What does “Beginner” really mean? Here’s how we define three broad levels of skill in ukulele playing.
BASIC PICKING, BASIC STRUMMING
A beginner-level player has a degree of competence with a number of one-finger and two-finger chords and 2-3 essential scales (i.e. Pentatonic and Major). Can pick ostinato patterns while singing and can strum chords while singing.
Ukulele in the Classroom Book 1
Ukulele in the Classroom Book 1 Audio Companion
Booster Uke (Lessons 1-4)
Great Popular Songs (Selections 1-6)
You Can Play Ukulele Today!
Chromatic melody and harmony
An intermediate-level player has a degree of competence with chromatic melody (i.e. chromatic scale) and chromatic harmony (i.e. secondary dominant chords).
The key to understanding this definition of “Intermediate” is that students at this level are learning to use chords they already know in new contexts to access more harmonies. For example, a beginner uses the chord G7 as the V7 chord in the key of C. An intermediate-level student might play songs that use the same G7 chord as II7 in the key of A and VI7 in the key of B-flat. Resources include:
Ukulele in the Classroom Book 2
Ukulele in the Classroom Book 2 Audio Companion
Booster Uke (Lessons 5-7)
Great Popular Songs (Selections 7-13)
Transposition, Tremolo and Beyond
An advanced-level player has a degree of competence with transposition (i.e. re-using known scale patterns in new places on the fretboard), flatpicking, tremolo flatpicking and minor keys.
The key to understanding this definition of “Advanced” is that students at this level are using the written material as a starting point only. For example, the students(s) may take a simple song like “Buffalo Gals” as a starting point and create an arrangement that includes modulation, harmony singing, a bassline and improvisation. Resources include:
Ukulele in the Classroom Book 3
Ukulele in the Classroom Book 3 Audio Companion
Booster Uke (Lessons 8-11)
Ukulele Jazz (Lessons 1-4)
An “Absolute Beginner” is someone who has never played ukulele before. An Absolute Beginner must learn to hold the ukulele, to care for the instrument and to name the open strings.
As they move beyond Advanced (as defined above), students begin to explore the solo style of ukulele. In other words, they learn to play melody, harmony and rhythm simultaneously on a single ukulele. Resources that will take students beyond Advanced include: