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.
ʻUkulele Lessons by Playing Level:
Tips for improving at your full potential. How to use your time more effectively and make sure your brain is at top operating capacity before you begin.
A simple breakdown of different skill sets present at each level of ʻukulele playing. Please note: this is solely my interpretation and this does not correlate to any other method of level identification.
A step-by-step guide to understanding the fretboard matrix and charts to show you where the notes are. Learn the chromatic system that the notes follow and how to memorize it.
Basic ʻUkulele Lessons
Tips for selecting the right size ʻukulele, different learning options, and how to appropriately encourage practice. Also considerations for parents such as what age to start lessons and how to find songs for your child to play.
A key, but sometimes overlooked part of playing the ʻukulele. If you’re not holding your ʻukulele correctly everything will be harder. This page presents a baseline for proper posture and technique.
A discussion on why there are multiple ways of saying ʻukulele and how come it can be such a heated topic. Learn some background history of Hawaiʻi and much needed perspective.
How to optimize time spent with an instructor and get the most out of ʻukulele lessons. Covers practical tips for practice between lessons and finding a teacher.
How to tune an ʻukulele with a tuner, pitch pipe, and piano. Also a list of alternate tunings including tunings for ukes with multiple courses – or string pairs.
How to get you fingers ready before you exert them with fretting. Also includes picking and chording exercises to help make your fingers stronger, more independent, and faster.
The Instrument Itself
Everything you should consider when you’re shopping for a uke. The biggest page on the site all about prices, quality, features, sizes, woods, and much more.
What makes a uke Hawaiian and how Hawaiʻi-based builders add a touch of special to their instruments. Plus info about prices and how traditional build styles are moving into the future with technology.
From Nunes to Kamaka and how it got its name. A brief look into the journey our four-string friend has taken to date and some of its most iconic moments.
What each part is called, where it’s located, and what it does. Includes several beautiful high-res pictures with all the ʻukulele parts labeled for visual reference.
Some of the key factors in determining the price of an ʻukulele. Get a better sense what your money goes towards as far as craftsmanship, materials, and other factors.
All about soprano, concert, tenor, baritone, and other exotic uke sizes. Learn what each size sounds like, what its specs are, and which famous players play what size ʻukulele.
The difference between hard cases and gig bags and what I recommend. Includes info on humidity, storage tips, and things that most people will want to keep in their case to stay prepared for any situation.
A lesson on the main types of ʻukulele picks, thumbpicks, flatpicks, and what the benefit of each is. Learn how to use them and what some good starter options are.
Why you might want a strap and what style to choose. Breakdown of the different types like a guitar strap, classical strap, headstock strap and some uke-specific options.
Everything you need to know about choosing ʻukulele strings from materials to gauges. Also includes my recommendations for beginning players to get a well-rounded sample of string styles for their uke.
Incredibly important, but often overlooked. My pet peeve with most ʻukulele players is their timing. Check out these lessons and avoid being one of “those guys.”
This uke lesson lays down a foundation of the key points you need for good timing and shows you how to count beats properly, understand tempo, and figure out how a time signature affects a songʻs count.
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 ʻUkulele Lessons
All about chords and right hand techniques using all the strings.
All about playing the Hawaiian II7-V7-I turnaround – or “vamp.” Learn how to strum the right chords and pick a handful of great-sounding picking vamps to fill the gaps in any Hawaiian song.
Tips and tricks for simplifying challenging chord shapes. What you can do to hack a chord that you’re struggling with to make it easier. Includes example breakdowns of some notoriously hard uke chords like E and Bb.
Some common picking patterns for “melting” chords onto separate strings. This style is less aggressive than strumming and useful for ballads and any song that needs a gentler touch.
ʻUkulele lesson on strumming techniques and strum patterns for any style song. Learn the secret to groovy strumming and how keeping a stady hand motion can help make almost any strum more natural.
Lesson on three different styles of playing a reggae chank with videos. Learn to play the standard reggae strum, a Jawaiian strum (Hawaiian reggae), and a fast ska strum.
Tips for visualizing your next chord moves and how to make them easier. Learn to see the similarities between chord shapes and how to use them to connect the dots so that your fingers don’t have to work as hard.
ʻUkulele lessons about playing single notes on one string (or two).
How to combine a melody with a harmony note to create a double-stop part. Detailed lesson on finding the pattern for 3rd harmonies using two different fingering shape.
Which fingers to fret with to make a song the easiest to play. This lesson explores examples of ʻukulele song using fingers to shift positions and set the part up for smooth playing.
Learn how to use your index and middle fingers along with your thumb to pluck the strings. Includes breakdown of PIMA and the different sounds and attack styles you can use to get the best tone.
How to rearrange the notes of a scale for interesting practice and melodic ideas. Play through some example sequences and patterns to learn new ways to play a scale. Great for building musicality.
An overview of how to use scales to improvise a lead part on your ʻukulele. Learn the components of building a solo and how to play over chord changes.
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.
Left Hand Technique
My guide to fretting and fingering technique includes 10 essential articulations and gobs of other tips and lessons.
Right Hand Technique
My guide to strumming and picking technique includes effects like tremolo, tapping, and MUCH more.
If the books aren’t your cup of tea, all my other 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
Plugging in Your ʻUkulele
Electrifying your instrument requires a whole new set of considerations for the average uke player. These are tech articles explaining the different components you should become familiar with. More advanced topics are towards the bottom.
Plugging your uke into an amp 101. Where the cables go, how to route things, where to set the knobs, and how to avoid feedback. A great starter lesson if you have never plugged in your ʻukulele before.
Everything you need to know about making your acoustic ʻukulele create an electric signal with a piezo pickup. Learn the difference between active and passive, pickup types, installation, and my top picks for most ukes.
The different types of ʻukulele amps and PA systems. Learn about different terminology and PA configurations in this detailed guide. Includes section on amp controls and recommended amps for ukes.
A comprehensive guide to a critical part of getting some pickups to shine. Learn what a preamp does and whether you need one in your setup.
How to use effects pedals to shape your ʻukulele sound. From simple EQ to crazy delay effects, this guide will show you how to apply them and understand the controls.
Learn about the processing technology of the future. Step-by-step walkthrough of how to make an ultra-realistic EQ model of your favorite mic and use it to improve your plugged in sound.
Save $50 by making your own FS-6 style footswitch for BOSS, Roland, and Line 6 gear. Step-by-step instructions for how to build your own DIY momentary footswitch.
Using your computer or smart device to power some of your practice tasks through the power of music software.
Tutorials and great programs to use on your desktop computer or iOS/Android device for learning uke. My favorite software for creating tabs, slowing down recordings, and more.
Step #1 to becoming a rockstar and my low-profile assessment of how to move in the right direction. Tips for performing, improving as a group, and collaborating.
Tips for getting out of a learning rut. Every once in a while in a player’s journey you end up feeling uninspired and stuck. These tips are what I’ve found to be helpful for getting stoked about playing again.
The basics of a Hawaiian-style jam session. How to fit right in at an ʻukulele jam group – especially one with Hawaiian roots. Learn the song circle format and when to play what.
How to keep your playing tight and clean by muting unwanted noise and controlling the end of notes. By learning to terminate chords and notes you can improve your rhythm 100-fold.
How to make your notes ring more true and insight on the incredible skill of Herb Ohta Jr. and how he plays so clean. Includes section on the mechanics on creating notes so you can properly troubleshoot your own playing.
A simple look at how to understand standard notation and play it on your ʻukulele. Explanation of staff lines, note values, time signatures, rests, bar lines, etc…
How to use a computer and a mic to create a recording of your playing through a DAW program. This ʻukulele lesson teaches you about mic placement, recording interface connections, and the gear you need to record.
Creating a lineup order that compliments you and keeps the audience engaged. Real-life tips for selecting the correct tempos and keys in the best sequence to make for a great performance.
Learn the basics of the alternating bass and Hawaiian style slack key sound. Includes resources for picking vamps, chords, and who to listen to for inspiration.
The basics of adapting a melody and chords for a solo ʻukulele arrangement that creates the illusion of multiple instruments playing at the same time.
This ʻukulele lesson highlight some of my favorite ways to stop a song in style. Learn the walkup, common progression endings, tremolo, fade, and even a kick-ass swing-jazz chord progression.
5 ways to practice and keep yourself from being bored when playing easy tunes that are old-hat. Tips on chord movement, inversions, changing the strum, and singing to keep things interesting.
How to get a good (or better) sound out of any ʻukulele. Hint: it’s in you hands! This lesson shows many different options for attacking and fretting to achieve different tones.
Some ideas for making the ʻukulele sound not like an ʻukulele. Church bells, crickets, and more – you never thought and ʻukulele could sound like this!
All my ʻukulele video lessons can be found on my Youtube channel. Be sure to subscribe!
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If you don’t have access to a local teacher, there are still many resources you can study from.
Hands down, the best lessons and videos you can buy, in my opinion, are any of James Hill’s offerings over at Uketropolis
(affiliate link, as well as the ones below). There are courses for total newbies (Ready, Steady, Ukulele!
) up to experts (UkuleleX
) with several stops between, including the well-regarded The Ukulele Way
which teaches the art of playing solo arrangements.
I worked as a site admin for years at The Ukulele Way (before Uketropolis) and really had a chance to see the program inside and out. James’s work ethic for creating truly useful content is profound, he takes care of his customers, and he’s the best uke teacher around, in my opinion. If you want some top-notch ʻukulele tutorials and well-thought-out lesson plans, don’t miss it. The course costs are incredibly reasonable considering all the great material you get access to.
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).