View Full Version : Question for the uke teachers

07-03-2012, 06:14 PM
How long do you typically retain students? I've noticed that anyone that I've done uke instruction with seems to be pretty self-sufficient after 1-2 lessons.

07-03-2012, 06:53 PM
I'm not a teacher, but as a student I can tell you how my uke teachers have (and have not) retained me. I've had several different instructors, and have stayed with one for close to three years now, with no intentions of stopping.

The one who has retained me:

Has challenged me from the start. When I started private uke lessons, I knew basic chords and could strum but wanted to go further - I'm not a singer, so I knew from the start I wanted to play lead, and over the years that's exactly what I've done. He's kept it interesting for me by having me figure out things on my own rather than just handing me printouts to work from.

Is compatible with my learning style. I am a visual/kinesthetic learner and not an auditory one - which I suspect is a disadvantage when it comes to music.

Has spent as much time teaching me theory as he has teaching me the mechanics of playing. I learn best when I understand *how* things work, rather than when I just learn by rote.
Is vastly knowledgeable about just about every style of music on the planet, and doesn't only play and/or teach one style. The variety keeps things interesting and makes me feel that there is always something more to learn.

The ones who have lost me:

Didn't push me beyond three-chord songs.

Spent more time showing off their own playing than they did actually teaching me anything.

Limited me to only one style of music.

I can't imagine being self-sufficient after only one or two lessons! But I can imagine giving up on an instructor in that amount of time - not necessarily because they weren't good at what they do, but because it was clearly not a good fit.

Rubio MHS
07-04-2012, 05:32 PM
Nice post. I'm a piano teacher, but I've also taught the drums and the guitar. I've never taken ukulele lessons, but here's what I'd like to learn/teach:

1. The Swing: The drums were my first instrument, and I could swing by the time I was 14, so at 39, I'm a little removed from the original process. My sister is a mandolin player, and when I taught her the ukulele while we were on a road trip, I spent most of the time trying to get her to swing. Just a basic technique everyone can enjoy. What to do: Start with the basic C/F/Ami/G7 chord progression, and just practice.

2. Sightreading Basic Tunes: With high G tuning, you only have a good octave to play around with. I like the low G tuning because you can play through a good fiddle fakebook. What to do: Start with basic tunes in the key of C, and move on to F, G and other keys.

3. Playing Chords While Singing: I couldn't sing a lick and had no desire to when I bought a $50 Lainikai soprano uke. Now I sing every day, own four ukes and have a nice karaoke setup. What to do: Get over the laughs. DO NOT LAUGH when a student laughs. Smile and encourage him. Photocopy songs out of a fakebook.

4. Play Melodies Higher on the Neck: By learning scale patterns, you can really knock melodies out, especially with low G tuning, where you can play four notes per string and knock out two octaves from G to Eb. What to do: Use the right scale book along with a fiddle tune fakebook. Try to build speed.

5. Beginning Tab Reading: Most people will put this a lot earlier, but I believe in learning to read over all other skills. Since there are so few strings to read basic melodies, you can go a lot with a little. Depending on the skill level and background of your students, you might need to do this before sightreading basic patterns. What to do: Get blank tab paper and have them convert notes to tabs and tabs to notes.

6. Pentatonic Improvisation; You need to get out that scale book and learn a few pentatonic scales. I actually have a scale and chord book for the ukulele, I belive by Hal Leonard, and in a perfect world, it would be about twice as large. What to do: You've got to know improvisation to teach it. Repetition, rhythm and relaxation are key.
7. Beginning Fingerstyle: Start with an open Ami7 chord and play C-E-A-E G-E-A-E, both swung and unswung. This basic fingerstyle pattern will take you a long way as you learn to play chords over the basic pattern. What to do: Break out the fakebook and the vocals again, and practice away.

8. Chord Melodies: Of course, this is where it's at for most ukulele players. There are a lot of good books out there with sheet music, and there are great tabs online. What to do: Find out what your student likes. I'm very fond of From Lute to Uke, but I realize that everyone doesn't have the love of Medieval music I have.

9. Hammer Ons, Hammer Offs, Bends: This is where good sounds come from. I mostly learned these through playing other instruments and brought these skills to the ukulele, but there should be a good book out there explaining this stuff. What to do: Find a good book, or better yet, write one.

10. The Blues Scale I: Riffs: There's a lot of improvisation involved here, too. What to do: Get out the scale book, and study rhythms. Ideally, there should be a lot of reading involved.

11. The Blues Scale II: The Blue Note: I'm a purist. If I can play a pure blue note, which doesn't appear on the piano, I do. It's a 1/4 step away from where most books have it. What to do: Everything from 10., but with the proper blue note.

12. Rolls: I learned about these from playing the banjo, and I reverse-engineered them to the ukulele. It's a weak point of mine. I love the freedom that some of these patterns have with the right hand while holding chords in the left. What to do: I don't know if a book is out there, but if anyone writes one, let me know!

13. Power Chords: I love using these on the guitar, and I sometimes plug my steel-stringed Eleuke into Guitar Rig 5 and plug away. Traditionally, these are played with two or three strings, but it's possible to play them with four, and pretty fun. What to do: This is where your Uke a Day fakebook falls short. You really have to get some guitar music and cut out ukulele tabs to put over the guitar chords.

14. Arranging: Once upon a time, I was a harp player (the stringed variety(, and one of my favorite music books of all time is an arranging book for the harp by Sylvia Woods. I unfortunately stopped playing the harp after a panic attack after playing at my sister's wedding, but I'd love to have the same style of arranging to the ukulele. What to do: I didn't expect to write this long a post, and at this point, I'm practically ready to write a book, or a series of books.

Conclusion: The essence of good teaching is preparation. Teaching the piano is a lot easier for me because the courses are all laid out, but I'm actually interested in teaching the ukulele now.

07-05-2012, 03:09 PM
Great responses! I think I was fortunate to have people who just wanted to know the basics (understanding chord and finger positioning, strumming patterns, very basic music theory), so teaching was not a serious challenge on the uke compared to instruments like guitar or piano.

07-05-2012, 04:43 PM
Have to say - I'm just starting to shop for a teacher and this has been immensely helpful to read. I've got a decent start out of books, but I've spent enough of my life around music to know that after a certain point I'll need experienced eyes and ears to keep me from drifting into bad habits and dead ends. And I'm with janeray1940 - a teacher who doesn't challenge me is going to lose me very quickly. I can go nowhere at home, by myself, for free.