Looking for a new creative hobby to pick up? Consider learning how to play the ukulele!

In no time, you'll be impressing your friends like Stitch! 😁

Stitch from

Obtain the tools

Ukulele

Mandatory: the ukulele, of course!

  • Consider borrowing a ukulele from a local lending library or friend before investing in one of your own

  • Decide on the type of ukulele you'd prefer: soprano (smallest) or concert (slightly larger) are good for beginners, but you'll also come across baritone and tenor ukuleles

  • Keep your budget in mind: about $50 - $200 will get you a decent to good quality beginner instrument

  • But also keep quality in mind: anything under $50 likely won't get you the sound you're looking for

Get a tuner that will help you to learn how to play the ukulele. Also mandatory: a tuner!

  • About $20 can fetch you a good tuner : this will keep your uke sounding just right

  • Download a tuning app for a free option

Optional

Strap: There are a variety of strap options available to provide support (the style depends on if your ukulele has a "button" on the end to attach one)

Physical copy of basic chords: Printing or purchasing a reference sheet will save you a lot of hassle looking up chords while playing music

Pick: The uke is typically played with fingers, but you could try a pick to give your fingers a break, or play adapted pop songs (but they can wear out your uke faster)

Capo: A clip that changes the length of the strings by pressing them down for you, helping you to achieve certain sounds (might be necessary for some songs)

Ukulele Anatomy

You'll come across a lot of these terms as you start learning how to play the ukulele!

Diagram of the parts of a ukulele Head: holds the tuners in place

Tuners: turn these to change the length, and therefore sound, of each string (also called tuning pegs)

Strings: hold down and pluck the strings to play specific chords and other sounds

Frets: found along the "neck" of the ukulele, guide where you place your fingers and hold down the strings (between the frets)

Body and soundhole: the hollow (usually wood, sometimes plastic) piece that amplifies the sound

Bridge and saddle: these parts hold down the opposite ends of the strings, keeping them tight and level

Tune Your Uke

Tune your strings as G C E and A (thickest to thinnest strings).

  1. Turn on your tuner and pluck one string over the soundhole.

  2. Turn the corresponding tuner a little bit and try again. If your note is moving in the right direction keep going that way! If not, go the other way.

  3. When your tuner lights up green for the note you are tuning to, the string is tuned! 💚

Here's what it will sound like for G (repeat the same way for the others):

Chord Notation

The numbers on the chord chart (a collection of chords) represent which finger will typically be used for that string.

  1. Index finger

  2. Middle finger

  3. Ring finger

  4. Pinky finger (more advanced chords only)

Chord chart showing how to play A minor, C, F, and G on a ukulele Chord chart from ukutabs.com

Start with the chords C G F and Am: these will allow you to play a wide variety of beginner songs! Once you're confident with those, D and Em are helpful.

On a ukulele tab, chords are written above lyrics to indicate where you should start strumming that chord.

Ukulele tab for the song Riptide Ukulele tab for "Riptide" from ukutabs.com

Quiz

Ezra is practicing the F chord on their ukulele. Which fingers will they use to play the chord? (They are right-handed!)

Strumming patterns

Most ukulele tabs only include chords, so look up strumming patterns to guide you on how to actually play the chords. These will be noted as D U (for down and up) or with ⬇⬆ arrows.

See how The Ukulele Teacher plays the strumming pattern DDUDU for the song Riptide:

Some songs use more advanced techniques, such as fingerpicking. Simply ignore these sections until you're ready to learn them.

Songs for Beginners

There are so many beginner song lists out there! Play what you're inspired by. Here are a few songs you'll likely come across learning how to play the ukulele:

  • Riptide (Vance Joy) 🌊

  • Hey Soul Sister (Train) 👯‍♀️

  • I'm Yours (Jason Mraz) 💕

  • Over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) 🌈

Some suggested sources for tabs are:

Take Action

Once you've got your ukulele and tuner it's time to get to work! Come into the Rumie community and share your goal in the #goals channel if you need some support and accountability to learn how to play the ukulele 🚀

Grace Vanderwaal playing the ukulele

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This Byte has been authored by

KV

Kamelia Valkova

Community Manager at Rumie