Playing the ‘ukulele is fairly easy compared to most instruments. Four strings, about two octaves – it really is simple on the surface. But as you dig deeper and deeper into the core of what makes tick, you’ll find that the ‘ukulele can be as complex as you desire. The only boundaries are the ones in your mind.
Lessons by Playing Level:
Aside from containing their own basic ‘ukulele lessons, these pages point to many different parts of the site. If you’re not sure where to start, choose your level and see where your interest takes you.
In addition, you’ll find the links to all lessons on this page marked with a green, yellow, or red tab to denote difficulty. These are just a guideline and don’t really serve an organizational purpose beyond helping you browse for something relevant. Pages that span multiple ‘ukulele skill levels aren’t marked with a colored tab.
‘Ukulele Lessons For Beginners
Tips on where to start and how to learn the basics of playing ‘ukulele. Buying an ‘ukulele, how to hold an ‘ukulele, tuning, strumming, chords, simple picking, and songs.
‘Ukulele Lessons For Advanced Players
Ideas for where to go next and what I have found helpful. Advice on books to learn from, how to teach yourself, write songs, perform, and create your own style.
How To Hold An ‘Ukulele
A key, but sometimes overlooked component to playing the ‘ukulele. If you’re not holding your ‘ukulele correctly everything
will be harder.
Tuning Your ‘Ukulele
How to tune an ‘ukulele with a tuner, pitch pipe, and piano. Also a list of alternate tunings.
How to get you fingers going before you play. Also exercises to “buff up” your hands.
Incredibly important, but often overlooked.
Practicing Timing With a Metronome
Tips to get you and your best friend/worst enemy – the metronome – acquainted. Instructions on clapping exercises, finding off beats, and dividing beats to help improve your timing.
‘Ukulele Video Lessons
Sometimes all it takes to understand a song or technique is to see it happen. For your learning pleasure, here is a page of all my ‘ukulele video lessons.
Most recent video:
All about chords and right hand techniques using all the strings.
All about playing the Hawaiian II7-V7-I turnaround – or “vamp.”
Some common picking patterns for “melting” chords in a way that is less aggressive than strumming.
Strumming techniques and strum patterns.
All about playing single notes on one string (or two).
Harmonized Lead Lines
Harmony 101: How to add a second lead line on top of a melody to create a harmonized part.
Learn how to use your index and middle fingers along with your thumb to pluck the strings.
Rearrange the notes of a scale for interesting practice and melodic ideas.
You can play beautiful notes all day, but at some point you will want to add some more texture to your songs. Techniques are where it’s at. From giving you additional sounds you couldn’t achieve otherwise to making things easier to play, techniques are an important part of any ‘ukulele player’s arsenal.
The poor-man’s effects pedal! How to use your arm to dampen the soundboard and create a filtering sound.
A soulful articulation that moves the pitch of one note seamlessly up to another by stretching the string.
Hammer-Ons And Pull-Offs
The bread and butter technique of any ‘ukulele player. Allows you to pick the string once while playing multiple notes using carry-over sustain.
Harmonics (AKA “Chimes”)
This lesson covers several ways to produce a bell-like sound from the magical, mathematical “nodes” found on each string.
The Mono Strum
A key part to James Hill’s signature sound. Learn how to mute all strings except the one you are sounding so you can essentially strum a melody.
The same note played in two different octaves at the same time has a great full sound signature of Jake Shimabukuro and Brittni Paiva.
Open String Pull-Offs
How to incorporate fast pull-offs with the use of an open string to create a machine gun barrage of notes.
Muffling the strings with the side of your hand creates a tight, plucky sound that can be used anywhere to create a different texture or add emphasis to a part.
How to create a quick, but dramatic lead-up to a note. Great for accenting key points in a solo.
Another staple technique that allows you to transfer the momentum of one note into another without picking a second time. It creates a smooth texture and can simplify the playing of certain lead lines.
The most over-the-top technique ever created! Eddie Van Halen built a career (and sound) around hammer-ons and pull-offs that incorporate the picking hand.
How to pick a rapid succession of notes at the same pitch. A simple concept that takes years to perfect!
A trill is basically a lightning speed, repeating hammer-on, pull-off combination that is a staple in classical music.
A possibly useless technique in which you play the same pitch in two places. It creates a big, fat, chorusy sound.
Vibrato is the light bending and releasing of the string to create a pitch warble. It is one of the most subtle ‘ukulele techniques, but it can also be the most personal.
Blah, blah, blah. This is the nitty-gritty section about how music actually works. You don’t need to know how to make a 7b5 chord to be a great player, but knowing theory deepens your understanding as a musician.
A step by step look at chord/scale relationships on one page.
Why you use major, minor, or diminished chords for different scale tones in a key.
Understanding the seven scales within each key, how they are related and used.
How to move a song to a different key to perfectly fit the ‘ukulele or your voice.
The Mental Game:
Being able to play cool songs is only half of the journey an ‘ukulele player takes. The other half is learning how to find joy, satisfaction, and sustenance in your desire for music. It can be harder than you might think…
Some of my musings are collected here as “Patience and Improving” pieces:
I: Patience And Improving
Some thoughts on taking the time to allow yourself to improve. Also: Why I wouldn’t want to wake up as good as Jake.
Some other random writings:
Notes are just clever ways to get from space to space…
Finding your own sound.
Tips for improving at your full potential.
Things To Practice
A mass list of what you could be working on right now and when the going gets “bleah.”
Creating A Band
Step #1 to becoming a rockstar and my low-profile assessment of how to move in the right direction.
How To Read Tab
Learn how to make sense of this practical way to write out an ‘ukulele song.
How to make your notes ring more true and insight on the incredible skill of Herb Ohta Jr. and how he plays so clean.
Creating a song order that compliments you and keeps the audience engaged.
Spicing Up A Boring Song
5 ways to practice and keep yourself from being bored when playing easy tunes that are old-hat.
How to get a good (or better) sound out of any ‘ukulele. Hint: it’s in you hands!
Some ideas for making the ‘ukulele sound not like an ‘ukulele.