Struggling on finding all the ukulele notes on the neck? This article is for you! When we start out on the ukulele, we typically learn the names (notes) of each of the four strings (G-C-E-A), then move on to learning some basic chords and some strumming patterns. This is mostly how I learned myself, and for a long time I got by on just this (maybe adding a few more intermediate chords here and there). After all, you can play an awful lot of songs with just a few chords and strumming patterns, and if you ever need to know a new chord you can just look it up online and add it to your repertoire.
So why learn more?
Because if you want to take your playing to the next level (and who doesn’t want that?), it is important to understand what is going on musically under the surface. So if you are ready to take the next step, let’s take a look at how to find notes on your ukulele.
Learning these notes will give you a greater understanding of how those basic chords work, and allow you to find variations of them, turn them into 7th chords or make them minor, find scales you can use to create melodies for your chord progressions, etc.
In this article, we will cover the basics of the chromatic scale, and how it applies to the ukulele, and I will show you some tips and tricks for finding notes quickly.
Understanding the Chromatic Scale
As many of you already know, our musical alphabet only goes from A to G, but in addition to these 7 letter notes, there are also 5 sharp/flat notes available as well (A#/Bb-C#/Db-D#/Eb-F#/Gb-G#/Ab).
All of the notes found in our ukulele – or on almost any western musical instrument – are part of what is called the chromatic scale. The chromatic scale includes all 12 of these unique tones that are found within an octave, each separated by a semitone (or half-step). It looks like this:
A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Dd – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab
This scale then, having reached an octave, simply repeats itself one octave higher, or lower if descending. The easiest way to visualize this on an instrument is to look at the kays of a piano, where all the white keys are plain letter notes and all the black keys are sharps/flats.
Notice how the pattern simply repeats itself over and over again.
Understanding the Chromatic Scale on the Ukulele
So how does this all apply to the ukulele? Well, on an ukulele, each fret is the equivalent of one half-step or semitone. So if you know the note of an open string (which by now I hope you do), all you have to do to figure out what another note on the string is is take that chromatic scale above, start on the note of whatever string you are on, and for each fret you move, move up one spot on the chromatic scale. It really is that simple!
For example, if you are playing the 5th fret of the C string, just find C on the chromatic scale and count up 5 notes from there and you get F (open string C, first fret C#/Db, second fret D, third fret D#/Eb, fourth fret E, fifth fret F).
Tips and Tricks
While finding notes this way is a very simple process, it can become very tedious to count them out everytime you want to find a note, so here are a few tips and tricks to help you find notes fast:
- Memorize the pattern of the chromatic scale – specifically, where there are no sharps or flats between two letter notes (Answer: between B and C, and E and F). Unlike a piano, the sharps and flats on the ukulele do not appear any different from the plain letter notes, so knowing where there are and are not sharps and flats in the scale will save you a lot of time when finding notes.
- Print out a picture of a ukulele fretboard with all the note written out on it – like the one below – or better yet, make your own! Making your own chart will really help to burn it into your memory. I make one of my own for each of my ukuleles and keep it in their cases so I always have a chart available (and so I can change it depending on how many frets the uke in question has).
- If your uke has fret markers (usually white dots), memorize the notes on the first few, that way you can simply start from those when trying to figure out higher notes.
- Alternatively, memorize where all the C notes (or whatever note you want) are so you can use them as a reference point.
- Understand how to find octaves. Did you know if you play a note on the G string, and then go up three frets from there and play a note on the E string it will be the same note one octave higher? The same is true for any note on the C string, played again three frets up on the A string. For example, the 5th fret of the C string, as we discovered earlier, is and F – going up three frets from there, if we play the 8th fret of the A string, we get an F one octave higher.
So there you have it, that is how you find notes on the ukulele. I hope this lesson helped!
For more lessons on chords, techniques, and songs, make sure to check out our site www.ukelikethepros.com. We offer you a bunch of great ukulele content that comes hand-in-hand with an awesome ukulele community that will support you in this journey.