Let’s think about your latest bad day. What would you do when things wouldn’t turn out right? For me, whenever my blue sky’s faded to grey, a best ukulele does help me to turn it around.
That’s also the reason why a lot of people want to learn to play ukulele: a little bit of music with a uke tone can improve your mood easily.
If you are a ukulele lover, sharpen your ukulele skills for staving anxiety and boredom with 15 proven tips for learning to play the ukulele efficiently.
Some tips here might sound basic but their effectiveness are proven so never ever underestimate any of them.
1. Make sure your ukulele always in tune for every practice
When you are learning to play ukulele, an out of tune ukulele may confuse you with wrong pitch.
Here I have some good news and bad news for you.
The bad one first. Regardless which uke brand you choose, a ukulele tends to be out of tune even when you don’t play it, so it’s very hard to keep your uke always in tune.
So how’s about the good news? Yeah, with a tuner, tuning this cute instrument is not that kind of hard.
I would like to recommend Snark SN6, a convenient and easy-to-use uke tuner. You can find this great deal and tons of good feedbacks for it on Amazon.
Plus, there are plenty of tuner apps for your smartphone. My favorite online tuner is The Ukulele App. It is developed by a famous YouTuber – The Ukulele Teacher.
Of course, it is also free and well-designed, that’s why I really love it.
2. Get ideal tempo and rhythm with a metronome
It goes without saying that playing ukulele with metronomes is the best tip to practice rhythm and timing well.
As a beginner, you can set your metronome to slow speed first (say 120 beats per minute, you can even slow it down to 90bpm if it’s necessary).
When you are familiar with this, just increase the speed gradually until you get a steady rhythmic sound while your body is still comfortable.
It’s similar to choosing a tuner, you can find an excellent metronome on Amazon.
If you are looking for both a metronome and a tuner, save your money by purchasing this 2-in-1 super metronome-tuner: Korg TM50PW. I’ve owned this one for over a year and I still love it.
Worry about your metronome battery? With this Metronome Beats app in your smartphone, you can forget a metronome death. By the way, it’s also my favorite metronome.
3. Want to be a uke master? Practice scales!
I myself was really impressed by this J Rog’s saying: “Scales are important for a guitarist, just as learning good grammar is important to speaking properly.” It’s also true for ukulele player.
Have you ever wonder why seasoned ukulele players can accompany a whole new song right when they just hear a piece of it for the first time? If yes, you are not alone.
A lot of beginners don’t know that learning scales will lead to understanding the relationships between notes.
Scales also help you know the relationships between chords so you can launch a solo and recall the right chords at the right time.
There are a lot of scales, you can start with C major first by watching this YouTube video to know what is a scale and how to play the C major scale on the Ukulele.
4. Strum your ukulele right at the “sweet spot”
Not everyone knows that it is not the soundhole but the “sweet spot” on a ukulele that brings the nicest sound.
The “sweet spot” is usually coincident with the place at which your hand can play in a relaxed posture.
You can identify this spot on soprano and concert ukulele by looking at the location around the intersection of the ukulele neck and the body.
For tenor and baritone, this spot is a little bit down toward the soundhole.
5. Learn ukulele chords and patterns through context
Learning chords and patterns for their own sake sometimes is boring whereas people seem to learn better from their favourite songs.
So choose some favorite songs which contain chords and patterns you need and practice them all together. It will be a lot of fun, I swear.
For example, to learn “Island strum”, I would like to play it through “You are my sunshine” rather than just practice “D D U, U D U” over and over with a few chords.
Plus, as learning ukulele through context you can also avoid robotic performance because you would feel the beat easier.
6. Try to warmup with scales – Why not?
You might hear that both warmup and learning scales are necessary tips to play the ukulele efficiently.
So how about warming up with scales? Yep, you can warm your body and mind up, and practice scales at the same time.
It’s exactly a great job of killing two birds with one stone. My favourite exercise is warming up with C scale. Just start with C major scale by scrolling back to Tip no.3
7. Count along to the beat of the song by tapping your toe or hand
Today, with tons of ukulele tutorial videos and online chord charts, learning to play the ukulele seems to be a piece of cake. In fact, it’s not that easy.
Have you ever stuck with your songs while staring at the chord charts just because you don’t know when to strum, when to change a chord?
Even when you have replayed the tutorial videos a thousand times?
If yes, let keep this tip in mind, it’s very useful for learning to play the ukulele efficiently.
Tap your toe or hand to count along to the beat of songs.
By doing this, you can feel the beat and identify when the chords go in sync with the beats.
8. Increase chord transition speed by using some tricks
Although chord changes depend mostly on the flexibility of your chording hand, you can change chord faster by taking advantage of the common fingers’ places in the chords you are playing.
For instance, try G to C chord transition exercise:
- Hold the G chord position
- Move to the C but don’t even strum, just move your ring finger down to its position for the C on the A string while still holding on other fingers.
- Move the ring finger back to G position, then move to the C again.
- Repeat until you feel comfortable
- Now you have the ring finger in the C position, hover two left fingers a little above the strings then play C chord.
- Make sure the middle finger and the index are not flying too far away from the string, keep them really nice and close without touching the strings because we’re gonna go back to the G chord.
- Press them back down, move the ring finger back up nice and strong, strum to make sure the sound is nice and clear
- Repeat until you feel comfortable
It goes the same for some other pairs of chords. Of course, you can’t apply this tip for every chord but it does help you change chords faster and build your finger flexibility. This is an amazing tip for learning to play the ukulele efficiently when I first start.
9. Relax your wrist as strumming
As a good rule of thumb, tension makes your fingers can’t move easily and the sound isn’t nice and clear. So while strumming, it’s very important for your wrist to be bent and relaxed.
Moreover, strum perfectly in time might sound a little bit robotic so just keep the downstrokes in time but give a natural swing to your upstrokes.
10. Strum in time to the song even while you are not singing
Strumming is the way you express rhythm, a music concept which requires consistency and good timing.
Actually, a lot of upstrokes and downstrokes in a strumming pattern may distract ukulele players when they strum and do other tasks simultaneously.
For instance, some people forget to strum every time they stop a singing. Therefore, they lose the rhythm.
The root cause of this phenomenon is they don’t build enough muscle memory for the strum pattern and singing so it soon becomes messy when they put strumming and singing together.
The key is practice properly. Just move to the Tip no.11 below for the solution in detail.
11. Read the lyrics out loud or hum the melody when strumming
This tip is extremely efficient for learning ukulele if you can’t sing and play the ukulele simultaneously.
Note that it doesn’t mean you can’t sing well. You just need time to manage techniques well before going to a completed performance.
With this tip, you can simplify the practice process, focus more on strum patterns but still be able to practice the singing while strumming.
12. Care about the fret thumb position.
Don’t ever point your thumb toward the ukulele’s headstock. This way, the hand is less balance and the thumb can’t support the fingers in fretting notes. So you have a tendency of using more force to fret the notes.
Most of the time, keep the thumb vertical – pointing upwards the ceiling and behind the neck of the ukulele, not over the neck.
The thumb should be exactly in the middle of the hand behind the uke’s neck. To make it clearer, the thumb needs to stay between the middle finger and the ring finger at all times.
13. Put your fret fingers perpendicularly to the board
Normally, pressing down on the strings using pads will limit your finger pressure to the string and cause fuzzy ugly sound. You might also touch the other strings incidentally and mute their vibration.
Just put your fingers perpendicularly to the fretboard, the strings should be in-between your fingernail and the pads. Your nails should also be trimmed properly to do that easily.
14. Be flexible and selective with ukulele online resources
Today, online resources surely make everything handy for your ukulele practice progress.
To boost your learning progress, you obviously need to make use of the online resources and be selective with them. Here what you should check out:
Ukulele chord learning website: Ultimate-guitar.com, Uke Buddy.
Ukulele Discussion and FAQ forum: Ukulele Hunt, Ukulele Underground.
Ukulele Outstanding YouTubers: The Ukulele Teacher, Cynthia Lin Music, Ukulele Underground, Michael Lynch.
It’s normal if you can see this type of comment under many videos or posts of different tutors: “You are the best ukulele teacher in the world!”
So ultimately, who is really the best?
Let me tell you that “the best teacher” doesn’t really exist. There are only teachers who can explain things more understandable for you than the others.
For example, some tutors are good at explaining this one, some others good at that one. So open up your mind and be flexible as choosing the uke tutorial resources.
15. Let yourself be engaged in the ukulele every day
For me, practice consistently is not enough. The coolest part of learning a ukulele is the way it can lighten up your life.
Watching other players, joining a jam, recording your own video, live streams while playing, taking part in a contest, teaching someone to learn ukulele… all of the stuff can improve your ukulele skills in an awesome way.
If you are searching for a silver bullet to become a ukulele master overnight, this article can’t help. But above are truly 15 proven tips for learning ukulele efficiently.
I also would like to strongly recommend you watch this video for inspiration:
Hope you enjoy it. Have any question or would like to share any tips? Feel free to leave your comment in the box below.