How to Play the Ukulele (and other odd instruments)

Too Hard to Try or Your New Treasure?

It isn’t a secret that guitar and piano are the most popular instruments among people and everyone wants to learn them, at some point. However, maybe you’re a bit more exotic, and you are wondering how you want to play the Ukulele. 

If so, you have a great idea there as you can find this process fun, interactive, and quite unique compared to others.  

The Ukulele is an instrument that can be used as a social instrument and a song machine, which attracts people together to have fun, and you may find it more thrilling the more you get used to it. 

Sure, you won’t have the same melodies as a piano, but you will have the amazing sounds no piano or another instrument can replay. More so, what about telling your friends, “Hey, I play the ukulele.” 

In all this process, it isn’t as easy as it seems. Although it feels very familiar to a guitar or other instruments from the same chords’ family, you will need to get used to the notes you can hit with it. 

Luckily, it only takes some practice—like every instrument—but you will find it easier than your general ones. Just remember you need to invest time and put in some dedication if you want to know how to play it. 

With that in mind, where can you start? Herewith us to ensure you’re hitting the right notes!

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Can I Learn to Play Ukulele by Myself?

Let’s set this record straight: although you can learn to play the Ukulele by yourself, it is sometimes helpful to have some help from professionals to improve your skills. 

However, it doesn’t mean you should totally fall in the process of finding a professional to learn. As long as you’re willing to put in time and dedication, you should be able to work around this instrument. 

Our role, in this case, is to help you by providing the most basic yet crucial tips and maybe give you an inside of how to learn it beyond the simple chords. 

We are confident you will get a handle on it, and just remember, be patient!

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How to Choose the Right Ukulele for You

It can be overwhelming to choose a ukulele, but it is obviously the first step, even when you are not really familiar with the instrument yet.

There are many styles and sizes to choose from. Each one also has its own tone. Here are some tips to help narrow down the selection when buying a ukulele:

  • Size and Tone: Ukuleles are available in many sizes, each with its own unique tone.

The Soprano is a smaller size of ukuleles. Soprano ukuleles produce a more lilting sound than their larger counterparts. They are ideal for beginners and players with small hands because of their small size and the spacing of frets.

A Concert uke, although larger than a soprano, they are still small in size. Concert-sized ukuleles have a deeper, warmer tone and more frets than their soprano counterparts.

Tenor is the largest size of ukuleles. They have a rich tone and are best suited to players with larger hands. 

It has a slightly wider neck than the Concert and Soprano ukuleles. This gives it a more bass-laden tone than the soprano and concert ukuleles.

  • Budget. 

This investment can be quite cheaper compared to other instruments, and Ukuleles are a great option that can be enjoyed for years of learning and enjoyment. They cost between $70 and $300. There are many ukuleles that will suit your needs, no matter where you are in your ukulele journey.

If looking for some below $100, the Venice Soprano Ukulele offers a fun sound in a small body that is affordable for beginners for about $70.

The Rincon Tenor Ukulele has a solid ovangkol top and natural finish. It produces a rich, deep sound that its Fishman Kula preamp can amplify, and you can pay around $190 for it if looking to invest a bit more than regularly.

Next, there’s a concert-sized Billie Eilish Signature ukulele that comes in a striking matte black finish and is adorned with the “blohsh(tm)” symbol. It is versatile and tone-rich, but it is indeed more expensive, going for about $270.

These are just some of the options available, and you can visit your store nearby to know what they offer that can be compared to the ones above and at different prices. 

Just make sure you choose a place with someone who actually knows what they are selling. 

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First, You Will Need to Work in Both Hands

Both hands have a lot of work ahead! The chording hand holds down the strings while the other is responsible for strumming and making the sound you wish for. We know this is logic, but you need to make sure you’re internalizing every detail. 

Now, many people, including some lefties, can strum with both their left and right hands while chording with their left, and the same lefties will usually have some trouble expressing rhythm with their non-dominant hands. 

If this is your case, you have two choices: to flip it around, play upside-down-backward, and devise their own chord shapes, or to restring their instrument. 

Restringing is easy and can relieve you from frustration. 

The chording hand may be referred to as the left hand, and the strumming hand as my right. Chord diagrams are drawn in the right-handed standard. If you’re a lefty who has restrung, you will know how to flip all diagrams and instructions so that they are left-centric.

It will make things much easier for all players if the nails on the chording hand have been cut short. Because they can be used as picks, the strumming hand may have longer nails.

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Learn How to Hold Your New Friend

It is only basic to start learning how to hold your Ukulele if you want to play it or be able to literally play a bit with it before you start your journey. 

In most cases, the Suzuki violin method takes a lot of time to learn how to properly hold the bow and instrument, but it is a great option to make it clean in the future. Children start with a box and sticks until they feel ready to move on to the real thing. 

What does this have to do with the uke, though? After all, the violin is a completely different instrument, even when they are similar in structure. 

Indeed, the uke is more patient, but it’s important that you strive for good technique from the beginning as you will have a hard time if you don’t work on it properly, even if you’re learning as a hobby. 

Mindfulness at the beginning can help you avoid straining your tendons later by allowing you to be more thoughtful of how you move and play. 

That being said, this is where you should start: whether you are standing or sitting, your instrument should be kept close to your body. 

Some prefer to use a strap to ensure their instrument is in the best possible position and until they get used to it, or you can even choose to use it long-term or whenever you want. 

In this process, the right forearm holds the instrument against your chest without a strap. Your left hand should hold the neck until it reaches the headstock. 

You can choose a chair with no arms if you are sitting. Sitting backward will make it more difficult. Until you feel confident, stand up straight from your chair. Cross your right leg across your left, and let it rest against your thigh. Relax your shoulders and always remember to breathe. 

You aren’t a singer, but building harmony with the instrument and your own timing is important. 

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The Ukulele Strumming Patterns

Learning to play the Ukulele is only possible by learning how to strum chords. Different strumming patterns can be used to play up or down on the Ukulele.

You may be asked to play certain songs using only heavier downward strokes and a consistent rhythm. Some songs may ask you to play your ukulele chords in an alternate pattern. 

This means that you should use an upward stroke and a downward stroke. A song might require you to play a pattern of irregular strummings, such as chords played in a “downtown-up-down” manner.

You’ll notice subtle differences in how a chord sounds when it is strummed in an upward motion as opposed to a downward one the more you practice. 

You’ll learn to instinctively strum chords and will be able to tell if you prefer alternating strum patterns to more irregular ones depending on how you feel when you play a song.

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Thumb Strum & Your First Chord

Let’s work on your note and chord. For it, you will need to position your fingers between the frets with a gentle arch. Your thumb should be on the back of the neck, opposite your index.

From top to bottom, the strings are numbered 43-2-1. One at a time, gently stroke the strings using the pad of your thumb. 

You can strum anywhere you feel comfortable, but the best spot to do so is where your neck meets your body. Sing along to the numbers (4-3-2-1-1) and pitches (G C A E A). Play them again and move on with it.

It makes a pleasant, gentle sound. Now, strum the four strings together and count a steady beat: 1-2-3-4.

If you have trouble finding the first note, try C. Pluck the 3rd string to get you started. 

Keep your strings counted upwards from the bottom! Your strum will improve over time to include other patterns and fingers, but the foundation is still a steady rhythmic downstroke.

The chord C6 is formed when you combine all the open strings. The notes G C EA and C6 make up the C6 chord. Do you feel this is familiar? These are the notes that we tune our ukuleles with. 

You will need to memorize them as this is called “C tuning,” and it’s the most popular way to tune your Ukulele.

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Working on the Chording Hand and The C7 Chord

Moving on your chording hard in specific and making sure you can make the best sounds, keep this in mind: your wrist should be straight and your four fingers in a line. Tap on your thumb. Look at the instrument. This is a good start to align your left or right hand on the instrument.

Now, place your hand under the headstock and insert the neck of the instrument place your hand in a comfortable spot around the neck to locate the first string (it’s the closest to the ground, the A string). 

Your index and middle fingers should be placed between the frets. Place your pinkie on 4, your ring on 5, and your ring on 2. Allow your fingers to curve gently. 

Your thumb should align with your index finger at the back of your neck. However, your wrist should not be bent. You should remove everything except your index finger. It should be on the first fret, first string. 

Your hand will look like an “OK” sign. The fingers are curved, and your thumb touches your index finger. Now, strum the strings. With it, you should hit and form a C7 chord. 

After lots of practice, chord shapes will become second nature. However, chord diagrams can be useful reminders of how you should finger a chord. The dark horizontal line represents the nut of the Ukulele at the top. The four vertical lines represent the strings from left to right, 4 3 2 1. 

The thin horizontal lines represent the frets. They would match if you placed your instrument vertically next to a chord diagram. The dots are your finger on the string. Sometimes, a number is included to help you choose your finger.

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Reading Chord Diagrams

This is usually what people find difficult the most, but we believe it is a matter of getting used to the design of the diagrams. 

To begin with, the Ukulele is diverse. Still, many familiar songs are written “campfire style,” with chord names and diagrams above the lyrics, making it easy to learn and be a bit less pessimistic about your progress.

The chords should be placed directly above each syllable, where they change. “Happy Birthday to You” is a classic song that everyone knows and can be played with the first two chords. 

Try learning it first and then try it at the next birthday party. 

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Diving Deeper into Ukulele Chords

We don’t want you to stay with the basics when it comes to this aspect as this is the most crucial one for any beginner to find motivation and play the uke.

By far, we haven’t given you an actual description of this whole process, so, first, chords can be described as a combination of three notes or more that are played together to form a pleasant harmony. 

The chords are the foundation for playing songs on a Ukulele or other stringed instrument.

Beginning ukulele chords can be learned by looking at chord charts. These charts will show beginners where to place their fingers to create the strings to sing. Ukulele chord charts provide visual representations of the four strings as well as their respective frets on your instrument.

They can not only show your strings in the order G, C, E, and A but also have symbols that indicate where you should place your fingers to properly play a chord:

*O – To play the string in an open position, a circle over it is called “O.”

* X – A “x” above the strings indicates that you will not play that string or mutes it when playing.

* 1 = Index finger* 2 = Middle finger* 3 = Ring finger* 4 = Pinky Finger.

There are many variations and chords. There are many ukulele chords. These are some of the easiest chords that beginners can play on a ukulele: C, G, F, Am (A minor), G7, D.

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Ukulele Scales to Play Your Notes

Put simply; a ukulele scale is a sequence of notes. Every scale has eight notes. An octave is a string of 8 notes. 

Every scale begins and ends with the same note, also called the “root note.” However, the last note of a scale is an octave lower than the first note. Each scale ascends in a predetermined series of half-and whole steps that leads up to the eighth note.

Take, for example, the C Major Scale. It is one of the simplest scales to learn and one you will hear in many different songs. The C Major Scale is easy to learn for beginners because it doesn’t have any sharps or flats:

  • 1st note (Root Note): C
  • 2nd Notification: D
  • 3rd Notification: E
  • 4th Notification: F
  • 5th Note G
  • 6th Note A
  • 7th Note B
  • 8th note (Root note one octave above): B

Scales can be used to build dexterity and finger strength and help develop an ear for music. 

A ukulele scale chart is one of the most straightforward ways to learn scales for beginners. These ukulele scale diagrams will show you notes represented as dots. 

Beginners Tips for Ukulele Strumming

Are you unsure where to begin despite all the steps above? These are some strumming tips for beginner ukulele players:

  • Strumming without a pick: The easiest way to strum your Ukulele is with your thumb or index finger. Or, you can use a combination of both. It’s almost like you have an invisible pick. You can also use the pads and nails from all four fingers to strum your Ukulele.
  • Strumming with an instrument: A felt pick is best if you use a pick to strum your Ukulele. It won’t cause damage to nylon strings. A lighter touch and a slightly angled pick can create a fluid sound when strumming chords.
  • Don’t tighten your wrist. It all comes down to the wrist! A gentle grip can make a chord sound more pleasant, but it can also help chords sound smoother and less choppy. You’ll be more able to transition between chords by keeping your wrist loose. 

A Couple More of Odd Instruments You Can Learn!

These strange and unusual instruments are from all over the globe, and although the Ukulele is quite known, it also falls in this category. 

As we mentioned earlier, instruments like the piano, violin, guitar, drums, and similar ones, are always at the top of what people want to learn, but for those looking for something a bit more exciting, they can brag about or just be talented at it, we can share some more instruments: 

The Tour

This instrument, also known as the Totem Harp, was created by Victor Gama. The toha was inspired by the nests of extinct Angolan birds. 

It was created with the intention of evoking their spirit. Two musicians can play the Toha at once, and it is a very fun way to make parties even better.

The Contrabass Balalaika

The Contrabass Balalaika, which is the largest instrument in Balalaika’s family, is similar to an upright bass. It is often played with a large leather pick to produce better sound quality.


The Stylophone, a miniature stylus-operated keyboard that Brian Jarvis invented in 1967, is a miniature analog keyboard. To create each note, you touch the metal keyboard with a stylus.


Theramin is one of the strangest instruments available. It produces spooky melodic sounds without ever touching it!

The electric current flowing through an instrument can be altered to create sound. By moving their hands, the player can change the pitch or volume of the Theramin.

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