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Thread: Do I need to learn music theory to play the ukulele?

  1. #1

    Default Do I need to learn music theory to play the ukulele?

    Is it necessary to have music theory knowledge to play the ukulele?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.


    Absolutely not. I played guitar for almost 50 years and knew nothing about music theory in all that time. Same with the ukulele I started playing 5 years ago. I've been told many times I'm a good player, when I was playing guitar and now with the uke.

    8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2010


    At the same time, it gives you a little better understanding of how the music is built. Understanding basic chord progressions and the structure and functions can be very helpful. It can aid in memorization, transposition, and general playing. Is it essential? I suppose not, just as one can cook and follow a recipe, but not have any understanding of food, science, safety or how things work. It all depends on what you want to accomplish and how much you want to know. Certainly, it would not be a bad thing.

    I always suggest this book It is VERY user friendly. While many music there texts can be really dry and boring, I daresay that this actually makes theory seem lighthearted and fun.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    West Midlands GB


    No - but a little bit of basic understanding helps a lot.

    John Colter.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2015


    You don't need to go through a curriculum of theory before playing, but you will probably pick up a little bit of theory as you learn the ukulele.

    You can just start with learning 2-3 chords by heart and strum them.
    But allready here you will have to learn a bit about tempo - if you are playing 4/4 or 3/4.
    It is not tricky, it is all in the srumming pattern.

    In the same way you are going to learn a bit even if you don't try.
    Anuenue AMM tenor - Magic Fluke Koa Tenor - Cocobolo concert - Kamaka Tiki concert - Cort concert - Ohana LN soprano.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    It's a dry heat


    All you need to know is that the ukulele won't play itself. You gotta do that. If you start to feel hungry for theory, then get some.
    Why me?
    "Some people see the hand of God in their lives, some only the finger."
    - Evan Eisenberg, Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2006, p. 151.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.


    Not necessary, but handy to know some, you'll pick up what you need to know as you progress your playing.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Wiltshire, UK


    I suppose that question is similar to do I need to learn grammar in order to speak? The answer of course is no, but you will probably express yourself better if you do.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota


    Ukulele, like singing, doesn’t require any knowledge of music theory or the ability to read music.

    I’m a music teacher, and this doesn’t mean that I support illiteracy in music—but to deny it would be actually living in denial myself. So I try to combat the state of affairs.

    You would be surprised, however, how much music theory impacts you because you have heard music all of your life, and the lion’s share of the music we listen to—regardless of style—tends to follow the rules of music theory (and the stuff that doesn’t is so avant garde on the classical end of the spectrum that most people haven’t heard it).

    That’s why a G7 to C sounds “right”’ve heard what we “music theory” people call an “authentic cadence” in most of the music that you’ve heard throughout your life.

    Just know this...if you start learning ukulele, and liking it—there is a whole world of music theory that you can start learning more about which will help you understand why things work—and sometimes, to know why something doesn’t work. There are plenty of errors in the Yellow Book, and I find them with my ears before I analyze why they are wrong with my brain (and what should be done about the error).

    So...for now, learn chords, play, sing, and have fun. And if you’re ready for the challenge some day, start learning about theory.
    My ukulele blog:

    My ukulele YouTube channels:

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2017


    I've been playing ukulele for about a year & a half. It's my first musical instrument, and I have no prior musical education. I'm 58 years old. I am completely addicted to the ukulele, and can't imagine my life without it now. I'm learning music theory little by little, mostly by osmosis. If you can find a group to play with & learn from, you'll pick up some music theory little by little. Is it necessary Is it helpful ......yes.
    My ukulele family.....
    KoAloha Koa concert - circa 2006 (Living Waters)
    aNueNue Moon Bird concert - Spruce & Rosewood - 2018 (Blackwater)
    Blackbird Clara - 2019 (Oasis Bright)
    Cocobolo concert - 2019 (Worth Brown)

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