Resources & downloads

step 1

If you don't already have an instrument, do RESEARCH and seek ADVICE before you buy. Try to buy from a good music shop (unfortunately increasingly rare) not via the internet, and if possible take an experienced musician with you.

step 2

A vital accessory is some sort of TUNER. The clip-on, chromatic variety is best. It will work on guitar or ukulele and, if you're inexperienced, it will save you hours of grief, frustration and bafflement. New strings stretch and go out of tune as soon as they're tightened up. They'll need tuning and retuning frequently until they settle down. I don't want to alarm you newcomers, but this can take days or even weeks. Having a good tuner makes the process a whole lot easier. These days lots of tuners are available as free smartphone or computer APPS, and some instruments now come with built-in tuners.

step 3

If the instrument doesn't already come with a BAG or CASE, buy one. They range from elaborate, solid flight cases costing hundreds of pounds to simple canvas or nylon bags, but whatever you buy should be waterproof. If it's padded for a bit more protection, so much the better. At home keep the instrument handy and OUT of its case so it can be grabbed on a whim.

step 4

Don't let bad habits get a hold. They actually make playing harder. Unless you're a naturally gifted musician, get some lessons from a GOOD TEACHER (well, I would say that, wouldn't I? - but it's TRUE). I'm often asked about books. There are hundreds, with so many new ones dropping all the time it's impossible to keep up. Of the ones I've seen, some are good, some are bad and some are OK. If you're having lessons you may not need a book, but if you want one buy one that takes your fancy with songs you like. I can't be more specific on that but I will advise you to AVOID the well-known "UKULELE FOR DUMMIES" as it teaches what I consider bad techniques. And there's lots of online material and tuition these days of course; some of it is pretty good, but some of it is rubbish - so beware!

You may hear some people say, "You don't need to learn any THEORY." Again - beware! That's bad advice. Knowing at least some basic theory relevant to your instrument is, I consider, vital.

step 5

Keep your FINGERNAILS SHORT on your left hand (right hand if you're left-handed). I know Dolly Parton manages to play guitar with long fingernails (not sure how!) but she's the exception that proves the rule.

step 6

Be persistent, PRACTISE regularly. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It's repetition that makes it work. MEMORISE as much as possible or you'll forever be needing to refer to books or bits of paper. The memory is like a muscle: it gets stronger with use. A typical excuse: "Classical musicians in orchestras always read from music." Maybe, but you can bet your life most of them can play large chunks of the repertoire from memory. 

step 7

SING while you play. Some people find it hard to do both at the same time and some people actually don't like singing, or think (often mistakenly) that they can't sing. But uke and guitar are both great accompanying instruments and the sooner you try the sooner you'll get used to it.

step 8