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Warmups/Finger Exercises

Warming up is an important part of playing and performing with your ‘ukulele. It gets the muscles in your fingers going so that you can hit notes better and nail a song. If you try playing a song without warming up and then one after warming up, the odds are that the song you warmed up for will be easier to play. Here are some warm-up exercises to get those fingers flyin’.


I think this is the most important warm-up. If you only have a few seconds to get ready to perform, I would recommend doing this.

  1. Hold one of your arms straight out in front of you with your fingers pointing to the sky in a “stop” position. Take your other hand and pull the tips of the “stop” fingers towards you so that you feel a stretch. Don’t pull your fingers too far, just to the “feel good” point. Beyond that and you are apt to hurt yourself. Repeat with your other hand.
  2. Hold your arm out in front again, this time with your thumb pointing towards the sky with your fingers curled in just a little – “thumbs up”. Pull the tip of your thumb towards you to the “feel good” point. Repeat with other hand.

Hold your baby:

I can’t remember who I heard this from, but they suggested just holding your ‘ukulele before you go onstage. This warms the wood up and gives the instrument a cozy feel. My guess would be that warm wood vibrates better. This might just be a “why does Grandma cut the ends off of the roast?” kind of thing, but I would rather play a warm ‘ukulele than cold.

The Exercises:

The following is a short collection of finger exercises. Do each as SLOWLY as needed until you can get clean, consistent notes. If you struggle with timing then get out your metronome and play one note per click (or two or three or four per click). The goal is quality, not quantity. Speed will come with time if you work at getting your fingers coordinated first.

Here is a tab of the examples. More detailed directions are provided below.

Joe Satriani’s Diagonal Chord Relay:

This is the first mindless warm-up I’ll present. It takes a while for your fingers to get used to that shape, but that’s why it’s a warm-up. Here it is in tab:

'Ukulele warmup

Joe says: “I used to tell my students ‘strum, mute, switch’ when they were doing this – the idea being that after you strum the first chord, your strumming hand mutes the strings before you lift your fretting fingers and switch to the next chord” ~ Guitar Player February 2008.

C scale box:

I personally like this one because it actually sounds like something close to music. The idea is that you take the C major scale, play it open, then move the shape up one fret so that your index finger works as the “nut”, and move it up again, and again… Once you run out of fretboard you can work your way back down. As you improve at this you will get faster and it works as a speed exercise too. A way to change this exercise up and make it harder is to use alternating fingers to pick: thumb, index, thumb, index – all the way through.

'Ukulele warmupetc…

Chromatic warm-up:

Here is the last mindless warm-up before I pass the torch to you. The chromatic ukulele warm-up is a great exercise to get your fingers moving independently. It strays from being an exact chromatic scale because some notes are doubled, but the name works. One finger per fret, work your way across the strings, move it up the fretboard if you like.

'Ukulele warmupetc…

I’ve shared my warm-ups with you, now please feel free to share yours with us!

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