The Beginners Guide To Learning The Ukulele

  1. 7 years ago

    There are two types of beginner uke players; those who have played stringed instruments in the past and those who have not. For the sake of this guide I will be speaking to the latter the set. If you have played in the past there is still plenty of useful info here but adapt it to what you are already familiar with coming from guitar, mandolin, etc...

    Guide

    1. Introduction
    2. Getting To Know Your Uke
    3. Basic Form and Technique

    4, Playing Chords

    1. (Future Updates)
    2. (Future Updates)
  2. Introduction

    There are few instruments in the world that are likely to captivate your imagination the way the ukulele will. I began playing in 2006 and have never looked back. So please take a moment to properly prepare your psyche for the addiction your about to expose yourself to.

    Ready?

    Good!

    First and foremost lets talk about the four different basic types of ukuleles.

    Soprano
    The Soprano Ukulele is the highest pitched and smallest of the Uke family. This is the most commonly pictured size in pictures and pop culture for its folk heritage and link to the Hawaiian Islands. The standard soprano has a 13" scale with traditionally 15 frets although different makers have been known to make some with a few more but I have yet to see any with less than 15. As with all ukuleles, different models and brands come made in a variety of materials although any respectable model will be made with wood. Different types of woods produce different tonalities and greatly influence the 'voicing' and volume of the instruments. If your coming from another stringed instrument you may want to consider a different size Uke as the exceptionally small fretboard can make it difficult to adjust your fingering correctly. If your a newcomer, the Soprano is a great choice and tends to be the most affordable until you get into the professional level Ukes.

    Concert
    The Concert Ukulele is a less popular size but should not be overlooked. The concert adds an extra 2" inches to the length of the Sopranos fretboard and that makes a huge difference to someone looking for the Soprano sound with extra room on the long side. This is an excellent choice for crossovers from other instruments and for newcomers alike. Due to the added mass of their body, they are louder and have better sustain than Sopranos although due to being less desired, quality sub $100 ones are hard to come by.

    Tenor
    Tenor is the big brother of the Uke world and deserves its fair share of respect. You will find that a number of the modern "greats" prefer the Tenor for its rich, balanced sound that blends together aspects of Uke and Guitar and lends itself better as a 'professional' style instrument in some circles. Clocking in at 17" the Tenor gives a comfortable amount of neck room to position and chords and also adds additional frets for soloing and playing practically any type of music you can imagine. Quality Tenors run in the $150+ and fortunately dont seem to be popular among brands producing toy quality ukes.

    Baritone
    Last but not least we come to the big, deep baritone! The jilted uncle of the uke world. All kidding aside, the Baritone will likely be the rarest uke size you come across in your travels as it is somewhat obscure and rather unpopular outside of group situations that call for its heavy bottom end sound. Thats not to say that the Baritone is not fun to play solo, because it is one of my personal favorites, but solo baritone play feels a bit to close to playing a guitar and for me at least it looses some of the 'Uke Magic'. Tuning on the Baritone takes on a dramatic change from its brethren as it is tuned E-A-D-G like a bass guitar which also means all your chords will be played like a hacked down guitar. Great for transitioning players and as mentioned above, Baritone is a must for groups looking to round out their sound.

    ~Work in Progress~

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  5. hey, why are some of these posts ''reserved''?

  6. Its a work in progress, I wanted to save a few spots as I continue working on the guide so everything appears at the top of the thread when its done.

  7. Nice thread idea. Can I pick you up on comment that Concert is less popular? In the UK I'm not sure that is any longer the case once you strip out those who buy cheap sopranos on a whim - id say when people are genuinely interested, concerts and tenors seem the most popular

  8. Interesting note! I was comparing the Concert to the Soprano and universally the Soprano will always be the more popular size based on their novelty attraction. I do agree that the Concert and Tenor are the more popular 'pro' choice.

  9. It's interessant thank's !

  10. Re learning ukulele,
    I bought a concert as i went from playing a guitar and decided that a soprano would be a bit small to transfer from guitar to.... but now i'm progressing onto my soprano and gonna plug away....

  11. I started on Soprano migrating from bass... it was a BIG transition! Ive landed on Concert and been happy with it but my next serious purchase will likely be a Tenor.

  12. I have just picked up a Uke from a local music store, it is a soprano, and i liked it for it only has 12 frets. I also transitioned from Bass guitar to Uke, and my fingers are killing me, do you have any suggestions for fingering positions that are easier for clumsier hands?
    Thanks man!

  13. Practice is really the only thing I can tell you. Learn to use bar chords even when you dont really need them (Such as when playing a G chord- use your index finger across the second fret of the bottom three strings and and use your middle finger on the third fret of the second to last string so it looks like this:
    G-C-E-A
    0- 2-2-2
    0- 0-3-0

    It uses fewer fingers which is really the key. I have chubby fingers too so learning to play chords with as little finger interaction as possible helps free up some fret board real estate. Sometimes its redundant to bar strings above where your fretting them lower on the neck but it does help build endurance too and I found myself getting hand cramps A LOT as I was learning to play so the more you can exercise the better off you will be in the long run.

    I hope that makes sense lol

  14. It totally makes sense. I've bought my soprano Uke "Lali" (It's a Lanikai LU-11, but in the box it was written by pen and I thought It was Lali ) 8 months ago and my unexperienced fingers did It automatically when I played the G chord. But I'm still having trouble with my B7 chord (0-2-3-2) same way, so I'm using the 3-finger way.

    In my province (Mendoza, Argentina) it`s hard to find ukes. I managed to buy my Lali from a friend. I've only seen Sopranos around, and only 1 tenor in a local music store. I hope I can find a Concert one.

    Lali & I are waiting for the rest of this Guide.

  15. Theres more coming but Im waiting till I get a day off to sit down and dedicate some time to it! Just through regular practice your going to make your own little tricks that help overcome the cramped space. It can be straight BRUTAL on some chords especially coming from the bass where one fret equals three ukulele frets in some areas!

    If you can get your hands on a concert you will be right at home. The extra few inches is a night and day difference and will give you plenty of room to fret your chords without feeling like your stumbling over your own fingers!

  16. Advice for your guide:
    I've only been playing for four weeks now, and I've been fretting the string wrong.
    I was under the impression that you were supposed to put your finger lightly on the string to get note out.
    Later I found out that I was supposed to press it to until it touched the fret board (I learned this from my violin playing sister, who never touched a uke before.)

    So I think that you should elaborate on that fact a little more.

  17. "Ukulele_Rat" Later I found out that I was supposed to press it to until it touched the fret board (I learned this from my violin playing sister, who never touched a uke before.)

    Actually, you don't need to go that far. (She does because she has not frets!)

    You only need to press until the string is firmly against the fret you are working with. Why work harder than you have to?

  18. "pootsie"

    "Ukulele_Rat" Later I found out that I was supposed to press it to until it touched the fret board (I learned this from my violin playing sister, who never touched a uke before.)

    Actually, you don't need to go that far. (She does because she has not frets!)

    You only need to press until the string is firmly against the fret you are working with. Why work harder than you have to?

    I was lightly touching the strings.
    My strings weren't even near the fret, let only being firmly pressed.

  19. I would wager that the reason the concert isn't as popular is because it's a very similar sound to the soprano for a larger investment. For someone who's familiar with ukes it's easier to pick out, but for the layman just getting into it it would probably look like unnecessary cost. After that it makes more sense to go straight to the tenor or baritone and get a much larger difference in sound than to go to the concert. It seems like you'd almost have to double back on it unless you set out to get one in the first place. Or I have no idea what I'm talking about. That's another option.

  20. "IEnjoyFancyHats" I would wager that the reason the concert isn't as popular is because it's a very similar sound to the soprano for a larger investment. For someone who's familiar with ukes it's easier to pick out, but for the layman just getting into it it would probably look like unnecessary cost. After that it makes more sense to go straight to the tenor or baritone and get a much larger difference in sound than to go to the concert. It seems like you'd almost have to double back on it unless you set out to get one in the first place. Or I have no idea what I'm talking about. That's another option.

    Your absolutely right. The concert is, at its core, a soprano with a longer neck and slightly larger body. The concert is a much easier instrument to fret and play and it still has that sweet soprano sound.

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