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How to learn to play the ukulele

A ukulele is a tool that not only fits into a backpack, but is also easy to learn from scratch. Thanks to video tutorials and a tutorial, beginner musicians will learn how to play the ukulele, learn to play simple melodies, pick the chords of their favorite songs on the ukulele, and sight-play. Practical learning tips for beginners will help you get up to speed with this tool.

Briefly about a musical instrument

The ukulele is the national guitar variety of the Hawaiians. Traditionally, the instrument has four strings, but there are also eight (four double pairs). According to the widespread version, in the language of the islanders “ukulele” means “jumping flea”. Given the kind of finger movements used to play the game, the name is justified.

Ukulele design

The structure of the ukulele is simple. The top of the ukulele is called the head. On the sides, there are pegs on it. They are needed to tune the sound of the strings. The head is separated from the neck by a nut.

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Next is the fretboard and strings. The main part of the ukulele is the soundboard. The resonance hole cut out here allows for more melodic sounds. The saddle’s role is to support the strings.

Necessary terminology

It is more convenient to understand the schemes and nuances of playing the ukulele, knowing the terminology:

  • the body, on the wood of which the sound depends;
  • socket – a hole that amplifies the sound;
  • bridge – string holder;
  • the neck, which is responsible for playing the instrument;
  • tuners – tuning devices.

Tool types

The choice of how to play depends on the type of mini-guitar. The sizes and features of the main types of ukulele are described below. Before you can learn to play the ukulele yourself, you have to choose “your” instrument.

  1. Soprano. The most compact and inexpensive option (about 53 cm long). An excellent choice for beginners, children. Given the presence of only 12 frets, complex compositions and songs will not work.
  2. Baritone. The instrument is similar in sound and size to an acoustic guitar. The length is about 75 cm. The musician has 19 frets at his disposal.
  3. Concert. The 58 cm long instrument is often chosen for live performances. Deep and low sounding, 18 frets and high cost make it a professional choice.
  4. Tenor. Ukulele 66 cm long. A rare species. The sound is loud, deep and low. The musician has 15 frets at his disposal. An expensive guitar, not for beginners.

Ukulele selection

Buying a ukulele begins with an overview of the assortment of record stores, an assessment of the characteristics and cost of the instruments.



The shape of the case differs from model to model. There are only three main ones:

  1. Guitar body (figure eight). A common variety. It resembles a classical guitar, but the part closest to the neck is smaller than the far part.
  2. A pineapple. From the name it is clear what the instrument looks like. For decoration, paying tribute to the first guitars of the islanders, drawings are applied in the form of tattoos of the indigenous population.
  3. Paddle. The body resembles an oar blade. A rare variety.

By characteristics

The material of manufacture affects the sound of the ukulele. It is believed that a specific wood should be selected for different types of tools:

  • soprano and concert – cedar, mahogany, rosewood;
  • baritone, tenor – maple, spruce.

The distance from the neck to the strings should be such that the play does not require physical effort. The closer the strings are to the ukulele necks, the softer and more comfortable it is to play. A very small distance is discouraged, as beating the strings against the frets will create unpleasant bounce.

By price category

In stores with musical instruments, there are two categories to choose from: budget and expensive. The differences lie in the materials of manufacture.

Inexpensive ukuleles are made of pressed wood, plywood. Option for beginners from scratch. The sound is not very clear, but just right for the home.

More expensive models are made of real wood, so the sound is clean, melodic. The tool itself will last longer.

Ukulele tuning

It is difficult for a beginner to set up the correct sound, so it is better to download a special application. The program will automatically recognize the tone of the sound through the microphone, tell you how to relax or stretch the strings. Another easy option is an online tuner.

The strings are counted from the bottom, the first – A, then higher sequentially E, C, G. After tuning the sound of the strings, it’s time to listen to the instrument – beat the strings with your nails from top to bottom, and in the opposite direction – with your fingertips. The correct tuning depends on the selected scale (key).

The initial setup is needed to get the correct sound. It is more convenient to use the tuner. He will show you how to properly relax or stretch the string. Tuning is carried out with tuners. Each of the four strings is tuned to one note. In order: salt, do, mi and la (GCEA).

Standard tuning

The strings are pulled alternately in the GCEA sequence. The classic G-do-mi-la structure allows you to play melodies just like a classical guitar. The difference is that G will not produce the lowest sound since it is in the same octave as C, E and A. Standard tuning is usually chosen for soprano.

Guitar tuning

The strings are pulled in DGBE order. This tuning is used for baritone, rarely for tenor.

Reading tabs

It is more convenient for beginners to study the classical chords Am, Dm, E, in order to further dilute them with others to perform their favorite songs. Tab schemes are available on the Internet.


The 4-bar lines represent the strings and the horizontal lines represent the frets. The dots indicate the placement of the fingers on the strings to produce the desired sound.

How to play the ukulele on your own

Correct positioning of the instrument will affect the sound. The left hand is lowered from the neck so that the instrument remains in place, fixed by the bend of the elbow on the right hand. If it works, you can play a couple of chords.

girl on the seashore with ukulele

Hold the tool with the bend of your elbow.

It is worth learning by memorizing a simple motive in order to feel the rhythm and mood, to get positive motivation. Playing the ukulele is easier when compared to the guitar. Just 2 – 3 times a week doing music, you can quickly get a decent result. This is enough to become the life of the party.

A few chords and a little practice are all ingredients for a successful performance of any melody.

Basic chords for the instrument

Popular chords to learn for beginners are Am, Dm, C, and E.

basic chords

Having memorized the position of your fingers on the strings, you need to practice playing the basic chords, and then changing them to get new sounds.

Note : The closer your finger is to the fret dividing pad, the clearer the sound will be.

There are 2 types of chords:

  1. F, G, A, B – major, sound higher and more fun.
  2. Fm, Gm, Am, Bm – minor, sound lower and less “happy”.

Select the chord type according to the mood of the melody.

Scales in major and minor

Scales – a sequence of playing 7 notes of one octave. Within an octave, sounds are softly combined. Scales are the components of most pieces of music. Scale training is needed to understand the combination of notes with each other, so that it is easier to memorize notes on the fretboard, to select melodies.

Advice: in the process of playing scales, it is recommended to pronounce or sing each note in order to train your fingers and musical memory, hearing.

The study of scales is available, both on a single string, and on all. The scales are divided into minor and major categories. It is enough to learn notes in one and find their relationship in another scale to speed up the learning process.


Major chords represent 3-4 notes played simultaneously. The sound is joyful and cheerful. Where to put your fingers to play different chords:

  • C – hold the fourth string at the third fret with your ring finger;
  • F – hold down the second string at the first fret with your index finger, and at the second fret with your ring finger;
  • G – hold the third string on the second fret with the index finger, here the fourth string with the middle finger and on the third fret the second ring finger;
  • A – hold the third string at the first fret with your index finger, and at the second fret with your middle finger;
  • D – hold the first string on the second fret with the middle finger, the second string with the ring finger and the third little finger;
  • E – Hold the fourth string at the first fret with your index finger, at the second fret with your middle finger and at the fourth fret with your third little finger.

Major and minor pentatonic scale

By playing with three fingers (thumb, middle, and forefinger) on the ukulele, you can use the pentatonic scale to train the basic principles. The technique is reminiscent of plucking the strings of a classical guitar.

The lower strings are played with the thumb, and the first and second strings are played with the middle and forefinger. In the future, the skills of playing the pentatonic scale will be useful in the process of performing compositions where there are two consecutive sounds per string.

Fighting game

The ukulele is more often used to perform music of the same name. The musicians also play jazz, reggae, country and folk. Fighting the ukulele is similar to that of a classical guitar. This is the movement of the right hand down and up the strings with a certain frequency. With the help of the fight, a rhythmic, even sound is achieved.

The fight is performed with the leading hand or both are used alternately. Small instruments are played with the index finger, large ones use a pinch. The working hand should be relaxed but precise in movement.

In the schemes provided on the Internet for free, the direction of the battle is indicated by an up and down arrow. If there is an asterisk, a cross, this means that you need to muffle the strings after playing the chord by hitting it with your palm.


Fight for beginners. Suitable for getting acquainted with the peculiarities of playing the instrument, assessing the tuning and sounding.



The basic combination from which to start learning. In the future, a stroke is used in the game.



Difficult but interesting fight. A rhythmic pattern of 8 beats assumes an emphasis on every 3 beats.


Spanish fight

Not the most popular touch, but unusual and therefore interesting. Allows you to perform complex melodies. It is based on an eight, but in every first down fight, a combination with rasgeado is used (they quickly strike the strings with a fan of fingers alternately).

Vysotsky’s style

A simple fight that the musician often used.

vysotsky's fight

Tsoi’s style

The most popular and famous fight of Tsoi is presented below.

Tsoi fight

Busting ukulele

Another name is “fingerpiking”. The essence boils down to alternately plucking the strings of the ukulele with your fingers. Be sure to place the little finger on string 1, ring finger on string 2, index finger on string 3 and thumb on string 4.


In tablature, numbers mean brute force. They read tabs by string numbers. The game starts from the bottom. Scheme 4-123 means plucking the fourth string, then rhythmically plucking from 1 to 3 strings with different fingers. If there is a dash at the bottom in the diagram (4_123), there is a pause after the pinch until the enumeration.

Muted ukulele play

Muting will diversify the game, allow you to make a beat. On small tools, jamming is performed with one finger, on large ones – by hand. The choice depends on the comfort of the musician.

jamming ukulele circuits

In diagrams, muting is indicated by an asterisk.

Muting is about stopping the vibration of the strings. The implementation is simple, but in different compositions, different techniques are used to attenuate the sound:

  • The hand clenched into a fist is placed on all the strings. They touch the upper string with their thumb, then tap the remaining three from the bottom up with the index finger. Final – put your hand on the deck. This is how the sound decays slowly.
  • The edge of the palm stops the sound – they touch all the strings at the same time. The sound stops immediately.

Each piece of music uses a specific muting method. Beginners learn both techniques in order to apply the correct one as needed. It’s easier to learn muffling on soprano.

Is it difficult to learn to play by yourself

A self-study guide will help you learn how to play the ukulele. Simplify the task of a thematic video for “dummies”. In addition to the music itself, the performer evaluates the correct position of the hands and posture in order to avoid mistakes.

black miniature ukulele

You can master the ukulele on your own in a month of daily lessons. Then improve.

To make it easier to learn how to play, you should avoid common mistakes:

  1. Incorrect positioning of the instrument, stoop. The body gets tired from a bent back, it is uncomfortable to play. The ukulele is positioned correctly if it does not fall without a hold with the left hand. Learning to place your hands correctly is not difficult with the help of video.
  2. Out of rhythm. A standard budget metronome or its analog in a smartphone will keep the pace you want. You shouldn’t speed up right away – the first step is to learn how to play slowly.
  3. Accelerating learning. You shouldn’t try to learn the game in 1 day. First, they study the chords, then practice the fights, and only after that they learn the compositions.
  4. Indiscipline. You need to train daily or 3 times a week to get used to the instrument and develop the necessary skills.

Consistently and confidently learning the intricacies of playing the ukulele requires patience and perseverance.

Video tutorials on playing the ukulele

The most detailed instructions with tips, useful tips are offered in thematic video lessons. There are free and paid videos online. One lesson is not enough, but if you take information from several resources, you can get a lot of useful knowledge. All that remains is to choose a tool in the store and schedule classes.

You can learn how to play the ukulele by following the video instructions from YouTube, and that will be enough. It does not require hours of training or strict adherence to body position. It is enough to learn how to read the ukulele patterns, feel the rhythm and start playing. The more often you practice, the faster you will get used to it. Start with simple and familiar tunes to hear if you get it wrong.

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