Even with the stay-at-home order loosening up, most of us are still spending more time than ever at home.
If you need a break from all the books you’ve been reading or the shows you’ve been binge watching, why not dust off that old ukulele, guitar, or banjo and learn to entertain yourself with music?
Playing music is a joyful, stress-relieving activity that, as a bonus, boosts your cognitive ability. But music, like any new skill, requires patience. While you probably won’t become an expert overnight, with a little practice, you will at the very least be able to strum along to your favorite campfire songs.
Ukulele is a great choice for beginners because it is small, portable, affordable, and easier to play than the guitar.
Why? For one, it only has four strings instead of six. Plus, the strings are nylon, which won’t hurt your fingers as you are learning. Also, the frets are much closer together than the guitar, so you are unlikely to experience pain while you are learning to play chords. You can play pretty much any kind of musical genre on the ukulele—rock, classical, hip hop, Hawaiian, folk or pop.
Two great books to help you learn ukulele on Hoopla:
The Ukulele Beginners’ Handbook by Jenny Peters and Rebecca Bogart
The Art of Ukulele by Ralph Shaw
* Access to Hoopla is limited based on your home address.
One great choice is The Ukulele Teacher.
My favorite is Cynthia Lin. Here is her very first lesson:
If you happen to have a guitar at home, now is the time to revisit it.
Start by learning these basic chords: G Major, C Major, and D major. These are the I-IV-V chords, or the basic framework for most popular music. With this three chords, you can play any song in this structure. In no time you will be strumming like a pro to hits like “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash and “Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley.
Check out our online catalog for a large selection of guitar learning books, or head over to Hoopla to instantly check out these titles:
Learn to Play Guitar by Gareth Evans
The Ultimate Guitar Course by Rod Fogg
If you prefer video instruction:
- Guitar World Magazine recommended guitar lesson channels on YouTube.
- 24-episode Great Course on Learning to Play Guitar
- Accredited instructor Max Milligan’s series called Max Milligan Play Series.
*Access to Hoopla and Kanopy is restricted based on your home address.
I saved the best for last. I love the banjo, that iconic instrument rooted in African, Caribbean, and American music. But I know what you are thinking. Banjo?! That sounds hard! Well, of course, if you want to play Bluegrass style then yes, that is expert level playing totally out of reach to most of us. Even clawhammer/oldtime style banjo takes a lot of work even for seasoned musicians.
But there is more than one or two ways to play the banjo. My suggestion: just strum it! Strumming chords on the banjo is fun, relaxing, and satisfying. In my opinion, the 5 string banjo is the perfect beginner string instrument because it is traditionally tuned to an open G chord, meaning just by strumming all the open strings at once, you already have your first chord without any effort. From there, just learn the D7 and C chord, and with those three, you can now play a huge variety of songs. No need to learn rolls or clawhammer style just yet.
Before picking up the banjo I urge you to learn the story of the instrument by learning the lost history of the Black Banjo from Grammy-Award winner Rhiannon Giddens.
Trying to learn any instrument on your own or online is great for getting your feet wet but it may feel daunting. There’s nothing like having an experienced teacher who can tailor the lessons to your interests and abilities. And, with concerts and gigs on hold, most music teachers could really use our support right now. They have all become well versed at teaching using teleconferencing apps like Google Hangouts and Zoom.
So when you are ready, don’t be shy about contacting a teacher if you have the money to spend on lessons. Here are some local music shops that can point you in the right direction and help you buy an affordable quality instrument:
- Amazing Grace at 91 Redhill Ave in San Anselmo.
- The Magic Flute in San Rafael
- Bananas at Large in San Rafael
Editing and formatting: Ana