View Full Version : How important are lessons/a teacher?

09-01-2008, 04:07 PM
I need the opinions of experienced players who play ukulele fairly to really well (more than just on occasion for fun, but as in all the time for fun or gigs, etc.) and who are constatnly trying to progress as a musician. Opinions of people who have taken lessons, who have not taken lessons but are still good players, and who have taught lessons would be great.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of taking lessons and having a teacher to study with. I live in Denton, where the University of North Texas is located (which has a ridiculously awesome music program, if you aren't familiar with that school), and have been taking private lessons with a music student of UNT for clarinet, sax, and general theory. My lesson teacher plays all of the woodwinds well (primarily sax), and has learned an incredible amount of music theory in school, which he is passing on to me. All of that is why I am a fan of having lessons. I love being able to ask questions and discuss things with a teacher. I know that is part of what this forum is for, but sometimes talking to an actual person (and master of your instrument) is really nice.

I also know there are just certain things you get from a teacher that you really can't get any other way. The reason I want an uke teacher is that I know without a teacher, my technique will probably have flaws, I won't know which orders of learning work best (such as learning indivitual notes, first, or chords first instead, etc.), and I won't know what the best methods for building strong fundamentals on the uke are (fundamentals=scales, keys, technique exercises, strumming technique, finger picking technique, left hand technique, etc.). These are the same reaons I am looking for a classical guitar instructor after playing guitar for four years (or better yet, someone who plays all styles).

Because there is an excellent music school in town, I know I can find a good guitar instructor...but I doubt I will find an uke teacher. So I'm wondering how important it is to have a teacher, and if it is highly important, what can I do as an alternative, since I probably won't find an ukulele teacher in Texas.
So guys, what are your thoughts/opinions on my question?

09-01-2008, 04:18 PM
I taught myself how to play every instrument i play (Ukulele, Bass , Guitar, Drums). When i taught myself i only knew the basics like basic chords, strums, and only knew how to read tabs. I had a friend help me get more in depth with music and thats what made me a better musician. It's basicly what you want, you can teach yourself some of the basics and have someone else help you get more in depth with music. It doesnt matter which way you start because theres no right or wrong (unless your doing something horribly wrong haha). Look things up when your confused and ask around. UU is full of experienced ukulele players.

09-01-2008, 04:20 PM
I would love to take lessons if I could find a teacher here, but so far I have not been able to. I know I must have bad techniques, and I have much to learn, even some basic stuff that I have skipped over (Intentional or not)

I think that some people like the uke specifically because it can be a hobby for them, where they get to learn it by themselves, which for some people can be very rewarding.

I personally like it because I can see the potential it has, I might not be very good, but I enjoy mastering songs, and finding new tips or information on it, watching other people play. It's very much a happy instrument, and I like to play it for fun, but I also like to try to absorb as much information as possible about it. Try new things, have discussions with people about it. Plus people around here are usually quite surprised when they find out I like to play. I like to be different, and for me, the uke fits that very well. It's my little project, and I love learning and advancing with it.

But I would like lessons to help me advance quicker ;)

Brad Bordessa
09-01-2008, 05:56 PM
I don't have regular access to a teacher, but even if I did I would want them to be more of a musical consultant. I would say that a teacher is great (but only if they encourage you to apply what they teach to your music. Some teachers tell you something and how to use it. You need to figure out how and where to use it. You will learn more that way.), but ether way read Victor Wooten's new book: "The Music Lesson" - it will change your perspective on not only music, but life.

I also have taught lessons. Wow, you can learn a lot by doing that.

09-01-2008, 06:37 PM
We're still working on getting Aldrine's live online private lessons and classes going. Hopefully this will help people in areas without any ukulele teachers and want a little more instruction than what we provide with our free videos.

09-01-2008, 06:55 PM
I'm new to ukulele and I'd love to take lessons. The reason I'd like to take lessons is that I don't have much confidence in my own musical ability. I can't afford lessons and I'm sure I'd be hard pressed to find someone who teaches ukulele. Given the situation, that's why I try the best I can to teach myself. When the situation changes, I'll more than likely seek lessons from someone who is more experienced.

I think the thing to remember is that everyone learns differently and everyone has different backgrounds and abilities. When you factor in your own set of variables, you'll know more than anyone whether or not you should seek out lessons or teach yourself.

09-01-2008, 07:07 PM
i think there's enough information out there nowadays to get pretty far with just teaching yourself.

i wish youtube and UU were around when i was in college. would've progressed a lot faster.

09-01-2008, 07:31 PM
i taught myself how to play uke, drums, guitar, and bass. when i was a kid i had a piano teacher who i hated. even though she was mean, she taught me basic theory and all that stuff. I also took a guitar class once but i already knew all the basics and stuff.

Having a teacher helps a lot with the technical side, but the main thing for me is feel. James Jamerson said "if you don't feel it, don't play it."

09-01-2008, 08:26 PM
"if you don't feel it, don't play it."

I love that. Great quote.

But I really didn't feel the uke for a long while after I had been playing it.

09-01-2008, 09:28 PM
As a person who is taking ukulele lessons applying what I learn with my teacher and what I can learn by myself will only make you progress even more. I'm on my 3rd week of uke lessons and its been totally awesome. I was fortunate to have found a teacher here in my home town who is a touring musician on guitar as well as an ukulele artist. I really really enjoy the ukulele and in my opinion actually learning with a teacher about theory and most importantly history will only make me better. My teacher has been playing since he was a little kid and I guess with experience to share with me good or bad I can take what he tells me and shows me on my way to becoming a better uke player.

Teaching yourself how to play anything is very rewarding, but sometimes having someone there to watch and GUIDE can be enriching. Rewards and enrichment can only lead to bigger and better things.

Have fun playing, and if you get stuck, there are tons of people here on UU more than willing to help out!!

09-02-2008, 05:54 AM
I agree with Sammy there. I'm getting lessons and learning things myself. Having someone who knows what they're doing watching you really helps, especially with something as fundamental as grip and posture which you may not be able to pick up properly on your own. I've made a fair bit of progress on my own but like the help a teacher gives you. In a way it's a bit like having a coach/personal trainer/friend at the gym who keeps pushing you to go further than you may think possible on your own.

09-02-2008, 05:59 AM
also, try getting together with this group. http://ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=910

09-02-2008, 06:32 AM
I am a novice uke player and have a little experience on the mandoiln. I have found the lessons here on UU to be very good. I just play a section over and over and play slowly till I get the feel.
You tube has some great training videos.
I would like to find a local teacher for the details that the videos can not teach.
I really love the "pay it forward" videos on you tube. We should keep that energy going here. There is alot of talent here.

09-02-2008, 08:41 AM
I hope they're not important, because I've been teaching myself for about a year now and I hope I'm not all that bad. I suppose you get what you put in. If you practice and have a lot of determination you'll do great and you'll enjoy it.

I suppose what your style of learning is. I like to work on something myself and try to get it down, but some people I know like having a set direction when they learn. Both work, it's just what your own experience is.

09-02-2008, 09:04 AM
I know many who are just naturally gifted and don't need lessons... they just understand. That's so awesome! I'm jealous! haha

Then again there are many success stories I've seen who are where they are because they've been fortunate to have great instruction, yknow?


09-02-2008, 11:28 AM
I hope they're not important, because I've been teaching myself for about a year now and I hope I'm not all that bad. I suppose you get what you put in. If you practice and have a lot of determination you'll do great and you'll enjoy it.

I suppose what your style of learning is. I like to work on something myself and try to get it down, but some people I know like having a set direction when they learn. Both work, it's just what your own experience is.

I like to find a song, and get it completely down and mastered. Then I move on. I use the forums and other online sites to get other general info to add on that will help me better understand my instrument. I also make a lot of intro tunes, but I never end up adding on to them.

09-02-2008, 04:05 PM
I've had teachers for every other instrument I play (piano, flute, fife), and mostly good experiences. I think a teacher would be helpful if you need motivation to perfect certain things. For instance, I just don't much like trying to do a muted strum, since I'm not good at it, so I kind of avoid it. A teacher would probably make me learn it. I suppose I'll learn it myself SOMEDAY too, but maybe a teacher would be good if you need a gentle nudge for some of these things. But with all the info available on the internet, you could probably do without one just fine...

Howlin Hobbit
09-03-2008, 07:12 AM
I was fortunate to have found a teacher here in my home town who is a touring musician on guitar as well as an ukulele artist.

That wouldn't be Manitoba Hal, would it?

09-04-2008, 08:27 PM
I'm no expert but have taken uke lessons and found them very helpful. What's cool is that songs are arleady figured out and the teacher can pickup bad habits and correct them. Everyone has their musical limits but in my humble opinion, if you got a great teacher, it will only make you better.

Next to having a teacher, having friends to play with may also help in your progress, especially if your friends are more advanced and willing to share. Lastly, playing a lot. I notice when I don't play, I get rusty really quick...perhaps it's an age thing. When I get frustrated with picking a song, I just resort to good ole strummimng and singing a tune, that seems to always cheer me up.

09-05-2008, 05:17 AM
I have figured out that when I get frustrated with trying to learn a song or a particular strum. I set the uke down till the following day. I come right back to what I was having trouble with the previous day and for some reason it always comes a little easier than the previous day.

09-05-2008, 05:25 AM
Sleeping always helps. When you go to sleep, everything you learned that day really locks in. I've found I will have trouble with something right before I fall asleep, then the following morning It's committed to memory perfectly.

09-06-2008, 03:47 AM
I'm not much of a musician, but I'm pretty well versed when it comes to the history of the last hundred years or so of popular (and unpopular) music, and I have to say that while some of the greats definitely benefited from being taught by amazing players in their own right, there's a lot of really amazing self-taught musicians out there, and the really good ones tend to be huge innovators.

Just my two cents. I play for fun, though, so I'm not really who you addressed your question to.

09-06-2008, 01:45 PM
Wow! awesome responses, everyone :D.
I waited so long to this to reply that I have too much to comment on...
I will say having a lesson techer isn't (or shouldn't) be just about the technical aspect of playing. It definetly needs to be addressed (especially when you are beginning a new instrument), but a good lesson teacher shouldn't ignore teaching general musicianship. A lesson teacher should teach you to be a beter ukulele player and a better musician. The cool thing about lessons is that if the teacher is also a good musician (not just an instrumentalist), then they will probably know so much about music that they will end up randomly teaching you things that it would have taken years (or more) for you to discover on your own. Teaching yourself, you can only find answers to the questions you come up with. Only a teacher (or other outside person) can listen to your questions, your playing, and your practice methods, and then show you how it connects to other things in music. You can be the most gifted player who was ever born, but even the most gifted only have their own knowledge to use. Unless someone teaches/tells them more. But...I'll stop lecturing my opinions.

Rayan, if UU ends up adding online private lessons, I will definetly get into that. And Hotnanas, I'll try to find an opportunity to check out that Dallas group. Thanks for the link!

10ASEE and Dane, I have to say I totally agree with you on the way playing hard passages (etc.) a day after you practice them works. For me, it doesn't typically take a day (at least, not with clarinet and sax. With uke, it would probably be different because I haven't been playing it nearly as long). Much of the time, if I'm playing clarinet or sax and I'm having trouble with a complicated part of a song, I can put the horn down for an hour or two and then come back later and the part I was struggling is perfect. Research also shows that things you learn really do sink in while you sleep.

Tad, I do agree, many of the epic self taught musicians are very innovative. Most of the best change music in some fundamental way.

09-06-2008, 03:21 PM
If we want to get into psychology here, one theory about sleep is that your mind does "filing" while you are asleep, the idea being that your mind is rearranging things in an orderly, and easily accessible manner, also moving things from temporary memory (Say like... a day) to permanent memory (A month, a year+). That's one theory.

01-11-2009, 03:58 PM
I live in an area where almost nobody plays ukulele (Ironwood, MI)...I have been taking lessons for the last 1 1/2 years...My instructor is a retired school band instructor (30 plus years of experience) and plays guitar really well...But he plays no ukulele...Our system is: I buy books/videos, research the internet and then every 2 weeks (was every week before) we go over all I have worked on and any questions I have...It really works for me...I am not as talented as most of the guys here and I really had no idea of rhythm...I didn't know any music theory and I couldn't read sheet music...Now, I can do all those things and as a matter of fact, I am able to arrange pieces on my own...I might not be Jake but I can certainly play and arrange a lot of songs...So I say, go for it!

01-11-2009, 05:26 PM
On the subject of teachers, check out others' opinions on this thread:

Hope that helps :D

01-12-2009, 01:09 AM
I am also a beginner in learning the ukulele. I have been taking ukulele lessons with my teacher for 2 months and I am loving every moment of it. He points out what I am doing wrong or if I am having trouble with a chord he will go over that chord with me. It helps to get a teacher because that way he/she can point out what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right.

01-12-2009, 03:21 AM
Sleeping always helps. When you go to sleep, everything you learned that day really locks in. I've found I will have trouble with something right before I fall asleep, then the following morning It's committed to memory perfectly.

learning really depends on the person... because not everybody in this world has a chance to become a doctor... even if they tried.

which i what my teacher said anyways :D

as for a teacher for ukulele..

u dont need 1 to learn the ukulele well if thats what ur asking... some people just naturally r quick learners because they have co ordination and some don't...

i learn better with somebody teaching me, but theres no lessons in real life where i am with out travelling 2 hours and paying $60 for half an hour (literally) so i learn off the net and whats available.

Ukulele JJ
01-12-2009, 04:37 AM
As someone who has spent that past three decades playing and learning musical instruments (not that I sound like it, unfortunately :p), I have two things to add to the excellent comments made so far:

1) Yes, sleep helps tremendously. You can learn far more practicing an hour a day for a week than you can practicing seven hours straight, even though it's mathematically the same amount of time spent. If you bump up against a wall, there's little good in continuing to bump and bump and bump! Just come back to it tomorrow. Things take the amount of time they take. Tugging on a flower won't make it grow any faster.

2) Teachers are very important, but don't fool yourself into thinking a "teacher" is only someone you sit in a room with at a scheduled time and write a check out to afterward. Every musician you hear is a teacher. (Yes, even the ones who are worse than you--they teach you how not to play :D).