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Community Voice - Why Every Guitarist Should Play the Ukulele

They're way more than a novelty!

 

by Austin Brentley

 

 

 

Up until last year, I’d always thought of ukuleles as novelty instruments – in the same category as kazoos and jaw harps. If I wanted to make music, the guitar was my go-to instrument.

 

But I was “gifted” a ukulele last Christmas. And so to be polite, I decided to give it an honest try.

 

7 months later, and I’m completely hooked.

 

In fact, I’ve grown to love the ukulele. And for anyone who is thinking about getting into guitar, mandolin, banjo, or any other stringed instrument, I highly recommend starting with the ukulele first.

 

Below are 6 reasons why—

 

1. Ukuleles Are Surprisingly Inexpensive

Sites like Amazon carry pretty decent ukuleles for under $50 – complete with cases, picks, spare strings, capos, and tuners.

 

If you’re just testing the waters, that’s a fairly small investment.

 

2. Ukuleles Are Super Portable

Guitars are pretty easy to carry around – especially if you’re not heavily invested in amps and accessories. But ukuleles are ultra-portable, allowing you to make music anywhere and everywhere you go.

 

This mobility goes beyond sheer convenience.

 

My ukulele is almost always with me. And as a result, I spend more time playing and practicing (which is the best way to improve as a musician).

 

3. Ukuleles Are Very Accessible

I wouldn’t describe the ukulele as “easy.” There are plenty of people who struggle in the beginning. But the instrument is extremely accessible – even for absolute newbies who have never held a ukulele before.

 

4. Ukuleles Are Uber Fun

Because ukuleles are so accessible, this makes them a lot of fun to play. I’m not doing concertos. And I’ll never fill up stadiums. But for relaxed social settings, they’re the perfect instrument to get the party going.

 

5. Ukuleles Are Incredibly Versatile

Pretty much any song you can strum on the guitar – you can also strum on the ukulele. In fact, the music notation is interchangeable.

 

Because the ukulele has fewer strings, the sound isn’t as full as what you’d get on the guitar. Even still, you can do a lot of damage on this tiny instrument. For example, you can play over 1,500 easy ukulele songs using just 3 beginner chords (e.g. C, F, and G).

 

When you add a 4th chord (e.g. Am), that number jumps into the thousands.

 

And when it comes to “shredding,” the ukulele is no slouch.

 

I was skeptical at first too. But Jake Shimabukuro showed me how wrong I was. Check out his amazing performance of Eleanor Rigby down below.

 

                           

 

6. Ukuleles Are Quite Humbling

Music is often very competitive. Check out any guitar forum or discussion board, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

 

But it’s hard to be pretentious when you have a ukulele in your hand. There simply isn’t as much ego wrapped up in the instrument. And I actually feel more gracious and outgoing whenever I’m playing.

 

Maybe it’s the diminutive size or the cheerful sound it makes. But in the words of George Harrison, the ukulele is “one instrument you can’t play and not laugh.”

 

Should Everyone Really Play the Ukulele?

If it’s good enough for the Beatles’ lead guitarist, the ukulele is good enough for anyone.

 

But if you’re still hesitant, I totally get it. I was once a “non-believer” too. Because of the ukulele’s twangy, plunky sound, I never regarded it as a serious instrument for serious musicians.

 

That was a mistake. And my biggest regret is all the years I’ve wasted by not starting sooner.

 

So my advice is that you give it an honest try. Pick up a cheap ukulele and just play it for a few days. Whether you’re a budding musician or seasoned veteran, I’m pretty sure you’ll be surprised by the results.

You might even become hooked. -HC-

 

____________________________________

 

Austin Brentley is the creator of the Chord Genome Project – a music search engine that lets you find songs based on the chords they use. Do a search of G, C, and D, for example, and discover hundreds of easy tunes that use those chords (and only those chords).

 

 

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