Coloured dots on frets?

I’m about to start teaching my 5yr old grandson the uke (on a Makala Dolphin).

Unlike a piano, with its 3 black then 2 black pattern of keys which make it really easy to learn the notes, the uke (and guitar) fretboard offers no clues as to the notes.

To help with learning chord shapes, and later to learn the notes, I thought it would be a good idea to put coloured dots on the frets which represent just the white keys on a piano. I’d expect this would help in mastering the fretboard.

Is this a good idea though?


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I’d suggest that the last thing a 5 year old needs is to learn the notes on the fretboard. Putting dots all over the place and expecting him to learn the notes will put him off learning. Teach him 2 or 3 chords and let him have fun playing his favourite nursery songs.


Welcome to the forum Robert
Only if your grandson plays the piano and knows the names of the white keys in order. Other wise they are just colored dots. Which in the long run may become a crutch and a hard habit to break.

I wasn’t planning on him learning the notes just yet, but rather as an aid to where to put his fingers, eg, to play the C chord put your finger on the red dot. Eventually (many months away) the significance of the colours would be introduced.

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Agreed. I tried to teach a 6 year old to play keyboards, and tried to get her reading music right from the start, and it was a big mistake…she lost interest almost immediately.

Learning note names should come after he can play some songs. Or maybe never…lots of great guitarists don’t know all the notes on the fretboard.


Ok fair enough, but only put dots on the notes required for C,F,G or A,D,E. that would be more than enough for him. In your photo you’ve got the entire fretboard covered in dots. :grinning:

You could be right and it would end up as a crutch. Personally, I find them really useful on my ukes and guitars, especially for finger picking.

Maybe I’ll start him off without the dots and see how he gets along, then maybe just introduce them for C, F, G and Am chords if he struggles.

I downloaded Justins eBook for ukes and it really is excellent, a snip at £6 odd. All the songs you could ever want, and at a very high production standard.

Anyway, fingers crossed!

Thanks for tour advice.

You’re absolutely right, learning songs is the key I think, and luckily Justins eBook is jam packed with them.

The long term aim is to get him interested in music rather than to become just a uke player. I’m hoping that the transition to guitar when he’s older will be easier, and then maybe piano (like his big sister) and if the stars align then learning to sight sing.

My theory is that by getting them to start young, when their little brains are like sponges, the neurones connect such that by the time they reach rebellious teenage years the skills are firmly embedded, so if they give up it’ll be much easier to resume when they realise their mistake. That’s the plan at least…

Just teach him the chords forget about the dots. All four of those chord contain some of the same notes. How are you going to explain that without complicating the issue?

Ha! that’s just one of my (many) ukes - one of my guitars has them on too! You’re right though, if I do put dots on the Dolphin, it’ll be just on the first three frets!

Yes, good point. Hmm…

Welcome, Rob!!!

Hello Rob and welcome to the community.
Good on you for introducing music making to your grandson.
I am not at all a fan of sticky coloured dots over a neck. Learning just two or three simple chord shapes and playing some songs is enough to cover a lot of ground.

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Hi Richard, I was talking to a friend who is teaching his grand daughter to play the uke. He started off with some coloured dots, but as of yesterday she asked for them to be removed as she’s confident enough now to go it alone. I think that could be the way to go, using them as an aid to get started, then removing them before they become a crutch (as pointed out in an earlier post).

The big problem for me is not knowing how to actually teach, so I thought the best way is to start with learning a song from Justins eBook and trying to keep up their enthusiasm and having fun, so they stick at it. I think learning music is profoundly important for youngsters.

Hi Robert,

Does it help to just parrot Justin… I often don’t do anything else :blush:

Have fun :sunglasses:

Ps: ditch the dots …not only because it’s a lot of fun to say out loud…ditch the dots :grin:…but also because I’ve heard it too many times…also from Justin…



Of course I shall defer to Jusin - dots ditched!


stairway to heaven by june no doubt :laughing::laughing::laughing:. is he in menza?

Hello Robert, the coloured dots on the uke for young children make a lot of sense to me - I never heard of them before - for a a very simple reason: the hand-eye coordination in a 5yo child is still in development, you think for example how they become more and more accurate in coloring a drawing and later in their handwriting. Having coloured dots would make the task way easier for him as it would be clear to the eye where the fingers have to go, you can remove them as soon as he gets confident with the chord.

As a kindergarten teacher I play a lot the uke with my pupils; in the class group they sing along and once in a while play along with maracas, and little children instruments such as drums or rattles; for the 5yo group we’re now finishing a project where we had only one lesson per month (10 lessons) and where I equated music , body language and english (foreign language) all as languages for children’s self-expression. I don’t teach them to play the uke - but I think that maybe what I do with them can give you some good ideas you can apply with your grandson. We always tune the uke together using an App Tuner on my smartphone, first they have to listen to a note through a speaker and we sing it with our voice, then I play the uke’s string and they have to tell if it sounds the same or it needs to be adjusted: this is all very important as they get aware that music comes from silence as a pre-requisite to listening and their listening skills will get involved. We have two ukes and one at a time they all have a chance to play along with me, I showed them how to play only the C chord which is the easiest and goes along really well all the way through with most songs I play: they are all very good at keeping time, they get confused when I add in 16th notes so I try to avoid that and play only 8th notes strumming and sometimes only downstrums on the beat.

If you play the uke the best way to teach your grandson is to be a good example for him, he will naturally tend to imitate you.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things but my index finger is now begging for some rest :joy:
I hope this can be of some help.

If only music teachers and guitar teachers would come to the same realisation. sigh.


You know that tune that goes like… :guitar:we don’t need no education :guitar:… so it’s so true and my mantra is “Hey teacher! Leave the kids alone!” as they will learn way more from direct experience than from myself, music makes no exception, especially at that age we’d better guide and support rather than “teaching” @Tbushell

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