A few years ago, I noticed that I was getting a lot of inquiries about ukulele lessons, and though I had never tried playing one, once I found out that it was similar to playing guitar, I decided to give it a try.
Wow, was I surprised. Not only does guitar knowledge easily translate to ukulele, it's practically a direct transfer. Plus, picking one up is extremely affordable considering the ukulele is one of the few instruments that allows people to legitimately play and sing the same time.
Nowadays, I find myself playing ukulele way more often than guitar; its uncanny portability allows me to throw it into my backpack and take it anywhere I might have spare time to fill.
Here's a how I went from guitar to ukulele.
There are so many similarities between ukulele and guitar that applying your guitar knowledge almost instantly allows you to play the ukulele and actually feel like you know what you're doing on it.
To start, anything you can do on the four high strings of the guitar you can do on the ukulele — it's just tuned to a different key.
Soprano and tenor ukuleles, the most common types, are tuned as though someone placed a capo on the fifth fret of guitar and only played the four high strings (DGBE).
Baritone ukuleles, on the other hand, are bigger and less common, but they are tuned exactly to the four high strings on a traditionally-tuned guitar.
The only real hindrance when it comes to going from guitar to ukulele is constantly having to transpose the chord shapes to account for that fifth fret guitar capo, which means any chord shape or scale pattern will be named a fifth down from what you're used to on guitar.
For example, a D chord shape on the guitar when played on the ukulele is actually a G chord in sound because D is the 5th note of the G major scale. (In other words, you travel five notes backward to get the correct name).
If you're like me, the transposing thing was annoying enough for me to wonder why I wouldn't just buy a baritone ukulele, but they really are less common and considerably more expensive too.
Also, a baritone is much deeper in sound than soprano or tenor ukuleles and is close enough to the sound of a guitar that it seems redundant.
Besides, because they’re so cheap, taking a flyer on a soprano ukulele was more convenient for me than the inconvenience having to transpose all the time.
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Although I still somewhat think of the ukulele as a respite from playing guitar, the more I play, the more I realize how beautiful it is in its own right.
To me, it sounds somewhat like a harp, and its simplicity and limitations make it interesting in a crossword puzzle kind of way.
Naturally, because it's much smaller than a guitar, it has a shorter range of notes available to play, and I like that because it helps me focus more at the task at hand, whether that’s playing melody lines, improvising with chord tones or breaking down complex chords to their essential notes.
In essence, without two extra strings to account for, the ukulele allows me to explore using more complicated theory more easily.
One of the things I love about the ukulele is that there's no ego about it; nobody expects anyone to be a ukulele hero.
If I have extended periods of time with the ukulele, like if I'm camping or something, I venture more into the weeds of chord melody, jazz or blues, but most of the time, I just transpose all of my favorite tunes to the key of C (because that's the easiest key to play in) and just sing songs.
I even convinced my wife to learn the four chords in the key of C, and once in a while I can get her to play along with me on some songs.
It's funny, because I like singing my favorite songs so much, I still do most of my playing with the basic chords you would learn on the first day of ukulele lessons — and it has kept me entertained for years.
The ukulele is little instrument that packs a big punch. Not only does it allow you to accompany yourself on thousands of songs with a relatively low degree of difficulty, but it's pretty cost-effective as well.
Plus, if you know how to play guitar, you have solid head start on playing the ukulele. Still, taking ukulele lessons can help fill in any gaps you may have that could hinder your ability to become a polished player on your own.
Contact Approachable Guitar today if you are interested taking ukulele lessons to learn or get better at playing your favorite songs.
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