There is a lot good to be said about the advice to learn chords on a song by song basis.
Assuming you’re picking out songs you love and really want to play, there is a high motivation factor for learning the chords, no matter how difficult they are.
If you never plan to play with others in a group setting, then there’s no need for you to have a wide spectrum of common chords at your ready disposal; you can contentedly work on the songs you love and not worry about what anyone else is doing.
Eventually, with enough songs behind you, you’ll acquire a fairly good vocabulary of chords.
The Case for Step by Step
There is a lot good to be said about learning chords in a step by step manner.
If part of your ukulele experience includes the desire to play with groups and attend ukulele jams, knowing a broad swath of common ukulele chords is to your advantage.
The step by step approach to chords outlined on Power Up Ukulele teaches a wide swath of common chords that are practical to know when you want to ‘sight read’ a new song at a group jam.
Since the Power Up Ukulele outline teaches these chords through common chord progressions (I-V7, three chord, 50’s, Punk-Pop, Pachelbel, Jazz, etc.) in a variety of different keys, you’re not only learning the chord shapes but common transitions between chords that happen all over in popular music. Again, this makes you a better ‘sight-reader.’
The outline often provides song suggestions to reinforce the learning and make the knowledge ‘practical.”
Which is the Best Way?
Both, of course!
You should always be working on some song you love and adore.
Working on your skills independently of a piece of music is something musicians have done for ages to make themselves better musicians and to be prepared for the beautiful curves of life in a musical world.
This community page is for anyone using these materials, whether in one of Ryan’s classes or through self-guided study; ask questions, post videos, share things you’ve learned, and pass off challenges to earn your patches and rank up.
After taking a few months off to get things going with my classes in the fall, I’ve started making videos to support the different sections of the site. I’m also grouping these into YouTube playlists. So far there are videos supporting the beginning levels of the Chords, Strumming and Fingerstyle sections of the site:
The last major update completes the syllabus for Power Up Ukulele as a guide for step by step ukulele instruction or self-study. Is there more to learn? Yes, definitely, but I believe the material covered here will take players to the point where they can continue on in the learning process self-guided by their particular interests. Do players need to complete everything on this site in order to reach that point? Absolutely not. My goal was to provide well-rounded information that touched on all the aspects of playing the instrument. I imagine some players may only be interested in two or three of the categories. For instance, some people consider themselves ‘singers’ that only want to learn how to accompany themselves on the ukulele, while others are primarily instrumentalists that’d prefer not to sing. Some people are interested in composing or improvising, while others would prefer just to learn some music they love. All these things are great and I hope I’ve provided something of value for each of these groups.
I will be refining material as I use the site with my own students and adding applicable resources, books and videos over time. So stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to the blog for updates (see right-hand column to subscibe).
The information on this site has been gleaned from a great variety of sources as well as my own experiences with over 30 years of studying music (thanks to my parents who were both musicians themselves). I have tried to approach this material from a Kodaly-based developmental perspective. So, I credit Zoltan Kodaly as having the greatest influence on my educational approach, and thank him in whatever realm his spirit resides. I’d also like to thank some of the other teachers whose material has had a big impact on my knowledge of the ukulele:
Jake Shimabukuro for convincing me the ukulele is an instrument.
James Hill for his well-thought out Ukulele in the Classroom series.
Aldrine G. for Uke Minutes on Youtube and the Ukulele Underground Forum.
Al Wood for his many contributions to the well of ukulele wisdom.
Lil’ Rev for his strumming demonstration videos.
Steven Sproat for analysing several strum patterns that I’ve not seen anywhere else in the educational literature.
Sarah Maisel for being a wonderful live instructor at our ukulele festival and passing her jazzyness on to the world.
Aaron Keim for helping me understand clawhammer technique.
Craig Chee for opening my eyes to some of the wonderful percusive possibilities of the ukulele. Golpe anyone?
Chad Johnson for his wonderful Ukulele Ensemble Series which has opened up my eyes as to what ukuleles can do together.
Fred Sokolow for helping me see the great variety strumming patterns can offer music and for a deeper understanding of jazz substitions.
Colin Tribe for wonderful examples of ukulele arranging.
Kevin Rones for his wonderful instruction in fingerstyle playing.
Michael Lynch for his great tutorials.
Paul Hemmings for helping me see the light on chord shape improvisation.
Brett McQueen for some great instruction.
Greg Horne, Shana Aisenberg & Daniel Ho for nuggets of ukulele wisdom on their Complete Ukulele Method.
Ralph Shaw for even more strumming wisdom.
Mark Kailana Nelson for his amazing fingerstyle books.
Please look these awesome people up and buy their stuff. This site wouldn’t exist without all I’ve learned from them and others (I’m sure I’ve missed people, but I’ve tried not to). Thank you all!