Techniques for Learning the Ukulele Fretboard

The four strings on a ukulele are tuned like the four highest sounding strings on a guitar, only 5 steps, or a fourth interval higher. if you know how to play guitar chords, ukulele chords will be very easy.

Techniques for Learning the Ukulele Fretboard

The more notes on the fretboard you can memorize, the better it is for your playing.

Whenever you play a chord, you should practice identifying the root visually on the fretboard and by singing it. This will help you connect what you hear with what you feel underneath your fingers. 

An excellent want to learn the notes on the fretboard is to play major scales on each string and call out each note.

Start with a C scale on the A string and follow the formula for a major scale W-W-H-W-W-W-H. This translates to the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Practice this two ways:

  • Use a single finger, like your pointer or middle finger, to play all the notes. This requires you to slide up and down the fretboard.
  • Use whichever fingers feel comfortable.

Start on a new note on the other strings and do the same thing. Sing the letter name of each note as you play it, and focus your ear on hearing how one note changes to the next. If you know how to sing using solfege, sing the solfege of each note as you play, i.e. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do. Try to hear the difference between whole steps and half steps in the scale. Half-steps are easier to hear.

  • What is the sound of Mi going up to Fa?
  • What is the sound of Ti going up to Do?
  • What is the sound of Re going down to Do?

Recognizing how one note moves to the next is essential to being able to play by ear.

Another exercise is to choose a note a strong and find the same note on all the other strings. For instance, on the G string, play an A (2nd fret). Then find the As on the rest of the strings. Move between them with a smooth, fluid motion.

Happy Strumming!

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