I want to do a little series on Ukulele Expectations vs. Reality. I feel like there’s quite some misconceptions out there about this instrument – and I totally bought into some of them.
First up: It will be easy.
One of the reasons that I started to play ukulele, was the fact that the internet is full of people stating, that the ukulele is super easy to play and practically anyone can do it. All you need is three chords and you are good to go. Even Amanda Palmer stated that in her song “Ukulele Anthem”
you can play the ukulele too it is painfully simple
play your ukulele badly, play your ukulele loudly
it takes about an hour to learn how to play the ukulele
about same to teach someone to build a standard pipe bomb
they’re only $19.95, that’s not a lot of money
just limit yourself to three chords
and do not practice daily
[…]Ukulele Anthem by Amanda Palmer
So I thought, well how hard can it be, if everyone says that it’s really easy to play the ukulele, I can probably do it too. So I bought a ukulele – it cost a bit more than 19.95, but it was still pretty cheap. When it arrived I was happy, but also really intimidated. I never learned how to play an instrument so even tuning the ukulele was a challenge for me. And it did not feel easy at all.
About 1,5 years later I finally decided to sign up for ukulele lessons, because I did not feel confident at all to learn playing the ukulele by myself with just online videos. It was not that easy for me. The ukulele lessons were and still are a very important part in my ukulele journey. Though I get, that the ukulele might be easy for someone who’s been playing the guitar for several years, for someone who is completely new to making music it is not that easy. In fact, it was and still is very hard for me.
Right and left hand have to do different things at the same time. There’s rhythm and chord shapes and thinking about what’s coming next. At the same time singing and looking happy. There’s a lot going on at the same time. And it’s not easy.
I agree that the ukulele is a very rewarding instrument. Rewarding in a way that most people are able to play simple songs very soon into their ukulele journey. But you also hit a plateau quite soon where you need to make the decision, am I satisfied with just that or do I want to move on. If you decide the latter, it’s getting even more difficult. And you know what: That’s perfectly fine. Because the ukulele is just as serious an instrument as any other and to master it, you need to put in the time to practice.
So what I’m trying to say is – though it might be “easy” for people with a musical background, this is probably not true for most people. I’d suggest to not call it an easy instrument but a rewarding instrument, even though I’m fully aware, that not even that might be true for everyone starting out.
One thought on “Ukulele Expectations vs. Reality: It will be easy”
Broadly, I agree. I’m afraid I think I was fooled slightly, when I first started (about 5 years ago). The economics were a factor – I thought – the worst thing that can happen is I’ve wasted £17 (secondhand, moderately-poor soprano uke off eBay). But, in my case, it wasn’t THAT hard, as I have had a musical education and sung all my life. I already understood about time-signatures, chords, rhythm, timing, and so on. Plus, fairly early on, I joined a uke group that has helped me along. Plus, partly out of financial necessity, I started busking (I weren’t that good when I started) – which is a wonderful of spending hours practising and widening your repertoire without feeling your time is being wasted. Add to that, I discovered a friendly informal pub jam, where I was allowed to play and develop (and I am often the only uke-player there). So, yes, I would encourage as many people (especially children, who can pick things up more quickly) to try the uke as possible. But nowadays, I always say ‚It’s easy to start playing, but, like anything else, the more time you spend on it, the better you will get.