How to Play Ukulele: Top Ukulele Tips for Beginners

June 29, 2020

How to Play Ukulele: Top Ukulele Tips for Beginners

An instrument that uses four strings is the ukulele (aka “uke”). It is a member of the lute family. Initially, the uke emerged in the 19th century as a result of Portuguese influence on Hawaiian culture. The instrument’s volume and pitch depend on it’s construction and size. The ukulele is a carefree instrument with a cheerful sound. One needs to understand its basics before aspiring to become a professional ukulele player. "How do I play this instrument?" you may ask yourself when choosing your first ukulele. Here is the ultimate guide to learning how to play the ukulele.

The Ultimate Guide to Learning to Play the Ukulele

1. Get a decent ukulele

To choose the best ukulele, there are several things to keep in mind. Ukuleles comes in different sizes which produce different sounds. As a beginner, you should choose an instrument that is affordable rather than expensive. There are four categories of ukuleles ranging from beginner to professional, namely the soprano ukulele, the concert (alto) ukulele, the tenor ukulele, and the baritone ukulele. Flukes, pineapples, or fleas are nontraditional shapes of the ukulele. The fluke is shaped like a long triangle, the pineapple looks like a fat oval, and the flea is shaped like an oval cut flat on one end.

2. Know the parts of the ukulele

The parts of the ukulele differ slightly from that of a guitar or any other stringed instrument. Before learning how to play the instrument, you should be aware that its body is made up of a hollow wooden part with a small hole below the strings for emitting sound when played. The durable and long wooden piece connected to the body is the neck, which is generally called the fingerboard. The fingerboard is divided sections by raised bars called frets. Frets separate spaces under the strings for different notes. The tuners are located at the top of the instrument. There are a total of four strings; the lowest one is the first string and the highest and the thickest string is called the fourth string.

3. Tune your Ukulele

Tuning the instrument before playing will give it a smooth and perfect sound. Twisting tuning pegs at the top of the device will enable you to tighten or loosen the strings as needed. As time passes, the tension of the strings lessens and puts the instrument out of tune. Therefore, it is essential to tune the ukulele frequently. The top left peg on the head is for the C string and the top right peg is for the E string. The bottom right peg controls the A string and the bottom left peg controls the G string. By adjusting these, you can change corresponding string sounds. You can also use an electric tuner and alter the sound of your instrument until it’s perfect. 

4. Learn to hold the instrument

The sound of your instrument will be perfect if you hold it properly with the correct posture because improper positioning will make you feel uncomfortable. Also, your wrist would be prone to injury while playing. The instrument should be positioned in between your body and right forearm while resting the crook over your elbow. If you hold it over your body and high near your waist and chest, you’ll be able to move your hands freely. Don’t keep your body hunched forward because that posture can create back pain.

5. Get in the right mindset to play

Even if you haven’t played any kind of music before, don’t be discouraged; it always takes courage and determination to do something new. If you put your doubts and fears aside, then you can easily do this. Frustration may occur in the beginning, but do NOT give up. If you are determined to learn to play the ukulele, then nothing can stop you. No one is born with a natural talent for music; we learn and improve. Stop being hard on yourself; be open-minded and stress-free while playing the ukulele. At first, the instrument might not be very friendly to you and behave like a foreign object. It’s better to learn correct technique and different parts of the uke before expecting yourself to play it fluently.

6. Learn the basic chords

The most basic chord which a beginner must learn is the C chord. Place your ring finger over the bottom A string on the third fret and allow the top three string to be open. Once you are in this position, use your other hand to stroke down across the strings. Don’t worry about strumming perfectly at first. You’ll gets better with practice. Playing the instrument in the first week may result in sore fingers; then give yourself periodic breaks to let your fingers rest.

7. Learn basic major chords

Three notes—played together—form basic major chords. Significant chords will help you produce cheerful and jolly music.

Here are some basic major chords:

  • To play the C chord, place your ring finger on the first string in the third fret space. 
  • To play the F chord, place your index finger on the second string in the first fret space and your ring finger on the first string in the second fret space. 
  • To play the G chord, place your index finger on the third string in the second fret space, then your middle finger on the first string in the second fret space, and finally your ring finger on the second string in the third fret space. 

8. Learn the basic minor chords

The three or more than three notes played together come under the category of minor chords. The space between the first and second notes is a total of three and a half steps. Significant primary chords are used to play gloomy or sad verses.

Here are some basic minor chords:

  • To play the A minor chord, place your middle finger on the fourth string in the second fret space. 
  • To play the E minor chord, place your index finger over the fourth string in the second fret space, then your middle finger on the second string in the third fret space, and finally your ring finger on the third string on the fourth fret space. 
  • To play the D minor chord, place your index finger on the second string in the first fret space, then your middle finger over the fourth string in the second fret space, and finally your ring finger on the third string in the second fret space. 

9. Learn how to strum a Ukulele

To learn to play the vital pattern for strumming, strike down on the strings while counting out loud to four. This strumming pattern will make you a better ukulele player over time. This design is simple yet effective, especially when you are about to learn new songs for the first time. Repeat this strumming pattern every day to become familiar with it. Keep the counting and the strumming consistent and similar as much as possible.

10. Play your first song slowly

After learning the fundamentals of notes and strumming, combining them together will seem quite simple. To achieve perfection, you’ll need to practice; to master the method, you’ll need patience and time. For your music to be cheerful and cohesive, you must achieve an improved rhythm. Continuing the same rhythm might prove to be difficult in the start. You should first improve with the movement of your left hand, confidently between chords and notes. Try to count in fours while playing the instrument to keep a beat while strumming. When having difficulty keeping a beat while strumming, try using a metronome; it’s an electronic gadget that clicks at a constant rate, allowing you to increase the pace of your strumming to match the clicks of the device.

11. Learn whole songs

Once you get used to a correct and constant rhythm as well as all minor and the major chords, you can easily play any beginner song. With ideal rhythm and strumming, you can identify any song. Pick any music book from a retail store that contains popular tunes suitable for amateurs to play. Varieties of your best-loved songs are available over the internet with day-to-day tutorials. 

12. Practice daily

“Practice makes a man perfect” is a famous saying that shows that nothing progresses without practice. One of the most important things that you can do is revise the lessons that you've learned so far. You'll improve your overall playing skills every single time you practice. To become a famous ukulele player, you don’t have to be a natural-born musician because everything comes with proper practice. You’ll need diligence and perseverance. Ideally, you should practice at least 20 to 30 minutes daily to become a better ukulele player and achieve a mastery skill level. 

13. Play along and listen to ukulele players

Music is one of the most powerful means to show and feel emotions. With a ukulele, you can enjoy the excitement and fun of musical moments. One of the best things to boost your confidence is to listen to professional ukulele players and observe to study their every move. A beginner might not become an expert unless and until he takes inspiration from a professional and emulates him/her. Therefore, keep yourself immersed with lots of music and excitement.

14. Record yourself playing and listen back

One of the simplest, most effective ways to know where you lag is to record the music you played and then listen back to it with full concentration. This practice will help you understand the mistakes you are making. To become a professional ukulele player, you should know that mistakes are always on the road to success. If you make a mistake, you should start over and avoid making the same mistake.

15. Learn more songs

If you successfully learn to play an entire song with your ukulele, don’t stop there and think of being a professional right away. You should learn another song and master it the same way you did with your first song. Many people today want variety and music of different tastes and genres; therefore, they try to expand their repertoire by learning more songs. Never stop learning because there will come a time when you will grow bored of playing the same handful of songs. So be versatile and update your playlist after successfully learning songs.

Tips to Play Ukulele:

  • New strings should always be tuned and stretched out to avoid quickly being out of tune. To prevent this, leave your instrument stretched tightly overnight to let the strings become flexible.
  • All chords are not easy to play. The key is to be patient and practice every time you make a mistake. In no time, you will master all of the major and minor chords.
  • You should always learn from a professional musician rather than just depend on internet tutorials. A professional and experienced musician will guide you and correct errors when you play the ukulele.
  • Once you become an accomplished ukulele player, find videos online to expand your playlist and make your repertoire more versatile. 

Our tips and lessons will prove to be helpful if you adhere to them properly. We recommend beginners be gentle to their instruments and play them with kindness and love. Slowly but steadily, you’ll master playing the ukulele in a brief period. Choose your instrument wisely according to your requirements and desires. Every ukulele is unique. Therefore, selecting the right one comes down to two simple questions: what do you want and need in your new ukulele? 

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