Why Guitar and Ukulele?

One of our ukulele students from a few years ago

When my husband and I moved to Idaho, I mentioned that I taught at a music studio when introducing myself at church. They assumed (correctly, thank goodness) that that meant I knew how to play the piano, and shortly thereafter I was asked to accompany the children on the piano every week. It has amused me that teaching at a music studio marked me as a piano player even though I had never specified what I taught, but I have come to realize that the piano is the classic symbol of learning to read and play music for a lot of people. No one seems to question why we teach piano at Harmony Arts. 

As we have grown, we have added other instruments to our offerings. These additions are intended to provide greater depth, experience, and personalization to our program. We highly encourage all who are able to enroll in the Musikgarten classes BEFORE branching out to other instruments. Musikgarten sets the foundation by immersing children in the language of music. The younger they learn, the more natural it feels as they get older. Musikgarten is like the music equivalent of learning math basics before learning trigonometry. Of course, everyone of various ages and skill levels are welcome to sign up, we simply recommend Musikgarten in preparation to prepare individuals and thus improve the experience.

As we mentioned in our previous article, each new instrument has specific reasons for its inclusion in our program. Let’s dive in and explore a couple.

Guitar and ukulele

Nan says, “One of the reasons it is important for me to offer guitar and ukulele here at Harmony Arts is because my own experience with learning these instruments was so very impactful in many positive ways. As a child, I rode my bicycle to the Bothwell church to attend a ukulele and singing class taught by Carl Ashby and his daughter, Kayleen Vance.  In second grade, Jean Stokes came and taught ukulele at the school.  I owe my love of ukulele to Carl and Jean, and it is a great debt to owe!  Those experiences provided me with joy, growth, and opportunities to connect with others, including elderly neighbors in my community.  This was a big deal for me, as I lived in a rural area where my nearest friend was miles away.  I was insecure, so connecting with people didn’t come naturally to me. Playing the ukulele for my neighbors brought me out of my shell and provided a way for me to connect with and serve others. As for the guitar, my sister-in-law, Debbie, got me interested in the guitar first. She kindly and patiently taught me a few lessons–she sings and plays beautifully–so she had a wonderful influence on me. I want to give that back. I want to pay that experience forward by offering that opportunity to others, just as it was offered to me.”

I’m glad she did! I moved to Idaho the summer ukulele class was introduced. I was originally going to attend so I could learn to play, too, and Nan sent me off with plenty to help get me started. I was still helping with other summer camps, however, and on one of my trips back to Idaho, my car overheated. Stuck on the side of the freeway halfway between my old home and my new one, I pulled out that ukulele and played while I waited for help. What started off as a stressful and frustrating ordeal fortunately didn’t end as one!

An introduction to guitar during a Musikgarten class

The guitar and ukulele are unique, because they are great gateway instruments. The ukulele is perfect for young ones for whom a guitar is too big. The music can be adapted to different levels of expertise, as well. Beginners can strum their chords on the down beat while friends and family sing along while advanced players can accompany with a picking pattern. They’re easily portable–no need to lug around any heavy cases or equipment. Whether you have five minutes or an hour, it’s a quick matter to pull out your guitar, tune it, and play! Not to mention that guitar and ukulele are so much easier on the budget than, say, a grand piano! 

Like all instruments, the guitar and ukulele require practice, patience, and self-discipline. They are fantastic for developing dexterity and understanding chords and chord progressions. Singing and playing simultaneously requires the ability to strum the pattern, change chords, and sing at the same time. (Keep in mind that the rhythms for the tune and strumming aren’t usually the same.) 

So many people want to play the guitar someday — and it is such a fun instrument! Playing around the campfire, picking up songs from the radio, or just strumming along to Happy Birthday can be some of the most fun you’ll ever have! We love guitar and ukulele and they’re perfect for adults, children, teens — would you like to learn to play them? 

— by Marée Zollinger