So, this week we decided to start learning the Ukelele as a family.
The kids’ grandad, ‘Pops’, plays lots of instruments, and often gets out the ukelele for our two and a half year old while he plays guitar. After hearing Jack talk about his ‘little guitar’ for the billionth time (and seeing how utterly cute it was when they played together), we decided to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak.
Buying our two family Ukeleles
We bought one for us and one for Jack, as we figured that learning ukelele together would be the best way to encourage his obvious love of music. I got a mahogany Donner Ukelele for £35, which I love. The sound quality is excellent, it seems well made and generally looks like a beautiful instrument. There are better brands, but for a beginner Ukelele it’s great.
We looked through lots of ukeleles, but these were the three that we bought:
Martin Smith ukelele (returned)
We only considered this one because it was the cheapest ukelele that looked like an actual instrument. There were a few cheaper, but they really did look like toys. We bought this, but returned it. It looked tacky, the frets were painted rather sloppily, it sounded very twangy, the bag was a flimsy cover with a terrible zip.
Jack was happy with it, so if you do need a cheap ukelele this is definitely an option. We didn’t like it, though, so decided to spend a few more pounds on a better one. After all, we would have to listen to him ‘play’ it!
Mahalo ukelele (the one we bought for our 2 year old)
This was the second one we bought for Jack, and we’re much happier with it. It’s still noticeably cheaper quality than my Donner and doesn’t have anything like the sound quality, but it’s pretty and will certainly do for a 2 year old.
The bag is similar to the Martin Smith one – very thin and with a cheap zip. It wouldn’t protect the ukelele at all. However, it’s pretty, holds it’s tuning and Jack loves it.
Donner ukelele (the one I got for myself)
This was the brand that we bought for me. I was really happy with it. The sound quality is noticeably better than the two we bought for Jack (warmer, smoother, less twangy). You can attach a strap to this one (which you can’t to the other two). The bag is good quality, thick and would protect the ukelele. Mine came with bag, strap, tuner (which Jack also loves playing with) and extra strings.
Do you need a strap?
I need the strap for playing ukelele. It’s difficult to change chords when you’re starting out without dropping the instrument. A strap helps hold it in place until you get a bit better!
Jack wasn’t too fussed about the strap. I thought he’d insist on one, but he prefers holding it on his lap like a guitar. However, whether you need a strap is worth considering when looking for a ukelele. Most of the very cheap ones won’t have the attachments needed for a strap.
‘Soprano’ and ‘concert’ ukeleles
You might see the terms ‘soprano’ and ‘concert’ when looking for ukeleles. They refer to the size – they have nothing to do with the quality of ukelele.
A soprano ukelele is 21 inches.
A concert ukelele is 23 inches.
We both went for soprano ukeleles – they’re fine for adults and children.
What can a 2 year old do with a Ukelele?
It’s actually amazing how much you can do with a 2 year old on a ukelele. He loves plucking the strings and even strumming. I walked into the room today to see him with the uke on his lap (held like Pops holds his guitar), strumming away and singing twinkle twinkle little star to himself.
It’s also a fantatic family activity. He’ll announce that he wants to ‘play the little guitars’ and then go get both off the table for us.
We’ll then tune the ukes and play together. I look online every so often and get simple exercises and chords to practice. He’ll do his own thing, either just strumming/plucking or singing a song.
Ukelele’s are a lot of fun to play (with or without a two year old!)
I’m enjoying myself immensely. I’ve only ever played woodwind instruments before, so it’s all new to me. I can already see that it’ll be a great way to pick up some music theory as you can’t help but learn about chord progressions. I’m also looking forward to having a ‘social instrument’ to bring out at parties or play with other people.
So if you’re looking for ways to entertain a two year old you could try learning a musical instrument. It’s certainly more satisfying than performing endless re-enactments of the three billy goats gruff!
Click here to read about my first week of learning to play the Uke