Learning Ukulele with Curt

Three Ways to Study with Curt!

Before the advent of the Internet and high-speed connections, to study with a top teacher, you had to live relatively close to a teacher 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-A-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.

You can even schedule periodic lessons. Just email me or call and we can squeeze you in if you are traveling through the area. I often start my teaching day early in the more and go late into the night. Anything is possible. Come in one a month for an hour or two.

One-on-One Virtual 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: curt@learningukulele.com or by call me at 484-942-8040 ( USA East Coast).

We can discuss your goals, current experience, schedule, and the program that will be best suited to maximize your progress.

What Are the Lessons Like?

You might be wondering just that - "What are the lessons like?"

Both the in-person and virtual lessons, 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 area of study.

Visit these pages for a look into what can be covered and my personal teaching philosophy.

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 right here at LearningUkulele.com, provide a hint of his knowledge and abilities. His Learning Ukulele website has more than 700 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

  • All Ages and 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.
  • Lessons can be in-person or virtual.
  • My goal is NOT to teach you songs, but to teach you the principles that are inherent in every song. Allowing you to learn any song and develop your repertoire and voice. With that being said, songs are a great vehicle for learning the concepts and principles of music to be applied to learning ANY songs and can be incorporated into the lessons.
  • 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 them find their own motivation and artistic voice.
  • 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, dealing with students, the music business, and non-music business — Nothing was off-topic.
  • 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. If your goal is to learn song So and So or a particular strumming pattern – we can incorporate that into the lessons.
  • 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 essential. Through Chuck Anderson's Modular Phonetic Rhythm System — The Foundation and Workbook 1 , 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 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. Hook up with the 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 your current lesson material. There is no secret to learning music and a musical instrument — “Whatever 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 no rules in music. Rule 2: See rule one.
  • There are no timetables or deadlines on learning anything — Music is no exception. You set the goals and we work together to achieve your goals.
  • Lessons will work on developing your 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 always be moving forward to obtaining your goals. Goals often adjust or change — but forward motion and guaranteed progress comes with persistence.
  • I teach helping those who have asked for help. I have personally always studied and learned new material. Not only that, but I took lessons from the time I was 9 or 10. I continued until recently ( over 50 plus 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 proverb says, It's the journey — not the destination.
  • Although reading standard music notation is not mandatory, — 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, there are no shortcuts, but there are many ways to learn efficiently. At times, it might not seem like fun. But — I can guarantee that the better you get, the more fun you'll have. It's a challenge at times, but well worth it the journey.
  • Don't forget to build on a solid musical and technical 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.
  • There are no tests, no grades, and no performance reviews or recitals. You always go at your pace.
  • I recognize and ask why each student is taking lessons. I do not assume that everyone has the same goals, reasons, or motivations. It's great that I can help you develop your voice in music. I'm going to help you develop on your chosen instrument and as a musician, and NOT learn to play like me. I'll never sound like you, and you'll never sound like me. There is already one me out there.

See my gear page for a few of my guitars that are for sale. I pretty much only play guitar to show a student something. So, a couple of really great guitars need some playing and good homes.

Now let's 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.

Here is Chuck Anderson's take on the question.

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

Finding A Good Teacher

Some tips and guidance in selecting a teacher that fits Your goals and needs. Remember THEY are YOUR lessons.

Unfortunately, there are no oversight or organizations that regulate private music teachers. Especially true for private guitar and ukulele teachers. Anyone can hang a shingle out advertising private lessons or put content on-line. So finding a good teacher can be a challenge.

What’s Bad About the Internet?

Checkout LearningUkulele.com's guest lesson/article by internationally renowned jazz guitarist and educator Chuck Anderson on What’s Bad About the Internet? . Chuck has great insight into the perils of learning using the Internet. As great a resources it is there are a few things to keep in mind when searching for a teacher — LIVE or Virtual.

For my (Curt's) Teaching Philosophy visit this page.

Evaluating a Teacher's Experience

You are not so interested in a teacher's performance experience, I'd be more inclined to know their teaching experience. Remember, you're not hiring them for a gig, performance, or to entertain you. You're asking them to help you with learning the ukulele and music. 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 potential teacher or on-line content.

Questions from Students Point of View

What is the teacher's experience? How long have they been teaching? Who were their teachers? 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 to ask, 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 You Been Teaching?

A teacher's experience, as any job experience, is obtained over time. As well as the number of students they have and have taught. A private music teacher gains knowledge and experience — on the job -. It's not 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 every week, the more experience they gain. Personally, I continually refine, research, and polish my teach skills and have maintained 40 to 60 students a week or more depending on the time of year. An excellent guideline is to find a teacher where their majority of the income comes from teaching — not performing. Maintaining a consistent private teaching practice shows a level of commitment to teaching and not that it's a sideline. There are ways to make a living with music and the music business beyond performing.

Find a local performer that you admire. Search out their teacher, the teacher of that teacher. Remember, just like in professional sports, the best coaches are not necessarily the best players. It's one thing 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, Zoom, or a correspondence lesson program using email. Unless you're a total beginner and merely 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 who is an expert in the particular styles of music you would like to play. My response to a student wanting to learn classical guitar is: I can help with the music principles, the technique, but I have no experience with the repertoire or the business site of that genre. The classical guitar has a specific repertoire required for players intending to perform.

When I first meet a prospective student, I tell them their lessons, customized one-on-one lessons, are 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 sound good consistently. For guitar and ukulele students, it's getting the hands to cooperate and consistently perform what is required. You are looking for an efficient, low maintenance technique that you can call on at any time to get your desired musical results.

Jazz and classical music are areas where a dedicated teacher specializing in that genre is most beneficial. Naturally, there are fewer specialists in these styles. A good jazz guitar teacher should be able to help you with the non-technical aspect of your study on the ukulele. An excellent classical guitar teacher can help with the technical, traditional Classical fingerstyle part of ukulele.

Note: — 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 adage You get what you pay for., is still valid in most situations. In-demand, teachers will command higher rates by the demand for their services. As a teacher, rates can be a way to filter out less committed students. The price for lessons in my area ranges from $20 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 material evolves as students progress and their goals change and evolve. Each lesson contains specific tasks geared to those goals.

If the teacher — especially for guitar, does not go over a specific way to hold the pick — run for the door. It's not just doing what is comfortable or natural. For both ukulele and guitar students, the fretting hand thumb has a specific role, and a teacher should cover that. Music is an art and science. Applying the principles of music to the ukulele is no different. Learning efficient techniques are an essential part of learning the ukulele. The technique is the one area where many teachers don't even address these most important aspects of playing. You'll never be any better than your actual physical ability to execute what you want to perform musically, technically. 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 students' success 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. I'm sure that are one or two teachers in your area that their names would keep popping up when talking to other students and professional musicians. I was lucky to have several great teachers in Franny Boyle and Paul Byrnes in the early years. And, then Chuck Anderson's name keep popping up, and I finally started studying with Chuck and credit Chuck with all my success.

Just because someone is a good player, Do Not assume they are good teachers. Teaching is the ability to develop and nurture students and help them achieve their goals and develop their voice as a player. Not play like their teacher. I know numerous excellent players that are not good teachers. Early in my development as a teacher and musician, I was very fortunate to hook up with a few good teachers and ultimately with Chuck Anderson, one of the best teachers in the area if not the USA. Chuck has developed an international reputation as a teacher and performer.

This should give you some in-site into finding a good and qualified teacher. Whether it is face-to-face or on-line, 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 shows your dedication to developing as a musician on your selected instrument.

For on-line lessons asking all the same questions, and your search can be worldwide. However, all the same issues and questions apply to on-line lessons as well as face-to-face lessons. The on-line lessons I offer are not a course, they are a custom lesson program for the individual student.

Private one-on-one lessons are entirely different from group instruction and workshops. The concepts are the same — it's the how-to deliver to that different audience.

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If you're anything like me (Curt) and getting Subscription overloaded with everything and everybody on-line wanting money from you once a month — I'm with you. For like-minded individuals, this forever plan is a pay once, and you're done.

The price for Unlimited Forever access is right around the cost of a few months of private lessons. I can guarantee there is more than enough material on-line to keep you busy for a long, long time. And, you get all of my books for FREE. That alone is more than the cost of this plan.

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Basic Access - A limited selection of basic lessons — ( currently over 140 ) and 100+ songs for ukulele as well as basic general music reference material — Completely FREE — Simply Register/Signup. HOWEVER - I've been doing ukulele and LearningUkulele.com since 2003 and probably have given too much away already - as reflected in my income from the site in relationship to the time spent on the site. So help support this site and its continued development by signing up for one of the below Premium Access Plans or buy a few of my books. - Thanks, Curt

NOTE: Each higher access level includes ALL the benefits of the lower levels. Private Lessons include all the benefits of a Premium Access Plans as long as you remain a student on the schedule.

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 bestGlen 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

Want to drop LearningUkulele.com & Learning Ukulele with Curt a nice comment . We always like to know how we are and you are doing. We'll post any comment, quotes throughout the site and you can help spread the word .

Thanks for visiting and checking out the site!

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Original Curtie Animation from 1987 for my first web site on a Macintosh II, 36 years ago. Man, does time fly.

“Built for myself (Curt), and sharing with the `Ukulele community!”

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. Curt has been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!

Content is added and updated daily — so check back often. I really do need to get out more ;-)

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