Guest Post By Cassandra Lomax
The ukulele is currently in the throes of a decade-long resurgence and its popularity is continually rising – owing in no small part to artists like Hawaiian legend Israel Kalakawiwoóle, whose Somewhere Over the Rainbow is, quite simply, an unforgettably beautiful song. Then there are artists like Billie Eilish, Jack Johnson, and John Legend, whose hit songs Ocean Eyes, Better Together and All of You (respectively) have been covered many times online, with the ukulele as the instrument of choice. If you have a homeschooled child who loves popular music and who may have never tried a musical instrument before, a ukulele is a fantastic way to start. Follow these tips and build up a winning repertoire in next to no time!
Why Choose a Ukelele?
Ukuleles are an ideal first instrument for children for various reason. For one, they are small enough for children to be able to play beautiful tunes without overstretching their fingers. Many children go straight to guitar playing, but the latter can be a little more daunting because guitar chords require fingers to cover more distance than ukulele chords do. They can also take more time to learn since guitars have six strings; ukuleles only have four. Ukuleles use simplified musical notation forms called tabs, which are very easy to read. Unlike usual scores, they indicate exactly where to play the notes on a fretboard. Ukulele tabs are a great introduction to more complex scores for piano and guitar, which children can negotiate when they are a little older.
Choosing the Right Instrument
Ukuleles are an affordable instrument, costing between $50 and $150. When you enter a music store or look online, you will see that ukuleles generally come in one of four sizes and tonal ranges: the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles. For small children, the smallest ukulele (the soprano-21 inches) is ideal, because the smaller the ukulele, the easier it will be for children to hold and keep it stable. The other three ukulele types generally offer a deeper sound than the soprano and can measure between around 23 and 30 inches long. The bigger ukes are ideal for teenagers and adults. Although you may decide to buy your uke online, it is probably a good idea to visit a music store and have your child hold different models, until you see which one best suits their hand size. Ukuleles also come in different colors so if your child is into bright blue or fiery red, find one in the color that will most inspire them.
How to Start Learning Basic Songs
As mentioned above, learning how to read ukulele tabs is easy. Essentially, the tabs contain four lines, each representing one of the strings. The tab contains numbers that appear on one of the lines. The number written on the lines indicate what fret you have to push down on. Therefore, if for example there was a number 3 on the fourth line of the tab, you would push down with a finger on the third fret of the fourth string. Tabs do not indicate the rhythm of the song, but if you pick a song your child already knows and likes, it will no doubt be very easy to make the rhythm up as you go along. Some of the easiest songs to try include I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton, and Riptide by Vance Joy. Of course, little children will enjoy songs as simple yet catchy as Row, Row, Row Your Boat, or even The Wheels on the Bus!
If you are new to music yourself and you’d love to create beautiful melodies your whole family can sing along to in no time, why not join your child in taking up the ukulele? Ukes are small, light, and reasonably priced. They can be played with easy-to-read tabs that kids as young as six and up will enjoy mastering!