Before the advent of the Internet and high-speed connections, to study with a top teacher you had to live relatively close to and take the time to get to the lessons on a regularly scheduled basis. If you lived near a big city with a vibrant music scene and a bit of luck in finding that teacher – that might have been possible.
With the Internet these limitations of time and distance are no longer an obstacle to gaining access to studying with a top, experienced and professional teacher anywhere in the world. Taking advantage of the latest technologies and practices, I have developed a program of online study that targets specific skills for aspiring ukulele players and music in general.
Here are three options for a more structured approach to learning the ukulele. In addition to simply going it along and figuring it out yourself with what is available right here on LearningUkulele.com and the wider Internet in general.
Private One-on-One Lessons
PRIVATE LESSONS - Private lessons are available at our family music store, Funky Frets Music Store, 124 N. Chestnut St., Boyertown, PA 19512 USA. These lessons are the tradition one-on-one approach where you sign up and show up each week, and with the customized lessons, you progress towards your goals.
One-on-One Video Lessons Using Skype or Apple Facetime
SKYPE LESSONS - This is the closest to face to face private lessons as we use the Internet and a simple web camera built in to most computers, tablets and smartphones. There is no distance barrier, and all that is need is to schedule the lessons frequency and time. Skype and Apple FaceTime are the same as in-person lessons at Funky Frets.
EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE - This is a go at your pace, and I send you the custom lessons. This option can accommodate any schedule as the communications involve email, phone and periodic video exchange. Lessons with me are an excellent way to have me identify the lessons that are available right here and guide you through the many available lessons.
Email correspondence lessons are a great option for people that can't commit to a schedule due to a job, family, etc...
For more information, you can reach me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by call me at 484-942-8040 ( USA East Coast ).
We can discuss your goals, current level, a schedule and the program that will be best suited to maximize your progress.
What Are the Lessons Like?
What Are the Lessons Like?
You might be wondering just that - "What are the lessons like?"
Both the in-person and skype, and email correspondence lessons are custom lessons based on your goals as well as what every player should know.
Typical lessons contains the following topic areas: Chords and Chord Progression, Single Notes, Rhythm and Strums, The Principles of Music, Learning the `Ukulele Fingerboard, and Developing a Repertoire. The focus of lessons are to build a solid foundation in each are of study.
Visit these pages for a look into what can be covered and my personal teaching philosophy.
- The Study of Music Today - Few people are aware of the many new developments in music education today.
- The Elements of a Successful Music Program - The areas of studying that would be considered part of a well rounded music program.
- My Personal Teaching Philosophy - After years and years of serious study with world renounced musician, educator, and jazz guitarist Chuck Anderson. I've adopted his teaching philosophy and methods with great success.
My Personal Teaching Philosophy
Here is what Glen H. has to say about my teaching:
“In my opinion, Curt is one of the most knowledgeable ukulele teachers today. His two websites, www.curtsheller.com and www.learningukulele.com provide a hint of his knowledge and abilities. His Learning Ukulele website has more than 600 lessons. Curt seriously studied and performed jazz guitar for more than 30 years before taking all of that knowledge of music and guitar and meticulously applying it to the ukulele.” - Glen
See my gear page for a few of my guitars that are for sale. I pretty much only play guitar to show a guitar student something. So, a couple of really great guitars need some playing and good homes.
Updated: May 22, 2019
- All levels of student are accepted and welcome.
- All lesson material for the student is focused on students achieving their goals - not my goals. It's your lesson NOT mine.
- My goal is NOT to teach you songs but to teach you the principles that are inherent in every song. This will allow you to learn any song and develop your own repertoire and voice.
- Focused, short and frequent practice is often more effective than long practice sessions. Here is a Checklist of Practice Principles for getting the most out of your practice sessions.
- It is NOT my function to motivate a student but to help then find their own motivation.
- Any topic that will help you achieve your goals can be covered in the lessons. Over my 30 years of serious study with Chuck Anderson we covered a lot of music as well as dealing with students, the music business and non-music business.
- All lessons are customized to the individual students goals. There is NO "One size fits all". You start with a blank music manuscript book and it all goes in there. On-line I add to your on-line equivalent.
- There are NO lesson assignments that are mandatory for every student. We do however build a solid foundation - based on your goals.
- Rhythm is an often neglected topic for most teachers and one I consider very important. Through Chuck Anderson's Modular Phonetic Rhythm System you'll learn Rhythm as a second language.
- We won't learn "licks" and "riffs". You'll learn the underlying principles behind these "licks" and "riffs". Allowing you to learn, create, and develop your own. We work on developing your own voice as a musician.
- Lessons focus on developing your Mind, Hands, and Ears. Allowing your musical creativity to come out. Spoiler Alert: for stringed instruments and the piano the hands take the longest to develop – It's these motor skills that take the longest to develop.
- Perseverance and persistence are more important than "talent" and "education". Stick with anything long enough and you tend to get good at it. Hock up witht he right mentors, teachers and you tend to get really good at it.
- For private and on-line students - If you show up consistently for the lesson you are guaranteed progress. The time spent at a lesson is even more important than practice. Don't let a lack of preparation stop you from getting to your lesson. There is always something valuable to do at a lesson above and beyond the assigned lesson material. There is no secret to learning music and a musical instrument - "What ever you put in you WILL get out."
- Lessons are NOT school and the practice you do at home is NOT homework. Think of it as more like exploration vs. practice. It's NOT "Play, Practice, and Rules." It's "Work, Exploration, and the Principles of Music." Duke Ellington said there are two rules in music., Rule 1: there are not rules in music. Rule 2: See rule one."
- There are no timetables or deadlines on learning anything - Music is no exception.
- Lessons will work on developing your own voice - your own unique personality. There is already a "so-and-so" ( insert your favorite musician here ) out there.
- People that give up NEVER achieve their goals. As long as you don't give up, you will be always moving forward to obtaining your goals. Goals often adjust or change - but forward motion and progress is certain with persistence.
- I teach to help those who have asked for help. I myself have always studied and learned new material. I personally took lessons from the time I was 9 or 10 and continued until just recently ( over 50 years ) and continue to explore new material on my own and revisit and refine what I've already learned through my previous studies. I studied contemporary and jazz guitar as well as anything music related and the music business that I brought up in lessons with Chuck Anderson for well over 30 years of my adult life.
- Generally in music if it sounds good it is good.
- Music is not a competition or sport. The old proverb says "It's the journey - not the destination."
- Although reading standard music notation is not mandatory but IT'S helpful. Learning to read music opens you up to music from other instruments.
- You are not going to learn this or that instrument in 7 days or 30 days. There is no "easy" method, etc... There are no shortcuts but there are many ways to learn efficiently. At times I might not seem like "fun". But - I can guarantee that the better you get, the more "fun" you'll have. It is a challenge at times but well worth is in the long run.
- Don't forget to build on a solid musical and technique foundation in your quest to get "advanced".
- Slow and controlled leads to virtuosity. It's all about efficiency of motion. Work smarter not harder. Speed is a by-product of performing accurately and in-control. I tell my students that "Fast is nothing more than slow, quicker." If someone is faster than you are the are just doining slow quicker than you can - for now.
- There are no tests, no grades and no performance reviews. You always go at your own pace.
- I recognize and actually ask why each student is taking lessons. I do not assume that everyone has the same goals, reasons or motivations. It's actually great that we can all develop you own voice in music.
Now lets get to work!!!
Should You Study Music With A Teacher or Should You "Wing" It On You Own?
This question always comes up in this type of discussion about music.
An objective assessment of the two alternative approaches leads me (Chuck Anderson) invariably towards the formal route. Why? Because without guidance, there is a tendency to go in circles, What do you practice, when do you move to the next topic? When are you doing something wrong? How do you practice what doesn't exist to you? - Chuck Anderson
Here are links to some great resources on Learning Ukulele with Curt for answering the questions to "What Do I Study?" when going it alone or with a teacher.
Finding A Good Teacher
Finding a good ukulele teacher can be a daunting task - especially in the Internet age with immediate access to information online, Free YouTube lessons, forums, meetup groups, local ukulele clubs, etc... Let alone you local music store with no shortage of guitar teachers purporting to know the ukulele and offer ukulele lessons.
It's unfortunate that there's no oversight or organization that regulates private music teachers. This is especially true for private guitar and ukulele teachers. Anyone can hang a shingle out advertising private lessons or put content online. So finding a good teacher can be a problem.
Evaluating a Teacher's Experience
Your actually not so much interested in a teacher's performance experience, I'd be more inclined to want to know their teaching experience. Remember your not hiring them for a gig or performance your asking them to help you with learning the ukulele. Not all great players are great teachers - in fact just because they can perform on an instrument that doesn't always mean they can effectively communicate the process and skills for you to achieve the same results.
Here are a few questions you can ask prospective teachers and generally speaking what their answers should be. I'll also input my perspective which should give some info on accurately evaluating a prospective teacher or online content.
Questions from Students Point of View
What is the teacher experience? How long have they been teaching? Who did they study with? What styles of music do you teach? How many students do they have and how long does a student remain with them? Are the lessons customized to your goals? Are the lessons private or group? How are lessons structured? What materials do you use? What do I need for lessons? How is payment structured?
As you can see there is a lot that can be asked and the typical student I've encountered never asks even a small percentage of them. I'll address each question and what my response would be and teacher responses that should throw up a red flag for you.
How long have they been teaching?
A teacher's experience as any job experience is gained over time and the number of students they have and have taught. A private music teacher gains experience - on the job -. It can't be found in a how to book, in a college course - which I've never even heard of such a course for private teaching anyway. A teacher learns by actually doing - at a minimum - 3 to 5 years of teaching experience and not 5 to 10 students a week, more like 20 to 30 or more students a week. The more students a teacher teaches each and every week the more experience they gain. I personally, constantly refine, research and polish my teach skills and maintain 50 to 60 students a week or more depending on the time of year. A really good guideline is to find a teacher where their majority of the income comes from teaching - not performing. This shows a level of commitment to teaching and not that it's a simply sideline. There are a lot of ways to make a living with music and the music business beyond performing.
If you find a local performer that your really admire. Search out their teacher, the teacher of that teacher... Remember, just like in professional sports, the best coaches where not necessarily the best players. It's one think to be able to do it and another to explain and teach others to do the same.
Are the Lessons Private or Group?
You'll make the best progress with private one-on-one lessons and coaching. These private lessons can be in-person or with the Internet via video services like Skype or a correspondence lesson program. Unless you a total beginner and simply looking for an overview or just shopping stay away from group lessons.
What Styles of Music does a Teacher teach?
Be sure to ask this question before a prospective teacher asks what styles of music you would like to play.
A teacher should be honest on the types and styles of music they teach and not a jack-of-all-trades teacher. Search out a teacher that is an expert in the particular styles of music you would like to play. My response for a student wanting to learn classical guitar is: I can help with the music principles, the technique BUT I have not experience with repertoire, as the classical guitar has a very specific repertoire that is typically required for most classical players.
When I first meet a prospective student I tell them their lessons are customized one-on-one lessons based on their goals and experience. It includes a core foundation of the principles of music that all musicians for any instrument get and builds on that foundation depending on their short and long term goals. It includes work on the technical issues inherent with actually getting the instrument to consistently sound good and for and guitar and ukulele students it's getting the hands to co-operate and consistently be able to perform what is asked. You looking for low maintenance technique that you can call on at anytime to get your music out.
Jazz and classical music are one area where a dedicated teacher specializing in that genre is most beneficial. Granted there are fewer of these specialists. A good jazz guitar teacher should definitely be able to help you with the non technical aspect of your study on ukulele. A really good classical guitar teacher can help with the technical, traditional classical fingerstyle part of ukulele.
Remember you don't have to study with only one teacher at a time. A good teacher would not be offended if you studied with other teachers at the same time.
Cost shouldn't always be a deciding factor in selecting a teacher but the old adage "You get what you pay for." sometimes can hold true. In demand teachers will command higher rates simply by demand. As a teacher it can actually be used as a way of filtering out less committed students. The rate in my area ranges from $15 for thirty minutes to $100 an hour.
How Do You Teach?
If a teacher answers this question without knowing your musical knowledge, your technique or your musical goals, and tries to explain how he or she will teach you, then this is not a competent teacher. I tell students that the lessons are custom lessons based on their goals – It's as simple as that. They are private lessons and each student is different and lessons actually evolve as students progress and their goals change and can evolve and change over time. Each lesson contains specific tasks geared to those goals.
If the teacher - for guitar students does not got over a specific way to hold the pick - run for the door. It's not just do what is comfortable. For both ukulele and guitar students the fretting hand thumb has a specific role and that should be talked about and the student given specific direction on what to do with it. There is an art and science to playing musical instruments and the ukulele is not different - techniques are an important part of learning the ukulele. This is actually the one area where there are a lot of teachers out there that don't even address this important aspect of playing. You'll never be any better than your ability to technically execute what you want to perform musically. Doing what feels natural is typically not the most efficient and easy to maintain. The goal is to get your technique to sound and feel natural to you.
Some Other Thoughts on Teaching
Equating the success of students to the success of a teacher is only a good indicator if that student started with that teacher as a beginner. You can however ask successful performers who they studied with and if one teacher's name keeps popping up that might be a good indicator for that teacher.
Just because someone is a good player do not assume they are a good teacher. Teaching is the ability to develop and nurture a student and help them to achieve their goals and develop their own voice as a player. I know a lot of very good players that are not very good teachers. I was very fortunate early in my development as a teacher and musician to hook up with a few good teachers and ultimately one of the best teachers in the area if not the USA.
This should give you some in-site into finding a good and qualified teacher. Whether is face-to-face or online the search for a qualified teacher is well worth it.
It can take a bit to find a qualified / good teacher as the best teachers typically do not advertise. There are several sources for finding a private face-to-face teacher. Contact the music department of colleges and universities near you. They can refer you to qualified teachers. Your local music store is one place to check - but they don't have the highest standards for their guitar teachers and even worse for ukulele teachers. Use all the questions from this article for helping you find a teacher. A good teacher will not mind any of these questions. It really show your dedication to developing as a musician on your selected instrument.
For online lessons asking all the same questions and your search can be worldwide. However, all the same issues and questions apply to online lessons as well as face-to-face lessons. The online lessons I offer are not a "course" they are a custom lesson program for the students.
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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books! — Peter Rhee
Aloha, Curt, All I can say is WOW! What you have accomplished is simply incredible! All the best — Glen Hirabayashi, The Aloha Boys
Folks, if you haven't stopped by Curt's site, do so right now! ..And get his books, they are fantastic. This guy knows his stuff and is able to pass it along too. — Alan Johnson Proprietor, The 4th Peg
I can highly recommend Curt's Uke books — I have four of them and they are excellent. — fatveg — Portland
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Original Curtie Animation - 1987 for my first web site
32 years ago.
LearningUkulele.com has one of the largest collections of lessons, songs, and TABS, luthiers, ukulele builders, ukulele festival and club information, and, ukulele links on the web. I’ve been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!
Content is added and updated almost daily - so check back often.