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ʻUkulele Lessons – Learn How To Play Your Uke

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:

Fundamentals

Practicing
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.
Learning the ʻUkulele Fretboard: Diagrams and How to Memorize it
Understanding the fretboard matrix and charts to show you where the notes are.

Basic ʻUkulele Lessons

Getting Your Kids Playing ʻUkulele
Tips for selecting the right size, learning options, and encouragement.
How To Hold An ʻUkulele
A key, but sometimes overlooked component to playing the ʻukulele. If you’re not holding your ʻukulele correctly everything will be harder.
Pronouncing and Spelling ʻUkulele
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.
Tuning Your ʻUkulele/Alternate ʻUkulele Tunings
How to tune an ʻukulele with a tuner, pitch pipe, and piano. Also a list of alternate tunings.
Warmups/Exercises
How to get you fingers going before you play. Also exercises to “buff up” your hands.

The Instrument Itself

Buying an ʻUkulele
Everything you should consider when you’re shopping for a uke.
Hawaiian ʻUkulele: A Made in Hawaiʻi Guide
What’s the deal with Hawaiian made ukes? Find out why they might be right for you.
History of the ʻUkulele
From Nunes to Kamaka and how it got it’s name.
Parts of the ʻUkulele
What each part is called, where it’s located, and what it does.
Price: Why Does a Uke Cost What it Does?
Some of the key factors in determining the price of an ʻukulele.
Sizes: How Big is Your Uke?
All about soprano, concert, tenor, baritone, and other exotic uke sizes.

Accessories

Cases: How to Store Your ʻUkulele
The difference between hard cases and gig bags and what I recommend.
Picks
Types of ʻukulele picks, thumbpicks, flatpicks, and how to use them.
Straps
Why you might want a strap and what style to choose.
Strings
Everything you need to know about choosing ʻukulele strings.

Timing

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 ʻUkulele Lessons

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

Want to learn more while also supporting the site?

Check out my ebooks on chords and technique! Learn essential tricks and how to play more confidently with some of the very best uke resources available.

Browse my ebooks!

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.
Make Hard Chords Easier
Tips and tricks for simplifying challenging chord shapes.
Picking Patterns
Some common picking patterns for “melting” chords in a way that is less aggressive than strumming.
Strumming
Strumming techniques and strum patterns.
Reggae ʻUkulele 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 ʻUkulele
How to combine a melody with an interval to create a harmonized part.
Fingering Tips
Which fingers to fret with for the easiest playing.
Picking
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

Techniques/Articulations

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.

left hand technique for ukulele book cover

Right Hand Technique

My guide to strumming and picking technique includes effects like tremolo, tapping, and MUCH more.

right hand technique for ukulele ebook cover

If the books aren’t your cup of tea, all my other technique lessons can be found here.

Theory

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.

The Basics
Plugging your uke into an amp 101.
Pickups
Everything you need to know about turning your acoustic sound electric with a piezo pickup.
Amplifiers
The different types of ʻukulele amps and PA systems.
Preamps
A critical part of getting some pickups to shine.
Effects
Using pedals to shape your sound.
Impulse Responses
How to make an ultra-realistic EQ model of your favorite mic and use it to improve your plugged in sound.
DIY Momentary Footswitch
Save $50 by making your own FS-6 style footswitch for BOSS, Roland, and Line 6 gear.

Software

Using your computer or smart device to power some of your practice tasks through the power of music software.

Software
Tutorials and great programs to use.

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.
Recording Yourself
How to use a computer and a mic to create a recording of your playing through a DAW program.
Setlists
Creating a song order that compliments you and keeps the audience engaged.
Slack Key ʻUkulele
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.
Tone
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!

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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).

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