If you want to learn how to play the ukulele, you’re in excellent company. Today’s popular music scene is rife with ukulele players, including Taylor Swift, Eddie Vedder, and Zooey Deschanel, just to name a few.
Keep reading to find answers to some of the commonly asked questions when starting online ukulele classes. We’ll share how to choose the right ukulele, how to tune your instrument, and more!
As far as stringed instruments go, the ukulele is one of the easier instruments to learn for musicians of all ages and experience levels. Not only are the strings easier on your fingers, but there are only four of them to learn.
There are many simple, one-finger chords that don’t require barring or moving up and down the neck, and there are dozens more two finger chords.
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro says, “Ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to play, and you don’t have to be a musician to play it.” But if you’re just starting out, can you really teach yourself how to play ukulele?
While it’s certainly possible to teach yourself the basics of the ukulele without a teacher’s assistance, your level of long-term success will depend heavily on your use of the right techniques. This is why learners of all levels should consider taking ukulele classes.
An experienced ukulele teacher will be able to help you develop a firm foundation of skills and advance quicker in more challenging techniques. You’ll also have someone to turn to as questions arise.
Whether you’re learning an instrument for the first time or you’ve been playing music for years, the ukulele is a great choice for you. Its cheerful sound and simplicity make the ukulele truly a joy to learn for players at any level.
Here are a few more reasons why the ukulele is such a great instrument to learn.
- Ukuleles are affordable - With other popular instruments, such as the piano or guitar, beginners may be deterred by all of the initial costs. But a good ukulele is relatively inexpensive, which makes it the perfect starter instrument for players of all ages.
- Resources are available - There’s no shortage of help out there for the beginning ukulele player. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to learn how to play ukulele. You can find online tuners, chord charts, and ukulele apps for your phone. You can even take online ukulele classes at TakeLessons Live!
- Ukuleles are portable - The ukulele is a very lightweight instrument that is easy to carry. Its compact size makes it perfect for the beginner who needs a lot of practice. Since they’re so small, you can take them with you anywhere! Waiting on your morning coffee? On your lunch break? Grab the ukulele and practice.
There are four different types of ukuleles, each differing in their size and sound.
- Soprano - The soprano is the smallest and most popular ukulele. Small and light, soprano ukuleles are great for travel and easy to play, especially if your hands are on the smaller side.
- Concert - Close in size to the soprano ukulele, the concert ukulele has a longer and wider neck. Also known as the alto ukulele, concert ukuleles are a great choice if you like the look and sound of the soprano ukulele but its small neck is uncomfortable for you to play.
- Tenor - With its larger body and scale, the tenor ukulele produces a richer sound than the soprano or the concert ukulele. Tenor ukuleles are a great choice for adult students or guitarists interested in trying something new.
- Baritone - Baritone is the lowest, darkest sounding ukulele. Tuned the same as the lower four strings of a guitar, the baritone ukulele most resembles a classical guitar.
Learn more about ukulele sizes here.
Before you begin ukulele lessons, you’ll want to have a ukulele of your own so you can practice every day. Ukuleles are available at a wide range of prices and in several sizes, so you can choose a ukulele that best suits your needs.
Although ukuleles are available in many gift and novelty shops, for a quality instrument to learn with you should visit your local music store. You’ll want a well-constructed ukulele that holds a tune.
You can also purchase a ukulele online. If you go that route, we recommend trying out the instrument in-person before you buy one online. Feeling comfortable with your ukulele is very important. If the neck is too small and hurts your fingers, you won’t have much fun playing.
- Musician’s Friend is the online arm of the retail store Guitar Center. If you don’t have a Guitar Center in your area, you can usually find a good deal at Musician’s Friend.
- Sweetwater is an excellent option because most of the sales staff are musicians, so they are very knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to finding the right ukulele for you.
- If you’re on a budget, check out Craigslist for used ukuleles. With a little bit of searching, you might just find someone in your area with a ukulele for sale.
- eBay and Amazon are also good sites for finding a bargain. You can search for both new and used ukuleles on either website.
You can get a great starter ukulele for as little as $40 to $50, or if you’d like to splurge, there are some beautiful ukuleles on the market ranging anywhere between $100 to $1000. It’s truly up to you and how much you’d like to spend on your instrument.
Besides a tuner, you might also want the following accessories for your ukulele.
- A hard case - When you’re traveling, a hard case will protect your ukulele from damage.
- A strap - This accessory will help hold up your ukulele while you play, especially when standing.
- A capo - A capo is a tool you might use to raise the pitch of your ukulele so you can play in a higher key without changing your fingering.
- Extra strings - If you ever break a string or just need to put new ones on, you’ll be ready with extra strings on hand.
- A metronome - Your metronome will help you learn to play on beat easier.
Since the ukulele is a stringed instrument, it will go in and out of tune, even when you’re not using it. Your ukulele is made of wood, and the strings are made of nylon. These materials swell and contract due to humidity, altitude, and air pressure.
So before taking online ukulele classes, the first thing you should learn is how to tune it. Here are some quick steps to tune a ukulele. Continue reading below for more detail.
- Hold the ukulele with the neck in your left hand and the body in your right hand.
- Use a tuner or tuning app to find correct pitch.
- Use the pegs on the head of the ukulele to tighten the strings for higher pitch.
- Loosen the strings to lower pitch.
- Pick each string and ensure they are tuned to G – C – E – A.
Each of the ukulele’s four strings is tuned to a different pitch. Hold your ukulele with the neck in your left hand and the body in your right. From the top down, the strings should be tuned G – C – E – A. The pegs on the head of the ukulele control the tension of the strings. When you tighten a string, its pitch gets higher. When you loosen a string, it gets lower.
To find the correct pitch while tuning, you can use a tuner, a pitch pipe, a piano, or the ukulele itself. For beginners, the easiest and most accurate way to tune a ukulele is with the help of a tuner.
You can buy a tuner at your local music shop or use an app on your mobile device. Look for a tuner that uses a microphone, strobe, or vibration to detect the note you’re playing and guide you to the correct one.
To tune the ukulele to itself, start by listening to the G string and adjusting it until it sounds right. Once your G string is where you want it, hold it down on the 5th fret to hear the C an octave above the note where your C string should be.
Once your C string is tuned an octave below that note, hold your C string down on the 4th fret and tune your E string to that note. Then, hold your E string down on the fifth fret and tune your A string.
Learn more about tuning a ukulele here.
Chords are the building blocks you need to learn in order to play songs on the ukulele.
A chord is three or more notes that, when played in unison, create a harmony.
One popular chord in many ukulele songs is C. To play a C chord, place your ring finger on the third fret of the first string. This chord is very easy because it only requires on finger!
Another common chord is G, which can be played by placing your index finger on the second fret of the third string, your middle finger on the second fret of the first string, and finally, your ring finger on the third fret of the second string.
Practice strumming each chord one at a time. Press down on each string firmly, as close to the fret as possible, so that the chord sounds clear and not muffled.
Once you feel somewhat comfortable making each chord shape, practice transitioning between the C and G chords. With your metronome set to a nice slow tempo, strum one chord four times with the beat, and then change smoothly to the next chord.
This is just a small taste of all the chords you can play on the ukulele. There are a lot of places online where you can find more chords to your favorite songs. Here are some websites we recommend.
Ultimate Guitar is one of the best websites for finding ukulele chords.
Ukulele Tabs has a vast directory of chords and gives users a way to connect with other ukulele players.
Uke Hunt not only provides chords but also helpful videos and blog posts.
Ukuchords is another good website for finding chords, tabs, and charts.
Most people strum a ukulele with their index finger, while others like to use their thumb and index finger to create a pick. If you use this method, strum down with the nail of your index finger, and up with the nail of your thumb.
Once you understand the concept, you can try some basic strumming patterns, and even create your own. There are hundreds of ways that you can strum a ukulele. To start exploring, use a simple up-down strum, and then maybe an up-up, down-down strum.
Develop your rhythm by seeing if you can strum faster rhythms than those in an actual song, while still being in time. Then see if you can strum slower rhythms than the actual song, and still be in time.
Try strumming the top strings without strumming the bottom, and then reverse this and strum the bottom three strings without strumming the top. Any new patterns you can think of will help you get more proficient at strumming.
Check out our free online ukulele classes for more guidance on strumming a ukulele.
There are three ways to pick a ukulele. You can either use your fingers, a pick, or a felt pick, which is the traditional Hawaiian method. Here are a few simple fingerpicking patterns you can try no matter what method you’re using.
- Place your fingers lightly over the ukulele strings.
- Let your thumb control the G and C strings, and alternately pick either the G string or the C string in any combination you desire.
- Let your index finger control the E string, and your middle finger control the A string.
- Use the fingerpicking pattern: thumb – index – middle.
This pattern is basically the “Forward Roll” in reverse. Simply follow the pattern: middle – index – thumb.
This is a “Forward Roll” followed by a “Reverse Roll.” Use the pattern: thumb – index – middle – index – thumb.
Learn more about fingerpicking patterns here.
Once you’ve learned a few chords, and your ukulele is tuned, you can easily learn how to play some songs! There are lots of songs that sound great on the ukulele. Check out the following lists for some ideas.
With the right steps, singing and playing ukulele at the same time doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by breaking down the song that you’re trying to learn into smaller pieces.
Sing along while holding down only the first chord of the song and using a simple strumming pattern. Don’t worry if you mess up! After doing this exercise repeatedly, it will start to become easier.
Once you have this exercise down, try adding in the second chord of the song but continue with your simple strumming pattern. Practice changing from the first chord to the second chord while singing. Repeat the chord changes until you feel comfortable.
The next progression is to add the third chord and practice chord changes again. Try to sing through the entire song now. Run through the song as many times as you need to before finally trying a more advanced strumming pattern.
Eventually, you will find that you can sing the song without even thinking about it, and you can focus more on what you’re doing with the ukulele.
Learn more about how to sing and play at the same time here.
There are many apps for your smart phone that can help supplement ukulele lessons. Check out a few helpful apps below for both Android and iPhones.
- Chord! is a helpful app that shows you how to play ukulele chords. It’s available for free, but the paid version comes with more chords, tunings, and scales.
- Strumming Partner is an excellent app for learning how to strum a ukulele. The free version lets you access strumming patterns for both guitar and ukulele, if you play both.
- insTuner is a chromatic tuner that enables you to tune your ukulele without having to purchase a separate tuner.
- Ultimate-Guitar.com has an app that gives you access to chord charts for thousands of songs. The paid version allows you to transpose songs and print directly from your phone.
- Ukulele Toolkit combines a variety of tools into one app. It comes with a tuner, metronome, drum loops, scales, a capo helper, and more.
- TakeLessons is our very own app for you to instantly get connected with ukulele teachers, whether you’re looking for private or group ukulele lessons.
Connecting with other ukulele players on the internet is great way to find helpful advice and share your accomplishments. Here are a couple sites where you can find a ukulele community online.
Ukulele Underground is a Facebook group made up of over 40,000 ukulele players who share informational resources as well as videos of songs they’re learning.
Ukulele Blues Club is another Facebook page where ukulele players and fans of Blues can connect. If you love Blues music, then this is the group for you.
- TakeLessons Live is a great place to meet and learn alongside other ukulele players in our weekly, group ukulele classes. Take advantage of a free 30-day trial today!