Languages for All
Short Courses
Your basket
Your account

Learn the Ukulele

Course Times & Enrolment

Tuesdays from 14th January 2020 (Code MU170-204) Tuesdays from
14th January 2020 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
G28 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Brian McGrail MA PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments
(Code MU170-103) • (0 classes) Course location to be confirmed •
Sorry, this course is cancelled

Course Summary

A practical course in ukulele playing, covering rhythmic accompaniment as well as melody, ensemble and solo performance.  Suitable for intermediate players and /or those who have completed at least one term of the Beginners course.  Opportunities to play and perform in an ensemble, and/or take a recognised grade exam either as a soloist or as part of an ensemble

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Some prior knowledge of playing the Ukulele is assumed by this course, but you do not have to have taken the related beginner course. 

If you have not taken the beginner course then you should be able to: (i) play a melody of 24-32 bars (with repeats) using eighth notes and dotted note rhythms, using notes up to the 5th fret on the top string; (ii) know the following chords (using any shape or position you know) – A, C, D, F, G, Am, Dm, Gm, A7, C7, E7, G7; and (iii) play along to either 4/4/ (common) or ¾ (waltz) time holding a steady beat.

Content of Course

Please note, changes may be made to the weekly content to respond and adapt to student feedback and progress.

Week 1 – Consolidation & Revision – as this is a post-beginner course the first week will cover the ground reached by Week 10 of Learn the Ukulele: Beginner.  We will go through the 11 fundamental chords, and play a few simple tunes (from the earliest grades – Initial & Preliminary) as a ‘reminder’ and warm-up session.

Week 2 – Performing Songs In Ensemble – this week we will work on performing all of the Grade 1 songs in ensemble (aiming to learn both the rhythm and melody parts): The Bear Dance, The Warriors Return, Daisy Bell, and Oh Susanna.  We will also consider which songs we can ‘segue’ to produce a longer performance (this will take in Drunken Sailor, learned at the end of the beginner course).

Week 3 – Introducing New Chord Charts – the chord charts from grades 2 and 3 will be introduced together so that the chord shapes can be learnt now, as many of them will come up as the course progresses.  This will give time (7 remaining weeks) to work on these chord shapes.  Both grades introduce 7 new chords, giving a total of 25 when added to the 11 known from grade 1 (and the beginner course).

Week 4 – Traditional Folk Tunes – starting out on three new tunes from the RGT syllabus that are ‘traditional’ folk session standards: The Galway Gallop, A Whale of a Time and The Atholl Highlanders.  Two of these tunes will introduce 6/8 ‘compound time’ (or ‘jig’ time).  Not every student will need to learn every tune – we will divide the tunes up so that 2-3 players will work on one tune.

Week 5 – Rhythm Work on 6/8 and Gallop Tunes – we will consolidate the previous week’s work by focusing on how to accompany the traditional folk tunes.

Week 6 – Campanella Style – learning a short tune in the campanella (bell-ringing) style, which uses a lot of open strings and enables the ukulele to ‘emulate’ the sounds of a small Celtic Harp.  Further consolidation of tunes from Weeks 4 and 5.

Week 7 – Focus on Tunes in Waltz Time – the focus this week will be two relatively easier tunes from Grade 2 but which are in 3/4 (waltz) time: Autumn Lament and Home on the Range.  One is in a minor key (Am) and the other in F major.  The exercises will also build on ‘sight reading’ (of TAB and chord charts).

Week 8 – Consolidation Week – working on pieces learnt over the previous 4 weeks and reviewing progress on the grade 2 and 3 chord charts.

Week 9 – Chord Melody Playing – learning to play a ‘chord melody’ as a solo performance piece.  Two chord melodies will be examined – Lovely As Moonlight and Waltzing Matilda.

Week 10 - Ensemble and Solo Performance – putting all the previous week’s work together!

Teaching method(s)

Each week will start with a warm up (scales; rhythm chart playing).  There will then be time for a full class exercise (such as learning a new melody together).  Students will then work together in small groups (3 to 4), performing a melody or accompaniment part.  This will involve listening to / and performing with other groups of students.  The course will develop students’ playing by moving through a number of songs across several weeks, with a view to building a basic repertoire of songs (say 4 or 5) by the end of the course.  The students will learn both melody and accompaniment parts to songs, and learn to perform each role in their ensemble group.

The ‘feel’ of the class should be more like a folk ‘session’, but with theory and advice added on.

Learning outcomes

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Hold and strum a number of chord types, appropriate to their level of playing
  • Keep time to a musical beat in more than one time signature (4/4 and 3/4) and in compound times of 3/8, 6/8 and 9/8.
  • Play a chord progression of at least 24 measures in accompaniment to a melody line
  • Accompany a singer (either themselves or another person) or other instrument
  • Play at least one multi-part Ukulele solo (chord solo)
  • Play / perform in a Ukulele ensemble (appropriate to their level)
  • Tune the instrument unaided (by tutor), with an electronic tuner, and tune all strings from one string (tune the instrument to itself)
  • Demonstrate  knowledge of the history of the ukulele and about various styles of music played on it (folk, blues, jazz, ragtime, country and classical), and play in two different styles
  • Understand the construction of the major, minor and harmonic minor scales in terms of ‘fret’ steps (e.g. tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semitone) and ‘box’ diagrams.
  • Read rhythmic notation of music (slashes and beams for strumming; note lengths, such as breve, semibreve, quaver, semi-quaver, and simple combinations of these lengths to create distinct rhythms)
  • Follow musical instructions such as dynamics and speed changes in music
  • Read basic music notation for the Ukulele (in addition to TAB and chord names / symbols)
  • Demonstrate sufficient control of their playing to perform ‘p’, ‘mf’ and ‘f’ strokes
  • Listen to other musicians and respond to what they are doing (keep steady time; respond to changes in time: speeding up / slowing down; respond to changes in dynamics: getting softer / louder)
  • Perform an improvised solo over a 12-bar blues progression; begin to learn how to solo over other chord progressions.

Additionally, students should have enough knowledge about making the following personal choices:

  • Playing with fingertips, a plectrum / pick or strumming with the fingernail
  • Whether or not to undertake a grade exam (choosing the appropriate level; whether to do one solo are as an ensemble; doing the exam live or by video submission)

Transferable skills

  • Ability to understand a ‘standard’ song chord chart (as found in folk, pop, rock and jazz music traditions)
  • Ability to understand and talk about music and its performance using widely accepted terminology (e.g. chords, semitones, scales, progression)
  • Ability to play / produce / perform music with others
  • Appreciation of sound qualities (harmonies) and sense of rhythm (timing)


Core Readings


Graded repertoire and exercise books (Grades 1-4):

Registry of Guitar Tutors (2014) Ukulele Playing Bexhill: Registry Publications

Available with discounted price by ordering through tutor.


Lil Rev (2005) Ukulele Method Book 1 Hal Leonard

Lil Rev & John Nicholson (2014) Fiddle Tunes for Ukulele: Presenting Old-Time String Band Instrumental Favourites Hal Leonard

Rob MacKillop (2010) 20 Celtic Fingerstyle Uke Tunes Mel Bay

Rob MacKillop (2011) 20 Progressive Fingerstyle Studies for Uke Mel Bay

Ukulele magazine (quarterly) – published in US, available in larger

Web Sources

Class Handouts

Chord charts, lead sheets and exercises will be handed out as appropriate, though a lot of material will come from the grade books.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.