So you want to learn how to play the ukulele? Welcome! The first thing you should notice is all the encouraging and happy people around you, encouraging and helping you.
The ukulele is a social instrument, a song machine that magnetically draws people in for fun.
Yes, the ukulele is for everyone!
Be careful: the spirit of the ukulele is very contagious. As soon as you master your first few chords, strums, and songs, you may also be moved to share them with a friend.
In this article, I am about to show you how to play ukulele for beginners with step-by-step and easy-to-follow online ukulele lessons.
For some of you, this will be the first time you have made music in your entire life.
Learning to play the ukulele starts with the proper foundation, which is exactly what you start right now.
Table of Contents
How to Play Ukulele for Beginners
This is my absolute beginner’s guide to playing the ukulele and does not assume any prior musical knowledge.
The idea is that it will allow you to sing and play many melodies, and it will not have been a struggle. The ukulele is an easy to learn and quickly rewarding instrument.
With the video lessons, you have everything you need to learn to play the ukulele right now. And at the end of the lesson, I’ll show you how you can go ahead and learn three more ukulele songs with me.
1. Buy a Ukulele Right For You
The first and most important step in playing the ukulele is getting a ukulele.
This is the most important of all when you really want to learn to play the ukulele. There are some good ukuleles in the $100 range, but you can almost be sure that a ukulele under $50 isn’t that great.
Amazon has some decent options, and if you get the chance, try a ukulele at your local music store.
If you’re not sure which ukulele to buy, feel free to check out my handy ukulele buying guide, where I provide tips and information on the best cheap ukuleles for beginners and how to choose the right ukulele for you.
2. Get in the Right Mindset to Play
If you’ve never made music before, put aside your fears and doubts about playing.
Why you can learn to play the ukulele today, even if you don’t have a “natural” musical talent
Many beginning ukulele guitarists fail even before picking up the instrument.
You say to yourself:
“I was not born with a natural musical talent.”
“I have failed to play an instrument before and I will probably fail again.”
Whenever you are faced with a new challenge like learning to play the ukulele, it’s a big deal! It is normal to face your own doubts or fears. Don’t be hard on yourself and go with an open mind.
Remember that playing the ukulele is fun!
At first, the ukulele may feel like holding a foreign object. How is this little instrument capable of producing such a beautiful sound? In fact, you create a beautiful sound!
Take a minute to familiarize yourself with your new instrument by reading about the ukulele parts and the different ukulele sizes.
For what it’s worth, I have taught students in my online courses who are over 90 years old.
Now that we’re done with the gigs, let’s tune up your ukulele and get ready to play.
3. Tune Your Ukulele
Tune your ukulele to standard reentrant tuning where the strings are tuned to g-C-E-A from top to bottom.
One of the most underrated secrets to making your ukulele sound amazing is tuning it!
You do not want to skip this step.
When it comes to string instruments like the ukulele, it is important to check the tuning every 10 to 15 minutes of playing. Small errors in tuning can create a pretty awful sound for you and your listeners. You always set yourself up for success with a tuned ukulele.
Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your ukulele in tune. For faster tuning, I always recommend using a chromatic tuner like the Snark SN-6 ukulele tuner.
4. Learn How to Hold Your Ukulele
This may sound stupid, but it can help you a lot in the future! Take a few minutes and try a few positions either sitting or standing.
When you are standing up, you can hold it against your chest and hold it there with your strumming arm. All of this may take some practice, but it will be worth it in the end because that way you can grab your ukulele and play (even when you’re walking), without wasting your time first.
In my opinion, a strap is unnecessary and only adds bulk to the ukulele. I had some problems at first, but now I’m walking around the house, in the garden, … with my ukulele. Check out the article about how to hold a ukulele properly.
Small note: don’t over-tighten it! Sound still needs to vibrate properly through the body.
5. Play Your First Ukulele Chord
Learn to play a C chord in which you place the ring finger of your fretted hand on the third fret of the bottom A-string and let the top three strings sound open.
If you like the idea of playing songs with a single chord, you can play with me on three more below: Get Up, Bob Marley’s Stand Up using just one Am chord, Them’s Baby Please Don’t Go, and Harry Nilsson’s song Coconut using just a C7 chord.
6. Decent Strumming Makes All the Difference
At first, you will probably just be doing singles up and down, up and down, up and down. But after a while, you can try adding a bit of slapping and palm muting to really get that thick, funky, wonderful feel.
I won’t explain how to strum here, feel free to take a look at The Ultimate Strumming guide. Wondering why the nostrum pattern is released alongside the songs?
Well, that’s another story. This is not allowed by the MPA (Music Publishers Association) due to copyright issues. They say it is not allowed to share online how to literally play a song.
You will learn to play the ukulele much faster, and after a while, you will create your own strum patterns. Listen carefully to the song and “feel” the beat. I know this is not easy, but once you learn the basics it will be very quick.
7. Play as Slowly as You Can
When you know your basic chords and can do a basic strum, you can eventually start switching between chords.
Practice this a lot and with lots of different chords and at first go as slow as you can so you can’t make a mistake.
Remember that the most important thing is to be precise rather than fast. The same thing happens when you start with tabs. Make sure you get a clean sound without hum or mute.
Start with slow, easy songs that have easy chords and not a lot of chord changes. Gradually speed up and try harder songs.
8. Record Yourself Playing and Listen Back to It
I got this tip from UkuleleHunt (maintained by Alistair Wood). It’s difficult to play and listen to yourself at the same time. Often just realizing what you are doing wrong is enough to fix the problem.
It also gets you used to play in front of the mic, which makes it less important when you want to record yourself properly.
9. Play Along and Listen to Ukulele Players
Are you already in a band? Perfect! Take your ukulele and play with your friends.
Not in a band yet? No problem either, convince your friends to start playing the ukulele! Check out the article on how to find awesome band members in your area.
And if that doesn’t work, turn on your computer, go online, and watch ukulele videos where you can play. Or marvel at the true ukulele guru! All of this will help you feel the rhythm and feel of the ukulele.
Listen and watch the tempo and rhythm carefully and you will unknowingly learn to play the ukulele!
10. Fingering Exercises!
This may seem like a lot. In addition to learning chord shapes, learning to strum, learning to quickly change chords, etc., you will also need to do some fingering exercises.
This may sound strange, but this will help a lot in the end, because what you will learn quickly, is that when you start playing stringed instruments, your fingers will hurt!
However, not so much with nylon as with steel-stringed instruments. With calluses (developing) you will notice that they will hurt less. I found the following exercise from Faye Hicks to be really good.
Learn more! Play Better!
Check out the books on chords and techniques! Learn essential tricks and how to play more confidently with some of the very best ukulele resources available.
|How To Play Ukulele: A Complete Guide for Absolute Beginners - Level 1||1,241 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|Ukulele For Dummies||664 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
The ukulele is so cute and easy to learn to play that only ukulele players understand. So if you love this beautiful instrument, don’t hesitate, buy yourself one and learn how to play it.
Normally, it only takes a week or two to be able to play your first favorite songs well.
Hopefully, these 10 ukulele tips for beginners above will help you learn to play the ukulele better.