Beginner Ukulele Lessons

You’ve just got your hands on a ukulele (or are just thinking of buying one). Here are a few things to read and songs to play that’ll get you up to speed quickly.

Step One: Learn the basics

So You’ve Just Got Your First Ukulele – a free PDF I put together for beginners including essential links, first chords, tips and links to suggestions for the first songs to learn.
10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Ukuleles (Before I Bought One) – Don’t make the same mistakes I did.
10 Tips for Ukulele Beginners
How to read chord charts.

Extra Credit: Ukulele for Dummies – The (paper) book I wrote covering all the ukulele basics from buying your first uke, to strumming, chord shapes and far beyond.

Step 2: Get Your Strum On

Ukulele Strumming for Dummies
Strumming notation
13 Most Useful Strumming Patterns

Extra Credit: – How to Play Ukulele Strums – An ebook I wrote covering all the strumming and rhythm essentials for beginners.

Step 3: Play Some Songs

Check out the Songs with Chords You Know Post

Some popular ones:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
I Wanna Be Like You
Hallelujah
5 Years Time
Sentimental Heart

Extra Credit: Joan Jett – Bad Reputation – Easy chords but you’ll need to have your chord changes down and a strong strumming-hand to play it up to speed.

Step 4: Spend Some Money

A ukulele tuner
– Some good strings like Aquila.

Extra Credit: Keep your ukulele upright with a stand. Get a capo to make playing in other keys easier.

Congratulations! You’re no longer a noob. You can now advance to the improver section.

If you think there’s a post that deserves a link here or have a topic you’d like me to cover in this section, leave a comment.

View Comments

79 Comments

  1. george stone February 24th, 2010 1:53 pm

    clap! clap! clap! clap!…. you’re the best

  2. Woodshed February 25th, 2010 6:51 pm

    Thanks, George.

  3. deanna April 1st, 2010 5:22 am

    this whole site is a godsend. I just got a uke for my 22nd birthday and it’s my favorite new way to put off paper-writing. thank you!

  4. Woodshed April 3rd, 2010 3:49 pm

    deanna: Thanks and many happy returns.

  5. JR April 7th, 2010 6:26 am

    Thanks for the great site!

    I second the point about the virtue of quality ukulele. Martin is indeed a good choice. But, for someone really interested in a finely crafted instrument, I’d point them in the direction of a Kamaka Ukulele. Handcrafted in Honolulu for the last 100 years, to my haoli ears, they always sound excellent.

  6. Woodshed April 7th, 2010 2:41 pm

    JR: Thanks for your advice.

  7. Chris April 16th, 2010 9:53 pm

    This website is GREAT!! It’s helping me out SO much, i thank whoever is running this. Your doing a wonderful job!!

  8. Woodshed April 17th, 2010 4:19 pm

    Chris: Thanks very much!

  9. Ali April 24th, 2010 5:15 pm

    Hello. This may sound basic but hoe do you tune a uke with a Korg Chromatic tuner. I cant get it to stay in the centre green light for any of the stings? Does it matter if the GCEA is a mixture of sharps and flats..or doess it need to be dead centre in green? if so, how do your do this? it sounds awful at the mo? Does it need new strings?

  10. aklili zack May 11th, 2010 4:32 am

    i already have a tuner. im using it to tune the guitar. can i use it with the uke ?

  11. Miss. Vieve May 26th, 2010 12:27 am

    Hi! I have to say your website is just wonderful. I used to play the ukulele in gradeschool as a part of the school work but got back into it because I loved it so much. I used your site as a research tool to find the best ukulele for me to begin with and lessons and tips to begin learning again. I reccommended your website to my sister in law who is also getting a ukulele. Again, thanks for being just awesome!

  12. Talia June 29th, 2010 8:38 am

    hey i just got a uke with nylon strings…it was actually an accidental purchase. (stupid ie glitching & making me click “make an offer” on ebay when i was trying to click “watch this item”). what are your opinions on nylon vs. metal strings? will it suck if i change the strings to metal?

  13. Woodshed July 3rd, 2010 12:49 pm

    Ooops looks like I missed some of these comments.

    Ali: No, some tuners are really sensitive. If it’s in the right area you should be alright.

    Aklili: Depends what type of tuner it is. If it’s a chromatic tuner it should work fine.

    Miss Vieve: Thanks very much for the kinds words and mentioning my site to people.

    Talia: Nylon strings (or similar) are standard for ukulele. Don’t put metal strings on a standard uke – it’ll snap the neck.

  14. Claudia July 12th, 2010 5:42 am

    I searched through your e-books and read the 101 and the stumming one. They are really great and I made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. Since I am not much of a singer, I was also looking for an easy ‘tab’-book with simple songs for fingerpicking (since I won’t use the ukulele to accompany my voice, fingerpicking is really what I am looking for).
    Why don’t you make an e-book with simple fingerpicking tunes? I think, it would be very much appreciated. I’d buy it for sure ;)…keep it up, great work you’re doing with this website.

  15. Woodshed July 13th, 2010 8:26 pm

    Claudia: Glad you found the ebooks useful. That’s a really good suggestion. I was thinking about doing a really simple selection of Christmas tunes.

  16. appleuke August 6th, 2010 2:55 am

    Once my LU-21P comes in, playing the uke is all Im gunna be doin for awhile! :)

  17. Woodshed August 10th, 2010 7:38 pm

    appleuke: Have a great time with it.

  18. max August 13th, 2010 1:40 am

    i agree with the comment claudia made; a pick book would be amazing!!

  19. Dalgreth September 1st, 2010 10:15 pm

    I too would love to see a tabs book for some simple songs to start, progressing with difficulty.

  20. Fascinationist September 3rd, 2010 6:06 pm

    Hi! I love your site. I have been using it to learn ukulele… especially because of your contribution to Beirut tabs!

    Thank you so much, you are appreciated for all you do!

  21. Woodshed September 3rd, 2010 10:20 pm

    max: It’s on my list of things to do.

    Dalgreth: Thanks for the idea.

    Fascintionist: Thanks very much.

  22. Gail Hall September 28th, 2010 12:11 am

    I have a baritone ukulele and am a beginner. Can you direct me to tablature music for the baritone ukulele?

    Thanks
    Gail

  23. Woodshed October 2nd, 2010 10:32 pm

    Gail: There are a few here.

  24. Seth October 3rd, 2010 3:17 pm

    Hey I just wanted to say this site is making me fall in love with my ukulele all over again. The resources on this website are so cool and i love the ‘chill-out’ philo. Just wanted to give a big shout out to whoever are they guys doing this! THANK YOU!

  25. Gail Hall October 4th, 2010 2:04 am

    I wish you would always clarify the tabs for the baritone ukulele. Frustrating not to know which tuning the tabs are for.

    Thanks.

    Gail

  26. Woodshed October 5th, 2010 11:52 am

    Seth: Thanks very much. You’re very kind.

    Gail: Tabs are always for gCEA tuning unless I say otherwise. There are only a handful of baritone tabs and they’re always specified very clearly.

  27. Person October 15th, 2010 3:56 am

    I really want to get a ukulele, so I’ve been looking around and I’ve noticed many people mentioned the Lankai LU-21 for beginners. Would you recommend it?

  28. Person October 15th, 2010 4:00 am

    Never mind!! Thanks for all your great resources! You’re doing a great job!! (I found the answer elsewhere on your site)

  29. Gettingone November 1st, 2010 1:28 pm

    I love your website!!! I’m going to be coming here often as I’m obsessed with the ukulele. XD

  30. Woodshed November 2nd, 2010 4:25 pm

    Person: Glad you found what you were looking for.

    Gettingone: Thanks very much.

  31. Random November 7th, 2010 3:12 am

    So I’m interested in playing a ukulele. I don’t have one yet. They look symmetrical though so I’m wondering if it would damage one to reverse the strings since I’m a lefty? I tried having a guitar as a kid, being in a small town where you can’t get a lefty guitar, and it only ended up causing the neck to bend by the time I sold it a year later because of having reversed the strings.

  32. Woodshed November 7th, 2010 1:40 pm

    Random: You shouldn’t have any big problems switching the strings on a uke. The g and A strings are nearly identical.

  33. Jess January 2nd, 2011 12:19 am

    I just got a Uke for Christmas and I am loving it so much!!!! The site has been so super helpful to me!!! So thanks a bunch!!! You’re like Yoda but for Uke players instead of Jedi.

  34. Greta January 3rd, 2011 2:45 am

    This site is awesome and this post is awesome! Just bought my first ukulele 3 days ago and I’m already having the equivalent of 8 barrels full of monkeys worth of fun thanks to this post!

  35. Amal January 22nd, 2011 8:45 pm

    Thank you!! I love this website. x

  36. Woodshed January 28th, 2011 10:30 am

    Jess: Thanks. Glad you’re finding it useful.

    Greta: Thanks. That’s a lot of monkey barrels.

    Amal: You’re welcome.

  37. Luiz February 8th, 2011 6:32 am

    Thank you from Brazil! Great site! Really great!

  38. Fernanda April 12th, 2011 1:58 am

    mmm hello there(:!! I just got my ukulele about a few hours ago, and in search for lessons I stumbbled upon your site. I do have a few questions because I’m new at this and whatnot:P I was also wondering if it would be any different since i’m a lefty..help please(:?

  39. Woodshed April 12th, 2011 7:25 am

    Fernanda: If you’re playing it left handed, flip the order of the strings.

  40. Eli April 12th, 2011 8:02 pm

    Awesome site, I’m slowly learning and most of the chords for the songs I want to play are here too. Thanks.

  41. Woodshed April 13th, 2011 7:38 am

    Eli: Thanks very much. Good luck with the tunes.

  42. Kent April 15th, 2011 12:35 pm

    Woodshed: Your site’s amazing, It’s helped me so much as a beginner with the uke. I’ve gotta couple of questions: 1: I’ve learnt ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ and a couple other tunes, but what are some other easy popular ‘Hawaiian’ type songs I can learn? 2: I’ve started off with a really cheap Ashton uke (looks ok, but not great sounding), should I invest in some Aqulia strings (AU $16) for it or save up for a decent uke like a Makala or Kohala (around AU $40-70)? Thanks!!:)

  43. someone May 8th, 2011 12:58 pm

    i recently saw my older brother playing the uke and was inspired to go out and by myself a uke i have been teaching myself ever since then this site has helped so much

  44. Woodshed May 15th, 2011 12:17 pm

    Kent: Best to get the IZ songbook I think. Yes, always worth putting good strings on a uke – particularly cheaper ones.

    someone: Thanks! Very glad it helped.

  45. Curious June 7th, 2011 4:17 pm

    Hi, I’ve bought my uke yesterday and starting learning through your site today and it’s awesome :) but is it normal that the flesh of strumming finger hurts quite a lot?

  46. Woodshed June 7th, 2011 11:30 pm

    Curious: Yes, it does hurt at first. Take breaks if you have to. Particularly if it gets to be more than just the flesh that hurts.

  47. Kayla :) August 2nd, 2011 1:32 am

    Hi! I have never played the ukulele before, but i would like to start out with an Electric Eleuke (k-series, blue). I like it because of the color, look, and because i can plug my headphones into it if i dont want to play out loud. (not to disturb parents, I’m 13)

    Is getting an expensive electric uke right away a wise choice? I was planning on getting the Concert one, which is about $220, but i also found a Soprano one for $188. I want to spend less, but i’m worried it will either be too small for my hands or i wont be happy with the sound.

    Sorry for all the questions! I’m a newbie. :)

  48. Woodshed August 3rd, 2011 10:18 am

    Kayla: A soprano probably won’t be too small for you – most people start out on a soprano.

    I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t start out with an electric. The basics will be the same.

    I really hate my Eleuke! But they are supposed to have improved since I got mine.

  49. robzie October 27th, 2011 4:17 pm

    hi great site really helpful thanku
    am. fairly new to the uke And luvv it bhups also want more easy picking songs have u posted any yet?

  50. Tom Walsh December 1st, 2011 12:49 pm

    I’m new to uke, and i just cant seem to get the strumming patterns right, and when i do, i cant concentrate on both the strumming and the chords, is there any tips you could enlighten me with? thanks,
    Tom

  51. annie_sprinkles December 14th, 2011 11:44 pm

    I’m still having a difficult time trying to figure out which uke to purchase for myself. (total newbie) I played the clarinet in high school, but that was many yrs ago and I was never very good. I would like to stay under a $100.00 to start with incase I stink at this instrument too. Does anyone have any advise on what they would have purchased for their first one. thanks

  52. Monique Fournier January 21st, 2012 4:03 am

    Knowing tabs is great and I love learning how to play the uke but I also want to learn how to read music. What book can you suggest that would be helpful? My musical background is nil.

    I want to order your book “Ukulele for Dummies” but I can’t get through to the end of my order when I try to order at Amazon. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Is there a 1 800 number I could use to order?

    o get my order in with Amazon.

  53. Naomi K February 5th, 2012 1:11 am

    Has anyone pointed out that you have “10 Things I Wish I’d Known…” on here twice?

  54. Woodshed February 7th, 2012 10:44 am

    Naomi: Thanks. Fixed it.

  55. Ali February 7th, 2012 12:09 pm

    Hello. I am not sure how to position my thumb at the back of the uke:P It may seem obvious but I can’t work out if the thumb should be curled over top, pointing upwards or pressed on the middle of the neck of the uke! Or does it depend on the chord change you are working on?

  56. Woodshed February 8th, 2012 8:55 am

    Ali: Yeah, I’d general say go with what you find easiest. For most chords I prefer my thumb curled round. But for barre chords it’s much easier with the thumb on the back of the neck.

  57. karina March 6th, 2012 7:47 am

    i just had my first ukulele and been troubled about the strumming technique. now on my way to buy the “how to play ukulele strum” :) hopefully it can help my strumming technique…

    ps: i love your helpfull website…

    grettings from indonesia

  58. Woodshed March 8th, 2012 12:45 pm

    Karina: Thanks very much! Hope you enjoy he ebook.

  59. Jake April 4th, 2012 12:06 pm

    I love your site man, iv just bought my first uke ( makala dolphin )
    I also took some great advice and got myself some Aquila strings.
    I will certainly be returning to your site.

  60. Woodshed April 6th, 2012 8:24 am

    Jake: Thanks so much!

  61. alex August 12th, 2012 5:32 pm

    this is brilliant! well done! has helped me play ukulele…and now feel better than a begginer! thankyou sooo much! :D

  62. Woodshed August 12th, 2012 9:29 pm

    Alex: That’s excellent! Glad it helped.

  63. Jimmy August 17th, 2012 9:38 am

    I come from Taiwan, I think your lesson is very useful to me! Good job

  64. Woodshed August 17th, 2012 11:05 am

    Jimmy: Thanks very much. That’s great!

  65. mads August 26th, 2012 11:31 pm

    hi, your website has been informative and wonderful. i just got my first uke about a week ago and i love it to pieces. unfortunately i’m not gifted rhythm-wise and while i have no problems strumming or singing, i find it incredibly difficult to do both simultaneously. either my brain switches off and I start mumbling incoherently or my arm goes dumb and i start strumming randomly. what can i do to bone up on my rhythmic abilities and synchronize the two processes?

  66. BassistWithAnUke September 12th, 2012 3:27 pm

    I’m new to the Uke [ bought mine yesterday ] but your lessons and scores made everything much easier! I play bass and guitar for some time, and i instantly got along with my new Uke. Thanks for the website!
    PS: Do you ship your books to Brazil? I would be very happy if so.

  67. Woodshed September 14th, 2012 1:47 pm

    BassistWithAnUke: Thanks! They’re ebooks so they’re just delivered over the net.

  68. Liam October 7th, 2012 10:52 pm

    Can you use a guitar pick for a uke? And the site helped ALOT! THNX!

  69. Woodshed October 8th, 2012 10:32 pm

    Liam: You can do but I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s a particular sound you’re trying for.

  70. Nichola December 14th, 2012 5:36 pm

    How long does it take before you can sing/hum along?
    Absolutely all of my concentration goes on strumming and playing the chords that I can’t figure out when to change
    for example when I’m playing noah and the whale 5 years time I literally just do C d u chunk u, F d u chunk u, G d u chunk u… etc etc. Over and over again. when I try to hum it to know when to change chords I get totally lost. I’ve been playing it constantly over the last week and its still just repetitive.

  71. WildcatGuitar(Uke) March 1st, 2013 11:27 pm

    Great site. Looks like lots of good info Thanks!

  72. Charlo May 11th, 2013 4:17 am

    You info are really helpful,thanks for what you’ve done!
    I’m a beginner,recently bought my first Ukulele,glad to see that there’re so many people loving Ukulele!

  73. Woodshed May 12th, 2013 1:53 pm

    Charlo: Thanks very much!

  74. Marie May 20th, 2013 1:54 am

    It’s my birthday today and my husband has bought me a uke, I never thought of having a uke and was surprised how many people are interested in them ,some great sites and I have just got ukulele for dummies ebook ,very impressed and very useful wont say how old I am but I have played guitar for nearly fifty years . They say its good to keep learning new things thanks for your site.
    Marie

  75. Woodshed May 21st, 2013 3:04 pm

    Marie: Thanks very much. And happy birthday!

  76. Matthew Short January 3rd, 2014 11:18 pm

    Fabulous site! The lessons are really well constructed. Just worked through I wanna be like you with my 8 yr old with 6 yr old singing, brilliant! Keep up the good work please!

  77. Woodshed January 4th, 2014 8:43 am

    Matthew: Thanks very much! That’s fantastic.

  78. Layne February 1st, 2014 1:04 am

    Omg,I have learnt so much off this site thanx heaps!!!!!

  79. Woodshed February 1st, 2014 8:10 am

    Layne: You’re welcome!

Got something to say?