Cardiff North Ukelele Band

learning and playing together

Learn Chords

Chord Shapes

Chord sets

Practise Playing



Lesson 1

The ukelele

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About the ukelele

Getting to know the parts of the ukelele

The parts of the ukelele
The neck of the ukelele separates the body from the head.
The four strings, 1(called top!) to 4 (called bottom!) are stretched between the bridge and the nut by the tuning keys.
The note which a string produces can be changed by holding down the string just behind a fret to shorten it.

Lesson 1

Getting started - holding the ukelele and tuning it with a digital tuner

Holding the ukelele

  • Hold the neck of the ukelele in your left hand;
  • bring the ukelele up to the horizontal position with its back against your right ribs;
  • bring your right forearm in to press the ukelele body against your ribs;
  • the left hand knuckle joint at the first finger holds up the ukelele head;
  • relax the fingers of the left hand so that they are free to finger the frets;
  •  the right hand is free to strum with thumb or fingers by flexing the wrist.

Playing - right hand

  • The wrist is the most important part of the body involved in playing the ukelele;
  • With the neck of the ukelele supported by your left hand and your right forearm pressing the ukelele to your ribcage, you are free to twist/roll the wrist of your playing hand, rotating it through nearly 180 degrees;
  •  the index finger is the commonest means of playing the ukelele - on the down stroke and/or on the up stroke with the beats of the music;
  • you can use the fingers held together to strike the strings as you twist and untwist the wrist, and for even more volume, you can also open and close the fingers in the hand as as you twist and untwist the wrist;
  •  you don't need a plectrum - it's difficult to play with a plectrum whilst holding the ukelele with your right forearm which you need to do if you're standing up.

Tuning - GCEA

(C tuning)

The commonest tuning for the ukelele is G,C,E,A for strings 4,3,2,1 respectively.

Don't be confused!
When holding a ukelele normally, string 4 (G) is known as the bottom string, even though it's at the top when you look at it. Similarly, the top string is the one at the bottom when you look down at it.

Guitarists - this ukelele tuning as identical to the top 4 strings of a guitar with a capo behind the 5th fret, so a G chord shape will be pitched at C, a C shape pitches at F etc., all 5 frets up the keyboard.

A digital chromatic tuner, or a purpose-made ukelele tuner based on the same technology is the ideal device for tuning the ukelele.

If you pluck an open string, the tuner displays the name of the nearest note (A in the picture) and shows whether the string is on the note (green), high/sharp (white or yellow) or low/flat (red). The note will be in the range A,B,C,D,E,F,G.

Watch out! Look to the right of the note letter on the tuner display to make sure it isn't displaying a sharp sign (#) when it shows green eg. A#.
n that case, the note is a semitone higher in pitch than the note letter, A which is the note needed.

Check your tuning    

GCEA (C tuning)

If you don't have a digital tuner, you can use these notes to check your tuning. Just play the sound file

If you have a tuner, you can check it against these notes





Next Lesson

Playing your first chord

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