Beginner | Intermediate | Advanced

How to Play ʻUkulele: Free Lessons for All Levels

Learning how to play ʻukulele is easy! In a ten minute ʻukulele lesson I can get most students playing a song.

Past that point though and you inevitably start to study the instrument. That takes time.

Taking ʻukulele lessons from a good teacher is an amazing opportunity that I highly recommend. Best is in-person, but there are also lots of people teaching on Skype these days.

Since both options are not always feasible, I’ve written a huge collection of ʻukulele lessons over the years that will teach you how to play on your own time.

Improve your picking and strumming technique

My latest book, Right Hand Technique for ‘Ukulele, is an in-depth guide to optimizing your playing motions. By using correct technique you can play faster, cleaner, more confidently, and easier.

With almost 60 pages of instruction and 70 how-to photos, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive look at technique anywhere else.

Learn more about right hand technique

‘Ukulele Lessons by Playing Level:

For more level-specific lessons, use the links at the top of the page.


Chord Charts
All the main chord families with multiple fingerings per chord.
Tips for improving at your full potential.
Quantifying Playing Abilities: Levels
A list of what I feel, as a teacher, might help inform where a student sits on the skill spectrum.
Tabs and charts for major & minor scales plus the modes and pentatonics.
Learning the ‘Ukulele Fretboard: Diagrams and How to Memorize it
Understanding the fretboard matrix and charts to show you where the notes are.

Basic ‘Ukulele Lessons:

History of the ‘Ukulele
From Nunes to Kamaka and how it got it’s name.
How To Hold An ‘Ukulele
A key, but sometimes overlooked component to playing the ʻukulele. If you’re not holding your ʻukulele correctly everything will be harder.
Parts of the ‘Ukulele
What each part is called, where it’s located, and what it does.
Pronouncing and Spelling ‘Ukulele
A discussion on why there are multiple ways of saying ʻukulele and how come it can be such a heated topic.
Taking Lessons
How to optimize time spent with an instructor and get the most out of ʻukulele lessons.
How to Tune Your ‘Ukulele/Alternate ‘Ukulele Tunings
How to tune an ʻukulele 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. My pet peeve with most ʻukulele player is their timing. Check out these lessons and avoid being one of “those guys.”

Timing Basics: Beats, Counting, Time Signatures
The most common weakness of any ʻukulele player is timing. Fortunately, it can always be improved. Here’s how to lay down a foundation of the key points you need for good timing.
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.

Rhythm ‘Ukulele Lessons:

All about chords and right hand techniques using all the strings.

To start you need some chords: ʻukulele chords and chord theory.

Hawaiian Vamps
All about playing the Hawaiian II7-V7-I turnaround – or “vamp.”
Intros And Outros
How to create jazzy lead ins with substitution chords.
Picking Patterns
Some common picking patterns for “melting” chords in a way that is less aggressive than strumming.
Strumming techniques and strum patterns.
Reggae ‘Ukulele Strums
Three styles of playing a reggae chank with videos.
Scrubbing Between Chords
An easy dip-down motion that sounds jazzy and hip – and it’s easy!
Switching Chords Faster
Tips for visualizing your next moves and how to make them easier.

Lead Lessons:

All about playing single notes on one string (or two).

Harmonizing Melodies on the ‘Ukulele
How to combine a melody with an interval to create a harmonized part.
Fingering Tips
Which fingers to fret with for the easiest playing.
Learn how to use your index and middle fingers along with your thumb to pluck the strings.
Sequencing Scales
Rearrange the notes of a scale for interesting practice and melodic ideas.
Soloing, Improvising, Pa’ani
An overview of how to use scales to rip it up in an on-the-spot mini-composition.
ukulele lessons


You can play beautiful notes all day, but at some point you will want to add some more texture to your songs. Articulation 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 ʻukulele player’s arsenal.

I spent the better part of a year writing a guide on right hand techniques and making it the best it could possibly be. It includes picking, strumming, tremolo, tapping, and MUCH more. Get it.

All the technique lessons can be found here


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, however, knowing theory deepens your understanding as a musician.

Click through the link to see all the lessons:

Music theory for ʻukulele

The Mental Game:

Being able to play cool songs is only half of the journey an ʻukulele 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…

These are my anti-ʻukulele lessons!

Thoughts on music, soul, and other intangible things

General Lessons:

Everything else…

Creating A Band
Step #1 to becoming a rockstar and my low-profile assessment of how to move in the right direction.
Finding Inspiration
Tips for getting out of a learning rut.
How To Read Tab
Learn how to make sense of this practical way to write out an ʻukulele song.
Kani Ka Pila Circle
The basics of a Hawaiian-style jam session.
Muting Chords And Notes
How to keep your playing tight and clean by muting unwanted noise.
Playing cleaner to Avoid Buzzing
How to make your notes ring more true and insight on the incredible skill of Herb Ohta Jr. and how he plays so clean.
Reading Standard Notation (Sheet Music)
A simple look at how to understand standard notation.
Creating a song order that compliments you and keeps the audience engaged.
Slack Key ‘Ukulele
Learn the basics of the alternating bass and Hawaiian slack key sound.
Solo Fingerpicking Arrangements
The basics of adapting songs for a single ʻukulele.
Song Endings
My favorite ways to stop a song.
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 ʻukulele. Hint: it’s in you hands!
Weird Sounds
Some ideas for making the ʻukulele sound not like an ʻukulele.

Video Lessons:

All my ʻukulele video lessons can be found on my Youtube channel. Be sure to subscribe!

Here’s my latest video:

If you don’t have access to a local teacher, there are still many resources you can study from.

The best, in my opinion, is The Ukulele Way by James Hill. I’ve worked as a site admin for James for years and have really seen this program inside and out. It’s made up of six “books,” each containing about 10 lessons that focus on the skills required for playing solo arrangements. Each lesson includes a video, sheet music or tab, and audio examples. The pedagogy is well thought out and each lesson builds upon the previous, starting quite simple and become quite advanced by the end. It’s only $9 CAD per month and is really the best value around.

Another great resource is Ukulele Underground University. Taught by Aldrine Guerrero, these lessons cover many areas of study like theory, song tutorials, genre styles, and also include guest teachers for more diversity. There are also weekly updates and live streams.

Finally, I’ve been very impressed by the book and corresponding video lessons Daniel Ward has put together called Arpeggio Meditations. You can check out my review of the program here. There are 16 studies presented with the focus on picking hand agility and, obviously, arpeggio playing. In addition to beautiful transcriptions in the book, there are accompanying videos that can be rented on Vimeo (for a whole year).

By Brad Bordessa

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honoka’a, Hawai’i, where I run this site from a little plantation house in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once borrowed a uke to jam with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me

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