Why should you start a new guitar player on a ukulele? The answer is G, C, A, E. Yes, having four strings on a ukulele can lead to a faster learning progression because the beginning player has less to worry about. Another major positive about starting on a ukulele is the C chord. A new player can learn the C chord in less than a minute. All they need is one finger willing to move where they want it to go and they can start playing a chord right away. If you have been a guitar player for years, you can forget how hard it was to get those fingers on the right strings in the right frets. Just think of the D chord on a guitar. There is not another time in your life you would have your fingers sitting in that position. The uke still has tough chords that take your fingers way out of their comfort zone, but it has so many chords that beginners can learn four or five chords by the second lesson. I have taught guitar off and on for 15 years and, about 4 years ago, I decided to have any student who approached me start on a ukulele. We would spend 6-12 months with the uke and then move up to the guitar. The transitions from uke to guitar have gone smoothly. We spend time learning the new chord names and we add a two octave scale to the mix. Most of the students are playing the guitar almost as well as they were the ukulele in just about 6 weeks. The two extra strings and larger neck are daunting for about half a lesson. Once they realize that many of the chord formations they have learned on the ukulele can be used on the guitar, they almost start teaching themselves at that point. The best thing about this whole process is that by the time the transition happens, the student now loves two instruments–the guitar and the ukulele. Once my students make a solid transition to the guitar, I allow them to bring either instrument to our lessons.
We have had most of our schools in the area move from recorder to ukulele. We have middle schools and high schools offering ukulele as an elective class. It is great to see this awesome evolution of public school music education. I met with one of the high school music teachers after she had been teaching ukulele for a year. She asked if I could help with her next level ukulele class. I advised that she not offer a next level ukulele class but instead suggested she offer a guitar class, with the requirement that you pass the ukulele class first. Now she has a robust ukulele class because so many people want in the guitar class. She has introduced two new instruments into her school and the students are loving it.
So, there are a few arguments for my ukulele before guitar theory. Maybe you think I’m totally crazy. Whatever method you or your family/friends choose to learn an instrument is totally up to you; just make sure it is fun and that the student has the motivation to practice as much as possible. The more they practice, the longer they’ll stick with it and eventually become a lifelong player.
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