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. How to use your time more effectively and make sure your brain is at top operating capacity before you begin.

Quantifying Playing Abilities: Levels

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.

Learning the ʻUkulele Fretboard Notes: Diagrams and Charts

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

Getting Your Kids Playing ʻUkulele

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.

How To Hold An ʻUkulele

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.

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. Learn some background history of Hawaiʻi and much needed perspective.

Taking Lessons

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.

Tuning Your ʻUkulele/Alternate ʻUkulele Tunings

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.

Warmups/Exercises

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

Buying an ʻUkulele

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.

Hawaiian ʻUkulele: A Made in Hawaiʻi Guide

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.

History of the ʻUkulele

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.

Parts of the ʻUkulele

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.

Price: Why Does a Uke Cost What it Does?

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.

Sizes: How Big is Your Uke?

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.

Accessories

Cases: How to Store Your 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.

Picks – A Guide to ʻUkulele Plectrums

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.

Straps

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.

Strings – The Best Set for Your ʻUkulele

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.

Timing

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.”

Timing Basics: Beats, Counting, Time Signatures

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.

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.

Hawaiian Picking & Strumming Vamps

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.

Make Hard Chords Easier

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.

Picking Patterns

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.

How to Strum & Strumming Patterns

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.

Reggae ʻUkulele Strums

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.

Switching Chords Faster

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.

Lead Lessons

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

Harmonizing Melodies on the ʻUkulele

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.

Fingering Tips

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.

Fingerpicking the ʻUkulele

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.

Sequencing Scales

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.

Soloing, Improvising, Pa’ani

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.

green plastic ukulele fretboard

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 of Amplification

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.

Pickups: USTs, SBTs, and Microphones

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.

Amplifiers: Amps to PAs

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.

Preamps: Balance & Refine Your Uke Signal

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.

Effects Pedals

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.

Impulse Responses

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.

DIY Momentary Footswitch

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.

Software

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

Software for Learning ʻUkulele

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.

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. Tips for performing, improving as a group, and collaborating.

Finding Inspiration

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.

Kani Ka Pila Circle & Jam Tips

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.

Muting Chords And Notes

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.

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. Includes section on the mechanics on creating notes so you can properly troubleshoot your own playing.

Reading Standard Notation (Sheet Music)

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…

Recording Your ʻUkulele

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.

Setlists: Ordering Your Songs for Performance

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.

Slack Key ʻUkulele

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.

Solo Fingerpicking Arrangements

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.

Song Endings

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.

Spicing Up A Boring Song

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.

Tone

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.

Weird Sounds

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!

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.

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.

uketropolis logo

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).

Brad Bordessa
brad bordessa smiling holding ukulele

I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honokaʻa, Hawaiʻi, 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 jammed with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me