You’ve learned the basics and are now planning to become a better ukulele player. How do you do this, and what’s a good way to start?
You want to improve your ukulele playing? Go back to the basics.
This may sound counterproductive – after all, you’re looking to advance, not backtrack – but it actually makes sense. This first tip is what we deem to be the most important, because it would require you to review what you’ve learned and assess if there’s anything you may have overlooked in your zeal and excitement to learn to play the ukulele. Taking a look at your foundation can help you pinpoint the areas you need to improve on, master, and in some cases, relearn.
A good way to go about revisiting the basics is by checking out structured ukulele lessons to see if you’ve actually got everything covered. We know how tempting it is to skip a particular topic that seems difficult to follow, but if you’re really wanting to improve your uke playing, you’ll have to go back and do your best in order to achieve your goal. The ukulele lesson reviews on Know Your Instrument can help you determine which ukulele learning sites would fit your learning style and music preferences.
Our second tip focuses on your most important playing tool: no, not your ukulele, but your strumming hand (for most players, it’s the right hand). How your hand performs influences the sound of your ukulele, so you need to mind not only your hand technique, but also the state of your fingertips and nails.
Some people play or strum with long fingernails, while others prefer playing with their fingertips or a felt pick. We suggest experimenting with different fingetip-nail-pick combinations and observing the sounds produced to add a different dimension to your playing.
When strumming, remember to move from the wrist; when picking strings, move from the knuckles or the joints between the fingers and your palm – not the joints at the top of your fingers. Click here for more information on right hand technique.
The fingernails on your fretting hand should be kept short to allow for a clean fretting and a more distinct sound.
Our last tip for today is about learning the techniques to give your playing some flourish and make your sound more interesting. Here’s our top three.
- Bends – Bends can make notes sound higher in pitch. Notes are bent by bending the string on the fretboard. Push the string up or down fully (corresponding to a whole step) or a bit (for a half step). Take note that the the G string is usually bent downward and the A string upward so they don’t go off the fretboard.
- Hammer-Ons – You do a hammer-on when you move up from one note to another note without plucking the same string again. Basically what you do is you fret a string, pluck it and then fret the string again in a different fret. So you pluck a string once but fret it twice, therefore playing two notes. If you’re fast enough you can play more than two!
- Pull-Offs – The opposite of hammering on is pulling off. For this technique, you put the index finger of your fretting hand on a fret. As you hold this fret, you put a second finger (your middle or your ring finger) on a higher fret. You then pluck the string and pull off the second finger to allow the open note to sound. As with a hammer-on, you play multiple notes on a single pluck.
Other ukulele techniques you can practice are the tremolo, slides, trills and percussion effects. Give these a try – and go back to basics if necessary – and practice until everything comes naturally. Good luck and have fun!