It’s a Pandemic
I’m doing all lessons online for free-ish right now.
- If you want to play ukulele, go here.
- If you want to play guitar, go here.
- If you want to play harmonica, go here.
Let’s talk about ukulele lessons for a bit…
I hope learning from YouTube is gonna work for you. There are some wonderful teachers and amazing lessons there. But those teachers can’t see the crazy weird habits you’re developing accidentally and they can’t fix you. So be brave and schedule a Zoom lesson once in awhile so I can check to make sure you’re on the right path. Every month I meet people who need a little bit of adjustment and encouragement after their romp through YouTube. The sooner you get face to face with other musicians of all levels, the sooner you’ll be making real musical progress. We’re pretty nice people … except for the weirdos.
The other (perhaps more dangerous) thing you’ll encounter are surprisingly expensive “ukulele teachers” popping up these days. Ask a lot of questions before spending weeks or months (and hundreds of bones) with a guitar teacher who’s only doing this until the band’s album hits the charts. If their main line is teaching guitar, maybe you should take guitar lessons from them … not ukulele. I also know the temptation to believe expensive classes, or those given by “famous” musicians, are going to help you more. They might … and I hope they do … but in my experience, if you’re looking for more than singing and strumming and the opportunity for a fun social event and a selfie with your favorite artist, you might have better ways to spend your time and money.
So, my tirade…
There comes a time in most ukulele lives when you finally realize one or more of the following truths:
1. YouTube isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it’s harder to learn how to play an instrument than you wished — even when you’re taking them from me. There are lots of amazing lessons and how-to-play ukulele videos out there, but those teachers can’t look back at you and customize your lesson for all the weird habits you’re developing accidentally. And, by the way, you probably know this already, but some of those lessons are so wrong it’s scary!
2. That super cool book you bought to learn how to play ukulele isn’t calling out your name every night saying, “Hey, you oughta practice tonight,” and more importantly, that stupid book doesn’t make any sense and it’s full of mistakes. Right? I own most of the ukulele books out there and wouldn’t recommend any of them.
3. Channeling the universe to deliver you the spiritual guidance to magically become a ukulele rock star while you’re sitting on the couch, or your bed, or on the lanai, or in your car in the lowest part of the parking garage … ah heck, no matter where you’re plinking your little buddy, it’s starting to all sound the same and it’s just not as great as you’d hoped.
4. Your friends who said they’d teach you how to play are, well, they’re lame.
Time to get real…
Ukulele lessons come in several varieties:
1. The guitar teacher down the street says he or she can teach you ukulele too, but mainly they’re hoping to make it in Las Vegas playing electric guitar. Quick test to know if they really play ukulele: If they ask you to get out a pick and a capo then their main line is not ukulele.
2. The music school you’ve heard about gives ukulele lessons, but holy moly they’re expensive, and when you only spent $80 on your instrument paying twice that for one class doesn’t seem to compute, does it?! Sad truth: It doesn’t.
3. The music shop where you bought your ukulele seems weirdly focused on you meeting [insert name] who is the greatest teacher ever and it’ll only be [insert ghastly figure here]. Music shops don’t make money off of selling you an ukulele. They make money offering you lessons — see “guitar teacher” above.
4. Your nephew, brother-in-law, or girlfriend’s former girlfriend just graduated from Super Important Music Conservatory and they know everything about music and if you can’t learn ukulele from them, then you just can’t learn it. They don’t teach ukulele in colleges (yet), and your graduate friend is way better at other things in music than ukulele.
Don’t be confused by the nonsense you’re running into out in ukulele land … I’ve read it, seen it, tried some of it, and been left with a sadness in my heart about how many people are wasting time and money and failing at making music on the ukulele.
Here’s the truth…
1. Ukulele lessons don’t have to break the bank. Private lessons, group lessons, and activities with a ukulele focus are going on weekly.
2. Your guitar (or singing) teacher really IS still hoping to make it in Vegas. You need to ask a lot more questions. Chances are ukulele isn’t really their “thing.” I know of about five people in the Denver-metro area who really know ukulele and care about teaching you correctly. Chances are your city or town has even fewer, maybe zero.
3. That big-ole school might be great … but once you’ve gone through it and unloaded all that cash from your wallet, then what? They’re going to design ways to continue to extract big tuition figures from your wallet when the best education you can give yourself is to sit with others around your own kitchen table making music. That’s what the teachers in those schools do, you should too.
4. Music shops sell stuff … and these days thanks to Amazon the stuff can’t keep the electricity bills paid. So they need you to keep coming back and buying lessons from their dude.
5. They don’t study ukulele at Super Important Music Conservatory. They’re still struggling with why they should care about guitar. At Super Important Music Conservatory, clarinet is a big deal. Ukulele is not.
6. And yeah, the internet is a mess. Mostly you’ll be wasting time there.
So what are your alternatives?
1. How about you find a group of people who’ve been in the ukulele business for years and years?
2. How about you find a group that can start you off easy and keep you going for years to come with smart and funny people?
3. How about you trust us when we say, “Playing with other people is the key to learning effectively and quickly.”
4. How about you come hang out with us and we’ll show you how to not waste your money and time going down all sorts of ineffective paths?
5. How about you take this seriously, or not, and either way, we will give you a reason to be proud of becoming a musician who believes in the power of ukulele.
6. And finally, how about we teach you more than a few chords and then expect you to sing. Why don’t we have you STOP singing altogether for a little while and have you actually play the ukulele.
Why is this program more effective than others rolling around out there?
1. You’ll be playing full “legit” arrangements from real sheet music from Day One. (I know, Uncle Bob can play anything on guitar and doesn’t use sheet music. Good for Uncle Bob. You’re not Uncle Bob. And if you think about, Uncle Bob has been playing for 40 years, and he may be the single most annoying person you know.)
2. I’ve taught in every imaginable environment to every type of person for years and years and tackling one note at a time works. You’ll reap the benefits from my previous experience teaching this program to thousands of students.
3. I work under the notion that cheap doesn’t mean bad. Cheap means you can do this without worrying about finances and you can focus on showing up more often.
4. I’ve trained dozens of musicians (with real music degrees) to teach this system and they’ve received these ideas with relief they now have a program able to help you with life-long musical learning so you can become the player you’d hoped you’d be using the ukulele as the fastest, easiest, most fun, and maybe the most comprehensive way you can learn to play.
5. This system comes straight from the old masters of the lute and skips all the “formal education” nonsense that makes many students give up on music. I’ve modernized those old fashioned skills so they work with kids, teens, and adults. [joke] I’m not sure if they work with millennials because we’re waiting for them to look up from their phones. (On the other hand, they did read ALL those Harry Potter books and for that we owe them the benefit of the doubt.) [/joke]
6. I’ve built a wildly popular Summer Institute, Daily YouTube Workshop, and weekly online ukulele orchestra, and I am training more teachers to go out and spread the gospel of old-school ukulele. Most of this is free and world class.
7. And most importantly, I founded the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra, Denver Guitar Orchestra, and (probably soon) the Colorado Harmonica Marching Band believing ordinary people can make extraordinary music. You can take the model we’re working from here, and recreate it in your life at whatever level time allows.
So what’re your next steps?
1. You should swing by these websites and find out what’s going on this week:
- Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra (currently on hiatus due to the pandemic)
- Jolly Roger Ukulele (my site for teaching and learning ukulele online)
- Mammoth Gardens (my site for learning harmonica — mostly)
- Denver Guitar Orchestra (currently on hiatus, but working online daily)
2. You can call me directly and chat about the best way to get started. Sometimes it’s a private lesson, sometimes a group lesson, and sometimes you’re such a genius we’ll encourage you to go away and start your own band: 303-984-0777
3. You can email me and find out what options are best for you … some are free, and some at minimal cost. firstname.lastname@example.org
4. You can use my YouTube programs to get started in ukulele, baritone ukulele, harmonica or guitar. I do know there are a lot of young pretty blondes teaching ukulele online too and you’ll let me know how that’s going for you. I already know how it’s going, but I’ll be rooting for you … and them.
Lessons for Kids
Academic research agrees most students should be about 10 years old before you put them into fretted instrument instruction. Prior to fourth grade, we like to see kids in percussion, singing, and piano. I know, you’ve seen that six-year-old kid on 60 Minutes who plays Chopin. That’s not your kid.
Having said that, I know there is no end to the number of guitar teachers who will sign up your little one, plunk a 6-string monstrosity in their lap, and fill your head with visions of success at Red Rocks. I also know your kid is “different.” 🙂
If your kiddo is younger than 10 years old, let’s talk about the role you’ll play in helping them learn music and agree you’ll be seated side by side with them during lessons and be an active participant. Honestly, I’ll be teaching YOU.
The Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra wasn’t built by music school graduates burdened with the history of questionable pedagogy burned into their souls. I did publish one heck of a mean Circle of Fifths that is the world standard and looks great on clocks and coffee cups made in China. AND I have the single best book ever written for ukulele arpeggios and it’s free on our website. And the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra was built by and and for people who love making music, making mistakes, getting better, having fun, practicing and rehearsing, and going to lunch from time to time, without the burdens imposed on traditional music students to be the best. I can show you how the foundation of this program will turn you into a fine musician and give you the tools to create an orchestra in your town.
I joke about our daring plan to take over the world at the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra, but I’m only half kidding. We have an incredibly fun and inexpensive way for you to become a musician and make great music in a supportive educational environment. We even have scholarships if finances are going to be a challenge. We’ve been doing this for a long time. And yeah, you’ll take pride in being an orchestral musician doing something important.
I teach lots of free and low cost group classes in person and online and still believe it’s the best way to learn harmonica, ukulele or guitar and it can be the most fun too.
Private lessons are kind of expensive, but are the right way to go for many. You’ll agree to do my system because it works and give up on the idea of doing a system you saw or tried written by somebody else. Add a travel fee if I agree to travel to you. My calendar is too busy, so if I can’t meet with you, I know lots of quality teachers and will put you in contact with them.
Gary Jugert: Teaches all levels of ukulele and runs the guitar and ukulele orchestras. email@example.com
We have a team of certified ukulele instructors in our stable. Here’s a couple of our leaders.
Marnie Ward: Teaches voice, performance and ukulele.
Cindy Warrick: Teaches ukulele in Highlands Ranch.