Something inspired you: you’ve got the itch to play, and by now you probably have your very own ukulele. Congratulations! A whole world is going to open up, and you will be amazed with all the fun you can have with this little instrument. The ukulele is so versatile, and there are many different techniques you can learn as you progress. Today we will go over a brief guide for beginners on how to play the ukulele. By the end of this, you will be ready to play your very first song!
How to Hold Your Ukulele
You may be wondering, “How on earth do I hold this thing?!” It may feel very small in your hands, depending on the size of your ukulele. And it may seem awkward at first. To hold the ukulele, hold it against your body, cradle it in your arms, and nestle the body of the ukulele below your armpit area.
If you are right-handed, you will use your left hand to hold the neck of the ukulele, and you will bring your right hand around to where you will strum. The place to strum for the best sound possible is usually where the neck meets the body, so this is a good place to keep your hand. Holding your ukulele is a good skill to have, but there are times when you may want to use a strap. This allows you a little more freedom, too.
Read more: The Left-Handed Ukulele Buying Guide
How to Tune Your Ukulele
Now that you know how to hold your ukulele, it’s time to get it in tune. Familiarize yourself with the order of the strings, which is G-C-E-A (from top to bottom). You can use a tuner from terrycartermusicstore.com, which has many options!
Typically, you will use a clip-on tuner. Be sure to tune each string to the correct note. Pluck each string as you look at the tuner. The fourth (top) string will be G. The third string, which is also the lowest sound will be tuned to C. The second string will be tuned to E. And the first string will be tuned to A (the highest sound). You will see these notes on the tuner, and then you will just make sure each note is in the middle when you are plucking and tuning.
Learn Some Ukulele Chords
Now that you know how to hold your ukulele, with or without a strap, and you’re properly tuned, you can really start having some fun. You will want to begin by learning some basic ukulele chords. Chords are what make up songs, and are usually three notes that you play together. Sometimes, you will only need to have your fingers on one or two strings though. Some easy-to-play chords you can begin with are C, Am, F, and G7.
In this video, you can see exactly where to put your fingers and how to hold the chords with your fingertips. A word of caution though! Don’t squeeze your ukulele to death! You don’t need to have a death grip when you play chords, but many beginners may feel like they need to press really hard or are just tense-up in general. Relax your wrist and take a deep breath. Keep loose while you play and you will alleviate a lot of hand pain, both now and in the future.
How to Strum
Now we’re really getting into the fun parts of playing. Strumming is very individualized and depends on your preferences. You may want to just strum with your thumb, or your thumb and index finger. You can also use all your fingers and use your nails to strum against the strings. Some players might prefer to use a pick instead, and this is best done with a felt pick so you don’t damage your strings.
There are different rhythms or strum patterns you can use for different songs. You will learn these as you go along, but a very common one is just playing all down strums at first. Just use whichever finger combination you want, and run your fingers in a downward motion against the strings. You can also try the strumming patterns Terry teaches in the above video on chords. You will build up a repertoire of strum patterns as you progress as well.
Learn to Play a Song
You may have some simple songs already in mind that you want to try out, but if you need a suggestion, give Stay With Me by Sam Smith a shot. Terry has a great tutorial on this, and it only involves a few simple chords. He will walk you through the rhythm and strumming technique needed. I am confident you can learn it! You can even sing along and play with a backing track. You will also get used to reading a chord chart, which is a music sheet that has the chords above the words of the song.
While there are many more aspects to playing the ukulele, this is meant to give you a start as a beginner. If you would like to take a great course at Uke Like the Pros, you can become a member and have access to the Beginning Ukulele Starter Course, along with many more courses! This Starter course, taught by founder Terry Carter, goes over everything from the different ukulele sizes and parts of the ukulele to strumming, chords, melody, and playing songs. Happy strumming and remember to have fun!