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The top 5 places to learn ukulele in Toronto

Posted by Ryan Ayukawa / August 26, 2014

Ukulele torontoUkulele in Toronto is a hot pursuit for those inclined toward all things twee. From its early introduction to Hawaii from Portugal to the American Vaudeville and Jazz to today, the ukulele has made its way into modern music. Tiny Tim had the hit "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," George Harrison was an avid collector quoted as saying, "You can't play it and not laugh" and there's even, uh, Eddie Vedder's "Ukulele Songs."

Toronto has its own clear admiration for the ukulele. Last year was the flashmob of uke players singing and playing on the TTC morning commute. It also continues to be played and open jams, house concerts, and schools. And Toronto husband and wife team Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher filmed the documentary Mighty Uke about the history of the ukulele.

From ukulele jams to private teachers, Toronto has no shortage of ways to learn to play the diminutive instrument. It remains portable, easy on the fingers, simple to start learning, and yes, lots of fun. Please note some lessons are free and some are by donation or fixed cost.

Here are the top five places to learn to strum a ukulele in Toronto.

The Corktown Ukulele
Co-founded by Steve McNie and David Newland, the Corktown Ukulele Jam is one of the most popular in Canada. The "group" has a membership of over 1,600. Currently run by McNie every Wednesday, there's a beginning workshop with overhead slides, followed by an open mic, then a jam - all take place at the Dominion on Queen 500 Queen St. E. There is very much an open atmosphere, allowing beginners, and the more experienced to learn and participate together, all guided by McNie's expertise. Focus is on skill progression, different styles, and feeling.

The Toronto North Ukulele Jam
Held at the Cosmopolitan Music Hall at Cosmo Music (10 Via Renzo Drive, Richmond Hill), The Toronto North Ukulele Jam takes place every Monday night from 7pm-9pm. Led by Steve McNie (yup, from Corktown Ukulele Jam), it's composed of a sign up, workshop, and jam welcoming a community of various backgrounds and styles.

The Scarborough Ukulele Jam
Inspired by the Corktown Jam, the Scarborough Ukulele Jam takes place at The Old Stone Cottage Pub (3750 Kingston Rd.) every second Monday. The format is similar to the Corktown with a new song workshop, review of the previous workshop tunes, then open jam, then open mic. The workshop also includes the basics of the harmonic lesson. Run by Jay Moonah, Paul Butters, and Matthew Bartram, all levels of skill are welcome. Their website posts the basic chords, finger positioning, and tips on how to have the most fun playing uke.

The Toronto Institute for Enjoyment of Music (TIFEM)
The Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music isn't your ordinary music school. TIFEM has some non-traditional teaching methods, with learning focused on the individual's level and needs. Fun is an obvious key element to classes here. The TIFEM has two drop-in ukulele classes every Sunday. The free intro class is for the absolute ukulele starter with no experience whatsoever, with a focus is on basics such as how to hold a uke to the art of tuning your instrument. The level 1 class works on chord changes, melody, rhythm. Get to know their instructors online on the faculty page.

The Parkdale Ukulele Group
The Parkdale Ukulele Group (PUG, not to be confused with TTC-mobbing Project Ukulele Gangtsterism) has seasonal classes offered by established musician Eve Goldberg. Classes are currently offered for beginning level Monday evenings, and intermediate level Sunday afternoons. A favourite at folk festivals, house concerts, and folk venues for over 20 years, Eve also teaches private lessons in ukulele, songwriting and performance. Lessons for the PUG take place in the King St. and Roncesvalles area.

BONUS

The Toronto Public Library
Did you know the Toronto Public Library maintains a discovery of arts and culture blog? While some of the learning material for ukulele players may be directed more towards children, the library does keep a wide selection of ukulele based material related to both adult learning and songbooks/scores. The Toronto Reference Library Arts Department is located on the 5th floor.

Photo by Jason Cook

Discussion

11 Comments

indianguy / August 26, 2014 at 09:49 am
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Yes? Hi! You should have the top places to play the sitar (you know the indian guitar).
Comparaboo / August 26, 2014 at 11:47 am
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Indianguy you should give it a try! Ukuleles are super fun and very popular!

Great article! There are so many options out there, we compared hundreds of reviews to make our top 10 rated list of Ukuleles: http://www.comparaboo.com/ukuleles, to help people to decide which one is right for them!
Dr. Strangelove / August 26, 2014 at 11:47 am
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Uke Night at the Rooster on Broadview. Once a month on a Thursday evening. So. Good.
Ryan / August 26, 2014 at 02:13 pm
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Can you please let me know the top 10 places to learn to play the Kaisatsuko?
Noah / August 26, 2014 at 04:15 pm
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Taking ukulele lessons is the first step to suicide-town.
Skin flute lessons? / August 26, 2014 at 06:13 pm
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Where? Need it...bad!
Mayor McCokehoover replying to a comment from Linda Johannesson / August 27, 2014 at 11:06 am
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Oh PLEASE make this happen, Toronto and GTA. Wouldn't it be lovely if an insane number of ukulele players attended to blow this bloke's mind? Can we set the bar at 1000? AND keep it quiet so it's a huge surprise? :)
Linda / August 31, 2014 at 07:20 pm
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Did you remove my comment? If so, why?
Judy / October 5, 2014 at 11:56 pm
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I teach ukulele - in Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora - anywhere in the GTA. I do workshops and private lessons for individuals or small groups. Click on the UKEOLOGY link on my website and have a peek. I'm a professional musician, actress, songwriter, and recording artist, and have been playing the uke for about 30 yrs.
Judy / October 5, 2014 at 11:58 pm
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My performance website is: www.judemarshak.com
My UKEOLOGY website is: www.ukeology.com
healthy eating / October 15, 2014 at 04:11 am
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Howdy! This is kind off off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
Is it very difficult to set up your own blog?
I'm not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
I'm thinking about making my own but I'm not sure where to start.
Do you have any points or suggestions? Appreciate it

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