So your child has just started learning the ukulele and as a parent you would like to get involved with his/her learning. One of the productive ways you can guide your child is by helping them warm up properly before playing their ukulele.
While we see many of these students succeed in playing and mastering the ukulele, there is one common challenge that we have noticed especially with children in early ages. Weak, or stiff (uncooperative) fingers!
Therefore, warming up with some finger stretches, slides, or just open strumming is important for children as it gets the muscles in their fingers and hands active and strong. This will help them play better and with much less physical effort.
Generally, jumping into a song, especially a hard one, becomes an uphill task for young children if their fingers are not properly moving. Fingers and hands get locked (stiff) too sometimes. It’s important for them and their hands to be in a more relaxed state and natural. So, by warming up their fingers and hands, children can make the most out of their practice time and set themselves up for success.
Here are some ukulele warm-up exercises that children can do to warm up their fretting hand, strumming hand, as well as their mind. These ukulele warm-up exercises will not only help them get comfortable but also set the foundation for an effective learning experience.
Do Warm-Up Exercises Matter?
As stated above, warming up has its benefits and why children should make it a regular habit before diving into the lessons or playing a song. Let’s quickly understand why warm-up exercises are so crucial.
You can relate to a person who is ready to run a marathon without stretching or jogging lightly beforehand. The muscles are stiff, and there are chances of an injury. We can say that the same concept applies to playing the ukulele or any instrument for that matter.
Your child’s fingers and hand muscles need some gentle preparation before they jump into playing chords, rhythms and melodies. Moreover, warm-up followed by the exercises help kids focus their minds and build their confidence, ensuring a smoother practice session.
Exercise 1: Finger Stretches and Shakes
Like sports athletes, our fingers need stretches to stay flexible and nimble. This is an important aspect to playing clearly on stringed instruments. Start by having your child stretch their fingers wide apart. Then tell them to make a fist.
They can repeat this movement a few times wherein you should encourage them to stretch their fingers as wide as possible. Next, you can ask them to shake their hands vigorously for a few seconds. This enables increased blood circulation, preparing the fingers for the ukulele strings.
Exercise 2: String Slides
This involves sliding fingers up and down the strings smoothly. Your child can start with the index finger on the first fret of the first string (A string) and slide it gently to the fifth fret. They have to repeat this motion a few times on the same string.
They can then switch to the other fingers and strings. This ukulele warm-up exercise helps familiarise your child with the frets and encourages fluid finger movements.
Exercise 3: Basic Chord Progression
Now, as the fingers are getting warmed up it’s time to introduce some basic chords. They can start with the C chord – a fundamental chord for beginners. You will have to guide your child through the placement of their fingers on the frets and strings to form the C chord shape.
Once they have got a hold of it, they can slowly strum the strings one by one. Here you have to ensure that a clear sound is produced from each string where the notes are played. Once they’re comfortable, encourage them to switch to other easy chords, like G or F. This exercise not only warms up their fingers and the hand but also introduces them to the joy of playing chords.
Exercise 4: Rhythmic Strumming
Playing the ukulele isn’t just about finger placement; rhythm is equally important. Teach your child a simple strumming pattern – down, down, up, up, down. Have them practise this pattern while holding a chord. This exercise enhances their sense of rhythm and coordination between strumming and chord changes. This exercise is deceptively simple and is best for waking up that strumming hand, wrist, and fingers!
Also, note that your child should start with the down-up strumming pattern at a slow, easy-going tempo that allows them to be completely relaxed, and then gradually speed it up. Remind them to keep their hands as relaxed as possible while strumming. To make this more fun they can add some dynamics while they strum.
That is pretty much to it! This tempo strumming exercise is excellent when you are just starting a ukulele playing session.
Exercise 5: Melodic Play and Ear Training
To make the warm-up routine more fun, encourage your child to play some simple melody using single notes on the ukulele. They can start with some tunes they are familiar with or tunes they like or some nursery rhymes. The benefits of this is that it warms up your child’s mind as they read musical notes and use their fingers to produce distinct sounds.
Beyond learning chords and strumming patterns while learning the ukulele, there’s a world of musical elements to be explored. One is developing a keen ear for melodies and pitch recognition. These are both valuable skills when it comes to playing music. Ear training not only refines your child’s musicality but also opens the door to improvisation, composition, and a deeper connection with the instrument. Additionally, your child will become adept at reproducing melodies accurately, playing by ear, and even transcribing music.
You can always introduce some ear training games that will make the learning process enjoyable while effectively honing your child’s listening skills. As they play these games, they become more attuned to nuances in rhythm, harmony, and melody, enabling them to become more expressive players.
Ready to Begin Ukulele Classes?
If your child’s interest in the ukulele is growing, why not explore online ukulele classes? Learning ukulele online has never been easier. With a plethora of resources and experienced instructors available, your child can embark on a musical journey from the comfort of your home.
Online classes offer flexibility, personalised attention, and a structured curriculum that caters to your child’s pace of learning. Whether your little one is aiming to strum along with their favourite songs or has dreams of becoming a ukulele virtuoso, online ukulele classes can be the perfect stepping stone to achieve their musical aspirations.
In any case, we have already said so much but just want to reiterate that warming up, which is often overlooked, is an important part of your child’s practice sessions. It helps bring your child’s mind and body into a relaxed state.
The good part is that these warm-up exercises don’t take more than five minutes at the beginning of each practice session. These ukulele exercises will help build finger flexibility, introduce basic chords, enhance rhythm skills, and spark creativity.
Here’s a pro tip; if your child is not figuring things out then there’s always tomorrow. They don’t have to drag the session if their fingers aren’t cooperating. It’s always good to take a break and come back the next day.