Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the best ukuleles for students to play?
This site doesn't endorse any particular brands of ukulele (and neither should teachers endorse a brand with students), but the best type of ukulele is one that is sized appropriately, is in tune with itself, projects well, and is well-constructed.
2. What is the best age for students to begin learning the ukulele?
Students as young as Kindergarten can physically play a ukulele properly, but not all students develop cognitive and fine-motor skills at the same rate. When working with a class of students, waiting until 4th grade generally ensures the developmental readiness of the whole group. Each grade younger will have an increasing number of students who will simply have to go slower.
3. What size ukulele should students play?
Soprano ukuleles are the original size and best for elementary students because they are the smallest. Concert ukuleles are slightly larger and may have a fuller tone, and tenor ukuleles are larger and fuller yet. These sizes are all tuned the same. There is also a baritone ukulele, which is as large as a half-size guitar and is also tuned like the first four strings of the guitar (d,g,b,e). As a result, baritone ukuleles require different sheet music than other ukuleles. Some people actually do not consider baritone ukuleles to be true ukuleles!
4. Isn't the ukulele too fragile to use with younger students?
Before giving an instrument to students at any age, students need to learn the proper care and handling of the instrument. But regularly-abled students who have been in school for even just a year (i.e. Kindergarten) tend to recognize that the ukulele is not a toy, by design. It is not made of plastic and the sound isn't produced in a way that lends itself to abuse (i.e. striking or blowing very hard). Nevertheless, ukuleles can generally sustain being dropped on the floor from a height of a foot or two with no major damage, and tuners can sustain over-tightening by several steps for short periods of time with no major problems.
5. What are the advantages of a ukulele program over a guitar program?
Ukuleles are about half as expensive as guitars, and have a much gentler learning curve, but provide almost all of the same benefits as a teaching tool. There is also no need for special sizing for younger students, no picks necessary, and no need to develop callouses to play since the ukulele traditionally does not have any metal strings. With only four strings on the ukulele, there is no need for deadening or skipping strings in the playing technique (as there is with the guitar), and it is possible to play over a dozen chords with just one or two fingers on the fretboard. Using only the treble clef, as opposed to both the treble and bass clef, also makes the ukulele simpler as a tool for teaching students still developing music literacy.