April 09, 2015
What Teaching Ukulele and Guitar Can Do for Your Class’ Music Program
How ukulele and guitar benefits children
The guitar and ukulele are two of the world’s most popular instruments for a reason. In addition to being a blast to play, they’re also some of music’s most friendly instruments for beginners. If you’re looking for a great way to introduce your students to rock-solid music fundamentals like rhythm, scales, pitch, and keys, look no further than the guitar and ukulele. In this article, we’re highlighting the myriad benefits of teaching guitar and ukulele in the classroom, and giving tips for how to get the most out of teaching these incredible instruments.
Why guitars and ukuleles are phenomenal instruments for young students
Most instruments come attached with a “breaking in” period that requires young students to go through a challenging time before being able to play. For example, the trumpet demands students to master embouchure before being able to produce notes. Students can play music on the ukulele and guitar quickly and easily. Staple musical concepts like melody, harmony, and chords can be introduced and learned easily with these instruments.
Both ukuleles and guitars are offered in smaller sizes to accommodate young students of every age and body type. Ukuleles and guitars feature similar construction and playing techniques. The ukulele is simpler and easier to play than the guitar, making it the perfect gateway not just the guitar, but also all stringed instruments. Strumming is an intuitive motion for kids, so playing both of these instruments for the first time typically comes naturally. Oh, and did we mention that these instruments are incredibly affordable and easy to carry to and from lessons? In case you haven’t noticed, we’re really into guitars and ukuleles around here!
How ukuleles and guitars get kids excited about making music
It’s common for kids to find success in a remarkably short time after being introduced to these instruments. Guitars and ukuleles are much easier to handle compared to other instruments, and both can produce notes instantly. The ease of play inspires students to tackle more difficult concepts like scales and chord shapes. Learning material as simple as two or three chords gives kids the ability to learn hundreds of familiar songs. And between instrument-related blogs and videos and after-school clubs and local music events, there’s more opportunities for your kids to explore and thrive with these instruments than they can shake a stick at.
What is a good age to start playing guitar or ukulele?
Most music experts recommend introducing the guitar or ukulele to kids aged six and older. By that age, motor skills, dexterity, and finger strength crucial to playing these instruments will typically be developed in a child. Specifically, the act of holding down strings with one hand and strumming with the other is a skill difficult for kids aged six and under to achieve. And though these instruments are remarkably intuitive and easy to learn, they do demand young students to stay focused and follow instructions.
Guitar and ukulele programming tips
Like any educational endeavor, you’re not going to get far without laying out specific goals and expectations for your program. Do you want to teach your 3rd-graders scales and chords, or are you more interested in using these instruments to teach music theory and notation? Get specific!
Learn the instruments you plan on teaching
This is obvious, but your program is going to be a whole lot more successful if you learn all the instruments involved. Luckily, that won’t be too much of a headache, assuming you’re an experienced music educator. Demonstrating sounds, chord shapes, and playing styles is crucial, so make sure you know your way around the guitar and uke!
Research instrument-related resources to inform your curriculum
Between written material like books and guides and an unfathomable amount internet content, there’s more than plenty of resources out there for teaching the guitar and uke.
Pick up instruments and accessories
Ukes and guitars are bare-bones instruments, but you’ll need other accessories like tuners, cases, and extra strings for your program. You can find great deals on pre-packaged instruments that include these accessories. If you can, make sure all of your students have at least one instrument to play, and purchase extras in case some get misplaced or damaged. A note of caution here: Not all ukuleles and guitars are created equally! Avoid purchasing instruments that can’t be tuned, ones that don’t project well, and anything built with low-quality materials. A little research in this area goes a long way. If your school can’t fund your instrument program, consider looking into music grants.
When it comes to guitars, Lyons, Rogue, and Yamaha are great brands to consider. Mitchell and Mahalo are reliable options for ukuleles. Both guitars and ukes are offered in fun colors to encourage young students to get excited about playing.
Here’s some great instrument options to consider:
Mitchell MU40 Soprano Ukulele – Features a pack of ten instruments for classroom programs
Mahalo Kahiko Soprano Ukulele – Offered in fun colors for kids
Diamond Head Soprano Ukulele – Fun and easy to play for young students
Lyons Classroom Guitar – Great starter instruments for kids
Lyons Classroom Guitar Program Kit – A phenomenal deal! Buy ten, get one free!
Rogue Starter Acoustic Guitar – A great first instrument option for young guitarists
Yamaha Classical Guitar – Solid classical guitar craftsmanship at an affordable price
Get correctly sized instruments
Size is crucial when it comes to setting up your students for musical success on their instruments. When instruments are too large, they’re unplayable for small students. Start by trying out instruments that are recommended for your students ages, and move up to larger sizes if needed.
Guitar and ukulele sizing recommendations
Students 6-9 years old: Half-sized guitars
Students 9-11 years old: 3/4-sized guitars
Students 12 years old or older: Full-sized guitars
Ukuleles are offered in four sizes : soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. Soprano ukes, which are the smallest size available, are your best bet for beginner students.
Buying ukuleles and guitars for your classroom program
Guitar and ukulele programs are phenomenal tools for getting kids excited about music. The lessons kids learn early on through these instruments can enrich their educational and creative development for decades to come. If you need help making the best purchase for your unique classroom’s needs, Music & Arts’ incredible team of educational representatives are here to help!