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How to Play the Ukulule in Three Minutes or Less!
How to Play the Ukulule in Three Minutes or Less!
Ed Kahlua Saturday 22 May 2004

1. Hold the ukulele underneath your right arm, as shown in photograph:

2. Curl your left hand underneath the neck of the ukulele, and place the ring finger of your left hand on the third fret of the first string, as shown in the photograph. This is called a C chord (remember that!).

3. Strum all four strings in a downward direction with your right hand thumb. Strum fast enough so that all four strings sound at virtually the same time.

4. Believe it or not, there are many songs you can play that require only one chord for accompaniment. Row, Row, Row Your Boat is an example of such a song. Here is "the music" for this song.

Each slash mark represents a downward strum with your right hand thumb, just as you did before. Make sure you match up the words with the slash marks. The strums should should happen when you are singing the words below them, and they should all be evenly spaced apart, time-wise.

Start singing on the note C, which is the note you hear when you play the third string, the thickest string on the ukulele. If you are male, you will probably have to sing this note 1 octave lower.

That's it! You are now playing the ukulele! Stop your stopwatch!

If you like, listen to this beautiful ukuele mp3 rendition of the above work (482K), and witness how much mileage you can get out of that one chord and strumming technique!

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Comments ...
bjthomas827@yahoo.com | 09 May : 05:06
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
I am left-handed how much of a difference will it make in playing the Uke?


Ed | 09 May : 06:40
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
Good question. As with all stringed instruments, the right and left hands do completely different movements, of roughly equal complexity. Therefore, lots of left-handed ukulele players, guitar players, violin players and the like have no difficulty adapting to playing in the traditional way (as you see above). Some, however, prefer to re-string their ukes and play in the other direction, i.e. with the neck pointing to the right, and their right hand fingering the chords and the left hand doing the strumming. This of course means they have to translate all chord diagrams, photographs, tabulature etc. to reflect their different orientation, which probably isn't that difficult to do (especially since left-handed people are well-accustomed to living in a right-hand biased world anyways!). Because the Uke tends to be used mainly for strumming chords, a case could be made that the strumming hand might require more strength and endurance than the hand fingering the chords, making the dominant hand better-suited for the task. Not all people feel this way though.

My advice to you is to try playing in the traditional manner for awhile first, to keep life simple. If after awhile it really does feel difficult and unnatural to you, then change your orientation and compare. And please report back here with your experiences!

Cheers, Ed

steven_johnson05 | 31 Mar : 06:36
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
I just got a 6 sting uke, whats the diff. between a 4 and a 6 sting?

bobby | 31 Mar : 12:07
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
you said that there is many songs you can play with one chord. so where can i find them. e mail me at robertpowers70@bellsouth.net

candielyla@aol.com | 13 Aug : 15:50
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
I have an 8 string. how do i tune each string>

Alexander | 24 Sep : 04:26
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00

I think it is a good leson you have made and i learned how to play the ukulele and i am very grateful

Best regards Alexander[/size]

uke-maesta | 27 Sep : 21:22
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
sup ed....

do ya hav ta keep yur hand open when playing? i find this technique rather weird....i like to strum with my index finger.
thx fer tha 3min lesson

Decomoderne/San Clemente | 22 Mar : 17:24
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
Excellent - liked the tip about placing the finger slightly to the left of the fret.

Rhombus | 05 Jul : 06:18
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
@ steven johnson: that's not a ukelele. a 6 string ukelele is just a small guitar, and should be tuned EADGBE

@ candielyla@aol.com: assumint the strings are placed in groups of 2, they should be tuned GGCCEEAA

On topic: very nice tutorial. I've been playing guitar for a year and a half so I got a little overlap there. very nice :)

Ukulele Bandit | 02 Oct : 20:09
Registered: 31 Dec : 14:00
I've tried for years to play a musical instrument, ANY instrument. The simple lessons here have helped me more than several rather thick books. THANK YOU!

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