Motivating Your Ukulele Students

At this point in the year, the newness of the ukulele may have worn off. If your older students are starting to show some passivity to learning, that’s totally normal! Tougher skills like switching between chords and tuning take a higher level of commitment. All of your students have the drive in them, but it’s up to the teacher to activate it.

Use preferred music 

After elementary school, nursery rhymes or traditional songs aren’t going to cut it. While it is important to teach with familiar music, it is equally as important to use preferred music. Music therapists are well-versed in the research supporting the use of preferred music to achieve a client’s goals. The same principle can be applied to music education. Using music that your students are excited about and like is essential for motivating them. When the melody and rhythm are already in their head, they can focus on the musical skills: changing chords and strumming.

Transpose Their Favorite Songs 

Sometimes the keys of popular songs can be daunting. Who wants to teach in the key of F# minor? Don’t forget, you’re in control and you can transpose anything! Most popular songs are easily altered to our favorite ukulele keys (G, D, C). Once you do this a couple of times, the world of popular music is yours and your students will be much more motivated. Our Education Team at Uku does this on a regular basis with their students. We are here to help you learn if you have any questions! 

Give them time to explore 

Your students are already spending tons of time on TikTok, why not let them do it in music class too? If you’re sensing some pushback or learning fatigue, that’s a sign they need a break. Give them one. Take 20 minutes to let them scroll their phones to find ukulele videos on TikTok or Instagram. Then, use the rest of class to share what they find! Your students will pick up on new rhythms and styles of playing without realizing it.

Show examples of people their age

If they can do it, so can I! Show your students that they are totally capable of playing by giving them examples of other young people who play. This takes some time and research on your part. For high school students, check out Jex Nwalor. He’s been playing since he was their age too! 

Watch Jex on Instagram

Watch Jex on TikTok

If anyone asks about the instrument he’s playing, it’s Uku Global’s Signature model, the Jex Low-G Tenor


Some ideas to get your wheels turning:


For the middle schooler who knows two chords: Fancy Like by Walker Hayes.

  • The original version is in E, but transposing it to a more accessible ukulele key is easy. Try it with D and A chords, or C and G, depending on your students’ knowledge. 

For the rap and hip-hop fans: Airplanes by B.o.b feat. Hayley Williams

  • A wonderfully catchy school-appropriate song that uses the Am-C-F progression throughout. Split your students up into two groups, one for singers and one for rappers. If students are uncomfortable with singing, this method gives them an opportunity to practice vocalizing and playing without the anxiety of singing in front of their peers. 

For a group that can’t agree on anything: Michael Jackon’s ABC

  • Popular music has a way of becoming a part of our identities. Use a throwback and all of a sudden the kids have something in common. Michael Jackson offers that blend of pop and soul that everyone can relate to! We recommend ABC because it’s an easy 3 chords (C, F, G). For your more advanced students, check out Heal the World or 

For the pop-rock enthusiasts: Natural by Imagine Dragons

  • This two-chord song will get everyone’s feet tapping, and the captivating lyrics are also clean enough for school. Natural is Dm and A throughout the whole song. 

We hope this newsletter inspires you to inspire your students! The Uku Education Team is always here to help, chat, and answer questions. Head on over to our portal today and join the family

The post Motivating Your Ukulele Students was originally published on Uku Ukuleles.

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