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‘Ukulele Playing Tips

ukulele tips

‘Ukulele Tips:

  1. Learn to read standard music notation. At least well enough so that you can work your way through a piece of simple sheet music.
  2. Don’t hold chords with your thumb curled around or on top of the neck. Instead, place your thumb on the top half the neck-back. If you can get used to playing like this, it makes all of your playing easier. You can also stretch to more frets.
  3. When figuring out a song, find what key it is in first, by noodling around to find what major or minor scale works. From there you can find the chords relative to that key, and use the notes that are in the scale to figure out the majority or all of the song.
  4. Buy a string winder, it will make changing strings much easier.
  5. Harmonize with yourself by playing the melody and the bass note of the current chord. (It helps to hold the chord and play the melody around it.)
  6. When you are performing a song, don’t stop. Even if you forget the song or make a mistake, don’t stop. If you don’t stop, only musicians will know you goofed when you do. If you stop, everyone will.
  7. When you are playing plugged-in at home, be sure to close your bedroom door so family members don’t go insane. ~Hippie Mom
  8. Remember that music is fun. If you aren’t having fun playing, sell your ‘ukulele(s).
  9. Learn songs by ear as well as learning them from tabs.
  10. Be sure to keep your fingers arched over the fretboard instead of pushing down at an angle. Everything you play will sound cleaner.
  11. Using lots of effects all the time does not make you cool.
  12. Using lots of effects all the time doesn’t make you better at the ‘ukulele.
  13. Using lots of effects CAN improve and change the sound of your ‘ukulele when plugged in.
  14. The more fingers you can use for picking, the easier it will be to play.
  15. Don’t give up (unless you aren’t having fun – see #8) ~Hippie Dad
  16. When learning a new song don’t butcher your way through it. Break it up into parts and learn it that way. ~dnewton2
  17. Practice Bar chords. master them and you can play anything. ~JT Shea
  18. Remember that silence is just as powerful as any note.
  19. Join your local strummers group. It makes all the difference and helps keep you motivated. ~Lucy Hinds
  20. If something is too hard for your left hand to grip, try alternatives. A single note can often be played on almost every string. ~ Ivan
  21. Use an emery board to file your long nails. Diamond or sapphire on a metal file just eats the edges up resulting in your nail coming off.
  22. Make sure the volume on your amp/PA is turned off before you plug in. Monster feedback is not the best way to start a gig (and it hurts your ears).
  23. Learn the whole song, all parts. Knowing ten intros doesn’t help if you are asked to play that song (unless you sing and know the chords).
  24. Have at least 2 ‘ukuleles, then you can get your friends to join you. ~Andrea
  25. Practice the difficult chords, it’s the only way you will be able to play them. Everybody seems to think there is an easy way to learn “E” and “Bb” – there’s not. Period.
  26. To help your fingers remember the shape of a chord, play the chord and then one at a time lift and tap each of your fretting fingers repeatedly on the note it holds in the chord. This is called muscle memory, and it seems to work.
  27. Learn as many strumming techniques/patterns as you can, and apply to songs you’ve learned to put your own original spin on a well known tune! you’ll be amazed how much it can change a song. ~Hans M DeVille
  28. Starting at the 1st fret, play the first four notes on the top string, then move down the strings individually till the bottom then play it in reverse back up to the top. Then repeat the process starting at the second fret. Repeat this exercise all the way up the fretboard, for say, 5 or 10 mins a day and your dexterity will improve a lot, making playing a lot easier and smoother. Boring but useful! ~Hans M DeVille
  29. If someone tells you that your timing is bad, don’t freak out. Yet. Make sure you get a second opinion from somebody after playing them a song you know well. If they tell you that your timing is bad, then you can freak out and buy a metronome. A while back I took a lesson at Roy Sakuma’s ‘ukulele studio and learned “Glass Ball Slack Key” from one of his teachers. After she had listened to me work my way through the new song, she told me that I needed to work on my timing. I was crushed! So I went to Herb Ohta Jr. – help! He listened to me play something I knew well, and told me that my timing was fine. Second opinion: priceless.
  30. Some days you can be really out of it and have a hard time playing the C scale you know by heart. If this happens to you, don’t worry, keep playing for a bit, maybe you just need to get warmed up. If not, put your ‘ukulele away and go do something else, you can’t improve when you are having trouble playing the easy stuff. It happens, tomorrow should be better.
  31. When something bad happens to your instrument (you bang it into something playing Clapton and put a dint in the side), people seem to freak out way too much. It’s not the end of the world. Look at the dink, crack, whatever, and go back to what you were doing. I personally don’t try to throw my ‘uke on the concrete, but it happens. I would rather have an instrument that looks like Willie Nelson’s guitar and sounds like a million bucks than a spotless tonal outcast.
  32. Less is more. Santana could destroy any super-fast-technical-shredder with one note. We know you can play fast, but can you play slow?
  33. The harder time you have finding stuff to learn, the better you are getting.
  34. Buy a cheap ‘ukulele to start because you cant really tell the difference until you have been at it for a while ~ Midget
  35. Go against the “grain”. If a song is normally played slowly, speed it up and vice-versa. When you “Xerox” as song, everyone can tell when you make a boo-boo, but not when you put your own creative spin on it. A tempo change is more refreshing than hearing the “same ‘ol thang”. ~ Doug aka TeleTubee
  36. You are never the best or have ran out of things to learn (even if you are Jake).
  37. Surround yourself with musicians (especially if they are better than you)
  38. Call chords “chords”, not “keys”. It lessens the confusion.
  39. Listen to all types of music.
  40. Record song ideas. It won’t be there in 5 minutes – record it now. Try and keep playing the idea as you dig for your recorder. It’s amazing what little thing will make you forget.
  41. Flip your ‘ukulele over and play lefty for something different – poof: a beginner again.
  42. Play on only one string. It makes you see things in a different way.
  43. Sing.
  44. Record yourself. Then you can critique your own music.
  45. Don’t worry about how good you are and just play.
  46. When listening to other uke players who you think are better than you, choose to be inspired not intimidated. Keep playing, it’s the only way to improve. Every time you practice you get better, it’s automatic – you may not sense it immediately, but your body clocks it up and before long you’ll know the difference. Keep playing. ~ Robyn Giblin

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