Updated: Jun 20, 2020
I have a question for you.
Have you ever felt stuck while learning to play the ukulele? Then this is the perfect time we go over the ultimate guide to learning how to play the ukulele faster. Take it from me and from personal experience the most difficult part is getting stuck and showing little to no signs of progress. If you’ve ever felt like there is a stumbling block in your way or a barrier holding you back then this guide is for you! In this guide I’m going to show you 5 tips to help you get over these blocks and barriers.
These blocks and barriers are in the form of bad habits and incorrect routines. Once these are out the way, just imagine how fast you will see progress and breakthrough in your ukulele adventure. This is like someone learning how to run. They lace up and start running and before they hit a quarter mile they are already gasping for air with their leg muscles tightening. They give up and start walking. “I’m done”, they say to themselves, heart pounding in their chest. Its over before it even began! What that person needed was a guide in helping them start their running journey correctly. Down to the picking out the right shoes, to engaging in proper stretching. Learning proper running form, and setting a reasonable pace. This would have greatly helped that poor soul, doomed to a life of couch potatoey, decaying into an atrophy of poor health. I know sooooo dark! Haha!
This takes us to our first tip that you absolutely do not want to miss if you want to make effective and quick progress.
Tip #1 Always Tune Your Ukulele
Playing a ukulele that is out of tune is a frustrating experience! Especially when your just starting out and attempting to learn new chords and songs. You’ll find the notes you strum don’t quite match what you’re listening to. Learning the chords to a song while your ukulele is out of tune will put a stop to your progress. In the end you may know where to place your fingers on the fingerboard but without hearing the correct chord, you will not make the connection. This is like watching a foreign movie without subtitles! You’ll be lost.
For this reason, before you start playing, make sure the first thing you do is tune up your ukulele. Do this every time! To learn the new and easiest methods on how to tune your ukulele check them out here!
Tip #2 Keep Proper Form (even when it hurts)
Holding the ukulele correctly is one of the most important things to get right out the gate. It’s hard to unlearn bad habits so its important to not create them in the first place. Practicing in uncomfortable positions will hinder the learning process, putting unnecessary strain on certain parts of your body. Since you want to have fun while learning the ukulele, it would be no fun to feel strain in your muscles and joints.
If you’re sitting down while playing the uke, make sure to sit upright with your shoulders pulled back. This will allow the body to fall into proper ukulele form. The ukulele body will cradle gently in the bend of your elbow, with your strumming finger landing above the soundhole. Educating your body to hold this position will allow you to play at ease for many years!
If you play standing up the same things apply. Stand with your back straight and your shoulders pulled back. This may be uncomfortable at first and even hurt. Don’t give in and don’t give up! Having proper form will benefit your health and aid in playing the ukulele properly.
Tip #3 Learn the Right Chords First
There are many chords you can learn to play on the ukulele. Not only that, but every chord can be played in multiple different ways. This complicates things as you can lose your way down the “Chord Black Hoooooooooooole”.
But have no fear!
Most songs can be played using simple chords. And these chords are popular and found in many of your favorite songs!
These chords are C, G, A, F, D, E, B, Am, Em, Dm, Gm, and Bm. If your counting there are 12 chords. 12! That’s it! If you want to learn how to play these chords check them out here. I recommend that you learn these chords first. Practice them over and over again until you play them from memory. After you’ve mastered these popular chords, then you can move on and learn the rest. Learning these chords have the added benefit of building finger dexterity. So win, win!
Tip #4 The Air Strumming Technique
If learning chords for you is easy then perhaps strumming will be your kryptonite! Who would have thought that strumming can be HARD! Like chord complexity there is also strum complexity.
For example Hawaiians have a particular style of strumming that in my humble opinion is almost an illusion. Its beautiful to listen to and is hard to figure out. It took me months to get it down... and I’m Hawaiian. Iv’e heard this strumming pattern my whole life! If you are curious to hear what it sounds like check out this video. And here’s another video with intermediate techniques on how to strum it. There is also the ‘Triple Strum’ and ‘Fan Strum’ that take their cues from flamenco style guitar.
To practice strum patterns I recommend practicing without the ukulele. This simplifies things helping you focus on just the strum. This is what I call the “Air Strumming Technique”. First, search YouTube for ukulele strumming videos. Follow along with these online instructors playing the patterns in the air, or better yet, on your knee. Then when your confident in the strum pattern get your ukulele and practice them with chords.
Tip #5 Don’t Sing-A-Long, but Hum-A-Long
One of the most enjoyable things to do while playing the ukulele is singing your favorite songs. If you tried this, you may have found it challenging. It can feel as though you would need two brains in order to sing and play the ukulele simultaneously. Plus you will gain huge respect for John Mayer for playing lead guitar while singing deep lyrics into your soul. If you find singing and playing ukulele at the same time to be challenging then here is my tip: don’t sing-a-long, but hum-a-long
Singing lyrics and doing vocal acrobatics can derail your focus while playing the ukulele. This is why I recommend you hum while you play instead of singing the words. This will give your brain time to meld these two facets together. This melding process can take a while so be patient and continue humming along. As confidence in your playing grows, adding the lyrics and vocal melody should feel more natural. Like learning to ride a bike on two wheels, once you get it, you keep it for life! So this is worth mastering. Stay Calm and Hum Along!
This sums up the best learning tips that will help you learn to play the ukulele faster. Here is a recap starting from the top:
Always Tune Your Ukulele
Keep Proper Form (even when it hurts)
Learn the Right Chords First
The Air Strumming Technique (strum pattern hack)
Don’t Sing-A-Long, but Hum-A-Long (melding your voice and ukulele)
Hopefully these tips help you out on your ukulele journey. Be sure to share this post with your friends if they are new to the ukulele. Godspeed!