Ukulele Tips & Tricks to improve your playing.

At Home Ukulele Lessons in London For Children

Will you come to my house and teach my children how to play the ukulele?

At the moment, we don’t teach children privately, only in whole class situations at school. Sadly, we don’t have any vacancies for new private students or the time to travel around London teaching at various people’s houses during the evening. We get lots of requests from lovely people, like you, who contact us for private lessons for their children, but they generally live quite far away from one another. We may consider running half term holiday schools for children in the future, if there is sufficient demand for these types of schools, but for now, it’s probably easiest if we just say ‘no’ we don’t teach them at all.

BUT, all is not lost… Please read on:

You should come along to learn how to play the ukulele yourself, and teach your child(ren). You’ll play your first song in an hour, even with no prior musical experience. We teach adults, in groups, after work in the evenings. It’s masses of fun, so you’ll get out of the house and meet other adults. You’re likely to make a few friends and you will pick up and play a popular song on the ukulele within an hour. The knowledge that you gain in that first hour can last for about 4-5 hours of lessons with your child. This will be a bonus to your family as this time you spend with your child will be constructive and fun – you’ll be spending quality time together, you’ll be singing and playing. It’s scientifically proven that you like people when you sing and make music together, so it’s a great way to get together with your family.

When you’ve learned how to play the ukulele, you can grab one of Lorraine’s books, Ukulele Basics and teach your child(ren) using the repertoire and resources in it. There’s a special CD Rom that will help you to pass on your skills, whether you are a parent or a teacher looking to teach ukulele to children at school.

We hope to see you at one of our 4-week ukulele courses very soon, and we hope this will be a valuable investment, 8 hours of your time with us, then the time you spend with your child using Ukulele Basics.


5 Ukulele Strumming Considerations

5 Ukulele Strumming Considerations (Should I Cut my Nails?)

We often get asked questions about how to strum, where to strum, what to strum with and lots of other, more detailed questions. Thank you for asking, this blog is just for you! Before I answer how where and what with, I’d like to cover 5 things.

1. Should I cut my nails?

In a word, yes. On the chord making hand. If you have long nails on the chord making hand, it will keep your finger away from the strings. You need your fingertip to be able to press the strings down to make a chord, or it will sound ‘dead’ or ‘muted’. Chords need three or more notes sounding, so three strings ringing clearly to make a chord. If some of your strings are dead your chord may sound unusual and not as you want it to. Later on, when you’ve been playing for a while, if you want to pick notes out (this is sometimes known as playing fingerstyle) then it may help to have long nails or acrylic nails on the finger picking hand. (As I do at times, shown in the photo above)

Ukulele Nails

Ukulele nails – short on the fretting or chord making hand, and long (if possible) on your strumming or picking hand.

2. Can I play with my thumb?

In practice, you can play with any digit you like. I prefer to play with my finger, as the nail hits on the on beat, with the flesh coming back up on the off beat. If you play with your thumb the reverse is true. That’s good if you’re looking to get a reggae or ska feel, or play gently for jazzy or gentle songs, but starting out it might be worth learning to play with your finger.

3. Can I play with a plectrum?

If you want to be really loud, and play lead lines and single notes, then yes, do play with a plectrum. I prefer not to, I prefer finger picking both for strumming and for lead melody playing.

4. Can I use a felt pick?

Yes, but I think it’s better to learn to use your finger to strum, as there are many percussive strums and ukulele tricks you can employ later on which use a finger, some fingers, or finger and thumb combos.

5. Where (on the ukulele) do I strum?

It sounds nicest if you strum over the fretboard. The strings are closer to the fretboard than they are to the body, so you’re less likely to catch your finger when you’re strumming there, than if you were strumming lower down towards the soundhole. Also, you are less likely to damage the body of the ukulele as you won’t bash it if your finger lands in mid air, whereas you’ll end up with a hole if your nails bash the body. A musical and a practical reason to shift your finger along!

Want to see a video to help you along? Here you go!

10 ways to improve your ukulele playing…

We often get asked for tips on how to become a better ukulele player.  Here’s a few ideas to help you along and help you to improve your ukulele playing.

absolute beginners ukulele course in London

1.  Get lessons.  Come and learn in a group with us.

We were bound to say that, right?  And yes, there are many other ways to learn to play the ukulele.  You can learn from a book, you can learn via YouTube, you can learn from your pals, or at a jam night.  The thing is, when you book lessons with a teacher, you’re getting their years of experience, with hints, tips and guidance. They’ll watch your technique, and answer your questions and go over it until you’re confident.  When you learn in a group, it’s more fun, you can socialise with your peers and it gives you the impetus to want to play along.  Ukulele is a social instrument, after all.

2.  Do your homework.  Practice playing, (and singing).

Yes, the dreaded P word.  But, all the greats practice for many, many hours to be come accomplished musicians.  You’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to spend quite that many hours practicing to strum along with your chums down the pub, but to play the songs well, you should take some time playing on your own at home.  Practice can be divided up into a few more points…

3.  Practice the things you find hardest most often.

It’s all well and good keep playing a song, but getting stuck at one point.  Practice the point that you get stuck on so that you don’t get stuck and you can play that song you love in it’s entirety, well.

4.  Strumming (and singing).

“It’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy.”  Yes, it is.  It’s also like driving a car and chatting to your passenger, when you first pass your test.  These things are possible, but first you need to get comfortable with the first thing, and introduce the second as soon into it as you can.  In the case of strumming, strum in a regular even tempo, repeating the strum so you are comfortable, and then sing as soon as you are able to stop concentrating on what your hand is doing.  Keep trying to take away the focus from your hand.

5.  Chord changing.

If that’s the bit that you’re finding difficult, take the two, three, or however many chords in succession that you’re hesitant on switching between and keep looping them until you find it easy to switch between them.

6.  Timing.

If you’re struggling to keep in time, try playing along with the track you like, or grab a metronome (there are free apps available).  Play along and keep in time with the track or metronome and don’t let the previous stumbling points stop you!

7.  Play at a local ukulele jam.  

In London there are loads including Ukulele Wednesdays, every Wednesday. Playing with others is not only fun, but a good way to meet others and get better if you’re in your early playing stages.


Ukulele Wednesdays at the Albany, London.

Ukulele Wednesdays, London.

8.  Make audio recordings.

There are many ways to make free audio recordings of your playing.  Voice recorder apps are widely available on most smartphones, free of charge.  Record yourself singing the song, and wait for a week to listen back to it.  You’ll notice any areas for improvement and you can work on them.

9.  Make video recordings.

Very much like audio recordings, you can get a lot from watching yourself a while after you’ve recorded yourself playing and singing.  You can spot any areas for improvement and work on them.  It’s reported that Tina Turner and Usher watch their tapes immediately after every performance.  Whilst we don’t suggest you become this level of perfectionist if you are just playing for fun, it’s good to see where you’re up to by watching yourself after you’ve played.  Hell, if you love your performance, you could pop your cover version on YouTube for everyone to enjoy.

10.  Go and play at an open mic night.

There are many ukulele open mic nights or standard open mic nights where you can unleash your talents on the world.  You’ll be in a wonderful supportive environment, and you’ll know from the audience feedback how your performance is doing.

How to play the G chord, here.

See how to play Bb chord on the ukulele, here.

How to play the E chord, on the ukulele here.

Do you want 6 basic strum patterns to get you going? See more here.

If you’re in London, UK, you’ll learn this in our courses. Book your course to join us in London.

If you’re not, please support us on Patreon so you can get access to all our upcoming online tutorials and challenges.

Ukuleles 1: Airlines: 0

It’s official! You can take your ukulele as well as hand luggage on flights!*

*If your uke is in a soft case, that is…


Virtuoso player James Hill travels globally with his ukulele.Check him out on YouTube, he’s awesome!

Ever wished you could take your laptop bag or handbag AND your ukulele on a flight with you?  Yes, me too.  Actually, I already have been taking my ukulele away with me for the past 6 years, in addition to my bag, and people often question it, but I’ve never been stopped by the airline.  A violinist friend told me about a loop hole about small instruments on flights, and the lady who I talked to when I joined the Musicians Union also confirmed this, so long as I had my MU card with me, and the flight card, I should be alright to take my ukulele along in addition to one other piece of hand luggage.  Now, it’s open knowledge – they’re looking to change the regulations, after a string of complaints over broken instruments, with people like James Hill who owns a number of very expensive ukuleles, necessary for his livelihood, who has had to buy extra seats for his uke so they would let him on the plane with it.  Other issues with people being forced to put very expensive instruments in the hold and they’ve come out broken, for which your insurance will try to hold you accountable.

Under the new regulations, due to come into force in 2015, if they go ahead airlines must accept you and your ukulele.  As should the world at large!

Please read the full article on the Incorporated Society of Musicians website here.