Play Without Practice


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Single BEST way to get better

The VERY BEST way to learn new ukulele songs and get better is by playing with other musicians

By joining a uke club, you’ll be in the company of fellow uke lovers, bringing in their own influences, knowledge, techniques, and style. And YOU get to soak it all in, and try it all out in safe environment–with a bunch of people playing at the same time, you can mess up and no one will notice…

Every uke club I’ve been to has been lovely and welcoming, so don’t be shy, and don’t say you’re not good enough “yet.” — To get better, you gotta play!

How to Find a Uke Group to Join

  • Uke Clubs around the globe, CLICK HERE
  • Ukester Brown has a very comprehensive listing of ukulele clubs around the world, here
  • My ukulele hero, Jumpin’ Jim, has a list of ukulele festivals and uke events here

If you happen to be in my neighborhood:

I helped start the wondeful Ukulelel Union of Boston — join us online or in real life! Info here.

Practice without a uke

Practice without a uke

This sounds a little odd, but for strumming practice, you don’t need a uke in your hands at all!

As you probably know, all patterns (and non-patterns) are made up of up-strokes and down-strokes. Find the spot on your tummy where your uke would normally press, and just practice your ups and downs right there. You’ll be able to imagine the sound of the strum, without being distracted by the actual sound of the strum–in some ways that’s actually better!

Note: this really works.

Note: do not do this while wearing flannel. The static build-up can reach dangerous levels.

Have a list of specific things you want to work on

Have a list of specific things you want to work on

Keep track of what it is you want to learn. For example:

  • a specific ukulele song (one you enjoy!)
  • better yet, a specific part of a specific song
  • transition between two particular chords
  • second position chords (or third!)
  • a certain strum pattern that needs work
  • singing while strumming
  • etc.


You’ll be primed and ready to make the most of your practice when you don’t have to fumble and wonder, “What shall I do next?”

Find hidden pockets of time–and use them!

Find hidden pockets of time–and use them!

An ideal practice time for me is waiting for the bus with my son. (We wait inside). Not only do I get some practice time, the boy will often sing along, so it’s a pretty great way to start the day.

When else?

  • mentioned microwave time
  • Red light, in the car
  • On hold on the phone
  • Commercials on TV
  • Find your own voids–and fill ’em!

Leave your uke out of its case

Leave your uke out of its case so you can grab it any time

Another advantage of a cheap uke!

Your precious, expensive uke you’ll want to store in its case to keep off the dust, protected by a special dehumidifier, and handled only by adults, ideally wearing cotton gloves.

A cheap uke, you can leave on the couch, toss by the TV, or keep in that humid, dusty kitchen.

The kitchen is actually an ideal spot. How long does a microwave burrito take? Three minutes? What else are you gonna do while its cooking? I can get through “Camptown Ladies” four times in three minutes!

Not that I actually eat microwave burritos.

Very often.

Have More Than One Uke

Similar to previous tip, at 30-40 bucks, you might want to grab more than one uke.

I have one in the car — yes, in the car. When certain songs come on, I have to screech to the side of the road. There’s something invigorating about noodling along with Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday. Or, for that matter, the Beatles or Weezer.

I do NOT play while actually driving.

Very often.

Go Cheap or Go Home!

Buy a cheap uke so you can take it with you everywhere and not worry about it

The more you play, the better you get — that’s just math. There are a lot of wonderful (and wonderfully expensive) ukes out there. But buying a cheapie means you can drag your uke around with you and play whenever inspiration strikes.

A couple of great choices, that give a lot of good sound for the money:

See also: my article on best ukuleles under $200 (not cheap, but might give you a few ideas)


There’s an argument for having a super-deluxe uke, too — one that you love and can’t wait to get your hands on. If you’re rich and motivated — power to ya!

See Also: The Most Expensive Ukulele in the World