Learning how to hold the ukulele is important because you’ll want to be able to focus on what your hand is doing on the fretboard while strumming or fingerpicking at the same time. Being able to hold the ukulele comfortably and securely without thinking about it will give you the freedom to do both of those things.
As a yoga teacher, I know that there are lots of ways to adapt physical poses to make sure that everyone in a class can do them safely. It’s all about knowing what works best for your body, and the same applies to learning how to hold the ukulele! While there are a few tips and techniques everyone can use to learn how to hold the ukulele, in the end, how you hold your ukulele becomes a matter of personal preference. There are plenty of ways you can adjust and adapt the way you hold your ukulele to make it work for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can hold the ukulele.
Depending on the size of your ukulele, you may have to make slight adjustments in how you hold the ukulele, but the overall technique is the same.
- Hold the ukulele so that the sound hole is facing directly in front of you. It shouldn’t be facing the ceiling. (Some beginning ukulele players will hold the uke at a slight angle to look down at the fret board and the sound hole while they’re playing.)
- Place the ukulele across your chest right over the center of your chest. (That’s one of the reasons I love playing the ukulele so much – you can hold it right over your heart!) You may need to move the ukulele up or down depending on the shape of your body here, and that’s okay – just as long as you can still hold the ukulele securely.
- Tuck the bottom of the ukulele securely into the crook of your arm. If you write with your right hand, tuck it into your right arm. If you write with your left hand, tuck it into your left arm.
- Allow your forearm to drape across the front of the ukulele and notice where your fingers land. This will be the area of the ukulele where you will do your strumming and/or fingerpicking. Depending on the size of the ukulele and the length of your forearm, your strumming fingers will be located anywhere from directly over the sound hole on a baritone ukulele to the last few frets at the bottom of the fingerboard above the sound hole.
To check and make sure that you are holding the ukulele securely, you can try a trick I learned from James Hill: hold the uke in the crook of your arm, and with your other arm (the one you would usually use for fretting chords on the fingerboard) let go of your uke (carefully!) and see if the uke starts to slip. You can try this sitting down to make sure you don’t accidentally drop your instrument.
If you can securely hold your ukulele with one arm while you wave the other one around (try some funky dance moves), then you’re good to go!
To Strap or Not to Strap
Any time I see a heated debate about how to hold the ukulele on social media or elsewhere on the internet, you can be sure that it has to do with using a ukulele strap. And what it comes down to is this: as long as you don’t damage your ukulele with the strap, using a strap is a great way to make sure that you’re holding your ukulele securely.
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I personally prefer to hold a ukulele using a strap if I’m standing up. It keeps the ukulele right where I need it, and I can play without fear of dropping my precious instrument. For my concert, soprano, and tenor sized ukuleles, my preference is to adjust the strap so that the ukulele is right in the center of my chest in front of my heart. For my baritone ukuleles, I usually drop it down just a bit so I don’t have to scrunch my arms and shoulders up to reach the place where I’ll strum or pick the ukulele.
When using a strap, you’ll need to make sure that it’s securely attached to the strap button at the bottom of your ukulele, and then either to a second strap button near the base of the neck of the ukulele or tied on securely with a string.
If you’re in the market for a new ukulele and it doesn’t have a strap button, you always have the option to have one or two installed when you’re purchasing from Uke Like the Pros.
Posture and How to Hold the Ukulele
Your posture when learning how to hold the ukulele is important as well. As someone who has practiced yoga for over twenty years, I’m very conscious of my posture when I’m holding the ukulele. You want to avoid hunching over your uke to prevent pain and discomfort in your shoulders and upper back. Hunching over when you hold your ukulele can create tension and pain in your lower back as well.
Take breaks every thirty minutes or so when you’re having an extended practice time or play time on your ukulele. You can try a couple of simple moves to keep your body loose. (As always, remember that if you try any of these moves and it causes pain, DON’T DO IT.)
- Drop your shoulders down and away from your ears. You might even feel your chest lift a little bit when you do this.
- Gently draw your shoulder blades together on your back. Imagine squeezing a quarter (or a silver dollar) between your shoulders. Take a few deep breaths here.
- Do some simple shoulder rolls, gently squeezing your shoulders up towards your ears, then rolling them back. Reverse the direction after a few repeats, taking care to breathe deeply with each one.
- Gently pull your belly button back towards your spine to create some support for your lower back. This is also great for your core muscles.
- Relax your jaw and don’t forget to breathe deeply! Holding your breath while you’re holding your ukulele can create even more tension in your body!
Now that you’re comfortable and confident holding your ukulele, go find something new to play! You’ll always find great tutorials and online video classes on Uke Like The Pros! You can purchase a single class, or subscribe and get access to all the great online resources for learning how to play the ukulele!