Learning Ukulele with Curt

Ukulele Teachers Around the World

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

LearningUkulele.com Resources

Here are some great Resources & Links, right here on Learning Ukulele with Curt for answering the questions to What Do I Study? when going it alone or with a teacher.

Getting Started Series of `Ukulele Lessons • This series of lessons is intended to take a beginning ukulele player, just Getting Started through the basics.

Learning the `Ukulele - The Top Ten • regardless of the resources you use to learn to play any instrument, it's important to know what there is to learn and how that affects what you want to do.

What Level Player Are You? • You might be a beginner in one aspect of your learning and intermediate or advanced in other areas. This is especially true if you have experience playing other instruments, or have focused on one aspect of your playing.

The Elements of a Successful Music Program • Few Of The Elements That Would Be Typically Covered In A Well Rounded Musical Education.

The Study of Music Today There is a lot of information available that is just wrong, so try to consult a legit expert on the subject. Don’t assume that the information is correct because it’s in a magazine or on-line. Magazines are notorious for featuring well-known players who can’t teach. They often have a very fuzzy idea of what they’re doing and what to call specific scales, chords, and techniques. - Chuck Anderson

Glossary of Terms • a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, program notes, and when communicating with your fellow musicians.

3 Ways to Study with Curt • Private In-Person One-on-One Lessons, One-on-One Virtual Lessons if you can't make it to Pennsylvania, USA, or Lessons via Email Correspondence.

It's All About Learning Songs • Using songs for learning to play the ukulele is the most common approach to, well, learning to play a song.

“The self-taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under teachers; and, besides, he brags, and is the means of fooling other thoughtless people into going and doing as he himself had done.” — Mark Twain

Finding a Good Teacher

Here is my take on finding a good teacher. I was lucky enough to find a great teacher early in my development and would like to pass on a few tips for finding a good teacher yourself. For ukulele, it will take a bit of work - but with the Internet, you can study with anyone in the world and try out different teachers.

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 the 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 multiple 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, Apple FaceTime, 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. However, group lessons, workshops, and seminars are a great way to supplement your private teaching.

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 perform.

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 side 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 do not 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 and using a pick, 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. Few things come naturally on most instruments. 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.

Additional 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, in the early years, to have several great teachers in Franny Boyle and Paul Byrne (passed July 24, 2021). And, then Chuck Anderson's name kept popping up, and I finally started studying with Chuck and credit Chuck with my success. Of course, I, did all the actual work, with Chuck's guidance.

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 educator, teacher and performer.

Here are a few requirements to look for in a teacher:

  • Pedagogy – Big word but basically means learning how to teach. I studied how to teach a variety of techniques, music theory, ear training, song writing, improvisation, etc. I learned how to deal with a variety of personality types. Everyone leans in different ways and a teachers needs more than on way to teach. It is important for a teacher to understand this proccess. A good teacher can present the same information in several different ways so that you will be better able to teach all of your students well.
  • Recording – As you get more proficient you might want to record your self and with recording in a home studio being more affordable then ever a good teacher should be able to help with that. Recording yourself is also a good way to track progress.
  • The Music of Business – There are more than one way to make money as a musician. A good teacher will be able to help with that as well.

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 selecting their guitar teachers and even worse for ukulele teachers. Just you can play guitar and most skills will transfer — the ukulele is a really different instrument with specific challenges, and you deserve to find a dedicated ukulele teacher.

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. All the same issues and questions apply to on-line/virtual lessons as well as in-person 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.

Recommended Teachers

Curt Sheller Musicians

As an Author and Publisher I created Curt Sheller Publications in 1998 as a small publishing company catering to the needs of musicians, guitar players and ukulele players worldwide. Curt Sheller Publications provides for the resources and information to develop as a musician. Curt Sheller has over 40 years of playing experience, 20 plus years of teaching experience and publishing for over 10 years. As a Musician I have over 40 years playing experience in a variety of styles and s settings, most notably jazz. As a Private Music Teacher and *Educator Curt maintains a teaching schedule averaging between 40 and 60 private students a week.

Byron Yasui Musicians

"Byron Yasui" has been on the music faculty at theUniversity of Hawaii in his native Honolulu since 1972, where he teaches music theory, composition, and jazz improvisation. His experiences as a classroom instructor of 'ukulele include workshops at the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum Expositions of 2001, 2002, and 2003 (all on the east coast), the 2004 UkeFestWest in Santa Cruz, California, the Ukulele Guild of Hawai'i" annual conventions of 2002, 2003, and 2004, countless workshops at the University of Hawai'i Windward Community College since 2002, the Aloha Music Camps of 2004 and 2005 (Molok'i), and various one day workshops on all of the Hawaiian islands since 2000. Many of these workshops were tied in with his participation as an `ukulele soloist in concerts at the various venues.

Glen Hirabayashi Musicians

Uncle Glen was born a long time ago on O'ahu. His family lived in Lanikai at first, but moved to a tiny house with a huge yard on the beach in Kailua with 100 coconut trees lining the driveway. He then moved to Kaua'i when he was in the second grade. He lived in Kilauea, Kaumakani, Kekaha, and Waimea on Kaua'i and spent a lot of time in a family cabin in Koke'e. His first musical instrument was the ukulele. Charlie Kaneyama used to come to the elementary schools on the west side of Kaua'i after school to teach ukulele. He remembers listening to the kanikapila sessions under the hau tree near Poipu Beach on Sundays. He didn't play much Hawai'ian music until he arrived on the East Coast the second time. He then really started playing a lot when his kids starting dancing hula with Halau O 'Aulani. That's where the Aloha Boys were born. Glen has been in the Washington, D.C.area (this time) since 1986. His wife, Donna, and two daughters, Ashley Hokunani Spaulding and Amy Melenani, support his Aloha Boys habit. Ashley is a graduate of Virginia Tech and resident of Dallas, Texas. Amy is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech and is traveling the world with Adventures in Mission. Hokunani and Melenani dance the hula for Aloha Boys performances whenever possible. With mixed emotions, Glen retired as an attorney for the U.S. Tax Court in 2012.

Brad Bordessa Musicians

Live ‘Ukulele (as in living with your ‘ukulele, not “Live ‘Ukulele” like a concert) was created by two homeschooled students who can’t get enough ‘ukulele and Hawaiian music. The goal of this site is to provide free tabs, lessons, and advice to all levels of ‘ukulele players. Live ‘Ukulele is one of the top 10 ‘ukulele sites in the world

Group / Classroom Instruction

James Hill Ukulele Initiative Schools

The purpose of the James Hill Ukulele Initiative (JHUI) is to promote and celebrate the ukulele. The JHUI facilitates the teaching and enjoyment of music through educational outreach activities and continuing education programs. The JHUI advocates the use of the ukulele as a platform for music literacy and supports the growth and creation of new ukulele repertoire and approaches to performance.

The Ukulele Way Schools

The Ukulele Way is written, arranged and presented by James Hill.

The Ukulele Way is a musical journey, one that will continue for as long as you have a desire to explore new musical landscapes. The ukulele is your compass; it points the way. The lessons in this method are watering holes along the road, each with something unique to offer.

The Ukulele Way includes a wide array of print, audio and video materials so that you can follow the path that suits your needs, interests and learning style. And while there are many paths, they all have one thing in common: they’re paved with melody, harmony and rhythm.

Ukulele in the Classroom Organizations

James Hill and Chalmers Doane share not only a love of the ukulele and of teaching, but also a passion for developing and supporting music literacy in schools and other learning environments; they warmly invite you to join them in their new approach to Ukulele in the Classroom.

Ukes in the Classroom - Texas Organizations

Ukes in the Classroom - Texas is a non-profit organization founded by Noel Tardy of UkeLady Music to teach Music Literacy - the Ukulele Way and for kids of all ages to have fun!

Music should be a core part of school curriculum. It used to be that way. Due to budget shortfalls and cuts, funding for music and arts have been drastically cut. Considering the high volume of research that confirms music helps kids learn better, it is not a prudent move by the schools. Educator Linda Cole puts it this way, “*Music and reading are both means of communicating. When children begin to learn language, it is processed in the brain first as sounds. It’s through the learning process children begin to understand what is meant by the sound and it is then translated into meanings. Music is an expression (language) of the composer as reading is music (language) created by the writer. Both are ways of communicating thought and emotion and through the learning process, music can make your child a better student.*”

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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 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

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Original Curtie Animation from 1987 for my first web site on a Macintosh II, 37 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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