Free ukulele lessons harmonize with Park City Library’s check-out program (w/ video) |

Free ukulele lessons harmonize with Park City Library’s check-out program (w/ video)

Local singer-songwriter Bill McGinnis will teach free weekly beginner ukulele lessons at the Park City Library in April. Registration is now open. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

What: Free ukulele lessons with Bill McGinnis

When: 3-4 p.m., every Monday from April 15-May 6

Where: Park City Library 1255 Park Ave.

Cost: Free

Phone: 435-615-5600


The Park City Library will get a musical jump on its counterparts in Nashville and Oahu when local singer-songwriter Bill McGinnis starts giving free ukulele lessons to go along with its uke check-out program.

“The libraries in Nashville and Oahu and Park City allow patrons to check out ukuleles, but the Park City Library is the only library of those three that are offering free lessons,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis, who taught classes last June at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch, will teach weekly beginner’s classes from 3-4 p.m. starting on Monday, April 15, and ending on May 6.

The library has four loaner ukes provided by the Utah Conservatory, but once those are checked out, students need to provide their own.

“Consequently, there are a lot of ukuleles, and guitars for that matter, that sit in closets or are under beds collecting dust and cracking…” Bill McGinnis, songwriter and ukulele teacher

The first class on April 15 will be a basic session, Mcginnis said.

“The whole premise is to get people playing songs as quickly as possible,” he said. “We will learn three songs. In doing that, the class will start to develop small motor skills in their non-dominant hands.”

Right handed people usually strum the ukulele with their right hands and finger the fretboard with their left fingers and lefties vice versa, McGinnis said.

“Most beginners don’t have the small motor skills to work out the changes between the chords on the hands they use the least, and they can get frustrated quickly,” he said. “Consequently, there are a lot of ukuleles, and guitars for that matter, that sit in closets or are under beds collecting dust and cracking.”

The lessons will start with one-finger chords in the key of C and then move on the two-finger chords. Day one will conclude with a lesson about minor chords.

“We want to get the first, second and third fingers working to get that synapse with the brain working,” McGinnis said. “And during the class the students will hear some stories about the ukulele and get some insights along the way.”

Once the classes wrap in May, McGinnis will offer different ukulele programs for those who want to continue playing.

One is a two-hour ukulele camp for kids during the day of July 15 at Ecker Hill Middle School through Compass, a community education program with the Park City School District, and the other is an autumn evening class.

McGinnis bought his first ukulele from a seller named Kevin during a visit to Hawaii more than 20 years ago.

“He had a huge wall with hundreds of ukuleles and kept pulling them off the wall one by one, tune them up and play a quick crazy jig,” McGinnis said. “Then he’d hand them over to me and said, ‘You play.'”

McGinnis noticed the ukes ranged in price from $300 to upwards of thousands of dollars.

“”I looked at the wall behind me, and there were four ukuleles — a baritone, a tenor and concert soprano ukulele,” he said. “The sign said $50. I asked Kevin what the difference was between a $50 and and $350 ukulele, and he smiled and said, ‘$300 Brah. And I don’t give you case with the $50.'”

McGinnis asked if he could learn how to play on a $50 ukulele the same way I can on a $350 one, and Kevin said “Sure, Brah.”

“So I bought a $50 uke, a $20 case and a $5 book of ukulele chords,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis wants to teach ukulele because it’s an easy instrument to learn, and students can get a quality instrument for less than $100, he said.

“They are also portable,” he said. “You can throw them in the car, and they will fit in the overhead bins on a plane.”

Another reason McGinnis enjoys teaching the ukulele is because it’s a gateway instrument to the guitar.

“The uke is tuned a fifth, which is five keys above the guitar, and it only has four strings,” he said. “When you move from the uke to the guitar, you have to accommodate the other two lower strings. But the way ukulele chords are structured, it leaves two fingers free to go to those lower strings.”

Lastly, McGinnis likes the ukulele because it makes people smile.

“My understanding about the ukulele is most people just want to learn to play it for fun,” he said. “They don’t want to go to Berklee. They don’t want to go to Juilliard. They don’t want to be the next Andre Sokovia or Pat Metheny. They just want to be able to sit around and play along to Jimmy Buffett songs.”

Registration is now open. Anyone interested in learning how to play the ukulele can contact the Park City Library by calling 435-615-5600 or checking in at the information desk.

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