Posts

10 Cool Ukulele Riffs Anyone Can Learn to Play [+ Tabs]

Cool Ukulele Riffs

Every ukulele player should have a few cool ukulele riffs in their back pocket. In this article, you’ll learn 10 of the best riffs to impress your friends and add some variety to your repertoire.

When you first start playing the ukulele, you’ll most likely learn the four basic chords – C, G, Am, and F. Once you have a handle on these four chords, you’ll be able to play tons of songs. But after you get comfortable playing songs, you’ll want to spice up your repertoire.

One easy way to do that is to include ukulele riffs in your playing. A ukulele riff is a series of notes played within a song that creates a catchy melody. A riff can be played as a pattern of single string notes, or as a series of chords. Often the riff is repeated several times throughout the song and is easily recognizable.

10 Cool Ukulele Riffs to Learn Today

Eventually, you’ll be able to pick out riffs by ear, but when you’re just getting started it helps to have the notes tabbed out for you. Ukulele tabs are an easy way to learn the notes of a melody, even if you can’t read music.

Keep in mind that tabs don’t usually include the timing for how long to play each note. (It will help if you’ve heard these riffs at some point in your life, so you’ll know the rhythm).

Tabs also won’t tell you what fingers to use to play each note. As you advance in your skills, you’ll be able to choose an effective fingering quickly. So without further ado, here are 10 cool ukulele riffs with tabs below.

1. “Shave and a Haircut”

This quick riff was made popular by the late 80s, semi-animated movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

cool ukulele riffs

2. “Weak” by SWV

This fun riff is repeated over and over throughout the song. Like many ukulele riffs, this one has been transposed to a key that fits the ukulele, while still maintaining the integrity of the melody line.

cool ukulele riffs

3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones

This opening riff is played by the guitar on the original recording. Because of the tuning of the ukulele, the tab below is written so that the melody is played higher than the original key.

cool ukulele riffs

4. “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley

This song simply requires a knowledge of the four essential ukulele chords (C, G, Am, and F). The turn around riff follows the chords.

cool ukulele riffs

5. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

One of the most popular, cool ukulele riffs is the opening of “Eye of the Tiger.” It’s a sure way to turn your ordinary ukulele into a rock and roll machine. Below are two different versions of the opening riff.

cool ukulele riffs

Or…

cool ukulele riffs

6. “Charlie Brown” Theme Song

A classic riff that has been played on piano, guitar, and now the ukulele. All the notes are on the one string (above the 5th fret) which makes this an easy riff you can learn to play today.

cool ukulele riffs

7. “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens

This opening riff is the longest riff on this list. It’s also a bit more challenging than all the rest because of the frequent changing of strings within the melody. It’s a fun challenge for beginning ukulele players that will help with finger coordination and speed!

cool ukulele riffs

8. “Friends” Theme Music

If you’re a Friends enthusiast, this is the ukulele riff you’ve been waiting for. Within the popular TV series, there are reprises of the original theme music that are used to help transition between scenes. This is one of those transitions that is used often.

cool ukulele riffs

9. “Simpsons” Theme Song

There are two tabbed versions of this popular riff below. The first is in the original key. Because of note limitations on the ukulele, the last four notes of the riff have to go up instead of down.

cool ukulele riffs

The second version is a transposed version of the riff. It has the same intervals as the original melody where the last four notes go down. Like most music, it is up to the individual artist to decide which version they prefer best.

cool ukulele riffs

10. “Beverly Hills Cop” Theme Song

This catchy ukulele riff has a great rhythm and you can learn to play it in a day. Plus, most of your friends have heard this riff, and even hummed it a time (or 10).

cool ukulele riffs

We hope you enjoyed this list of cool ukulele riffs to wow your friends and family. Be sure to check out Takelessons Live to learn more ukulele skills. You can also work with a local ukulele teacher to improve your technique.

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

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.

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.

 

Need Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

 

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. 

Top 10 Easy Disney Ukulele Songs + Tabs and Tutorials

disney songs ukulele

The warm and bright tone of the ukulele instantly transports you to a tropical island. The instrument had its beginnings on the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal.

In the 1800s, the ukulele made its way to Hawaii by way of immigrants. The word “ukulele” literally means “jumping flea,” due to the fact that the Hawaiians played all over the strings, jumping around as it were.

Today, dozens of YouTube vloggers transpose popular songs for the ukulele, giving classic tunes a fresh, new sound. Almost any song can be played on the ukulele – including Disney music!

Disney ukulele songs are incredibly popular, so we’ve rounded up 10 of the best pieces, complete with tutorials and tabs so you can start playing the soundtrack of your favorite movie. 

10 Easy Disney Ukulele Songs

1. How Far I’ll Go – Moana

We can’t discuss Disney ukulele songs without including Moana – the first Hawaiian, Disney princess. This fun song is about a young girl being drawn to the ocean and her true calling in life. It’s very upbeat and relatively easy to play, so it’s a great option for beginners. Get the ukulele tabs here

2. When you Wish Upon a Star – Pinocchio


A slow and soothing song, this Pinocchio classic is the perfect lullaby, and playing it on the ukulele gives it a very unique island feel. The strumming pattern for this tune is slower, making it much easier to master the transitions between chords. Get the ukulele tabs here

3. At Last I See the Light – Tangled


Originally played on the guitar, this song is also an excellent choice for ukulele players. It can be a little more challenging due to the fingerpicking and quick transitions, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn. Bonus: this is a duet, so have a friend sing along with you! Get the ukulele tabs here

4. Hakuna Matata – The Lion King


This well-known tune will make you want to learn even more Disney ukulele songs! “Hakuna Matata” is fun and laid back, so it pairs very well with the bright tone of the ukulele. The notes and strum pattern repeat, so with a little practice you can play the whole song very easily. Get the ukulele tabs here

5. Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride – Lilo and Stitch


This Disney ukulele song is perfect for those looking for a more traditional sound. Don’t be scared by how fast it is – this tutorial really helps break the song down. The only hard part will be learning the Hawaiian lyrics! Get the ukulele tabs here

6. A Whole New World – Aladdin


This song is perfect for beginners. The ukulele chords are easy to learn and they repeat throughout the song. “A Whole New World” is also a Disney favorite and the ukulele gives it a sweet melancholy feel. Get the ukulele tabs here

7. Kiss the Girl – The Little Mermaid


Beginners will love this song since it only uses four chords and has a slower tempo than most. The original version already has an island feel, so it works very well with the ukulele. It’s a great starting point when learning Disney ukulele songs! Get the ukulele tabs here

8. Under the Sea – The Little Mermaid


Another Little Mermaid song, “Under the Sea” is fast and fun – especially on the ukulele. It is very tropical-sounding and will make you want to head straight to the ocean! The strumming pattern can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it you’ll have lots of fun playing. Get the ukulele tabs here

9. Let it Go – Frozen


When Frozen came out, everyone wanted to “let things go” and build a snowman. Although the movie takes place in a very cold setting, the ukulele gives this song a warm and tropical feel. The chords are fairly simple, so beginners will be able to easily play it. Get the ukulele tabs here.

10. The Bare Necessities – The Jungle Book


“The Bare Necessities” will make you want to sing and dance while playing it. The ukulele chords and strum patterns are easy enough to make it a good option for all levels of ukulele players. Its catchy tune will also get stuck in your head for days! Get the ukulele tabs here.

Whether you’re interested in the classics like Pinocchio, or love the energy of Tangled, there is something for every generation of Disney lover on this list. These easy Disney ukulele songs are a great way to get some extra practice on the ukulele while having lots of fun.

To learn more intermediate to advanced songs, ukulele lessons with a private teacher are a guaranteed way to help you improve.

Need Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

How to Restring a Ukulele in 5 Easy Steps

How to string a ukulele

If you’re looking to find out how to string a ukulele, you’ve come to the right place. This article will provide five easy steps that will help you restring a uke in no time.

Whenever your strings start to sound dull, you will want to restring your ukulele. This will vary depending on your environment and how often you play, but a good rule of thumb is if you’re performing publicly you should change your strings every one to three months.

If you play less frequently as a hobby, you should change them every three to six months. Also, if you break a string you will want to restring your whole set. You don’t want to have one new string mixed in with the old strings, because the new string will sound brighter than the others!

Here’s How to String A Ukulele in 5 Steps

Step 1 – Unwind and Remove Old Strings

The first step in how to restring a ukulele is very simple, unless your uke is old and the strings have begun to solidify due to grime and oxidation from the tuning pegs.

(If you find yourself in this situation it’s best to just clip them off with nail clippers or a pair of wire cutters. But be careful not to harm the wood of the ukulele when doing so).

how to restring a ukulele

When unwinding the strings on the side of the ukulele that faces the ceiling when you play, you will unwind in a clockwise manner. Whereas, the strings that are on the side facing the floor as you play will need to be unwound in a counter-clockwise manner.

In the photo below you’ll see two different ukuleles. One ukulele uses a knot and slot method of holding the string in place at the bridge. The other uses a traditional, classical guitar style knot to hold the string in place. We’ll go over both in this article.

how to string a ukulele

These are the two different types of bridges you may encounter on a ukulele. Check out your bridge once you have the strings off to make sure it doesn’t need to be cleaned or repaired.

Step 2 – Secure New Strings to the Bridge

For this step, you will want to have your new strings handy. A few good brands for ukulele strings are Martin, Aquila, and GHS.  

It’s easier to change strings that have a bit of texture to them, rather than strings that have a super smooth finish. Better quality strings will hold the knot that you tie in them. However, with lower quality strings the knot tends to slip apart when you begin to tighten up the string.

Depending on the type of bridge that you have, you will need to use a different method to secure the strings. As you can see in the photograph below, the first style of bridge is relatively easy to work with.

All you have to do is tie a knot in the end of the string and fit it into the slot of the bridge.

how to restring a ukulele

This style of bridge has a slot, and a knot in the string rests under the slot in the small opening at the base of the bridge.  

Here is a close-up of the simple knot you can use to secure the bridge end of the string. If you feel like your knot will come apart when you begin to tighten it up, then you might want to double knot it.

how to string a ukulele

The second style of bridge has a series of four holes drilled through it. The string inserts into the hole from the body side of the bridge, then comes over the top of the bridge and is tied in a double or triple-loop knot along the top surface of the bridge.

So when the knot rests against the saddle (the bone part of the bridge) it gets pulled tight against the saddle when the string is tightened, and the loops cinch down – locking the entire knot in place.

The loop is not very difficult to make. You simply feed the free end of the string three times into the knot that you are making. Just remember to leave a little bit of the string out to secure it by tucking it under the next string.

how to restring a ukulele

Once you have all the strings secured to the ukulele, tuck the ends of the string underneath the knots to the left and right of the string you are tying. This way, the string ends won’t poke you while you play. This also helps prevent the string from coming unknotted.

After you get all the strings situated the way you want, pull them tight and go onto the next step. Just be sure that none of your knots are actually laying on the saddle itself. You want the string to knot up just behind the saddle.

Step 3 – Feed the Strings Through Tuning Peg Holes

The next step in how to string a ukulele is to insert each string into its corresponding tuning peg hole. You’ll start this step once each string is secured at the bridge. Make sure to keep one hand on the knots at the bridge just to make sure they don’t unravel.

After the string is through its tuning peg hole, you can begin to wind up the string. Remember, if you are stringing the side that will face the ceiling as you play, you will wind it counter clockwise. Wind it clockwise for the side that will face the floor.

how to string a ukulele

Here is a close-up of the string after the first turn. Notice how the string goes over the end of the tip of the string that is sticking out of the hole. The next turn will go under the string so that it locks the string into place.

Sometimes when using this method the strings will want to slide out of the tuning peg hole. In this case you can always tie a knot in the string at the tuning peg hole, and then tighten the string from there.

Step 4 – Tighten the Strings

When you get the strings in place, you will need to tighten them up. Do not be concerned at this point about tightening them up to pitch. Just tighten them up until they feel slightly secured and then proceed to the next step.

There are string winders that help make this job a little easier. If you’d like, you can use hand winding tools, or a battery powered one. Just be careful not to over-tighten the strings to the point that they snap.

While you’re tightening up the strings, you should also keep your eye on the bridge knots and tuning pegs to make sure the ends do not slip out.

Step 5 – Stretch the Strings and Tune to Pitch

The final step for how to restring a ukulele is to stretch the strings to pull out any slack. Once all the strings are on, simply lay the ukulele flat on a table and gently pull each string up a few inches.

Many nylon strings take a long time to stretch into position when you first put them on, and this step makes the tuning process go a lot faster. Just be careful not to pull too much or you can snap the string.

how to restring a ukulele

Once you have the tension out of the string, you can re-tighten it. This time, tighten it up to the actual pitch of the string. Then you will have a freshly tuned ukulele with new strings!

Every beginning musician finds re-stringing their instrument a challenge at the start, especially ukulele players because of the material the strings are made of. But these five steps for how to string a ukulele should make the process much easier.

If you want to learn more about playing the ukulele, or are looking for a good teacher to help you get started, be sure to check out the online and local ukulele lessons offered at TakeLessons!

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches banjo, mandolin, and more in Winston Salem, NC. Willy has been teaching for over 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to adults in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Master Ukulele Chords Your Guide to D, Dm, and D7

A Complete Guide to Mastering the D, D7, and Dm Ukulele Chords

How to play ukulele chords: D major, D minor, and D7

The D, D7, and Dm ukulele chords are essential chords all beginners should learn how to play.

For many beginners, the D chord will be one of the first ukulele chords you learn how to play. However, you may not learn at first that the D chord can be played in several different positions, and in variations such as D minor (notated as Dm) and D seventh (notated as D7).

Choosing the best position to use for a particular chord during a song depends on its proximity to the other chords in the song, and the sound you want to achieve.

When you’re making chord changes, it always helps to choose the fingerings that are nearest each other to reduce the time switching from one chord to the next. Keep reading for several suggestions on how to play D, Dm, and D7 ukulele chord.

How to Play the D, D7, and Dm Ukulele Chords

Here are five positions you can use to play the D chord on the ukulele, as well as three positions for D minor and D7. Below, we’ll go into more details about how to play these common chords. Tip: Save this image on your cell phone to use during practice sessions!

Ukulele chords: How to play D Major, D minor, D7 (Infographic)

SEE ALSO: How to Tune a Ukulele for Beginners

Playing the D major (D) Chord on Ukulele

The D chord ukulele players generally learn first is the major D chord in first position, played on the second fret from the nut.

Place your first finger, which is the index finger, on the fourth string at the second fret. Your second finger (the middle finger) goes on the third string, and your third finger (the ring finger) on the second string, all at the second fret. Leave the first string open and strum.

Congrats: you just played the D chord! Here are four more ways to play the same chord:

  • Lay your first finger flat across all the strings on the second fret and place your pinky on the third string on the fifth fret away from the nut.
  • You also can place your first finger across the first two strings at the fifth fret, place your second finger on the third string on the sixth fret, and your third finger on the fourth string on the seventh fret.
  • Another option is to place your first finger on the second string at the fifth fret, your second finger on the third string at the sixth fret, your third finger on the fourth string at the seventh fret, and stretch your pinky to the first string at the ninth fret.
  • Lastly, you can put your first finger on the fourth string of the seventh fret, your second finger on the third string, your pinky on the first string of the eighth fret, and your ring finger on the second string of the ninth fret.

Playing the D minor (Dm) Ukulele Chord

Once you have the basic D chord down, you can move on to the Dm ukulele chord.

The simplest way to play the D minor chord is to leave the first string open, place your first finger on the second string at the first fret, and your second finger and third fingers on the third and fourth strings at the second fret.

Here are a couple more ways to play the Dm ukulele chord:

  • Lay your first finger across the first three strings at the fifth fret and place your third finger on the fourth string at the seventh fret. You can also use the same fingering and place your pinky on the first string at the eighth fret for an additional high note.
  • A slightly more complex version requires you to place your first finger on the fourth string at the seventh fret, your second finger on the first string at the eighth fret, your third finger on the third string at the ninth fret, and your pinky on the second string at the tenth fret.

Playing the D7 Ukulele Chord

The D7 ukulele position adds a seventh note to the D chord and gives the chord a twangy sound.

The simplest way to play a D7 chord is to lay your first finger across all strings at the second fret and place your second finger on the first string at the third fret.

Here are three more ways to play the D7 ukulele chord:

  • Lay your first finger across all strings at the fifth fret and place your second finger on the third string at the sixth fret.
  • Another version requires you to put your first finger on the third string at the sixth fret, your second finger on the fourth string at the seventh fret, and your ring finger on the second string at the eighth fret.
  • You also can play the D7 chord with your first finger on the fourth string at the seventh fret, your second finger on the second string at the eighth fret, with your third finger on the third string and your pinky on the first string at the ninth fret.

The best way to learn ukulele chords is to practice playing songs for beginners. Working with a ukulele teacher is a great way to find songs that are appropriate for your skill level and will help you advance quicker. Search for a ukulele teacher today to get started!

If ukulele lessons are too expensive an option for you, you can also try taking online ukulele classes, which are a much more affordable option. Good luck learning the D chords and remember to have fun!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Photo by Ffion Atkinson

The History of the Ukulele: All Your Questions Answered

 

history of the ukulele

The ukulele is a unique instrument that is loved all over the globe for its simplicity and cheerful sound. However, many people incorrectly assume that the ukulele had its origin in Hawaii.

Although the state plays an important role in the development of the ukulele’s image, the initial version of the ukulele was surprisingly not developed in Hawaii. Keep reading to find out where the ukulele originated, and more interesting facts about its unique history.

The Unique History of the Ukulele

When and Where Did the Ukulele Originate?

The history of the ukulele begins in Madeira, a very small mountainous island in the Atlantic Ocean, located southeast of Portugal. The island began attracting tourists in the early 1800s, and these new visitors enjoyed a wide range of music. They especially enjoyed tunes created by an instrument known as the machête, a smaller version of the guitar.

The machête was the precursor to the modern-day ukulele we know and love today! A Portuguese immigrant named Joao Fernandez brought this guitar-like instrument to Hawaii by  in 1879. The Portuguese referred to the machête as the “braginho,” however, the natives later renamed it to the “ukulele.”

When the Portuguese immigrants arrived in Hawaii and began playing the “braginho” in the streets, the townspeople naturally loved its sound. Its popularity rose quickly on the Hawaiian Islands and soon became Hawaii’s musical image.

Who Created the First Ukulele?

Three woodworkers from Portugal were key in the advancement of the ukulele. These three woodworkers and former cabinet makers – Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias, and Jose do Espirito Santo – found a new way to make money on Oahu as they settled into their homes.

The three craftsmen quickly saw a market in selling guitars, machêtes, and other stringed instruments. One by one, they each opened up their own shop and boasted their ability to make machêtes.

Although the exact moment of the creation of the ukulele is unclear, we know that these three woodworkers had a hand in the production, proliferation, and dispersion of the instrument.

The modern-day ukulele appears to be a combination of the machête and another Portuguese instrument called the rajão. The rajão is a five-stringed instrument, but its top four strings are in the order of the ukulele’s strings: G-C-E-A.

How Did the Ukulele Get so Popular?

Portuguese immigrants, including Joao Fernandez and the three craftsmen, certainly helped fuel the ukulele’s popularity. But the instrument’s expansion was largely due to its promotion by Hawaii’s last king, David Kalakaua who reigned from 1874-1891.

The ukulele often played a major role in royal events. The king also encouraged local people to learn how to play the ukulele, and even decided to learn it himself!

The Ukulele Travels Across the Globe

Jonah Kumalae, a Hawaiian ukulele manufacturer and musician, brought the ukulele to San Francisco in 1915 for the Pan Pacific International Exhibition. The ukulele’s introduction at the exhibition caught the world’s attention, and thus the first “ukulele craze” began.

One of the ukulele’s three original craftsmen, Manuel Nunes, passed on his legacy to his son who started a ukulele factory in Los Angeles, California. Throughout the 1920s the ukulele began to successfully make its way across the globe, from Canada to Japan, thanks to a variety of musicians.

SEE ALSO: 3 Big Benefits of Taking Ukulele Lessons

Which Famous Musicians Play the Ukulele?

Undeniably, one of the most famous ukulele musicians is George Formby from the UK. Formby was a multi-talented actor, singer, musician, and comedian. His most famous song titled “Leaning on a Lamp Post” was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2014.


Jake Shimabukuro, another famous ukulele musician, first held a ukulele in his hands at the age of 4. Jake credits many musicians in Hawaii for influencing his music. He came to fame by accident when someone posted one of his songs on YouTube!

You may also recognize a few of these names: Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Jack Johnson, Cyndi Lauper, Paul McCartney, and P!nk. These musicians have all incorporated the ukulele into their music.

From its humble origins on a Portuguese island, the ukulele continues to grow in popularity. We hope you enjoyed learning about the diverse history of this unique instrument. If you’re interested in learning how to play, check out the online ukulele classes at TakeLessons Live and find out why so many people love the uke!

Guest post by Colleen Kinsey, Editor in Chief at Coustii. Colleen enjoys teaching ukulele and guitar skills online, and her uke has traveled with her around the world!

hawaiian ukulele songs

Strum Patterns You’ll Need to Play Hawaiian Ukulele Songs

hawaiian ukulele songs

Get your uke and start strumming! Music teacher Christopher S. shares how to play five common ukulele strumming patterns

In order to play any stringed instrument, such as the guitar, mandolin, or ukulele, you have to learn how to strum it. Strumming is an essential part to playing the ukulele, which gives it that true Hawaiian-Island sound.

In this article, I will discuss the different types of strum patterns used when learning to play Hawaiian ukulele songs and also the positioning of the hand to achieve these different strum patterns.

There are many different ways to start learning basic strumming on the ukulele. You will also see that, by looking at other ukulele players, everybody has their own style. Eventually, with proper practice, you will take suggestions and patterns and develop your own techniques and styles, as well.

To get you started, here are my suggestions to begin learning the common techniques and practices of strumming the ukulele.

Strumming Technique

First, start off with a simple chord (for example, a C chord), and practice your strumming technique with just that chord. The most common and traditional way of strumming the ukulele is by using your index finger. With your right hand just over the sound hole of the instrument, strum down with the index finger, hitting the strings with your nail. When you strum up, just bring your index finger back up into the palm of your hand, and the strings will make contact with the flesh of your finger.

Another popular strumming method is to put your thumb and index finger together to form a semi-two-sided pick. That way you strum down with the nail of your index finger and up with the nail of your thumb.

In any case, it is always important to strum with your wrist and not your whole hand when strumming. Using your entire hand and arm to strum can get tiring quickly and you will loose control much more easily.

Basic Strum Patterns

Now that you have the basics in strumming technique, let’s take a look at some basic strum patterns which you can use to play your favorite Hawaiian ukulele songs!

To help notate these patterns, I will use a “D” indicating a down strum and a “U” indicating an up strum. A “-” means that there is a pause or a missed strum.

The most common time in all music is the 4/4 (“four-four”) time signature. This means that, in one bar of music, you can count “1, 2, 3, 4,” and it fits right into one complete strum pattern.

Pattern One

This first pattern is a very common one and is very easy to do once you have the feel for it. My suggestion to learning this pattern is to try to play it slow. Do it once, and then stop the strings, and then do it again the same way. Once you feel comfortable with the finger motion, try repeating it but keeping it at a slow tempo. Lastly, play it at a faster tempo so that it sounds like music! This pattern is very common and can even be used in the song “Hey Ya!” by Outkast.

Strumming Pattern 1: D – D U – U D –

Pattern Two

This second pattern is very similar to strumming pattern 1, although it has another “up” strum at the end to really connect the repetitions. This makes it seem a little harder; however, once you start using it, it may seem even more natural to do. You can use this pattern in the song “High Hopes” by Paolo Nutini.

Strumming Pattern 2: D – D U – U D U

Pattern Three

This next strumming pattern is a really straight-forward one and is very easy to do. You can play this pattern in the song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys, and you will instantly hear it.

Strumming Pattern 3: D – D U D U D U

Pattern Four

Now, lets look at what is known as “Half-Bar Patterns.” Just like the name implies, these are patterns which only make up two beats of the 4/4 (“four-four”) measure. These patterns are good to use on songs where the chords change quickly. This pattern can be used to play the “Sesame Street” theme song. Of course, like all patterns, this one gets repeated, so make sure you practice changing chords on every repeat.

Strumming Pattern 4: D – D U

Pattern Five

This last pattern will use a new technique. When reading strumming notation, you may see an “x.” This is to indicate that you make a percussive sound, rather than a harmonic sound, when you strum. To do this, you simply relax the left-hand fingers, so they are touching the strings but not applying pressure. Then, when you strum with the right hand, you get a kind of “chink” sound. This next pattern uses that “chink” sound which you can hear in a song like “Betrayed by Bones” by Hellogoodbye.

Strumming Pattern 5: D U x U

Knowing basic strumming patterns is a great first step to learning how to play Hawaiian ukulele songs. Be sure to spend some time practicing the patterns above to change up your practice and improve your technique. These patterns can be applied to other genres, as well.

Lastly, be sure to work with a ukulele instructor to really fine tune your uke-playing skills! A teacher can show you what you are doing well, or need to improve on, and will make your ukulele practice more effective and enjoyable.

Photo by aaron gilson

Christopher S.Post Author: Christopher S.
Christopher S. teaches online ukulele, guitar, and bass guitar lessons. He lived abroad in Seville, Spain for two years, where he studied classical and flamenco guitar. He is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Guitar Performance, and has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Top 10 Essential Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners

Top 10 Essential & Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners

Top 10 Easy Ukulele Songs for BeginnersLooking for easy ukulele songs for beginners? You can’t go wrong with any of the tunes on this list by ukulele teacher Willy M.! Although each of these hits are easy uke songs for beginners, they might require you to learn a new chord or two.

10 Easy Ukulele Songs for Beginners

Learning to play the ukulele comes with a whole catalog of fun songs. To help you out on your budding career as a ukulele player, here are the top 10 essential easy uke songs to play. Keep scrolling for videos of each.

  • I Make My Own Sunshine – Alyssa Bonagura
  • Riptide – Vance Joy
  • Mele Kalikimaka – Robert Alex Anderson
  • Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
  • Upside Down – Jack Johnson
  • Tonight You Belong to Me – Prudence and Patience
  • Hey Soul Sister – Train
  • I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
  • I Do/Falling For You – Colbie Caillat
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

10. Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

In 1993, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole brought us his interpretation of two classic songs that have been inscribed into the American consciousness – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.”

This track was featured on Iz’s album Facing Future, and since has gone on to be a staple in many movies. It was featured in Meet Joe Black, Finding Forester, 50 First Dates, Son of the Mask, and several other popular movies. Fun fact: the album Facing Future holds the record for the bestselling album by a Hawaiian national to date.

There are eight chords in this song, but they are not particularly difficult chords to play: C, G, F, Am – typical chords for the key of C, with E7, D, Dm7, and Em thrown into the mix for fun. I chose this song as #10 since it will probably require the most work, but it will definitely be appreciated by your audience.

9. I Do/Falling For You – Colbie Caillat

Next up on this list of easy ukulele songs is a combo of “I Do” and “Falling for You” by Colbie Caillat. Both Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz were at the head of the modern ukulele movement. Caillat has many songs that are great for the ukulele. I recommend learning both of these songs and playing them as a medley.

“Falling for You” isn’t necessarily a ukulele song, but it works great with “I Do.” “Falling for You” is in the key of D using D, A, Em, and G. “I Do” is in the key of G and uses the chords G, D, C, D7, Em, Am, B7, and Cm. The Cm might give you a bit of a challenge, but if you can tackle “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World,” I know you can handle this song as well!

8. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz

I probably wouldn’t be writing articles about the ukulele if you hadn’t heard the song “I’m Yours.” The fact is, Jason Mraz took a simple ukulele line and married it to a tremendously catchy tune giving us this song that once is in your head, it just won’t go away. The cool thing for you budding uke players out there, is that it’s a really simple song to play, from the basic lead intro to the shuffling strumming pattern.

This song uses chords known as the “oldies progression” because they are common to a lot of popular songs from the 50s. These chords are really just C, Am, F, and G. Jason also throws in a D for the turnaround section to build a bit more tension. Give yourself a few hours of practice and you’ll have this song in the bag.

7. Hey Soul Sister – Train

After Jason and Colbie hit the charts, 90s wonder band Train came back with a Jason Mraz sounding groove entitled “Hey Soul Sister.” The song is very similar in structure to “I’m Yours.” Now I’m not saying Train copied Jason Mraz, well, maybe I am. I think the legal term is “heavily influenced by. ”

If you check out the chord structure, “Hey Soul Sister” is basically the same song as “I’m Yours,” but with different lyrics and a different pattern to the chorus. Essentially, if you can learn “I’m Yours” and transpose it to the key of G, you’ll have this song down. In G, the chord progression will be G, Em, C, and D.

6. Upside Down – Jack Johnson

One of my all time favorite songs to play is “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson from the movie Curious George. “Upside Down” only has 5 chords (E, F#m, A, B, and G#m), and the lead lick is very simple to play.

I personally like to play this song in the key of G (G, Am, C, D, and Bm). Like I suggested for Colbie’s songs, feel free to segue some of Jack’s songs together to create a good medley!

5. Tonight You Belong to Me – Prudence and Patience

At some point in your ukulele career you are going to be asked to play this song, made popular by Steve Martin’s rendition in the movie The Jerk. This is a fun little song, originally done by a girl band called “Prudence and Patience.”

If you have a coronet player to play with you, it’s even more fun! This is one of the most basic ukulele songs too, using only the chords A, D, G, and E with a Dm and an Eb thrown in for good measure. Have fun with this sweet, romantic tune!

4. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton

A song that you probably didn’t expect to see on this list is “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton. This beautiful song, which was written after he tragically lost his son Conner, is one that has brought tears and healing to countless people after their own losses. It is definitely a great song to have in your repertoire.

It’s not a very difficult song to play, but the bridge might take some extra attention. The main chords in the song are A, E, F#m, and D with a C#m thrown in. But in the bridge Clapton goes into the key of G for a minute, throwing in the G and C as well.

It might sound like a bit of a challenge, but it will be worth it to learn this meaningful tune.

3. Mele Kalikimaka – Robert Alex Anderson

When you play the ukulele, you won’t always be playing around a campfire or on the beach. Sometime you will be asked to play holiday music, and “Mele Kalikimaka” is one easy uke song you should have in your songbook.

“Mele Kalikimaka” was popularized by Bing Crosby but unlike most crooner songs, this one is pretty simple to play. G, D7, E, C, A7, and Am should get you through most of the song. It’s immediately recognizable and if you can croon a bit, you’ll really wow your audience!

2. Riptide – Vance Joy

I found this little gem on YouTube one day. The original song sounds to me like someone playing a classical guitar with a capo. However, this young lady does a killer rendition on the ukulele.

This fun ukulele song only has Am, G, and C chords, so even the most brand new uke players should be able to handle it.

1. I Make My Own Sunshine – Alyssa Bonagura

The final song I want to include on this list of easy uke songs for beginners is one of my favorite good time songs – “I Make My Own Sunshine” by Alyssa Bonagura. This song features the ukulele and is infectiously catchy!

The uke chords are simple: G, D, Em, and C. I think Alyssa tunes down a half step in the original song, but you’ll be fine using these chords! Did you notice the oldies progression keeps cropping up again and again on this list?

Well, there you have it – the top 10 easy ukulele songs every beginner should learn. Practicing these songs until you master them is an excellent way to challenge yourself to get better at the ukulele. Need some extra help advancing your skills? Search for a ukulele teacher today and you’ll be playing all of these songs in no time!

Willy M

Author: Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, NC. He is the author of the Dead Man’s Tuning series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80’s. Learn more about Willy here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Photo by Khoi Tran

easy ukulele songs for beginners

Flower Power: 4 Easy Ukulele Songs from the 60s

easy ukulele songs for beginners

Ready for a time warp? Ukulele teacher Willy M. has five classic tunes from the 60s that are perfect for your ukulele!

There was something about the music of the 1960s that has remained popular year after year. The nice thing about this for the beginning ukulele player is that 60s songs make great tunes to learn on the ukulele, simply because they’re relatively easy to play. Here are five easy ukulele songs for beginners that come from the swinging 60s.

1. “Up Around the Bend”

The first song I want to point out to you is the classic Credence Clearwater Revival song written by John Fogarty called “Up Around the Bend.” This fun little tune has a verse chorus structure, so there are only two parts of the song to learn. The verse couldn’t be easier – there’s only two simple chords, the D chord and the A chord. You can also make the A chord an A7 when you are transitioning back to the D chord; but really it is as easy as just playing the D for a line, and then the A for a line.

In the chorus the song adds some depth by adding the G chord, but both lines of the chorus are simply a G chord to a D chord, and then finally ending on the A chord.

2. “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”

What 1960s collection of songs would be complete without including something from the late great Otis Redding? “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” was the last song Redding recorded before his tragic death in a plane crash at the tender age of 26 years old. Though his life was short, the gospel-turned-R&B singer left a brilliant catalog of hits, and in my opinion, this is one of his finest. “Dock of the Bay” is a great song for the ukulele, and it will challenge you to move out of your three chord frame of mind.

Unlike “Up around the Bend,” “Dock of the Bay” has three parts that you’ll have to learn, and several chords. However, all of the chords are simple chords that you can barre across the fret board to create. If you’re having trouble, you can tune your ukulele to Open G tuning to make it even easier, tuning it G B D G.

This song is in the key of G, but typical to a lot of 50s and 60s gospel music, it includes a few borrowed chords: A, E, B and F. To a new player, it will almost seem as if Otis couldn’t decide if he wanted to be in the key of G, C or A. But, what he’s really doing is borrowing chords from other keys to make the song sound more restless. It works well, and this song has remained popular ever since it was recorded.

Make sure you watch for the only F chord in the song when you get to the bridge. It provides the tension needed to get back to the more simple verse structure.

3. “Brown Eyed Girl”

“Brown Eyed Girl” is a very interesting, yet incredibly simple song to play. I can’t really call it a verse chorus type structure, because it’s really just a long verse with a repeated ending at the end of each verse. It has a refrain, but it’s more like a bridge that sets up the verse again. Regardless of the complexity of the song structure, it is really easy to play and learn.

“Brown Eyed Girl” is another song in the key of G with only the G, C and D chords, chords you probably already know as a beginning ukulele player. So, tackling this song should be second nature. And, once you get all your friends joining in on the la, ti, da’s at the end, you’ll feel like the master campfire ukulele player!

4. “Love Me Do”

No anthology of the 1960s would be complete without two bands who dominated the early 60s Billboard charts with catchy, easy to play love songs: The Beatles and The Beach Boys. So, to conclude our little foray into these 1960s easy ukulele songs for beginners, we are going to look at a couple of these bands’ songs. First, let’s take a look at The Beatles. “Love Me Do” is one of the easier songs The Beatles wrote. It is also in the key of G, with only the three main chords G, C and D for the bulk of the song. The Beatles get a little tricky and throw in that F chord to give it some spice on the bridge, but now that you’ve mastered “Dock of the Bay,” you know how to play it and can throw it into this song as well.

You need to be a little careful when you attempt to play these types of Beatles songs, though, because when it comes to doing the little head shake thing, people have been known to get whiplash! Just kidding. Next time you’re sitting at your next backyard barbecue, throw in a little Beatles, and you’ll have everyone singing in no time! See the chords and lyrics here.

I hope you have a great time as you give these easy ukulele songs for beginners a try at your next luau or 60s dance – or whatever fun party you’re going to have this summer! These five easy ukulele songs are sure to get your friends doing the mashed potato or surfer’s stomp in no time!

Learn more ukulele songs and techniques by studying with a private ukulele instructor. Find your ukulele teacher now!

Willy M

Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. He is the author of the Dead Man’s Tuning series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Photo by catspyjamasnz

how to tune a ukulele

How to Tune a Ukulele: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

how to tune a ukulele

One of the first things you need to learn when taking ukulele lessons is how to tune a ukulele. Ukulele tuning is a must if you want it to sound good.

In this article we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on tuning a ukulele for beginners. Tuning can be difficult, but with this guide, you’ll become a master at tuning your ukulele before you know it.

This guide will teach you how to tune a ukulele to standard tuning, as well as how to tune various types of ukuleles including tenor, soprano, and bass ukuleles. You’ll learn how to tune a ukulele by ear and to itself, and you’ll also learn about uke tuners and tuning apps.

If you’re looking for something specific, you can jump around throughout the guide here:


How to Tune a Ukulele

If you know nothing about tuning a stringed instrument, check out this video on how to tune a guitar from world famous guitarist and songwriter James Taylor. This video covers a lot of details about tuning in general, and you can apply the same principles to tuning a ukulele.

Standard Ukulele Tuning

The ukulele is typically tuned to the notes G, C, E, and A. This has been the “standard” since the advent of the internet. Before the internet, you could find people who tune their ukulele to A, D, F#, B or even fiddle tunings like A, D, A, D or G, C, D, G.

Ukulele Tuning for Beginners

How to Tune a Ukulele With a Piano

Today, most of the books and videos you will find use G4, C4, E4, A4 as the standard ukulele tuning. The fours behind the letters represent the octave that you will find on the piano.

So if you happen to have a keyboard or a piano, C4 is known as middle C. If you tune your ukulele to match middle C, then the E above middle C, and the A above middle C, and then tune the first string to the G above middle C, you will be in what is known as standard ukulele tuning.

Here’s a good illustration of how to tune a ukulele with a piano from The Uke website.

Ukulele tuning with a piano

Image courtesy The Uke

How to Tune a Ukulele With a Tuner

So what do you do if you don’t have a piano? Well, you will need to get yourself a chromatic tuner. I use a Korg chromatic tuner, and I love it! I have tried a lot of other tuners, but the Korg is my favorite.

Tune Ukulele with a Korg Tuner

Korg CA-40 Electronic Chromatic Tuner – Image Courtesy Musician’s Friend

You can purchase several brands of tuners for a reasonable price at places like Musician’s Friend and Sweetwater. You will find that there are different types of tuners, and not all tuners are chromatic. Which leads us to our next topic, what exactly does chromatic mean?

If a tuner is chromatic, it enables you to tune to all of the notes. Guitar tuners are not chromatic. They’re calibrated to only pick up the notes that are used on the guitar in standard tuning. Which means they can tune E, A, D, G, B and E, but it’s hard to tune to C or F# or Bb, or any of the remaining notes that aren’t covered by a regular guitar tuner.

For this reason, I advise all of my students to buy chromatic tuners instead of standard guitar tuners.

How to Tune a Ukulele by Ear

If you get a used or vintage ukulele, you probably won’t have a tuner. Instead you might get some really old books or brochures and something called a pitch pipe. A pitch pipe is a neat mini harmonica that plays one note at a time when you blow into it. In some cases, you may have a pitch pipe that wasn’t designed for your instrument, so you have to know how to tune one string to the pitch pipe, and the other strings to the first string.

This can be a bit of a challenge, but I’m going to walk you through it. First, you need a reference note. Typically your reference note is middle C. When you blow on the pitch pipe, or play the note on the piano, you hear middle C. Then, you must twist the tuner on your ukulele until it matches. If you twist counter clockwise on the first two strings, you will tighten the string, and make it go up in pitch. So if you start on B, and twist counter-clockwise, you will be somewhere between B and C. If you keep twisting, you will finally get to C. But don’t twist too far, or you will overshoot C and end up on C# or somewhere between C and C#.

Likewise, if you twist clockwise, you will go down in pitch. So if you are on B again, and you twist clockwise, you will end up on Bb, or somewhere between B and Bb.

So when you match middle C on your pitch pipe to middle C on your ukulele, you’re ready to start tuning your ukulele to the notes on the fretboard on the C string. Now think about it for a minute: You have your ukulele tuned to middle C, and now you need to get an E sound, so you can try to tune the next string to that E. If you count up from C, you will eventually get to E. The first fret is C#, the second fret up from there is D. Then the third fret is D#, and then finally the fourth fret is the E you’re looking for.

If you hold down the fourth fret, you will hear an E that you can tune the next string to. Now remember, when you get to tuning that E string, you’re on the opposite side of the neck, so twist in the opposite direction than you did before. Twisting clockwise will tighten the string and make it go up in pitch. Twisting counter-clockwise makes the string loosen or go down in pitch.

Now that you have your E, count up until you find the G (which is before the A string) and tune it. The first fret on the E string will be F, the second fret F#, and the third will be the G.

Once you get the G string tuned (which seems like you’re going forward and backward on the ukulele, but that’s OK), count up to the A note. The first fret is G# and the second fret is A. Now you can tune to that pitch, and you’ll be all in tune.

A final note on tuning: Once you think you get your instrument in tune, your strings will probably have stretched a bit. Sometimes, depending on your strings, the humidity, the types of tuners you have, and the type of wood your ukulele is made of, your ukulele will not be in tune immediately after you tune it. So you have to go back through the whole process two or three times to fine tune your ukulele. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to play!


How to Tune Different Types of Ukuleles

Now you might have one of several types of ukuleles. They’re not all the same. Here is a chart that covers the various types of ukuleles and the notes of their standard tuning.

Standard and alternative tuning for different types of ukuleles


Alternate Tunings

You can create a few fun alternate tunings by tuning each string up or down two steps. I find that if you try tuning more than two steps, you will break strings. So if standard tuning is G, C, E, A, then try tuning the G to a G# or an A, and make chords out of the open tuning. What goes with G#? The E chord would work. So you could tune your C down to a B, leave the E alone, and keep the A or tune it to a G# as well. You could try Open C tuning and tune your top A down to a G. Or try C7 tuning, and tune the A to a Bb.

There are so many different types of tunings that you can try. If you find an alternate tuning you like, let us know in the comments section below! Here’s a refresher on basic ukulele chords.


Ukulele Tuning Apps

There are a lot of good ukulele tuning apps out there. Here are a few I recommend checking out:

iPhone

Free Chromatic Tuner Ukulele Tuning app

Free Chromatic Tuner

This free app works for both standard tuning and alternate tuning. You can download Free Chromatic Tuner from the iTunes app store.


Tuner Lite app for Uke Tuning

Tuner Lite

Tuner lite turns your smartphone into a chromatic tuner and pitch pipe.


Android

Fine Chromatic Tuner for Ukulele Tuning

Fine Chromatic Tuner

Fine Chromatic Tuner uses the built-in mic on your phone to help you get your uke in tune.


Chord! app for Ukulele Tuning

Chord!

You can download Chord! for both iPhone and Android. There’s a free and paid version, and the app allows you to find multiple tunings for lots of different stringed instruments, as well as chords, scales, and other useful information.


Now you know several ways to get your uke in tune. Ukulele tuning may seem difficult at first, but find the method that works best for you and keep practicing! Try practicing with these 10 easy ukulele songs.

Have you learned any cool tricks that help you tune your ukulele? Share them with us in the comments below! 

Willy MPost Author: Willy M.
Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston Salem, NC. He’s the author of the Dead Man’s Tuning series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!