Frequently Asked Questions

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Ukulele playing questions
What songs are in your books?

About our books and email list

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Ukulele playing questions

How do I learn to strum better?

Here are some steps that you can take in learning a strumming pattern to a song. You can also check out this YouTube video where Jenny teaches Rebecca how to learn some basic strums on the ukulele.

Learning strumming takes time and practice, so if you get stuck, go through all the below as you learn the song.

  • First, speak the lyrics in rhythm. Strum once on each of the chord changes that are in the song to get a sense of how the chords and lyrics go together.
  • Now sing the words in rhythm. Continue strumming as you did before.
  • Now add all down strums as you speak the lyrics.
  • Now keep the down strums, but sing the lyrics.
  • Now practice your strumming pattern slowly with no chord changes. You might mute the left hand ukulele strings so you don’t hear pitches. Speak the lyrics.
  • Now practice your strumming pattern slowly with no chord changes. You might mute the left hand ukulele strings so you don’t hear pitches. Sing the lyrics.
  • Speak the words, add the chord changes and keep the strumming pattern.
  • Sing the lyrics, add the chord changes and keep the strumming pattern.
How do I learn to read melody tab?

Each line of the tab staff represents a string on the ukulele. The sounds that are higher in pitch are closer to the top of the page just as they are on the standard music staff. However, the unfortunate result is that standard tab notation places the lines upside down from how they are arranged on the ukulele.

So:

  • The top line of the tab staff is the A-string (the string closest to the floor when you’re playing).
  • The line below that is the E-string.
  • The line below that is the C-string.
  • The bottom line of the tab is the G-string, which is the string closest to the ceiling when you are playing.

Numbers on the Tab Staff

The numbers on the lines of the tab staff tell you which fret to stop with a left-hand finger. Stopping (also called fretting) a string means to use a left-hand finger and push down firmly so that the string contacts the fret. Your finger goes between the frets, not on a fret.

For example, a 5 means to put one of your left-hand fingers in the fifth fret and push down on the string as you pluck it with your right hand. A 7 means to stop the string in the 7th fret with your left hand and pluck it with your right hand. A 4 means to stop the string in the fourth fret and pluck it with your right hand. A 0 means to pluck a string with your right hand without using your left hand at all. We call an unstopped string an open string.

tab aligned with ukulele fretboard

The previous image shows a person fretting the A string. Usually we use finger 1 on the first fret, finger 2 on the second fret, finger 3 on the third fret, and finger 4 on the fourth fret. Having your fingers in this arrangement is referred to as first position.

For practice reading tab, try playing the sounds shown in the parts of the image. Reading from right to left:

  1. Start with finger 4 in the fourth fret and pluck the A string 4 times.
  2. Then use finger 3 in the third fret and pluck the A string 4 times.
  3. Next use finger 2 in the second fret and pluck the A string 4 times.
  4. Next use finger 1 in the first fret and pluck the A string 4 times.
  5. Finally, pluck the open A string 4 times.

Playing the C Major Scale in Tab Notation

We recommend practicing the C major scale while reading the tab notation as the next step to getting comfortable with reading and playing tab. It will help your brain link the look of the tab staff to the muscular patterns needed to play certain notes. Since most melodies are made from fragments of scales, learning this eye-hand coordination will make it a lot easier for you to read tab melodies.

C Major Scale in ukulele tab

Putting it Together: Reading a Melody in Tab

Here’s an excerpt from a song, Lovely Evening. To read the tab, first look at which string line the number is on. Then use your left hand to stop that string in the fret that matches the number shown. Remember that 0 means an open string. We’ve labeled the lines to make it easier to see which line goes with which string.

  • For the first note, don’t do anything with your left hand and pluck the C-string with your right hand.
  • For the second, stop the C-string in the second fret.
  • For the third note, don’t do anything with your left hand and pluck the E-string with your right hand.
  • For the fourth note, don’t do anything with your left hand and pluck the C-string with your right hand.
  • For the fifth note, stop the E-string in the first fret.

We hope this brief introduction to reading tab has helped you get started!

Many of our books include melody tab for each song so that you can play the melody on your ukulele in addition to singing the melody while you strum the chords. We also include some tab for playing plucked chord accompaniments.

How do I get my fingers to stop hurting?

When you first start a stringed instrument, your left hand finger tips will hurt until you develop callouses. You may also find your right hand finger tips hurting too.

Practice in small increments, say 10 minutes at a time, to gradually develop thicker skin on your finger tips. You’ll master all the skills necessary to play music much faster by working in small daily increments, rather than trying to learn everything all at once.

I was wondering if you keep your nails on your left hand cut short and your right hand a little longer?

The idea of keeping the nails longer on the right hand and shorter on the left is something many string players (especially classical guitarists) do all the time. Even violinists tend to to keep the left hand’s nails short because it is essential to have short nails on the left hand.

Does the quality of the ukulele affect just the sound or would it also affect the ease of playing?

The quality of the ukulele makes a big difference in the sound. My suggestion to you is to try out ukuleles music stores near you to find ones that you like. Then, when you can afford it, or when someone wants to give you a nice gift, you can upgrade to a nicer instrument.

The less expensive instruments are often not even really in tune to themselves which means they don’t sound as good as a better quality instrument. 

I find that students with higher quality instruments tend to improve faster – possibly because it is just more fun to play a nicer sounding instrument!

In terms of ease of playing, I recently upgraded from a pretty good ukulele to a much higher quality instrument. It sounds a lot better and is much easier to play than my previous ukulele. 

What are good songs to play in a music speech therapy class for stroke patients?

Since I am not a speech therapist, I am not really qualified to answer your question in a lot of detail. Here are a few thoughts that might help you. I think songs that are familiar to the people you are working with are often the best ones for speech therapy, particularly for stroke survivors and the elderly. I’ve seen many YouTube videos pointing to the power of music to bring joy and speech back to people who have lost it.

I would choose songs from the decades when these people were in their teens and early twenties. I would also choose “nursery rhyme” type songs because they are songs people of all ages know from their childhoods. Finally, if you are working with people who have religious backgrounds, our new hymnbook will be very popular because it uses a lot of older hymns for which people will recognize both the tunes and words.

Can you teach a class on how to do a chuck or perhaps you have a video on that?
I don’t yet have a video or class on “chucking,” but it will definitely be part of the strumming video course that will come out soon. There are lots of ways to do it, but basically “chunking” is a dampening of the strings to create a percussive effect. There are both right and left-hand components. You release the fingers of the left hand a little and you allow the heel of your hand to dampen the strings as you strum. This creates a percussive sound. It’s not hard to do, but you have to practice until you find a way that is comfortable and automatic.
I'm confused about how to place my left hand fingers on the fretboard.

Here’s a quick video to clear up where to put your fingers on the fretboard.

Can I use a guitar pick to strum my ukulele?
If you want to use a pick, get a felt pick specifically made for ukulele. It won’t damage your instrument as much. With a plastic pick, you can scratch your instrument because there is no pickguard on a ukulele.
 
I would also try to learn to strum with your fingers or your fingers and thumb.  Strumming that way will give you more flexibility. And you’ll be able to learn to fingerpick melodies and accompaniments.
 
There are lessons in most of our courses that teach strumming techniques, so check them out. We also have a Youtube playlist about strumming.
I'm left-handed. Should I 'flip' my ukulele so I can play it left-handed?
Here’s an approach Jenny used for someone who wanted to play ukulele left-handed. She flipped the two middle strings and retuned the two outer strings. That way the ukulele oriented the correct way for him. He read a left-handed ukulele chartAfter a while he was able to read the “regular” shapes and flip them in his head.
 
 
The decision is up to you whether to play your ukulele left-handed. The hand that bows, strums or picks demands a lot more coordination than the fretting hand. You will find strumming much easier with your left hand.
 
Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton found it worked better for them to play guitar left handed. But some guitar makers have stopped making left-handed guitars because there wasn’t much demand.
 
As you learn a variety of stringed instruments, you can transfer your knowledge and muscle memory from one instrument to the next. But it can be expensive to get many left-handed instruments.
 
My first guitar teacher played his guitar left-handed. He wished he had been forced to play right-handed. When he wanted to learn fiddle later, he could not find a left-handed violin. Left-handed orchestral stringed instruments are difficult to find. They are also VERY expensive even for student quality instruments.
 
At least it is easy and cheap to flip a ukulele to a left-handed orientation.

What songs are in your books?

"21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way"

Are You Sleeping?
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Three Blind Mice
Have You Seen the Ghost of John?
Hey, Ho, Nobody Home
Ah, Poor Bird
Frère Jacques
Chatter With the Angels
A Ram Sam Sam
Shoo, Fly, Don’t Bother Me (in keys of F & C)
Hush, Little Baby (in keys of F & C)
Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow (in keys of F & C)
C, then G7 Etude
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Polly Wolly Doodle
Jingle Bells
This Land Is Your Land (Simple Version & Complex Version)
For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
Oh, When the Saints
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
Red River Valley

"Five with Five Chords: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way"
Camptown Races
Danny Boy
Greensleeves
Five Foot Two
Lonely Blue
"21 More Easy Ukulele Songs: Learn Intermediate Ukulele the Easy Way"
Are You Sleeping
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Oh When the Saints
Shave and a Haircut
Taps
Amazing Grace
New Chords Blues
Too Much to Do Blues
On Top of Old Smokey
Bicycle Built for Two
Wayfaring Stranger
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Scarborough Fair
The House of the Rising Sun
The Lazy Sailor
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Michael Row the Boat Ashore
Oh Susannah
The Erie Canal
Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey
You Are My Sunshine
Aura Lee
Aloha Oe
"Ukulele For All"
Are You Sleeping?
Wake Up You Sleepyhead!
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Three Blind Mice
Seasons
Shalom, Chaverim
Ah, Poor Bird
Hey, Ho Nobody Home
Scotland’s Burning
Sourwood Mountain
A Ram, Sam, Sam
Shoo! Fly! Don’t Bother Me
I Have a Little Dreidel
Hush Little Baby
Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow
Simple Gifts
Polly Wolly Doodle
Lonely Blues
Ukulele Blues
Beale Street Blues
Over the River and Through the Wood
Jingle Bells
When the Saints Go Marching In
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
Aloha Oe
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
Home on the Range
De Colores
Cielito Lindo
Arirang
Amazing Grace
"21 Easy Ukulele Songs for Christmas"
Oh Christmas Tree
I Saw Three Ships
Jingle Bells
Oh Come Little Children
Good King Wenceslas
Up on the Housetop
Away in a Manger
Over the River and Through the Wood
Silent Night
Joy to the World
Jolly Old St. Nicholas
Deck the Halls
Auld Lang Syne
Patapan
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
We Three Kings
What Child Is This
O Come All Ye Faithful
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
The Twelve Days of Christmas
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
"21 Easy Ukulele Folk Songs"
Lovely Evening
Lil’ Liza jane
Happy Birthday
Go Tell Aunt Rhody
Wabash Cannonball
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Worried Man Blues
St. Louis Blues
Goodnight, Irene
Down by the Riverside
Sometimes I Fell Like a Motherless Child
Sakura
All Through the Night
Beautiful Dreamer
Molly Malone
Shenandoah
The Ash Grove
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Turkey in the Straw
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Sweet Betsy from Pike
"21 Easy Ukulele Hymns" (Coming out in April 2020)

Simple Gifts
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Church in the Wildwood
Shall We Gather at the RIver?
Nearer My God to Thee
Jesus Loves Me
Give Me that Old Time Religion
Blest Be the Tie that Binds
How Great Thou Art
Rock of Ages
I Come to the Garden Alone
For the Beauty of the Earth
Be Thou My Vision
The Doxology
Amazing Grace
Prayer of Thanksgiving
All Things Bright and Beautiful
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
Fairest Lord Jesus
This Little Light of Mine
Be Still My Soul-Finlandia
A Mighty Fortress is Our God

About our books

Why are your songs so old? I would love to see a book that includes more current songs.

We cannot do books with any songs that are not in the Public Domain. Basically, that means that any song written after 1924 is off limits to books such as ours. Getting the rights to make arrangements of songs written after 1924 is really difficult and  also very expensive! 

I play the baritone ukulele. How can I follow the melody in your books?
The easiest way to follow our melody tab on the baritone ukulele is to put a capo on the 5th fret and then read the tab from there. That’s because the baritone ukulele is tuned to DGBE, while the soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles are tuned to GCEA. Therefore, the ukulele tab does not work with baritone ukulele.
When you put the capo on, you have basically changed your baritone ukulele to a tenor ukulele by changing the pitches of the strings to GCEA. Another way to change your baritone ukulele to a tenor ukulele would be to put tenor strings on it and tune it to GCEA. 
If you read music, you can simply skip the tab line and read the notes as written to play the melodies. But, if you don’t read music well, being able to use the tab can be helpful. 
I am confused about the fingering instructions in "21 Songs in 6 Days". On page 18, you say to always use finger 1 on string 1, finger 2 on string 2, etc. Yet, immediately after that, you say to use your third finger on string 4 to make a C major chord.

You ask a good question. The reason there is a conflict is because one idea about fingering has to do with playing melodies, and the other has to do with playing chords.

When playing melodies, you usually put the first finger in fret 1, the second finger in fret 2, the third finger in fret 3, especially when playing melodies (or one note at a time.) This helps you to internalize where the notes are on your ukulele. It also helps to develop muscle memory.

However, when you’re playing chords, it’s a different story. You put the fingers into the chord shapes that are shown by the dots. So, your third finger is in the third fret of the first string to play the C Chord. Then your third finger slides back to the second fret to make the G7 chord shape.

I made a little video to explain this better. I hope it helps.

I signed up for your email list and got my three songs. Will I get more songs or just advertising?

After you get your three free songs, you’ll get a bi-weekly email with a piece of music and a link to a YouTube video lesson. We’ll  also let you know about new products that might interest you. If you don’t want the emails, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Your account at ukulele.io

How do I sign up for the video lessons that come with my book?

We have an entire page on how to access your free video course.

There is also a section in the back of your book called “How to Access Your Free Video Course at ukulele.io.” Use the table of contents to help you find it. You’ll need the secret registration link from this section to set up your account.

I have purchased two books but I can only access the online videos for one book. How do I access the online videos for the other book?

If you purchase two or more books in the series, please remember to register for each book. Here’s how.

At the back of each book in the section called “How to Access Your Free Video Course at ukulele.io“, there is a private registration link provided. Each book has a different private registration link. After you enter your email address at this link, you’ll get an email with a 100% off coupon that you can use in our shop to get your free course. 

The first time that you register, you’ll receive an email with your username and password. After that when you register (i.e.  for your second, third, etc. book), you’ll no longer receive an email because you can continue to use your same login username and password.   

How do I reset or change my password?

You can change your password using the “Forget?” link on the login page: https://ukulele.io/members/sign-in-to-access-online-video-lessons/  

When you click the “Lost your password?” link, you’ll be asked to enter your email address. You’ll get a a password reset email. Please click the link in the email. You’ll be taken to a web page where you can enter your new password.

How do I login to my account?

Please visit “How to log in to your account” for step by step directions and a video. If you get stuck, please contact us. We want you to be happy!

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