Gift Guide 2014 – Ukuleles

I just spent Thanksgiving with my adult children. I had given each of them a guitar at some point in their lives. But one of my regrets as a parent is that I didn’t give each of my children an ukulele when they were young.

Why give a child an ukulele? There are lots of reasons.

  • A ukulele can be a gateway to music. I started playing ukulele before I played guitar.
  • Ukuleles are inexpensive with the cheapest ones barely more than a toy. That means you aren’t investing a lot of money in something if your child isn’t drawn to music.
  • The fact that inexpensive ukuleles are nearly toys also removes the pressure of success from the child and the parent. Let the ukulele sit around the house, for years if necessary. It just might attract a child’s attention when you least expect it.
  • An inexpensive, toy-like instrument also removes worries about damaging the instrument. It might be disappointing if the ukulele breaks but because it’s not a more expensive instrument it doesn’t have to be made into a big deal.
  • The size of an ukulele makes it suitable for young children who are still too small for a full sized guitar. Yet that same ukulele can be played by anyone including adults. Guitars have more size restraints.
  • The shape of ukulele chords are the same as the shapes used for the first four high strings of a guitar, although chord names will be different because typically ukuleles are tuned five frets higher than a guitar. The chords to a song learned on ukulele will produce the same song on a guitar but the key will be five half-steps lower on the guitar.
  • Ukuleles are a nylon stringed instrument which makes it easy to fret.
  • Ukuleles are fun.

Ukuleles don’t have to be given to children. Give one to an adult. They’re still a fun instrument. If you have children, buy yourself an ukulele and try to learn to play at least a few chords. Then let your children know they can play your ukulele too. Leave it around and see if they pick it up. That’s how I got started. My father bought a ukulele and tried to learn to play. Instead my brother and I learned to play. I don’t think it was intentional but it was brilliant.

A soprano ukulele (smallest standard size) starts at about $30. Get one with guitar tuners. They don’t slip the way friction pegs do.

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