Why is the ukulele such a great first instrument?

Ukulele pupil

It is small, light and easy to hold whether sitting down or standing up. It does not require a lot of physical strength. It gives a perfect introduction to melody, harmony and rhythm. And (unlike so many other instruments that I could mention) it does not sound harsh or jarring when a beginner plays it! There will be mistakes and duff notes of course, but they won’t make people wince half way down the street. Seriously, it is quite difficult to make a really unpleasant sound with a ukulele.

Will learning ukulele help with learning guitar later?

C major scale on the ukulele

Yes, a lot.  All the ukulele fingering patterns are the same as the patterns on the upper strings of the guitar.

G major scale on the guitar

In fact the four strings of the ukulele are, in essence, the same as the top four strings of the guitar. So if you switch to guitar later, it is just like adding two bass strings to an instrument that you already know. (OK, it’s not quite THAT straightforward. But in my experience, guitar beginners with a year of ukulele experience tend to learn at least twice or three times as fast as beginners with no ukulele experience. And they will be able to play some of their ukulele tunes on the guitar in the very 1st lesson).

What about the different sizes of ukulele?

Soprano ukuleles

Ukuleles come in various sizes. Three of them (rather confusingly called soprano, concert and tenor) have the same tuning and pitch (GCEA). Younger players will generally get on best with a soprano – these are the very small ones which you are most likely to see in music shops. Older and more advanced players will often find the soprano fingerboard too small, and be more comfortable with a concert or tenor ukulele which will have more room on the fingerboard.

There is also a larger size (the baritone) which is actually at a lower pitch (DGBE like the top four strings of a guitar).