why play the ukulele?
Are you looking for a portable musical instrument that’s fun to play? How about a first instrument for the small hands of your child? Maybe you want an instrument with a short learning curve?
The ukulele, popularized by Hawaiian artists like Iz and Jake Shimabukaro, and featured in hundreds of movies and TV commercials, could be right for you. No other musical instrument conjures up images of sunny beaches, beautiful sunsets and rainbows like the ukulele. It’s also easy to learn, and a lot cheaper than a trip to Hawaii.
Ukelele is The Right Size for Travel and Kids
Don’t let the small size fool you — it is a real instrument. Its lilting tropical sound is highly sought after by film and tv producers, and advertising executives. But unlike many other in-demand musical instruments, it is quite affordable.
The mini size is actually an advantage. Imagine a camping trip with campfire sing-alongs. You could bring a guitar. But the uke is so much easier to fit in your car. How about riding your bike to a nearby park, with a guitar strapped to your back? Now picture making the same ride with a uke, about as big as your backpack.
Great Size for Kids
The best benefit of the uke’s size is that it’s great for kids. They often struggle with the larger body and wider neck of a guitar. But kids can easily manage the uke. The size of the instrument doesn’t overwhelm them, and the narrow neck is easy for their little fingers to make chords.
But ukes do come in different sizes. Have a look at our buying guide to learn about which ukulele is right for you.
Easier on The Fingers
Another advantage is the uke’s nylon strings, so much more gentle on fingertips than the steel strings on a standard acoustic guitar. Many earnest guitarists, young and old, are discouraged by the initial pain and discomfort, and simply give up. Ukulele is much easier to stick with for all.
Adult Beginners Can Learn Fast
If you’re an adult beginner, ukulele is a great choice. You’ll be making real music faster on a uke than guitar or piano. It’s pretty easy to learn a few chords and get started. There are lots of instruction and song books that have easy to play songs in them.
Easy Ukulele Songs
There are thousands of easy-to-play songs for ukulele, songs that you only need to know a few chords to play.
Some easy uke songs:
- Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Iz version)
- Louie Louie
- Elvis Songs like Love Me Tender, Blue Suede Shoes
- Tiny Bubbles
Want something more contemporary? Uke players like to play these more recent songs:
- Riptide – Vance Joy
- House of Cold – Twenty One Pilots
- Let It Go – James Bay
- Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Having some great songbooks will help you learn, and is the best way to share songs when you get together with other players. Check out our Ukulele Journey Page for some recommendations to build your set list.
Already Play Guitar or Piano?
Of course if you already play guitar or piano, you can easily adapt what you know to the uke, and take it anywhere.
As a player with some experience, you could really add a lot to uke jams, like playing some fills or solos. Ukulele groups are desperate for that kind of talent.
If you’ve ever taken a guitar on a plane, you know the guitar is just big enough to cause problems. But a uke easily fits in the overhead compartment.
Most cheap “travel guitars” sound awful. Downsizing the acoustic guitar just doesn’t work that well. But the ukulele was made to sound good in a small package.
Need Some Inspiration?
The current surge in ukulele popularity has been fueled by the outstanding work of players like Iz, Jake Shimabukaro, and Grace VanderWaal.
Israel Kamakawiwoʻole a.k.a. Iz
Iz took up the ukulele at age 11, inspired by his family and other local Hawaiian musicians. He and his brother started a successful band in the 1970s. Later, Iz began performing as a solo act.
He first recorded his unique, soulful solo version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow in 1988, redefining an already beloved song. As it was repeatedly featured in films, television and advertising, the song had several bursts of popularity over the next two decades. Iz showed that a powerful rhythm strum from a single uke is all you need to set up an impassioned vocal.
Jake Takes the Uke to New Heights
Virtuoso Jake Shimabukaro let the world know you can play anything on a ukulele, including Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody. Jake began playing at age four. In his early twenties, he became one of Hawaii’s leading musicians with the band, Pure Heart. Jake then launched his solo career in the Japanese market.
In 2006, he gained international fame after a concert video of him playing the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps got millions of views on YouTube. Since then, the virtuoso has collaborated with musicians like Jimmy Buffet and banjo master Bela Fleck.
Shooting Star Grace VanderWaal
11-year-old Grace VanderWaal wanted a ukulele so bad that after her mother refused to buy her one, she saved her money and bought one herself. Grace taught herself to play, and began writing songs. She made a series of YouTube videos that showcased her talent, and soon she was performing locally, and developing a following on the internet.
At 12, Grace won America’s Got Talent. Since then, she has released songs on a major label, performed on high profile tours, and even branched off into acting. All that started with a ukulele, and a desire to learn.
So What Are The Best Ukuleles For Beginners?
Go to our Ukulele Buying Guide to learn which ukes are best for kids, adult beginners, and people who already play an instrument. You’ll find a great pick to start your Ukulele Journey.