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

  1. #21


    It's certainly great to understand the theory. But not enough to be a cool musician. You won't be able to play without practice, and without theory it is quite feasible. I have a great example, my uncle. I graduated from a professional school to learn how to play the piano. But he was firmly convinced that he would not need so many years of study. And he signed up for the course of piano as an adult. No one believed that anything worthwhile would come out of it. Imagine my surprise when I heard that he knew the instrument as well as I did. Either he has a natural talent, or the teachers of this course are geniuses. You can check them yourself.
    Last edited by; 04-23-2021 at 05:53 AM.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Canada Prairies, brrr ....


    You don't have to do anything! But for me having a bit of understanding of music makes the process of learning and playing a lot more easy and enjoyable.

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Darlington UK


    If you want to play classical and baroque music on it then yea it would help. But if you just like to strum away or play fingerstyle blues and such then no. Its an instrument suited to improvisation.
    You don't stop playing when you get old. You get old when you stop playing

    Tanglewood TU13M concert
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    And a whole heap of other instruments...

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  4. #24
    Join Date
    Nov 2012


    Not an absolute necessity but it wouldn't hurt. Lot's of fabulous musicians play mostly by ear and have no formal training. Many don't read music or possess a lot of theoretical knowledge.
    Glen Campbell could play anything on guitar. Glen could not read a note and had very little theoretical knowledge. Jimmy Webb has often said Glen was the most talented musician he had ever met.

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Tampa Bay, FL


    "It depends on what you want to do with the ukulele as an instrument."

    This is probably the best starting place. I know a little, but not enough to write or compose. As you learn and evolve, your purpose might change. Mine did. I think we limit ourselves if all we do is play by tablature, or copying other players.
    I look at it like, I'm not trying to just learn to play ukulele, I'm trying to learn to play music. That's what we teach kids here.

    Bill, thanks for that video, very interesting!
    Last edited by Nickie; 04-18-2021 at 03:27 PM.
    "Those who bring sunshine and laughter to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves".

    Music washes from the soul, the dust of everyday living.

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    San Francsico Bay Area


    Understanding music theory helps one understand WHY chord changes and progressions work.

    AHA! That’s why it sounds good.

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    What about the cool-factor?

    I was listening to some neo-classical guitar and my wife said "I hate the phygian mode"

    I sophistically mentioned that the phrygiran mode has the same notes as the Dorian which she has no problem with.

    She said it is all about the half-tones, and I remembered why she's my girl.

    You cannot have cool stichomythia such as that without theory.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Oct 2015


    I wonder where to draw the line between music theory and music "tools".
    Looking at a chord diagram is not theory.
    Figuring out the chord by finding the third, fifth seventh etc. is that applying theory?
    Is understanding staff notation applied theory?
    Or do you need to go to the level of analyzing why it works well before it is theory?

    It is probably a blurry line. Anyway, you can play music on ukulele just by looking at chord diagrams. You can play more and better if you learn sheet music and how to transpose too.
    You can write songs just picking common chord progressions for them. You can probably make better arrangements if you know a lot advanced theory.

    The way I look at it, everything you learn has a small grain of theory in it.
    Anuenue AMM tenor - Magic Fluke Koa Tenor - Cocobolo concert - Kamaka Tiki concert - Cort concert - Ohana LN soprano.

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Palm Beach County FL


    You will probably pick up some theory as you learn more chords.

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Far North Central Illinois


    Here's what I made up to help get me started in memorizing the most common progressions.

    The same progression is used in each key. The "I" is the key.

    First play across each key using the I, iii, iv, IV, I, V, IV - It will naturally repeat.

    Then try skipping some chords, or rearranging them within the sequence...

    For example, just play: C - Em - F - G

    For a bit of a twist, in the key of C, at the end play Am - G instead of F.

    A light will pop on! Have fun.

    <edit> As LarryS notes in response #33 below, feel free to try the 7th for any of the chords in the table - especially the classic V7.

    -WiggyPop Maj Progs.jpg
    Last edited by Wiggy; 04-21-2021 at 02:23 AM.

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