Ukulele 101: How To Read Ukulele Tab Part 8


Vibrato gives the note a shaky quality. This is used particularly when playing melodies as it emulates the way notes tend to be sung. As the ukulele is relatively quiet and notes die away quickly, this technique is not used very often.

There are a couple of ways of producing vibrato. The classical technique is to slide your fretting finger back and forth within the fret you’re playing. This creates a subtle vibrato. The blues/rock vibrato technique involves bending and releasing the string repeatedly. This can be used to create a much wider vibrato.

ukulele vibrato

Vibrato is tabbed by a wavy line. The bigger the waves, the wider the vibrato.

Grace Notes

Grace notes are very short notes played before the main note and connected by an arch. They can be slides, hammer-ons or pull offs.

The are indicated by a small number before the main note.
grace notes ukulele tab


Bends are fairly rare in ukulele playing but they do crop up sometimes.

Bends are produced by plucking the string the pushing it up (towards your head) or down (towards the ground). This raises the pitch of the note.

Bends are tabbed with an arrow curved upwards

ukulele string bend

At the end of an arrow is a number. This shows how far upwards the bend should be. ½ means you bend the note up half a step (one fret), 1 means you bend it up one step (two frets). In this example, we bend the note up half a step so that, once it’s bent, it has the same pitch as a note played at the eighth fret.

This series was derived from my ebook Ukulele 101: 101 Things Every Ukulele Player Needs to Know.

Read the full series here: How To Read Ukulele Tab.

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  1. Jimmy March 5th, 2008 9:47 pm

    Trivia time!

    Grace notes in sheet music are usually small notes, and normally are optional. Heavily used in the Baroque period. Aaaaand I’m out.

  2. Keith March 6th, 2008 10:24 pm

    In bagpiping, gracenotes (called “embellishments” or “doublings”) are essential, and at times, quite complex (lots of small notes connected together as 32nd notes). They provide the unmistakable “burping” sound that is heard between melody notes in most piping march tunes or piobrachs.

  3. Woodshed March 6th, 2008 10:41 pm

    Jimmy: Baroque? I prefer Hilary*

    Keith: Thanks for the info. Are you a bagpipe player?

    *For the purposes of the joke only.

  4. Keith March 6th, 2008 11:56 pm

    Yes, I’ve been a piper for about 25 years (but I’m only just beginning with the Uke) It’s a bit of an adjustment going from “Squeezing-Cats-to- Death” to strummin’ and pluckin’….I wouldn’t have guessed that Ukes use gracenotes! ;)

  5. Abi Niels January 6th, 2012 12:30 am

    hello! I am interested in playing the Uke and have just read through this series about the basics of playing. I has been very helpful! I am wondering if you have any input on what type and brand of Ukulele I should invest in. I do not plan to use it for performance or anything like that but I would still like an attractive sounding, high quality instrument that is not going to cost me a fortune. ( I am thinking in the $50-$100 range) I have never played one before but have heard them and they really interest me. I do play the guitar so I am slightly familiar with string interments. I hope you can help me.
    an interested musician

  6. Woodshed January 6th, 2012 8:51 am

    Abi: Thanks! There’s some advice on which ukulele to buy here.

  7. Harrison December 7th, 2012 10:48 pm

    what do 7 and 4 meansorry i am so dumb

  8. Woodshed December 8th, 2012 12:35 pm

    Harrison: Are you talking about the big numbers at the start? That’s the time signature. There’s a bit about it at the bottom of this post.

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