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A Beginner’s Guide to Ukulele Notes [Charts Included]

ukulele notes

An excellent starting point for all beginners is to learn their notes on the ukulele. As you learn to navigate the notes on the fretboard, you’ll build an understanding of the basics – so you can start playing tunes in no time!

Once you’ve mastered the individual notes, you can use them to build chords, and chords quickly turn into songs. These individual ukulele notes are also necessary for learning how to play licks or riffs.

In this article, we’ll discuss different ways to tune your ukulele, and the chromatic scale as it applies to learning ukulele notes. Then we’ll list a ukulele note chart for each of the most common tunings on the ukulele.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Ukulele Notes

How Tuning Affects Notes

There are multiple ways to tune a ukulele. We’ll start by explaining ukulele notes for standard tuning – the most common way to tune a ukulele that most beginners start with. It’s important to understand that other tunings will alter the notes on the fretboard.

Standard tuning for the ukulele is G-C-E-A. The G is the “top” string, (the one that is closest to your face while holding the ukulele), and then you have C, E, A in descending order.

These are the notes the strings will play when you play them “open,” in other words, when you play the string without any fingers on the fretboard. For example, strumming the G string alone will make a G note.

Frets on the Ukulele

You should also understand some of the basic parts of the ukulele before playing notes. A fret on the ukulele (also found on guitars) is a raised line that goes across the neck of the instrument.

Frets are markers that help you find the notes on the fretboard, AKA the “neck” of the instrument. The fretboard is typically played with the left hand. When playing a note, you’ll want to place your finger as close the fret as possible, without being directly on the fret.

Check out the diagram below to get more familiar with the different parts of the ukulele –

ukulele note chart

Understanding the Chromatic Scale

Each note that you’ll learn to play on the ukulele will be a part of what is known as the chromatic scale. This scale consists of the 12 notes standard in Western style music.

You may have heard the chromatic scale explained in the “do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do” song, from the movie The Sound of Music. It’s also commonly used as a teaching tool in elementary music classes.

This 12 note set starts with seven “pure notes.” The pure notes of the scale are: A – B – C – D – E – F – G

In between most of these notes there is a sharp and flat. Together, they complete the 12 note set that is described as an “octave.” Once you complete the 12 notes, you’ll start over with the same notes, just an octave higher or lower.

On the ukulele, each fret is only “half a step,” or half a note, apart. The in-between notes are named with sharps (#) and flats (b). A sharp is half a step up, and a flat is half a step down.

For example, a “Bb” (or “B flat”) is half a step down from the B note, but not yet an A. An “F#” (or “F sharp”) is half a step up from F, but not get a G.

With sharps and flats added in, the scale looks like this: A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab

Although the half steps are described as either “sharp” or “flat,” they are essentially the same note. In other words, A# and Bb are the same note.

Most of these notes tend to be described more often by one name than the other; Bb is more common than A# for example. However, both names are technically correct.

You’ll notice that there are no enharmonic notes (flats or sharps) between notes B and C, or E and F. This can be confusing, but one easy way to remember the difference is is that B/C and E/F are always “neighbors.”

Ukulele Note Chart for Standard Tuning

Now that you understand some ukulele basics, let’s get started with the specific notes on the fretboard. Below, we’ll explain all the ukulele notes (on the chromatic scale) on each string of the instrument.

Keep in mind that each string loops through the chromatic scale, just starting at a different spot. Below are the notes for each fret, on each string. The order starts with the first fret, nearest to the head of the ukulele, and then moves toward the body.

The G String

G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb

The C String

C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B

The E String

E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb

The A String

Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A

Ukulele Notes for Alternate Tunings

While the standard and most common tuning for the ukulele is G-C-E-A, there are alternate tunings you can use as you advance in your playing. Remember that if the ukulele is tuned differently, the notes on the fretboard will change.

Below are the notes for two common alternate ukulele tunings. These tunings are also on the chromatic scale, but each string will start in a different place along the loop.

D-G-B-E Tuning

D String

D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D

G String

G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G

B String

C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B

E String

F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E

A-D-F#-B Tuning

A String

A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A

D String

D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D

F# String

G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb

B String

C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B

More Ukulele Note Charts

If you would like to learn more about ukulele notes or download a ukulele note chart, check out the following resources:

Want to take your playing skills a step further? Try the free online ukulele classes at TakeLessons Live, or look for a local ukulele teacher near you for private lessons.

 

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Guest Author: Wendy Parish has played ukulele and performed as part of the group Britches & Hose since 2012, also the year she started working as a freelance writer. 

The Healing Power of the Ukulele | Personal Stories and Interviews

learn to play ukulele

Whether you just started ukulele lessons or you’ve been playing for years, there are a number of benefits that result from learning to play an instrument. From social perks to health benefits, it’s important to learn about your instrument and craft. Here, writer, speaker, and host Don Smith shares interviews with ukulele players on the big power of a small instrument and why you should learn to play ukulele…


Gone are the days when the ukulele was just an instrument for comical value. It was common to think of the ukulele as an instrument only played by men in flamboyantly printed shirts in a tropical setting.

Cristine DeLeon, a New Jersey based singer/songwriter, has seen an increase in the use of the ukulele.

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“It really is a fun instrument to play,” she says. “My husband got me one about four years ago, when I said I was interested in learning to play.”

And what she has seen is the level of sophistication that musicians have brought to the ukulele. In fact, it can be compared to other trends in the artisan communities, where very basic items are refined into more complex works of creation.

Take macaroni-and-cheese, for example. One blogger writes, “it’s time to ditch the almost-instant stuff (complete with day-glow cheese) for a more sophisticated version.” It’s not uncommon to see higher-end restaurants with mac-and-cheese made with noodles made on premises with more exotic cheeses and other ingredients such as bacon and parsley.

Another example is the adult coloring book renaissance. In a recent article in The Guardian it states that “coloring has been said to be able to help [adults] achieve mindfulness, banish anxiety, and even deal with trauma.”

With that spirit, the last few years have seen a renaissance in the ukulele, and DeLeon is thrilled.

“There are performers like Victoria Vox and Lil Rev who are two of my favorite ukulele performers,” DeLeon says. Both of these performers are serious ukulele players who have made it their life’s work. ”

Another inspiration is the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain,” DeLeon says. “They are fantastic!” The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain formed in 1985 “as a bit of fun,” and since, has inspired other ukulele groups all over the world.

DeLeon took a different direction with her ukulele group. She and fellow musician Jeff Rantzer started a duo called BrassFedora and perform the music of Tin Pan Alley (i.e. “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” and “My Blue Heaven”) and are able to capitalize on the trend.

DeLeon says that one of the reasons the ukulele has done so well is because the level of complexity of learning the instrument is not as detailed as other instruments, like the guitar.

“For most people, the ukulele is easier to learn,” she says. “Whereas the guitar has six strings, the ukulele has four.” She also feels that the nylon strings of the ukulele are easier on the fingers compared to the steel strings of the guitar. “It can take a while to develop the callouses on the fingers to play the steel string,” she says. “The ukulele is easier on the fingers.”

While it takes several piano lessons before a player can play the most basic songs, the ukulele is quick to learn and quick to play. “When playing it [ukulele], there’s an instant gratification,” she says.

More: 4 Reasons Why Ukulele is the Perfect Stringed Instrument for Beginners


These days, many people learn to play ukulele by watching YouTube. Back in the day, however, musicians learned from books. Justin A. Martell, Tiny Tim’s manager, said Tim learned to play from a book.

“[Tiny Tim] got a book called You Can Play the Ukulele by Don Ball,” Martell says.

Tiny Tim was born Herbert Khaury and made the song “Tiptoe from the Tulips” famous in the ’60s. He’s probably one of the most famous ukulele players who ever lived. Sadly, Tim passed away in 1996 from a heart attack.

Martell has been able to share details about Tim’s life; according to Martell, Tim found it easier to get into the ukulele because he played guitar beforehand.

Martell says that when Tim would audition for shows, he would use the ukulele because it was easier to carry. Martell says that if the performer failed the audition, it wouldn’t be awkward to ask for the sheet music back from the pianist. “[Should] I never make it, I wouldn’t have to hang my head in shame and ask for my sheet music back, I could get right out’,” Martell says, quoting Tiny Tim.

More: Music Lessons for Kids: Should My Child Learn Ukulele or Guitar?


Besides helping Tiny Tim save face, the ukulele has another benefit: health!

In Hawaii, the Roy Sakuma Studio offers a program called “Hands on Healing” which is free of charge for cancer survivors. According to the website, “[The studio] provides an environment where those facing cancer may explore and discover their creative resources to promote physical, mental, and spiritual healing.”

The program helps cancer patients “discover new personal expression in a non-medical setting. It’s a great way to quiet your mind while keeping your hands busy.”

One blogger who suffered from breast cancer, says the program helped her “forget about cancer for a little while.”

“The physical and mental scars are a daily reminder of what we’ve been through,” says cancer survivor Lori Nakamura. “But the [ukulele] program lets me focus on learning new songs, and I know the process is helping with my memory.”

“I’m not surprised to hear stories like this,” DeLeon says. “The ukulele is such a fun instrument and learning a musical instrument helps in all kinds of areas.”

In an article on Effective Music Teaching, some benefits to learning an instrument include better memory, improved coordination, better concentration, stress relief, a sense of achievement, and happiness.

“I have played the guitar for years,” says DeLeon, “and now learning the ukulele has just made my life so much richer.”

With resurgence and health benefits, there will always be the element of fun in the world of the ukulele. Going back to Tiny Tim, Martell wanted to make sure that Tim’s legacy and his place in the world of the ukulele were understood.

“I think he definitely would have liked [the resurgence],” said Martell. “Unfortunately, I think many of those involved in the resurgence – neo-ukers I call them – scoff at Tiny Tim. They overlook the fact, though, that Tiny saved the ukulele from extinction in the ’60s.”

Martell adds, “If people perceive Tiny as a joke, that’s their problem, not his. He was very serious about his craft.”

While Tiny Tim was serious, DeLeon says there will always be a place of whimsy in the ukulele culture. When asked if she believes there will still be a place for the ukulele players with the flower print shirts, she laughed.

“Of course,” says DeLeon. “There will always be a place for fun in the world of the ukulele.”

For a primer on how to play the ukulele, check out at a video of Christine DeLeon (produced in coordination with this article) explaining the basics on how to play the ukulele.

The Basics of the Ukulele with Christine DeLeon from Don Smith on Vimeo.

Ready to reap the benefits of playing ukulele? Find a ukulele teacher near you! 


don smithGuest Post Author:
 Don Smith
Don writes comic books, graphic novels, books, and short stories. In addition to writing, he is also a speaker and a host.  Learn more about Don here!

Photo by Donald Judge

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