With a sound that will instantly transport you to the islands of Hawaii, the ukulele is both a fun and fairly easy instrument to learn. In fact, most beginners can learn basic chords in a few hours and can play basic tunes in weeks or even days.
Once you have the basics down, feeling comfortable and confident while playing your ukulele will likely take a few months.
However, to become a professional ukulele player, it will take dedication and consistent practice over the course of your lifetime.
Learning an instrument is a commitment, but even the best players had to start at the beginning.
Before playing your ukulele, you’ll want to make sure it’s in tune.
A ukulele has four strings, which are standardly tuned to A, E, C, and high G, although some ukulele players may opt to tune their fourth string to a low G instead.
To tune your ukulele, tighten or loosen each string using the pegs.
To flatten (lower) the pitch, turn the peg clockwise.
To sharpen (raise) the pitch, turn the peg counterclockwise.
Many ukulele players use a tuner to ensure their uke is tuned exactly as it should be, but seasoned musicians may be able to accomplish this by ear.
Because ukuleles are fairly small and only have four strings, basic chords are pretty simple to learn.
A C Major chord is a great place to start – take one finger and press it on the third fret of the G string.
When strummed, this will create a C Major chord, which is essential in many ukulele songs.
Once you have your C Major chord down, practice other basic fingerings such as F Major, G Major, and A Minor (note the difference between major and minor chords).
These four chords are all you’ll need for many basic ukulele songs.
Practice switching between these chords quickly and accurately in order to prepare to play actual songs.
Strumming is how most ukulele players create sound from their instruments.
Ukuleles can be strummed either up or down, although most songs require a combination of both, called a strumming pattern.
Ukulele players can strum using either their finger or a pick, depending on preference and intended sound.
To create some musical texture instead of fuller chords, ukulele players can also rest their palms on the strings to create a more muted sound.
Being able to master a strumming pattern while moving quickly between chords will be key to becoming an accomplished ukulele player.
Even if your favorite song wasn’t written for ukulele, there’s a good chance you can play it on uke.
Start with basic songs such as Let It Be by The Beatles and I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, both of which only require the four basic ukulele chords.
Once you feel comfortable with both the chords and the strumming patterns, try learning Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which introduces a few new chords as well.
You can also use online chords or tabs to learn your favorite song from the radio on the ukulele, which may help motivate you to continue to practice.
Like any instrument, learning the ukulele is a commitment, and continuous practice is required to maintain and build new skills.
Try to practice your uke every day, ideally for 20-30 minutes at a time.
As you get comfortable playing each song, continue to introduce more complicated strumming patterns and chord progressions into your repertoire to challenge yourself.
Learning an instrument is hard work, but in return, you’ll gain a skill that will bring you joy and fulfillment to last a lifetime.