Getting better at an instrument - help me hive mind!

Hey folks. I’ve got into the Ukulele this year after falling in love with it due to seeing it played by the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra (founded by Bret from Flight of the Conchords actually).

You can see their stuff here (before I continue):

And of course, the ‘original’ UK orchestra:…

…anyway. I’ve got a lovely cute little green uke and a more flash and expensive ‘concert’ uke (bit bigger, better strings). I’ve had a few lessons with the local strings shop guy (who is a real doyen of the local music scene) and now am at the point I can move through a good number of chords confidently, can strum out a variety of rhythms etc.

I don’t read sheet music but I can work at tabs and some finger picking. But what next? I’m really hoping I can keep learning and push my skills further, but I am sort of stuck. Perhaps self teaching isn’t going to be best? I do ok with various online tabs, guides, tips, etc, but I’m really keen on pushing things further.

So anyone out there who has been through that sort of hump in learning an instrument able to give me some tips?

And as a reward, here’s me teaching my niece! Awww, cute. She’s cool too.

A Ukelele is the opposite of a bass, it’s just the four highest strings of a guitar, instead of the four lowest. This means that you can access pretty much any tabulature website and start learning, just erase the A and low E string.


Speaking of ukelele… posted here before, but still absolutely amazing:

Edit: same guy, same song, better clip:

Learn to read sheet music. It’s not that hard, and, combined with a knowledge of chords will let you read melodies and put together an accompaniment.

I have never liked the ukelele, but that was fucking awesome.

Tiptoe…through the tulips…

But seriously, check out this site to help you:

There are also a ton of ukelele lessons online at youtube, like this:

Really? Didn’t realize that.

Do the chords literally translate that easily? A G chord on a ukelele is just third fret, e string? That can’t be right. I guess I could see the rest kinda working. But power chords would be out, I guess.

The chords are a bit different (as seen below).

Yeah, I can read music a bit. I’m not sure how it will help as so much of the Uke is strumming, not so much finger picking… I’m thinking perhaps I should look for a jam group to join or something. Thanks for the links though :)

Big chord image:

Is this just another way for you to meet girls?

Haven’t you seen 50 First Dates?!

Ack, no; I’ve been busy practicing my dancing.

And my Guitar Hero. Which may have something to do with not having had 50 dates.

What tuning is that? The guy I know with a Uke just uses standard tuning, so a G is just first string, third fret and away you go. On reflection, that might not be a pure way to do it since the low root of the chord isn’t the root note, but a Uke is supposed to sound tinny.


I’m a retard, this is a better chord chart

G, C, E, A is the standard tunning.

There’s a bit of info here:

And there’s mention of the other ukes, Concert, Tenor and Baritone (Sporano being the standard one, eg, the green one above).

“Unlike most other ukuleles, baritone ukuleles are not re-entrant tuned; instead they’re tuned D-G-B-E (low to high) matching the tuning of the top four strings of a guitar.”

There you go, hope that helped a bit!

Getting a teacher, or finding someone who knows the instrument and bouncing ideas off of him, is a great start. But typically you’re going to need:

  1. Learn sheet music. As Gav says, it’s really, really easy; you can learn almost everything you need to know in about 10 minutes.

  2. Find someone who knows the instrument to teach and/or jam with and show you some tricks (see below). Craigslist, maybe?

  3. You will learn to be a better player by doing exercises and/or etudes that are designed to teach you individual techniques. You can get these in books, or from teachers. Books are likely readily available – and they might teach you the basics of reading music as well.

1 and 2 are definitely something I should pursue I think. My teacher (who is a great fiddle and mandolin player, and ok uke player) was quite pleased with my progress when I was learning (aren’t all teachers tho?), so I think that setting suits me. And I pick up stuff off the internet quickly enough.

Learning how to read music and then apply it to the instrument will be interesting and challenging and perhaps well suited to a book, although I find books have trouble conveying the ‘style’ of uke playing.

Hmm, still interesting, thanks :)

I can’t read sheet music and have no intention to start after about 20 years of playing guitar. Sure, it would be better for me if I did, but it wasn’t easy for me when I seriously tried, and I find that for the scribbling I do, tab is better, I don’t learn songs anyway - I mostly just improv blues as therapy.

This was a problem for a bit in jazz band in high school, but not for long. I just memorized everything and was fine.

For guitar, and I presume ukulele, I think it’s all about Chords and Scales, and those are visual patterns that allow you to avoid reading sheet music. Well, Chords + Scales + an ear, when you’re trying to learn something. But I think you can get started faster focusing on the patterns.

Ukulele is essentially the same as guitar, it just starts in a different place:

using "x" for flats and sharps because I'm lazy:
eadgbe  guitar starts here with conventional G tuning, I think it's called.
ad[b]gcea[/b] ukulele starts here

Ukulele thread without Bruddah Iz? Can’t have it.

Yeah, I probably need to spend some time with better players and to emulate their playing and style as well as pick up better musical knowledge. Good plan for me I think!