The diminutive ukulele has a character that defies its small size, and that’s partly why the instrument has surged in popularity in the last couple of decades.
Some 1.6 million ukuleles were sold in the US in 2016, more than triple the figure sold in the early 2000s!
Why is the ukulele so popular? Because the ukulele is an incredibly fun-packed instrument that bears all the hallmarks of a flexible, musical stringed instrument too.
Ukuleles are not toys, they’re capable little instruments with a bright and recognizable tone that can accurately recreate songs composed across many genres including blues, jazz, popular, RnB, hip hop, rock, and much more. In fact, you can find ukulele covers of pretty much any song now ranging from the hardest of rock and metal to complex classical pieces like Carmen.
Another reason why the ukulele has risen in popularity is because of its small size – it’s the most convenient traveling instrument around.
The soprano ukulele is just 51 to 53cm long! This makes the ukulele the perfect travel companion, regardless of whether that’s a trip busking, a trip away on holiday, traveling, or wherever.
Let’s not neglect the tone and sound of a ukulele though! They sound fantastic. From the charming chirps of a soprano ukulele to the deeper, warmer tone of a baritone uke, ukuleles are serious instruments and have cemented their place in classic and contemporary music.
- 1 The Anatomy of the Ukulele
- 2 Learning the Ukulele
- 3 Uke Like the Pros
- 4 Ukulele Buddy
- 5 Artist Works Online Ukulele Lessons with Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel
- 6 Learning Ukulele with Curt
- 7 Ukulele Tricks
- 8 Ukulele Underground
- 9 Udemy – Ukulele Courses
- 9.1 Complete Ukulele Beginner Course (2021 Update) by Jakob Puchmayr
- 9.2 The Ukulele Academy: Play Music Today! (2021 Update) by Andrew J. Smith
- 9.3 Fun Beginner Ukulele Course by Henry Olsen
- 9.4 Play Ukulele Now – Dan “Cool hand Uke” Scanlan
- 9.5 Ukulele Fingerstyle Super Course – Paul Lennon and Amanda Jones
- 9.6 Complete Course on Baritone Ukulele – Micah Blake
- 10 Summary: Best Online Ukulele Lessons
The Anatomy of the Ukulele
Ukuleles are small stringed instruments from the lute family, not the guitar family like most assume. Of course, ukuleles are still guitars practically speaking.
The crucial difference between the ukulele and guitar, aside from the size, is the fact that ukes have 4 strings (typically nylon). Ukes, due to their size, produce a typically chirpy and bright tone, but baritone ukuleles do sound more like a small ¾ size guitar. Ukuleles are usually played with the fingers and nails, ‘fingerstyle’, rather than with a pick or plectrum, as a guitar is.
Ukuleles are quite new instruments and their origins can likely be traced back around 200 years or so. Portuguese colonialists may have brought the ukulele to Hawaii where it took on the name ukulele, loosely translating as “jumping flea”. The tone of a ukulele is tropical, playful, and fun, but baritone ukes do sound somewhat similar to a guitar and are much deeper and warmer.
Ukuleles have been used in many modern tracks and compositions – they’ve become much more popular since the late 90s and early 2000s and there are now thousands of accomplished uke players out there.
The ukulele is not a novelty instrument as some see it, it’s a practical and great-sounding stringed instrument that can be carried anywhere.
Another benefit of the ukulele is that its natural volume is quite low, which makes it an ideal accompaniment to unamplified vocals and other quiet instruments.
Learning the Ukulele
Ukuleles, with their 4 string and small size, are some of the simplest string instruments to learn. But, there is a twist, as the size of a ukulele does also present some potentially nifty techniques that sound very cool and are difficult to master.
Overall, the ukulele is a great instrument to learn for both experienced musicians and those with no instrument playing or musical experience whatsoever.
With the assistance of the best courses for learning the ukulele, it’s easy to go from zero to an accomplished player in a year or so. The basics can be learned in just weeks, providing the teacher and course material is good!
We’ve compiled the best courses for learning the ukulele – here they are.
Uke Like the Pros is composed and produced by Terry Carter, an esteemed musician that has worked with numerous high-profile acts and producers worldwide. Terry turned his trade to teaching and has two courses to his name; Uke Like the Pros and Rock Like the Pros. Both are highly successful and are firm fan favorites amongst new and established musical circles.
Format and Structure
Uke Like the Pros contains 19 individually organized courses, each of which includes approx 20 videos. The content covers everything from posture and warmups to picking, strumming, fingerstyle, and genre-specific techniques for jazz and blues.
These are organized into a ‘roadmap’ that takes course members through the basics, intermediate and advanced steps of playing the ukulele before embarking on 3 bonus courses that cover baritone ukulele, guitalele, and plenty of awesome bonus tips, tricks, and techniques that can really augment and enrich the experience of playing the ukulele.
Each video is very well-designed and the vast majority are modern with full HD video and audio. The teaching methods are clear and well-presented with a good blend of practical and theory. There’s plenty of depth to the course and members can dip in and out when they want.
The pricing structure here is pretty confusing with courses being purchasable either individually or with 3 different membership tiers. The beginner course costs just $5 but comes with a very limited selection of lessons.
The Beginning Ukulele Bootcamp is probably a better shout at $16.00. Being able to pick and choose courses from the roadmap works well in the end, as it really allows uke players to progress at their own pace and help their learning without making one large investment. It’s also worth mentioning that each course comes with a full money back guarantee.
Pros of Uke Like the Pros
- Massive course coverage
- Suitable for all learners
- Plenty of advanced lessons
- Covers all genres
- Well-made, modern HD videos
- Fairly priced overall
Cons of Uke Like the Pros
- Might need to invest in 2 or 3 courses at least
Ukulele Buddy is a classic online course (there is also a DVD), hosted by two ukulele gurus JP Allen and Mitch Chang. This course comes at a very nice one-off cost of $67, so all you need to do is buy it and follow it. Since there are two tutors, there’s a nice mixture of learning styles on offer too, and the upbeat, friendly nature of the course and teachers is evident.
Format and Structure
In the format of some 80, 7-minute instructional videos, Ukulele Buddy has some 10 hours of video content alongside some bonuses that include songbooks and plenty of extra tips and tricks. Everything is covered from posture and warmups to chords, scales, strumming and ukulele-specific techniques.
10 hours is a fair chunk and the lessons easily cover the basics and a good deal of intermediate techniques, but some advanced techniques are perhaps lacking. In a sense, this is a good thing as the course is not expensive and it does a very good job at laying the groundwork for personal musical development.
In many ways, this is a classic chronological course for first-time learners. It’s all very easy to follow and will take you through the basics before moving on to intermediate techniques, finishing off with some solid lessons on advanced ukulele playing.
As mentioned, Ukulele Buddy costs a flat $67. This represents excellent value and whilst the course doesn’t delve into too many advanced techniques, it’s very tough to poke holes in its content. It represents superb value for entirely new ukulele players.
Pros of Ukulele Buddy
- Well organized and chronological course
- Suitable for all learners
- Small one-off fee
- Very simple to follow
- Two tutors for some diversity
Cons of Ukulele Buddy
- Maybe lacking some advanced material
Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel are both highly esteemed musicians and well-known musical personalities when it comes to the ukulele. The Artist Works platform is excellent and allows learners to submit their own videos for critique, help, and support. The course allows up to 5 video submissions to these two epic teachers, which is great.
Format and Structure
There are 100s of lessons here, many of which are around 10 minutes in length. They’re primarily broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels and cover everything from posture and picking to chords, scales, pick rolls, and more.
You can tell that the two instructors have put a lot of time into breaking the instrument down for new learners, but the advanced techniques are also present and accounted for, which is great. In fact, even current advanced uke players will find some challenging material here.
This course is accessible in either 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month blocks. The 3-month course costs $105, rising to $179 for 6-months and $279 for 12-months. Learning is self-paced once the course is purchased and there probably is enough material to cover 12-months with weekly learning sessions.
Pros of Artist Works Online Ukulele Lessons with Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel
- Integrated to the Artist Works site
- Two excellent teachers
- Tons of material in bitesize chunks
- Plenty of coverage of advanced techniques
- Chance to send videos to the tutors via the platform
Cons of Artist Works Online Ukulele Lessons with Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel
- Need to fit in a lot of learning to make the most out of the shortest 3-month membership option
Curt Sheller is a renowned ukulele artist-turned-teacher that authored this awesome and highly popular ukulele course. His own website is a tremendous ukulele resource that clearly underlines his own personal passion and dedication to the instrument.
Format and Structure
Curt offers tons of free basic videos that require no subscription and his teaching is pretty much limitless from there. There are reportedly over 230 videos on the site, and whilst it can be quite difficult to navigate, it’s all there and covers everything from the very basics to the most complex jazz and blues-infused chords, scales, and techniques.
Curt is always updating the site, e.g. with his ‘chord of the day’, and can be booked out on one-to-one lessons. For serious ukulele learners or those coming from other musical backgrounds, this is a really powerful and enjoyable resource, but it caters to beginners well too and there’s a lot of free material to dig through.
Basic free membership the site grants access to a good deal of material, easily enough to learn the basics of the ukulele. From there, members can opt for a monthly $9 membership, $81 annual membership, or $149 ‘forever’ membership.
Pros of Learning Ukulele with Curt
- Curt himself is hugely dedicated
- Access to tons of ukulele resources
- Wide range of skill levels covered
- Always being updated
- Avid community of supporters
- Reasonable pricing
Cons of Learning Ukulele with Curt
- The site is a bit dated and confusing
By Brett McQueen, the author of Ukulele Exercises For Dummies, Ukulele Tricks is a pretty new ukulele learning platform and course. It offers a very generous selection of free lessons, and from there, members can choose to purchase any one of 7 ‘tricks’ courses that cover the ukulele in newfound detail compared to most other courses.
Format and Structure
Ukulele Tricks has a beginner’s section that provides stacks of free content. In fact, there are over 50 free lessons there, which is plenty for most beginners to get their teeth into.
The magic happens once members progress to the ‘tricks’ series of lessons, of which there are currently 7; strumming, fingerpicking, blues, country bluegrass, jazz, minor arpeggios, and chord melody. Intermediate and advanced players can jump in and purchase one of these excellent booster courses to take their ukulele skills to a new level, or to supplement their existing abilities.
As mentioned, there are stacks of free content on Ukulele Tricks – around 50 lessons! The ‘tricks’ courses seem to cost around $100 and require enrolment, presumably because McQueen takes a hand in the courses as they run and helps assist students.
Pros of Ukulele Tricks
- Massive range of free material
- Well-made, modern videos
- Well-suited to intermediate and advanced users
- Tons of written content and resources too
- Lots of genre-specific courses and techniques
Cons of Ukulele Tricks
- A touch pricey for the paid content (but barely an issue)
Ukulele Underground is a huge resource with many contributors but primarily Aldrine Guerrero, a ukulele master and awesome teacher that takes the forefront of the Ukulele Underground platform. Ukulele Underground has been featured in major news publications like the LA Times and features hundreds of lessons (over 400, in fact!).
It caters to all levels of ukulele skills and abilities and consistently ranks amongst the best ukulele courses online.
Format and Structure
This epic site is mostly managed by ukulele virtuoso Aldrine Guerro.
The Ukulele Underground is grouped into 2 main areas; Songs and Tutorials. The songs section covers such a vast range of songs across literally every genre imaginable and is composed and shot in a way that lets learners jam along to them with the relevant chords, scales, and other information.
Remarkably, most of these songs are free and each one comes with its own video and written content to explain what’s going on and exactly how to play the song.
Subscribers gain access to all premium content, but they also get two 15 minute lessons with Aldrine himself as well as access to all sorts of community and group sessions.
There’s tons of free content here, but the paid version of the site costs just $19.99 per month and grants access to genuine one-to-one lessons with the course leader and teacher Alrdrine, as well as access to shed loads of premium resources.
There are live coaching sessions and Q&As, and they can be canceled at any time. A yearly $159.95 option is also available. Ukulele Underground is a fully-fledged platform for all ukulele learners with a rather unique personal touch courtesy of Aldrine Guerrero.
Pros of Ukulele Underground
- Huge range of song lessons
- Well-maintained and updated site
- Members get one-to-one lessons as standard
- Live sessions
- Suits learners of every level
Cons of Ukulele Underground
Udemy – Ukulele Courses
Unsurprisingly, there are loads of ukulele courses on the eLearning portal and gateway Udemy. Udemy is a huge learning resource publisher where individuals can post their own custom-made courses for retail through the platform. This ensures that all material is of a certain standard and is well-organized through the Udemy platform itself. Pricing is very competitive and there are always deals on!
Ukuleles, like most other instruments, are well-covered on Udemy.
In fact, as of now, there are some 78 courses on ukuleles! The vast majority of these are short courses of just 1 to 2 hours, but they come at cheap one-off costs and are good for getting a flavor of the instrument. There is also a decent selection of courses aimed at established ukulele players, e.g. those who want to brush up on their fingerstyle techniques.
Let’s look at some of the best-rated ukulele courses on Udemy:
This 5-hour ukulele course contains strumming patterns, chords, picking patterns, and more; enough to equip ukulele learners with the majority of basic and intermediate techniques. There are some 63 downloadable resources too. All material is well-presented and expertly recorded. At the price, this is an excellent Udemy ukulele course with very solid ratings.
A light-hearted and easygoing course compacted into just 2.5 hours, this ukulele course is very practical and hands-on. There is enough music theory, however, but it’s focused on picking the ukulele up and playing some music on it, which is great. Andrew Smith himself is an upbeat and accomplished teacher.
The clue is in the name here – this fun 2-hour course is designed to be hands-on and fun. It’s designed to get a new ukulele up and running with some basic chords, picking, and strumming patterns. There’s nothing heavy here, this is a basic intro course that requires no prior experience with the ukulele.
The aptly named Dan “Cool hand Uke” Scanlan authored this awesome little course which is designed to be practical and hands-on. It is 5-hours long, though, so it doesn’t skimp out on the content. It covers all the basics such as posture, warmups, tuning, strumming, and picking as well as several intermediate and advanced techniques.
Ukulele is traditionally a fingerstyle instrument, in that no pick or plectrum is required to play it. This course is dedicated solely to playing the ukulele as a fingerstyle instrument, so if you want to totally skip the pick, then this is an excellent course to invest in. It also covers the basics of the ukulele right up to intermediate and advanced level and contains a super 10 hours of content.
The largest of the ukuleles, the baritone ukulele, plays very similarly to a guitar. This course is dedicated specifically to the baritone ukulele. It’s only an introductory course with 1 hour of video, but is priced to match and serves as a good course for anyone moving from a smaller ukulele to a baritone.
Summary: Best Online Ukulele Lessons
The ukulele is a superb little instrument. Not only does it sound awesome and highly unique, but it’s cheap, portable, and easy to learn. However, just because the ukulele is easy to learn for newcomers doesn’t mean it’s hard to master! On the contrary, the ukulele has tons of its own unique little quirks and nuances to get stuck into.
The ukulele is a popular instrument for a reason and it serves as an excellent springboard for learning other stringed instruments, particularly the guitar, as one might imagine.
Learning the ukulele online is simple and there are loads of excellent courses out there. All of these courses are much-loved by their respective members and some have been around for quite some time. It’s hard to choose the wrong course here – all of these courses are perfect for ukulele learners of every level – so go and get stuck in!