Tips for Playing the Ukulele at Story Time

The Library Adventure uses affiliate links, see our policies for more information.

Tips for Playing the Ukulele at Story Time
I am fortunate to be married to an experienced music teacher who is very generous with his musical knowledge. Two years ago, he bought me a ukulele for my birthday, and provided a few lessons, which enabled me to begin playing live music at story time. The ukulele has since become a regular part of story time and a signature instrument kids readily associate with “Miss Katie.” I really recommend the ukulele to any children’s librarian who aspires to provide her own story time music, and today, I want to share my best practices for playing the uke at story time.

  • Start with three chords.
    Following a chord chart is a simple way to learn some basic chords. The chord sheet I use comes from the Pa Mele O Hokulea Ukulele Academy.  Since most children’s songs are pretty simple, I recommend starting with just three chords: C, F, and G7. With these chords, you become an instant story time jukebox, prepared to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, ABCs, The Wheels on the Bus, and many more instantly recognizable children’s favorites on demand.
  • Practice!
    Learning a new instrument has a definite learning curve, and you’ll want to make your mistakes in the privacy of your own home or office before taking to the stage (or story room). There will always be little imperfections in any story time performance, but the more you play your story time songs in practice sessions, the better you will play them for your audience.  I still have my moments where I might freeze and forget a chord, but I’ve played most of my story time songs so many times, I pretty much run on automatic pilot when I perform them.
  • Memorize every song you plan to play.
    Nothing is worse than having to handle a musical instrument as well as your music and a music stand. These additional props place a boundary between you and your audience, and create a temptation for kids (and parents) to touch them or knock them over. To truly engage your audience, you really need to be able to smile and make eye contact while you’re singing and playing, and you can’t really do that effectively if you’re looking down at your music the entire time. I recommend memorizing all songs and rhymes you use in story time, but it is most important when a musical instrument is involved.
  • Be cautious, but not selfish.
    When I started playing the ukulele at story time, I was worried that the kids would break it. Over time, though, I realized that bringing the ukulele to story time was an educational opportunity for kids who might otherwise never interact with a musical instrument. So while I never allow a child to simply take my ukulele and run away with it, I have mellowed to the point that I allow kids to touch it. Don’t be afraid to give kids a chance to explore your ukulele; just be sure to set the limits you’re comfortable with, and keep a close eye on both child and uke during their interaction.

Learning to play the ukulele is a lot of fun, and a librarian who can play a musical instrument automatically stands out from the crowd. Follow these tips, and in a matter of months, you will be performing for your story time groups like an old pro!

For more ukulele tips, check out these blog links:

Find songs and chords on these sites:

About Katie Fitzgerald

Katie Fitzgerald holds degrees in English and library science, and has worked in small town and big city libraries, serving both children and teens. You can read her book reviews and posts about story time, picture books, and early literacy at Story Time Secrets. Also follow her blog on Facebook for kidlit quotations, story time suggestions, and interesting links.

Comments

  1. Any advice on where to get a ukelele? And, what range? Thanks!

    • Since it was a gift, I don’t know too much about actually shopping for the uke, but my husband bought mine (and his own) online from Guitar Center. I trust his judgment on these things, as he is the one with degrees in music! The website is here: http://www.guitarcenter.com/ I have also seen cheaper ones on sites like Amazon, which are more like toys and less like musical instruments – they would probably work just as well for simple story time stuff.

      I play a concert ukulele – that’s it in the picture above – and my husbands plays a soprano, which is smaller and lighter. I don’t think the type of ukulele makes that much difference for story time – it might just depend on how comfortable you feel holding it.

  2. Katie,

    Thanks for linking back to me. I recently renamed my blog “Ukulele Storytime” from “Simply Storytimes” and have updates on the way. Could you rename your link to reflect my new blog title? Thanks!

Speak Your Mind

*