New to the ukulele or just discovered how fun this adorable instrument can be?
Melissa has tips for how to get started and improve your playing from Day One.
1: Always Tune Your Ukulele
One of my favorite lines about tuning comes courtesy of ukulele virtuoso, James Hill. "Tuning is like airplane maintenance: it's always a good idea." I couldn't agree more. An instrument in tune will help you hear notes better, train your ear to tell when your strings have gone sharp or flat, and enhance your love of playing when everything sounds good.
Ukuleles in the soprano, concert, and tenor sizes (most ukuleles) are tuned GCEA. This means if you are a right handed player, the top string closest to your head starts with G, the next is C, then E, and the last is A.
Baritone ukuleles are a different beast. They are tuned like the bottom four strings of a guitar and are DGBE. This means if you are a right handed player, the top string closest to your head starts with D, the next is G, then B, and the last is E.
No matter what type of ukulele you are playing, always tune at the start of each practice. You can use a clip on tuner like ones from D'addario or Snark, or a downloadable app from your phone like G-strings.
Not sure how to tune your ukulele? Watch this quick video with Melissa below.
2. Groom Your Digits
Keep your fingernails trimmed, especially on your fretting hand (this is the left hand if you are right handed and vice versa). This will make it easier to fret chords on the ukulele. Some players grow the nails on their strumming hand to make it easier to strum. That is an individual choice.
3. Don't Hit The Ground Running
Play slowly to start and build speed as you get more confident. Tempo can always be adjusted and if you allow yourself to play at a slower speed in the beginning, you will find that you will advance more quickly.
4. Practice Changing Chords
Practice changing chords when you first start out. If you are having trouble jumping between chords, the best way to get better at them is to practice going back and forth between the chords that are giving you trouble. You will find that with a little practice, you will be able to switch more quickly while playing a song.
5. Play Every Day!
The best way to get better at something is to do it every day. Even if you are busy and can only spare 5-10 minutes, you will find you advance more quickly if you play more often rather than have an hour long session once a week.
6. Practice Makes Perfect
Learn new strum patterns and practice strumming the same song a few different ways to see how it sounds. You can practice new strums by muting your strings so you can hear the percussive nature of some of the trickier strums and then add chords as you become more comfortable.
7. Keeping Your Uke
Never leave your ukulele in your car for an extended period of time, especially when it’s hot out. Your ukulele is made of wood which is sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations. Leaving it in extremely dry and hot conditions can cause cracking. The ukulele should ideally be in a place where humidity levels are between 45%-60%. Hardwood ukuleles should be kept in their cases when they are not being played with a humidifier in the winter. You can keep an eye on humidity levels in your case with a hygrometer.
8. Learn Some Scales
Scales are a great way to train your fingers to move independently from each other, get warmed up (vocally too if you sing), and will help you learn notes on the fretboard. Knowing scales is also the basis for learning how to play lead so you can improvise while others are playing rhythm. You can learn how to play the C Major scale with Melissa in this video.