Are you looking for the best instrument to start your 6-9 year old child on the path to music?
Parents often think about instruments like piano or violin, but the ukulele is truly an awesome choice.
- It’s small, inexpensive, and easy to transport
- It’s easy to play and has a fun loving sound
- It’s fabulous for family sing-a-longs
- And, best of all, your child will learn the basics of music and rhythm
Ukuleles come in different shapes, sizes, and dollar amounts. If you are like this music teacher and mom, you don’t want to spend big bucks on an instrument that is definitely going to get dropped from your kiddo’s hands!
On the other hand, parents often don’t realize that a cheaply made instrument can prevent a student from ever learning. A $20 or $30 ukulele that can’t be tuned well and doesn’t sound good, won’t excite your child or encourage her to keep learning.
So let’s cover the basics, and get this done on a budget!
Ukuleles come in 4 sizes*:
Cross the “Baritone” off the list: It’s tuned like a guitar and won’t work for standard ukulele courses.
- Sopranos are the smallest size and the least expensive ukuleles.
- My favorite one: The Makala MK-S by Kala Ukuleles (aff.) It’s about $50. This ukulele has stood the test of time with my 6-9 year old students. It has been dropped and banged up – I once had a group of 7 year old boys play sword fights with their ukuleles when class was over. Despite all that, this ukulele still tunes up and sounds great!
- Tip: The Makala Dolphin by Kala Ukuleles is colorful and super cute. But, it has a tinny sound and there is not a way to put a strap button on it because the ukulele is made from a composite material (more on straps later).
- The concert is bigger, so it has a fuller sound.
- The Makala MK-C (aff.) has the same sturdiness as the MK-S. It runs about $70.
- The Makala (Kala) Shark Ukulele is similar to the Dolphin – I don’t recommend it.
- This is the biggest ukulele that is tuned like the soprano and concert.
- Most of the pros play this size. However, a pro ukulele costs into the hundreds and thousands of dollars. My own ukulele is a Tenor size and was over $400.
- There are Tenor sized ukuleles close to $100, but they generally do not have a quality sound. I don’t recommend them.
- Children aged 6-9 can learn well on a Soprano or Concert Ukulele, and that’s what all my students this age have learned to play on.
- I recommend avoiding the starter packs that include the ukulele, a tuner, extra strings, and a case. The tuner, strings, and case are usually a low quality.
- Separately purchase a good tuner (aff.), a padded case or padded gig bag for the uke (there are lots of these on the market), a strap (see below), and medium sized guitar flat picks (aff.) . The guitar picks make it easier for little hands to strum the ukulele.
- If you want to, you can purchase a music stand (aff), or you could simply place the music sheets on a table top.
- I recommend purchasing the ukulele at a music shop, if you have one nearby. Going to a music shop is a fun experience for kids. The shop can also handle any problems that may come up with the instrument.
Lots of people play the ukulele without a strap. It seems easy to tuck it under the arm and play. For children, though, this is tough to do.
Ask the music shop technician to install one strap button on the bottom of the ukulele. Tie the other end of the strap at the head of the ukulele. If the shop doesn’t carry ukulele straps, a small children’s sized guitar strap will work.
Here’s how it looks:
There is another strap that is sometimes recommended. It goes around the neck, behind the ukulele, and has a little hook for the sound hole. It will work, BUT as soon as your child lets go of the ukulele, it will drop. I have picked many ukuleles up off the floor because of this type of strap. So I don’t recommend it. It looks like this:
So are you ready to get your 6-9 year old started with ukulele?
Once you have your ukulele, come on over to www.kidsguitarcorner.com and start learning to play with the online course:
The ukulele is a great first instrument. Many of my students’ families have shared such fun stories of making music together. I think my favorite is hearing of kids in the back seat of the car, playing and singing with their ukuleles. Sure beats video games!
About the Author: Donna Zitzelberger is passionate about giving kids a lifelong love of music and has been doing just that for 16 years. Start your 6- 9 year old child on a musical journey with: First Ukulele Adventure!