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.
‘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 Intermediate Players – Improving on the basic skills. Adding picking, theory, and more interesting chords. Learn scales, techniques, arpeggios, how to solo, and more.
‘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.
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.
- ‘Ukulele video lessons are on their own page.
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.
- Arm-wah – The poor-man’s effects pedal
- Bending - A soulful articulation
- Hammer-ons and pull-offs – Learn the most important and fundamental technique
- Harmonics – Add some chime to your playing!
- Mono strum – James Hill’s signature sound
- Octaves - The same note, one higher and one lower
- Open String Pull-Offs - Play faster than you thought possible
- Palm Mute – Muffling the strings with the side of your hand
- Rakes - Different than a shovel!
- Slides - Go from one place to another smoothly
- Tapping - “Van Halen” ring a bell?
- Tremolo Picking - A flurry of notes of the same pitch
- Trills - Switching between two notes of different pitches rapidly
- Unisons – The same note in two places
- Vibrato - Varying the pitch of a note slightly for an emotional effect
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.
- Cheat Sheet – A step by step look at chord/scale relations on one page
- Chord Scales – Why major, minor, or diminished chords are used for different degrees of the scale
- Constructing Scales – How to make diatonic scales from the 12 note chromatic scale
- Constructing Chords – How to create any kind of chord from a major scale
- Modes – Understand the seven scales you can pull from a key and how they are related and used
- Transposing – How to move a song to a different key
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 favorite musings are collected here as “Patience and Improving” pieces:
- Patience and Improving – Some thoughts on becoming like Jake
- Tabs and Time – Why tabs aren’t always best and how time is the best teacher
- The Meat Grinder of Real Life Music
- Abandoning the Search For Answers – Why you should just play Music
Other pieces are here:
- Finding Inspiration – Advice for overcoming a “wall” or getting out of a rut
- Silence – Notes are just clever ways to get from space to space…
- Soulful Playing – Making music from the heart – and making it count
- Tone: It’s In Your Fingers – A few observations about style
All about chords and right hand technique using all the strings.
- Hawaiian Vamps – All about the Hawaiian II7-V7-I turnaround.
- Intros and Outros – Create jazzy lead ins with substitution chords.
- Strumming – Strum techniques and strum patterns.
All about playing single notes on one string (or two)
- Harmonized Lead Lines – Adding a second lead line to fill out a melody.
- High Notes Beyond the Fretboard – How to outwit the frets and access some otherwise out of reach notes.
- Intervals – How to add 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths and 10th intervals to your playing.
- Jake’s Diminished Riff – The crazy-fast one from Equator.
- Pedal-Steel Style Double-Stop Bends – Get some twang going on!
- Picking – Learn how to use your index and middle fingers along with your thumb to pluck the strings.
- Scales – Use these in your solos. Major, minor, pentatonic, and the modes.
- Sequencing Scales – Rearrange the notes of a scale for interesting practice and melodic ideas.
- Soloing (pa’ani) – An overview of how to use scales to rip it up.
- String Sets to Jump Octaves – How to play one thing here and another thing there using the same shape.
- The Vamp to End All Vamps – How to play the coolest Hawaiian vamp I’ve ever heard.
Creating a Band – Step #1 to becoming a rockstar.
How to Hold an ‘Ukulele – Beginning lesson
How to Read Tab – Learn how to make sense of this practical way to write out an ‘ukulele song.
Learning the Notes and the Fingerboard – How to memorize the fretboard.
Muting Chords and Notes – Keep your playing tight and clean with mutes.
Picking Patterns – Some common picking patterns (arpeggios) for softening up chords.
Playing Clean – Some insight on the incredible skill of Herb Ohta Jr. and how he plays so clean.
Practicing – Tips for improving at your full potential
- Things to Practice – What to work on when the going gets “bleah”
Reading Music – How to understand sheet music.
Setlists – Creating a song order that compliments you and keeps the audience engaged
Slack Key ‘Ukulele Lesson – Learn the basics of the alternating bass.
Song Endings – My favorite ways to stop a song.
Tone – The most overlooked aspect of playing.
Tuning Your ‘Ukulele – How to tune an ‘ukulele with a tuner, pitch pipe, and piano. Also a list of alternate tunings.
Warmups/Exercises – Get you fingers going before you play. Also exercises to “buff up” your hands.
Weird Sounds and Modulations – You can’t make an ‘ukulele sound like that! Yes, you can.