How to Hold an Ukulele

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uke for beginners

I get asked all the time about how to hold a ukulele properly. While learning to play the uke is not difficult, it can take some time to learn how to correctly hold one.

Holding your instrument properly is the first step in your journey when learning to play ukulele.

Holding your ukulele while sitting

If you play your ukulele while sitting down and do not use a strap, the best way to start is by resting it on your thigh. This will provide some support and balance in positioning.

The main support of the ukulele will come by resting your forearm right on the body of the instrument, above the bridge. This can be done by resting it on the thigh or holding it higher, close to your chest.

With your right or fretting hand, you will want to hold the neck of the instrument for ultimate support. The neck should be resting on your pointer finger, between the first and second knuckles while the thumb is on the back of the neck.

Remember you will be strumming the ukulele and picking individual notes with your index finger, so it’s important to keep your right hand a little loose and agile.

Holding your ukulele while standing

When standing and holding your ukulele, you will want to use your arm with the strumming hand to press it against your body. This will once again be done by resting your forearm on the body of the instrument, above the bridge and pressing into your body.

Your fretting arm’s elbow should be a few inches away from your body when playing. Both of your elbows should be the same height while keep your wrist straight. In some chord cases, you may need to twist your wrist a little, but most of the time it should remain straight.

With your fretting hand, you will want to hold the neck of the instrument for balance. The neck usually ends up resting on your pointer finger, between the first and second knuckles. The thumb also provides some stability by pinching the back of the neck when playing.

Moving up and down the neck

Your fretting hand will usually stay towards the top of the neck when playing open chords which means you will be resting the instrument between your pointer finger and thumb. It becomes more of a challenge when you start finger picking or moving up and down the neck.

By using your thumb to pick and slide your hand up and down the neck you can offer more support with your strumming hand. As your hand get closer while playing it seems to be easier to hold onto the ukulele.

The most challenging part of holding a ukulele is when you play finger style. This is mostly because when picking with your strumming hand you offer less support to the lower half of the instrument. This means your strumming hand wrist will need to push into the body of the ukulele to hold it close to your body.

Using a strap to hold your ukulele

Traditionally a strap is not used with a ukulele but using a strap means that neither of your hands are responsible for holding it in the right position. You can install two strap buttons on your ukulele and use a guitar or get one like a classic guitar strap that will not require you to put holes in your instrument.

A guitar strap simply connects at one end of the body of the uke and the other to the head, while the part in the middle stays on your neck.

The classic strap goes underneath the body, comes up underneath, then hooks on to the sound hole. This can help support the instrument, but if you let go of the neck it will fall to the ground.

Using a strap can be helpful if you play a larger size ukulele or play standing for a long period of time. Using a strap can make holding your ukulele easier and make you feel more comfortable while playing.

How to hold a ukulele left handed

Some people find it is more comfortable to play the uke left handed or they maybe a lefty. Just like playing right, you will hold it near the top of the neck with your fretting hand. Your thumb will be pressed against the back of the neck, while your fingers curl around the fretboard.

The order of the strings from closest to your head to closest to the floor should be a G string, a C string, an E string, and an A string. Basically you are playing your ukulele upside down.

If you do not want to play your ukulele upside down, then you can just restring your instrument to reverse the strings. However, the ukulele is made this way for a reason, and it’s much more convenient to have your lower notes higher up on your fretboard.

Hold a ukulele while using a pick

Some players use a pick to strum the ukulele. This up and down strumming motion can be made with a standard guitar pick or a felt ukulele pick.

When playing and holding the pick, be sure you don’t hold it too tight causing your hand to hurt or get tense. When you use a pick, hold it between your first finger and your thumb while holding the body of the ukulele to your body.

With your left hand, hold the uke near the top of the neck. Press your thumb against the back of the neck and allow your fingers to gently curl over the fretboard.

Holding your ukulele the right way

While there maybe a wrong way to hold a uke, there is not really a right way. The best way to hold a ukulele is the way it feels most comfortable for you when playing. If you are uncomfortable, it will most likely be harder for you to get better with the instrument.

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