Ukulele 101 – Brainjo Homeschool Music Academy

In the video below, Dr. Turknett explains why learning to play a musical instrument is the perfect way to support a developing brain, and why music provides the ideal foundation for every child’s education:

Now Enrolling: Ukulele 101

“Ukulele 101” course is the foundational music course for all of the Brainjo Homeschool Music Academy.

In addition to learning the basics of how to play the ukulele (heretofore referred to as a “uke”), students will also learn how music works.

Together, this will provide them with an essential foundation of musical skills and knowledge, which they may use to continue to develop their skills on the ukulele, and to learn other instruments, should they choose to do so.

Questions & Answers About “Ukulele 101”

Q: Who is this course intended for (age, musical experience)?

A: The course is intended for children ages 9 – 18 (or beyond). The course assumes no prior musical knowledge or experience playing the ukulele.

While it has been designed to meet the needs for home schoolers (so that it may be used for course credit), it is suited for any child who wants to learn to play music.

Q: What if my child is under 10 years old?

A: The course is set up so that it can be taken independently. Children under the age of 10 can definitely learn to play, and will be able to perform the exercises; however, they may need a parent to watch the lesson videos with them, to help ensure they’ve comprehended the concepts and instructions.

Q: Will I receive anything after completing the course?

A: Yes! After finishing the course, students will receive a Certificate of Completion, which will be emailed to the address associated with the account.

The certificate will include the skills learned along with the number of hours spent, so that it may be used for documentation of a school music/arts credit.

Q: Can I sign up at any point? 

A: Absolutely! The course will officially launch in early Sept. 2019; however, you may sign up at any point thereafter. The September date was chosen to accommodate those who are integrating the course into their homeschool curriculum, and are operating on a quarterly or semester based schedule. 

But you can sign up at any point, and you will always have access to course materials thereafter, so can work through them at whatever pace works best. 

Q: Why is the ukulele the ideal foundational instrument?

A: Having learned to play multiple instruments over the past two decades, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no better instrument to begin with than the ukulele.

There are multiple reasons why the uke makes the ideal first instrument for getting started.


5 Reasons Why The Uke Is The Perfect First Instrument:

REASON #1: It’s inexpensive.

You can get a high quality instrument for a low price, especially compared to other stringed instrument.

When you consider the incredible benefits of learning a musical instrument to the health and function of the brain, a ukulele provides one of the greatest returns on investment of anything you could buy.

REASON #2: It’s small and lightweight.

When learning a new instrument, especially your first one ever, you want as few barriers to learning as possible.

If you have a heavy, large, or expensive instrument, chances are it’s going to spend a lot of time hidden away inside a case. Simply getting started playing is an entire process.

The uke, being small, extremely light, and inexpensive, can be left out within easy reach, and easily grabbed whenever inspiration strikes.

REASON #3: No pain!

As anyone who’s tried learning guitar knows, getting started with fretting a stringed instrument can be a painful process. It can also require a fair amount of finger strength that must be developed.

By contrast, the ukulele is easy to fret, and a great way to build the finger strength that can then be put to use playing other stringed instrument.

REASON #4: It’s pretense-free!

Learning to play a musical instrument should feel like a trip to an amusement park, not a trip to the dentist.

Unlike certain instruments (I’m looking at you piano and violin…), the uke doesn’t have a rigid, formalized, often intimidating pedagogical system that’s also associated with a repertoire of songs kids have no interest in playing.

In other words, the uke doesn’t come with any baggage, or concerns about “doing it wrong.”

This is the way it should be with every instrument, so beginning with the ukulele will help ensure that their relationship with music gets off on the right foot.

Reason #5: You can start playing great music fast.

After learning just a few technical skills, you’ll be able to make great music on the uke.

Here’s a video of my daughter Jules playing the song “Riptide”:

Q: What kinds of materials are used to teach?

A: The course will use a combination of:

  • Primary course lesson videos to build essential knowledge and skills.
  • Supplemental written materials.
  • Periodic quizzes to ensure retention and understanding of the materials.

Q: What kinds of skills will be learned?

A: Skills learned will include:

  • How to strum and fingerpick the uke.
  • How to play individual notes.
  • How to play chords.
  • How to find any chord.
  • Multiple strumming patterns.
  • How to pick out melodies for songs on the uke.
  • How to pick out chords for songs on the uke.
  • How to play and sing at the same time.
  • Fundamental concepts of music theory.
  • How to structure practice for maximum effectiveness.
  • How to take your favorite song and create a ukulele version of it.


Q: What kind of ukulele should I get?

A: One of the great things about the ukulele, and one of several reasons why it makes an ideal first instrument, is that you can buy a quality instrument for not a lot of money.

There are multiple inexpensive ukuleles made today that sound and play great. My personal recommendation is for the Cordoba 15CM concert ukulele.

I also recommend purchasing from, as they will ensure the instrument is set up well and is easy to play prior to shipping, and they have outstanding customer service.

Click here to view the Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele on


Q: How is this course neuroscience based?

A: The course is based on The Brainjo Method, a neuroscience based approach to learning that incorporates the science of how the brain changes itself in order to learn new things. Using this method, thousands of students with no prior musical experience have learned how to play.

The method itself is incorporated into every aspect of the course design, including:

  • Content organization and sequence
  • Duration of lessons
  • Practice exercises
  • Songs learned

In addition to learning how to play a musical instrument, students will also be learning how to learn, and will experience for themselves that learning is not about talent or aptitude, but rather about following a systematic approach that leverages the capacity to learn inside every brain.

To learn more about the theoretical principles behind The Brainjo Method, check out the “Laws of Brainjo” series of articles at


Q: How much time each week should the course take?

A: The primary video lessons will be between 5 and 15 minutes in length, and the quizzes (where applicable) should take between 10-15 minutes. For best results, students should practice the songs and exercises in the course 4-5 times per week, for at least 20 minutes.

In fact, one of the great things about taking a neuroscience based approach to learning is that it’s much more efficient!

Q: Is there research that shows how music enhances brain and cognitive development?

A: You bet!

Finding: A study of over 112,000 students revealed that those who were highly engaged in music were, on average, a full year ahead of their peers across all subjects.

Source: Guhn, Martin, Scott D. Emerson, and Peter Gouzouasis. 2019. “A Population-Level Analysis of Associations between School Music Participation and Academic Achievement.” Journal of Educational Psychology, June.

Finding: Early musical training leads to “metaplasticity” – the brain becomes better at learning anything.

Source: Altenmüller, Eckart, and Shinichi Furuya. 2016. “Brain Plasticity and the Concept of Metaplasticity in Skilled Musicians.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 957: 197–208.

Finding: Musicians demonstrate superior performance on tests of executive function (sustaining attention, impulse control, planning, decision making).

Source: Medina, David, and Paulo Barraza. 2019. “Efficiency of Attentional Networks in Musicians and Non-Musicians.” Heliyon 5 (3): e01315.

Finding: Musicians have faster reaction times and are better at integrating multi-sensory information.

Source: Landry, Simon P., and François Champoux. 2017. “Musicians React Faster and Are Better Multisensory Integrators.” Brain and Cognition 111 (February): 156–62.

Finding: The corpus callosum (bundle of fibers connecting the right and left hemispheres) is larger in musicians.

Source: Schlaug, G., L. Jäncke, Y. Huang, J. F. Staiger, and H. Steinmetz. 1995. “Increased Corpus Callosum Size in Musicians.” Neuropsychologia 33 (8): 1047–55.

Finding: Musicians found to have better working and long term memory than non-musicians.

Source: ISITE Design. n.d. “OASIS.” Accessed July 22, 2019.


Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin reviews the benefits of music for the brain:

TED Ed Talk: How Playing A Musical Instrument Benefits Your Brain, by Anita Collins