At our Teaching Guitar Workshops we are often asked by elementary teachers what we think about ukulele vs. guitar for 4th and 5th grade. While the ukulele is small and inexpensive, six strings offer a wider range of playing opportunities, style, and color (with apologies to Jake Shimabukuro.) Thinking of the strings in two sets, bass and treble demystifies the 6 strings. Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie emphasizes the two sets. Here are some examples of the use of bass strings with beginning players of all ages:

• Day one of guitar class students can play open bass strings along with a number of classic popular songs in the key of A.
Use a bass line with a chord progression to help learn the names of the bass notes.
Bass notes may be played by students who are struggling with chords in an ensemble.
Elementary students enjoy making sound stories. The guitar offers a wealth of sounds but the favorite is squeaky bass strings.

Thumbs up for ukulele in primary grades. It’s a great way to learn patterns on the fingerboard that can be transferred easily to the guitar. Working with patterns, in my opinion, is better than thinking in keys on the ukulele, because it is in a different key from the standard tuning for guitar. For instance, the C chord on the ukulele looks like a G chord on the guitar.

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