This page contains some music theory lessons geared towards ukulele.
However, take a minute to read the following. It might save you TONS of headache and trouble:
I’m going to take this space to sort music theory concepts in a rough order of importance from my perspective.
Other teachers and players will prioritize different aspects since everyone processes things differently.
✅ Immediately useful and worth learning:
- Chromatic scale
- Natual notes and enharmonic notes
- Major scales
- Scale degrees
- Relative minor
- Time signatures/counting
📉 Less vital but still useful for some:
- How to build chords
- Diatonic triads
🆓 Often can be absorbed passively:
- Minor scales (use relative minor)
- Key signatures (inseparable from major scales)
- Chord inversions (just shuffle the notes around!)
- Arpeggios (“melted” chords)
🤷 Meh/Only if you want:
- Reading standard notation
- Circle of 5ths
- Chord extensions
❌ Overkill subjects most people won’t need:
(The moment you DO need these tools is the right time to learn them, not before.)
- Avoid notes
- Chord progression formulas
- Quartal harmony
- Diatonic 7ths
- Inverting intervals
- Altered chords
- Altered scales
This leaves you with a much more focused pool of subjects to study.
I have put the high-priority music theory subjects together in the most sensible manner I can think of for ukulele in a short workshop called, Street Theory. Learn more by clicking the button below:
Understand the basics of practical music theory for the ukulele.
The workshop is my best, most organized, and up-to-date offering on music theory. That said, if you want to teach yourself through free resources, here are some decade-old lessons and links from when I was probably 18 or 19!
I make no guarantees to how “smart” these lessons are in their progression. Like I said, they’re old.
The notes of Western music are a good place to start.
Here are some visuals of the chromatic scale on the fretboard.
Once you know that B and C are neighbors along with E and F, you can start:
From a scale you can create a chord.
Diatonic Harmony (aka Chord Scales)
If you think of triad chords as three offset scales, you can figure out exactly what chords naturally occur in any key:
Finally, you can move the pitch of a song up or down to fit the range of the instrument or your voice. This is called:
Other Theory Lessons
Resolving 7th chords with the circle of fifths
It’s very easy for “Western thinking” people to get caught up in trying to riddle a song out like a math problem. Don’t fall into this trap. Music is art. If you try to put it in a box it’s going to make your life difficult.