't learn. I have a group of seniors that show up every week for a group, the only time they play is in the group.
I too believe beginners do better in a class situation, it forces to learn timing and smooth transitions and listening.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
03-01-2010, 11:25 AM
It's FREE for anyone to use.

Duplicate it if you like. Please feel free to modify it anyway you want.

03-01-2010, 11:49 AM
Wow just the type of thread I was looking for! I myself will be helping teach a new ukulele club at a children's museum I volunteer at. Volunteer and staff members will be taught first however but I think I might put to use the awesome advice here :D
thanks again UU, you guys never cease to amaze me

03-01-2010, 02:56 PM
My advice, no matter how you decide to proceed, is simple. Make sure they have fun, and make sure you build in opportunities for early success. Nothing is worse than trying to learn something (anything, really) and not getting anywhere with it. Theory is fine, practice and drills and scales have their place, but to build confidence and retain interest, teach them a little something each lesson that they can do right away.

Then you'll have 'em hooked....

03-01-2010, 04:07 PM
2 chord tunes, pick up a couple of cool sounding chords and wail. . . stranger modes as students build up a feel for the tonalities. You get to help a student understand how one chord changes to another, you can teach scales or even scale fragments to get students used to experimenting. . . lots o' fun for the whole family. You can always throw in arpeggio studies for some variation. . .

03-01-2010, 05:00 PM
great! what age did you have in mind for teaching?

03-01-2010, 05:06 PM
One thing I forgot to say is make them pay, without an investment in the class or lessons they won't practice.
Absolutely. Their investment = a commitment. If they pay for a class of a certain duration up front, they're much less likely to skip a class. Colleges don't let you just pay for any individual classes you choose to attend or refund you for those you skipped.

03-01-2010, 05:10 PM
Absolutely. Their investment = a commitment. If they pay for a class of a certain duration up front, they're much less likely to skip a class. Colleges don't let you just pay for any individual classes you choose to attend or refund you for those you skipped.

good point, i hadn't thought of that. you could also make him buy a uke instead/ inlude the price in cost for the same reasons as above.

03-01-2010, 06:28 PM
This is the thread I was looking for. I myself will be giving private ukulele lessons too. I will be teaching one child, a boy who is three years old. What I can teach him? Should I go over the parts of the ukulele? string names? etc. Your input will be greatly appreciated. For me, I been learning the ukulele for a year now and I am happy that I will be showing and teaching what I learned so far.

03-01-2010, 06:41 PM
The two resources I had in mind have already been brought up- uncle Rod's book is awesome and simple.

And definitely check out ukuleleyes.com They even have pre-built lesson plans available. The whole site is really geared towards teaching ukulele. Good luck.

03-02-2010, 02:43 PM
I have no idea who I'll be teaching yet... whoever is interested. I was just asked if I was interested by a guy who owns a local music store, and I thought it sounded like fun.

I hope this thread keeps going... I'm getting some great input, and it looks like others are as well.

03-02-2010, 08:01 PM
I've given out well over a thousand copies of Ukulele Tonya's Beginner Lesson Plan, with her permission. I use this lesson to teach new ukulele players the basics. The one page chord chart is very popular. Ric