Learning to play ukulele in a group is great. In fact, I think it’s actually better than learning on your own.

With most musical instruments, group teaching is a cost-saving option. When a teacher has four or five students in a group, they’ll get a better hourly rate, and students pay less per lesson.

But, with many instruments, and most people, being in a group very often isn’t the best way to learn, whether you’re an adult or a child. E.g. group violin lessons are often not very effective. (I know this from personal experience.) There’s a lot of complex technique and music theory to teach, and there are too many differences between students. It’s hard for the teacher to give each student the amount of individual attention that they need. It isn’t a level playing field.

Most violin teachers would much prefer to teach one or at most, two students at a time. Suzuki method lessons, where parents attend the lesson with their children, are an exception to this.

But, I’ve found that ukulele is different. Teaching groups of ukulele players (whether adults or children) is both effective and enjoyable for me as the teacher and for the students. Win-win!

What’s different about the ukulele

The technique involved in playing ukulele is relatively simple, compared to most other instruments.

It’s not usually considered a “serious” instrument. Therefore, having a fun experience is important.

The ukulele is a social instrument. For many people, playing ukulele is a great way to connect with others.

Ukuleles sound great in groups

There’s something about the ukulele sound range and timbre that easily and rewardingly combines with other ukuleles, to create a sound that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Two ukuleles sound better than one, and three is exponentially better than that, and so on. As long as everyone is on the same page, of course.

I wouldn’t have believed this if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

After a couple of lessons, you can go out and find some other ukulele players to play with. Or other musicians and/or singers. You’ll have lots of fun and you’ll get better much faster when you play with other people.

It doesn’t work like this with any other instrument or music genre I’ve ever experienced. Mostly you have to be fairly skilled before you sound good playing in a group. Even guitars are like this. But with ukuleles, all bets are off, straight away. How great is that?

How big is a group?

I prefer to teach groups no larger than 10 or at most 12 adults. At that size you get a great group vibe, while there’s also time for individual attention for each person when they need it.

When we make music together we get in sync with the other musicians. This is called entrainment and it’s one of the great pleasures of group music making.

When a group gets bigger than that it’s too impersonal, in my experience. And especially with beginners, it just takes too long to get everyone in tune, at the beginning of the class.

With children under 10, groups of up to six work well. More than that, and you can’t give enough attention to each student.

Five reasons to learn ukulele in a group

  1. You can learn from the others in the group. If you don’t understand something, chances are others have the same problem. You can watch while the teacher works with other students, rather than having the attention always on you.
  2. You’ll learn the skills of making music in a group.
  3. It’s more fun than learning on your own. And fun is the main reason that most people play the ukulele.
  4. Ukuleles sound better in groups. People often say to me, “I don’t sound as good on my own at home, as I do in class.” Usually they’re not doing anything wrong – it’s just because ukuleles sound better in groups.
  5. Playing in a group is the best way to improve your strumming, in my opinion.

I teach both groups and individual lessons. And there are definitely times when booking individual lessons is the best choice.

Five reasons to have individual lessons

  1. When you’re keen to get started. If there isn’t a group class available, some one-on-one lessons will get you going, while you’re waiting for the next round of classes.
  2. When you want some individual coaching for a specific purpose. Many people learn strums a lot faster with a small amount of one-on-one coaching. You may be able to get some individual coaching in a group class, but if that’s not enough, then a few individual lessons will help.
  3. When you want to learn a particular song that isn’t well known, or is quite difficult. Generally group classes will focus on songs that are popular and not too tricky.
  4. When you don’t have enough time to go out and join a group, but you want to make music.
  5. Some people just prefer playing on their own. And that’s okay too!

Online ukulele groups

I teach online ukulele groups as well as “in person” groups. With the online experience we don’t get the same sound experience as when we’re playing in the same room as other musicians.

But, being part of an online group is a great way to build ukulele skills, and build in accountability to practice. Without having to leave the house.

And it’s quite a buzz to be connected with ukulele players on the other side of the world!

Hi, I’m Alice

I’ve been in love with the ukulele since my mother, Sue, taught me three chords when I was six.

I teach ukulele to people all over the world via Zoom and Skype. If you happen to live in Hamilton, New Zealand, I also teach in-person classes.

You can find out about my group classes by clicking here. Or click this link to book a half-hour ukulele lesson online with me. $NZ35.

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Alice Bulmer ukulele teacher

Photographed by Brooke Baker

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