Exploring The Myth: Is The Ukulele Easy To Play

t’s one of the age-old questions that potential ukulele players ask. Is it easy to play? Part of me wants to say yes, but in doing so, I would be undermining all the hard work that people put in to learn the instrument.

It depends on where you are starting from and how far you want to go. It’s true that you can play a chord using just one finger. But what if you want to strum it in an interesting way, fingerpick it, or have the ability to move that chord to a different position on the neck? That’s going to require practice and patience, and that’s not always easy.

In truth, there are many reasons why the ukulele could be considered “easy” to play. It’s small in size, the strings are usually soft, and there are a million YouTube tutorials telling you exactly what to do. However, I could give you a list that’s three times as long as to why it could be considered hard.

So, buckle up and let’s try and figure out: is the ukulele easy to play?

While it might sound like I’m leaning on the side of the ukulele NOT being easy to play, I want to make it extremely clear that this isn’t a bad thing. Learning a new skill is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. Overcoming hurdles and accomplishing goals is all part of it. Where would the fun be if everything was easy to do?

Its Only 4 Strings

More often than not, the question I am addressing in this article is phrased, “is the ukulele easier to play than the guitar?” Guitars have 6 strings and ukuleles have 4. Case closed, right? Fewer strings mean less work, therefore the uke is a piece of cake? No.

The fewer number of strings on an instrument doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to play. If we thought about it that way, the harp would be impossible to play and Seasick Steve’s one-stringed Diddley Bow would be easy.

Unless you are doing some super intricate fingerpicking, beginners play multiple strings on a ukulele in a very similar way they would on a guitar. They strum chords by hitting each string in sequence. The strums are so fast that plucking an extra 2 strings is hardly any more work.

How about fingering the chords, though? Well, we only have four fingers on our fretting hand, so we are going to put them in all kinds of odd positions to play chords on both instruments. If you came to the ukulele hoping you wouldn’t have to ever play a barre chord, unfortunately, you have another thing coming.

It's small and "cute"

The easiest way to churn my stomach is to call the musical instrument I’ve committed half my life to “cute.” While I wouldn’t describe the ukulele in that way, it’s certainly a small instrument.

You may find yourself with more opportunities to practice as most ukes are easy to transport. I’m not saying you can whip it out while you have 4 minutes to spare waiting for the bus. But heading to the park to catch some sun? You can easily chuck a little soprano ukulele in your bag.

What Do Uke Players Think?

Barry Maz over at Got A Ukulele conducted a poll on his website over the course of 3 months. He asked a very simple question: “Being honest, when starting out with the ukulele, did you find it ‘easy’?”

When I first saw the question, I thought the results would be edging towards a lot of No’s. I was correct, but it was a massive margin. 98% of 15,000 people said they did not find the ukulele easy to play.

It’s hard to determine the playing level of the voters. If they are visiting a reputable website like Got A Ukulele, there’s a high chance they are somewhat serious about the ukulele.

Conclusion

The question of whether the ukulele is easy to play is complex. While its small size, soft strings, and abundance of online tutorials make it accessible, mastering it involves significant practice and patience.

The ukulele’s simplicity can be deceiving, as achieving proficiency requires dedication. Ultimately, the journey of learning the ukulele, with its challenges and rewards, makes it a fulfilling endeavour. Embrace the process, enjoy the learning curve, and remember that every step forward is an achievement worth celebrating.

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