As we all press on to become better at playing our favorite songs, whether it’s strumming away to “Hey There Delilah”, or fingerpicking “Frére Jacques”, we inevitably come to a point where we ask this question. I asked myself the same thing and with some research, I’ve found that there are quite a few things we can do. I compiled a list of things that will help you on the way.
How to be a better ukulele player? You can become a better ukulele player by learning techniques that will enhance your ukulele skills, such as strumming, fingerpicking, playing scales, using barre chords, and how to read music. These are the main areas you can work on to become a better ukulele player. Be sure to follow a daily practice routine to get the best results.
Most of us dwell on the thought that we would’ve been good at one thing or another if we’d made the time to practice.
Those piano lessons as a kid, the guitar that sits in the closet, or the language textbooks on the shelf all serve as reminders that we didn’t make the habit of practicing. You don’t want to make the same mistake with your new ukulele.
Research shows that a habit only takes about three weeks to form. It isn’t tough to start putting time into your ukulele. Our guide to creating a ukulele practice schedule will help you out a great deal with that.
Creating a Ukulele Practice Schedule
Creating a practice schedule is essential if you want to improve in any area. Many think that it’s alright to sit down and strum for an hour and call it “practice.” That method is fine if you’re just looking to enjoy playing for a while, but real improvement comes when you get organized.
There’s a big difference between those who can play a few songs and those who understand an instrument. If you want to fall into the latter category, you need to dedicate time to scales, chords, music theory, and learning pieces.
Do those things, and you’ll be a well-rounded player. We’ll break your practice schedule into two categories: methods and attitude. Your methods will include the technical things you should be practicing, while the attitude section will lay out a few things to keep in mind while you’re learning the instrument.
What to practice on Ukulele?
Your practice schedule needs to be divided up into a few different sections. Whether you choose different days to practice different ideas or divvy up your practice session into different parts doesn’t matter.
What matters is that your knowledge and playing are well rounded. The following sections will cover areas that are essential to work on in your ukulele practice.
Learning the Scales
Scales are the same across instruments, so you can bring some of your piano or guitar knowledge into your practice if you have it.
The ukulele is divided up into frets that constitute a half-step each. Moving up or down two frets means that you move one whole-step. Notes are referenced by letters of the alphabet, ranging from A to G.
Each full step on the ukulele will change the note by one full letter of the alphabet. Because there are half-steps, areas between letters in the alphabet are referred to with sharps and flats. If the note you’re looking at is A-sharp, it means that you are a half-step up from A.
If you’re looking at a B-flat, that note is one half-step down from B. Scales are pretty much pathways through these notes. The thing that’s difficult about scales is that they move through the notes at different intervals.
Being able to move up and down different scales with ease requires practice. Once you understand them, though, you will be able to easily understand everything else that you learn on the ukulele. You will also be able to solo, which is pretty cool.
You probably already know, but a chord is created on the ukulele when a combination of notes is strummed at once. There are four or five basic chords that most songs use, but the more advanced material will require you to branch out and learn more.
Each note on the scale will have a corresponding chord. Chords can get complicated, though, because each chord has a number of variations. The basic chord variations are major, minor, and 7 chords.
You should seek to memorize each chord with those three variations when you’re starting out. Go through each note in the major scale and learn all chords within each note. Once you’ve memorized each chord, try to change between chords while you’re strumming.
Some chords are harder to switch between, so it requires a bit of practice to get smooth transitions down. A great way to improve your transitions is by playing well-known songs, which we’ll get to a little later. The transition between notes and chords should be well understood, and you’ll gain this knowledge by studying music theory.
Understanding Music Theory
Your practice will not be complete if you don’t really get how the notes and chords work together. Many people go their whole lives without learning a lick of music theory, and that’s fine, but you will improve a lot faster if you know why you’re playing the chords you are.
Theory will give you the tools to start writing your own music. It will also help you to hear a song and be able to play it. Many people find that popular songs are easy to pick up because their chord changes and progressions are relatively simple.
Think back to high-school. You get a sheet of example questions for the exam and try to answer all of them– is it smarter to memorize all of the answers or understand the principles that gave you the answers? Music theory is the principles and only memorizing Wonderwall is just remembering the answers.
You can find a number of music theory books that will help you read music, understand chord progression, and fine-tune your understanding of scales.
What’s the point of playing the ukulele if you can’t bust out a tune here and there? Learning songs can be the difference between giving up and staying interested in the instrument.
You’ll also notice that you can play harder and harder songs as you practice more. Seeing your progression is an inspiring way to stay interested in the instrument. Start small and play simple songs that you like.
You’ll be able to impress your friends and prompt some campfire sing-alongs with the basic songs alone. Once you’ve mastered those, try and learn some more complicated material. We recommend that you try and master one song a week while you’re practicing.
Attitude: How You Should Treat Practicing
You can make all the practice plans you want, but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t live them out. You’ll only develop if you have the right attitude. That can be the hard part.
Stick to Your Plan
It’s recommended that you play every day, or at least every other day. You want to develop the habit of sitting down consistently to practice at specific times. That habit will settle in and your practice time will be lodged in your brain.
The hard part can be those first three weeks. It may get a little frustrating at times, especially if you aren’t seeing much progress. Give it time, though, and you’ll definitely start to see yourself getting better each week.
Make sure that you stay true to the plan you arrange. Set times that are the least likely to have interferences. This way you won’t have any excuse not to practice.
Any time you feel yourself losing interest, just remind yourself of your promise to keep practicing for the first three weeks.
Don’t Rush Things
Your goal probably isn’t to become the greatest ukulele virtuoso on the planet. No, your focus is to improve the right way. This can’t happen if you rush through the material that doesn’t come easily to you.
Scales and music theory are generally a pain in the butt for beginners. The thing is, understanding them will make the advanced material come especially easy. You’re setting yourself up to be great when you take the time to master beginner material.
Even if a practice session doesn’t yield any improvement, the fact is that you went through it and did your best. You are your own boss so you have no one to answer to– if you want to skip over the hard stuff, so be it.
That being said, if you want to improve, you know what you have to do.
Remember to Have Fun
Why do most kids stop playing their band instruments? Because it’s not fun anymore.
We are all just big kids. The same logic applies to us. Remind yourself that playing the ukulele should be enjoyable.
Even when you’re not having fun learning scales, remember that those scales will be fun to play when you master them. In fact, you may even play those scales for the rest of your life! You’re making an investment in your future happiness.
You’ll get a lot of enjoyment from campfire songs, concerts, songwriting, and personal improvement. Just keep in mind that you have to do a little work before you can start reaping benefits.
Need Help With the Particulars?
This was a guide to creating your ukulele practice schedule. You’re still going to need materials to practice. You might even need some advice on which ukuleles to buy, strings you might want, and more.
There’s a lot of help available online. If you’re in need of any information on ukuleles, we’ve got what you’re looking for.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.