How to Teach Kids to Play the Ukulele

Even if you’ve never played the ukulele, teaching and/or learning the ukulele is so fun and actually quite simple. We will explore an effective sequential curriculum for teaching the ukulele in elementary music lessons, providing a step-by-step guide to help you engage and inspire your young students.

Here's everything music teachers need to know about teaching kids to play the ukulele. Learn about curriculum, tuning, buying, and storing the ukulele.

Is it better to first teach chords or melody on the ukulele?

Many music teachers introduce the ukulele chords first while those who start with simple melodies believe their students are successful quicker than with chords.

I’m in the chord club! I mainly used chord learning with my younger students and later added some riffs and tablature for grades 4 and above.

  • Chords-play along to lots of songs using chords. There are tons of online sites to find lead sheets or play along videos.
  • Learn single-string melodies/riffs and chords. This takes learning a step or two further than just learning chords.

Left Hand Right Hand

Left hand on the fretboard and right hand strumming is standard playing technique. Tuning and chord charts are centered on this type of learning.

If a student plays the other way, you have one ukulele that can’t be used by others because it’s been restrung and you now need to teach the chords from two different perspectives. I never restrung an instrument.

When first learning, I just told the kids that both hands were equally important and that it was the standard for playing.

Teachers New to Ukulele Playing

Use the dropdown tab at the ⬆️ top of the page ⬆️ and just start playing. Don’t worry about strumming patterns or anything.

Just start playing.

The one thing you do have to have is a tuned ukulele! There’s a tuner on every page of the Oodles Ukulele Online Curriculum. If you don’t know how to do it, check out the tuning info below.

The menu is in sequential order beginning with “Ukulele-Getting Started” which is one-chord songs and then adding on slowly. If you are new to ukulele, start with the Getting Started page.

  • Ukulele-Getting Started
  • Easy Ukulele Songs with G7
  • C, F, and G7
  • C, F, G7, and Am
  • Ultimate Ukulele Chords that take you beyond the basics
  • Ukulele Seasonal Play Alongs

Teaching Techniques

Learning a New Song

Here’s a scaffolding idea! BEFORE playing a new song with a lead sheet or a play along video, play one strum ONLY where the chord changes. If the teacher sings the song with a slight pause before each chord change, students get familiar with the lyrics and where the chord changes occur. As students gain understanding of the song structure, you can build up to a steady tempo and even add in a play along.

Buying & Storing the Ukulele

Info on my favorite ukulele brand/model.

Ideas for HANGING, CART, and SHELVING on my ukulele storage post. (Includes common hardware and resource needs to get the job done!!)

Tuning Tips

Daily Tuning In the Classroom

I quickly tuned every morning. I’d use a tuner for the first few then do the next few by ear, then grab the tuner to make sure I’m on track, etc. The more you tune the faster and more accurate you get.

Then I’d play GCEA for the kids at the start of every class and if they thought something was off, they’d raise their hands and I’d come to them and either switch out their uke for the one I had with me or tune the one they were playing.

It was fast and simple. The only time I let kids tune was at a school where we had a string program. I let the middle school kids do some tuning.

Tuning Video

Tuning New Instruments

The strings on new instruments stretch and so getting them to hold their tuning takes a bit of time, but it’s NO BIG DEAL! It may take 24 hours of off-and-on tuning, or a couple of days, but you’ll get there.

I always over-tuned them slightly so maybe instead of GCEA I’d tune them a step higher and go ACF#B. Then the second time I’d see which strings were stretching out the most and adjust. Let’s say the A string was the most out of tune. I’d tune then to GCEB and see if that helped it finish its stretching quicker.

Trust your ear! Don’t put a tuner on every instrument as you’re doing this initial stretching. You can remember the tuning and then just double check yourself occasionally.

Join the hundreds of other teachers who get the Oodles Newsletter delivered to their inboxes every Monday morning, filled with the latest from content creator videos to timely resources.

Success! Use the PW: Oodles21 to unlock FREEBIES on the Subscriber Spot tab in the top menu!

Author: lbbartolomeo

I'm a mom, wife, teacher, reader, gardener, trekkie, sci-fi fanatic, musician, dog lover, and a Christian. I hope my contributions bring some joy and happiness to your life!

3 thoughts on “How to Teach Kids to Play the Ukulele”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: