Reflecting on my primary school years fills me with joy – memories of making friends in the playground, going on school trips and learning everything that I needed to know to prepare me for my future. One memory that I’m not so fond of is the sound of the recorders playing Mary Had a Little Lamb, shrieking down the school corridors.
When I was growing up, I could never seem to master the recorder – and I had certainly never heard of a ukulele! For an instrument that had always been seen as a novelty, it’s rise in popularity over the past few years seems like we’re finally ready to take the ukulele seriously.
Schools all around the UK have been making the swap from the beloved recorder to the ukulele, and it’s no surprise why. Despite it causing a few heated debates, it definitely has its benefits when introducing children to the ukulele when they’re so young.
Recorders have always been seen as the “go to” instrument for teaching young children, due to its affordability and simplicity. However, with ukulele’s going for as low as £15, it’s a fair price to pay. The recorder may be fairly simple and has it’s charm, but having the ability to visualise on the fret board where to put your fingers is an aspect that children can pick up quickly and easily. Not only this, but the ukulele goes much further than the simple songs that they teach you on the recorder. Children love the fact that they can play their favourite modern songs on the uke and feel like the pop stars that they see on tv – after all, it’s got more street cred than the recorder.
Singing along to songs is something that children thrive off – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “let it go” bellowed as soon as the first few notes are played. This is something that they can’t do with the recorder.
Playing the ukulele as their classmates sing along encourages them, improving their overall enthusiasm. Not only this, but they can also combine it with their other school subjects, such as maths and literacy. They can focus on writing songs alongside playing the uke, which improve their literature knowledge and skills. They could also use their ukulele to memorise their times tables to a tune – every little helps!
The most important benefit of swapping recorders to ukuleles is the motivation that it gives children. The recorder is so easy to turn a note into a high pitched shriek, whereas it’s almost impossible to sound bad on the ukulele. Basic chords are extremely simple, yet sound beautiful and feature on most popular songs, giving the children instant results.
With the rise of tutorials and how-to videos on YouTube, it’s never been easier for even children to learn their favourite songs. The option for different sizes and types of ukes means that everyone can find one that suits them.
Mastering the four strings and basic techniques will provide them with the experience and practice they need in order to play harder instruments in the future – like the guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin.
Ukuleles are simply happy instruments that will motivate and inspire children everywhere, so it’s no surprise to me that primary schools throughout the country are making the decision to introduce children to the instrument at such an early age to ultimately help them to develop into bright adults – maybe even musicians.