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How to Hold a Ukulele

how to hold ukulele

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Are you taking up or learning the ukulele? The ukulele is one of the best instruments for beginners. It’s a small but fun “little guitar” that can be taught to play at any age.

Before you play it, however, the first thing you must know is how to hold the ukulele properly. It needs to feel comfortable and easy so that when you play, it becomes effortless.

The compact size of the instrument makes it easy to hold, but you can also easily pick up bad habits with the positioning of the fingers or the way you cradle the body.

But before you launch into learning songs, it’s important that you learn how to hold it. The article below will provide all you need to know when it comes to holding a ukulele.

how to hold ukulele

How Do You Hold a Ukulele?

Most seasoned ukulele players use the right hand to strum the strings while holding and using the fret functions with the left hand. Even if you happen to be left-handed, you will find it easier to play the instrument with your right hand, as it can be challenging to find the instrument made for a lefty.

Here are some helpful tips to help you learn the best way to hold your ukulele.

How To Hold a Ukulele When Sitting

If you’re sitting while playing, you need to pay close attention to your posture. Sit up straight with your chest up and your feet planted on the floor. Place your ukulele against your chest, holding it tightly with your right forearm across the top edge of the lower part.

You can hold the ukulele horizontally across this way, but you may find it more comfortable to tilt it slightly upward so you can reach chords that are more challenging to play.

It also helps take some of the pressure off of your wrist. You can rest the ukulele on your leg and hold the neck of the ukulele up at more of an angle.

Try and keep your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. This angle will change while you play, so don’t try and continually keep the straight line of the angle. Otherwise, you’ll strain your back and arm.

How to Hold a Ukulele When Standing

If you’re standing, you also need to utilize proper posture. In this more traditional position, cradle the body of the ukulele with your right arm.

Then, place your left thumb behind the neck of the instrument, and wrap your fingers around the front of the neck so that they are in line with the frets, keeping that fretting hand free. Your left arm is not the part holding the weight of the ukulele.

Your left elbow should be away from your body, but don’t keep it tucked in; keep it a few inches away. Keep your wrist straight and extend your right hand along the bottom of the instrument.

The best way to check this positioning is by moving one hand away to see of the ukulele stays in place. You may want to start by holding the instrument more from the bottom until you feel advanced enough to support the ukulele with just your forearm.

How to Hold a Ukulele 1

The Benefits of Using a Strap

A strap is an excellent support for your ukulele. As a beginner, you need to get used to holding the instrument properly and keeping your strumming arm in place, but it can be challenging.

The strap is helpful because it helps support the ukulele, especially when you’re standing. It keeps your instrument in place and allows you to be a little more free with your strumming arm. If you’re sitting, you likely don’t need the strap.

Left-Hand Placement

It’s fairly simple to play the ukulele with your right hand, even if you are left-hand dominant. It’s not like playing the guitar, where you’d need to flip the instrument.

And playing right-handed makes it easier when you are working with someone or following instructions and video tutorials, so you can easily mimic the positioning and playing techniques. As a lefty you can check some videos and experiment with different positioning on the left side to see which one is best and most comfortable when playing the ukulele.

Right-Hand Picking and Strumming Techniques

Your strumming finger should be able to reach close to where the neck of the ukulele meets the body. If you’re picking or strumming, you’ll have to adjust the forearm.

Most beginners want to jump into strumming right over the sound hole, but that’s not the best place for strumming. The technique breaks down as follows:

  • If you’re strumming, the best place is just above the sound hole across the fretboard.
  • If you’re picking, the best place is over the sound hole and just slightly above it.

    See the below pictures for an example –

strum zone
picking zone

How to Hold a Ukulele if You’re Left-Handed

If you are left-handed, you may want to hold the ukulele with your left arm if it’s more comfortable. Basically, the method is to flip the ukulele so you’re cradling the body with your left forearm.

In this case, you need to hold and strum the instrument with your left hand, and your right hand will be the fretting hand.

If you don’t want to reverse how to play, you can also re-string your instrument and tune it so that the top string is the G-string when holding it in the left-handed placement. The order would then go descending for the strings as follows: G, C, E, A.

Understanding the Parts of Your Ukulele

It’s important for you to understand your instrument, which means knowing all of its parts. Knowing the ukulele ensures that you can care for it properly and keep it in its best shape.

Here are the parts of a ukulele with a diagram below:

  • Headstock – the headstock is the top part at the end of the neck of the ukulele, often called the head.
  • Tuners or Pegs – the tuners work to hold your strings in place, and you tune your uke by twisting the strings.
  • Nut – the nut is at the end of your fretboard where the neck and headstock meet. It has small notches to hold the strings in place.
  • Fretboard – it runs the length of the neck and shows you where all of the frets are located. Most ukuleles will have dots or markers to help people when playing so you know where to press down.
  • Frets – these mark where to place your hands so your strings lay against them to create sound and form notes and chords.
  • Body – the largest part of your uke, the body is where the sound is produced with amplifying vibration of the strings when strummed or picked. There are three parts to the body that include the top, back, and sides.
  • Strings – you strum or pick the strings to create vibrations, and depending on the type of ukulele (soprano, concert, tenor), the sounds produced and be slightly different.
  • Sound hole – where the sound is projected from inside the body of your instrument.
  • Bridge – The bridge is on top of the body just below the sound hole, where you secure the strings by knotting one end.
  • Saddle – the saddle sits on top of the bridge, holds the strings in place and is raised to keep the strings at a distance from the fretboard.
parts of ukulele

Tips for Comfortable Ukulele Practice

As is necessary when learning any instrument, you must take time to practice effectively. One of the best ways to ensure you get the most out of practicing the ukulele is by working with an instructor and taking private lessons. But, even with lessons, you still need to carve out time to practice on your own.

You can make a practice routine for yourself. Take your ukulele with you everywhere you can; it’s very portable.

Dedicate yourself to at least one progression of chords or notes and try to commit it to memory so you don’t need ukulele sheet music and can practice with it anytime.

Taking Breaks and Stretching

In order to be comfortable, make sure you take breaks. You may find as a beginner and after some practice that your hands, arms, or wrists begin to ache. Check that your wrists are set straight, and you’re not holding your position tensely.

Put down the ukulele and stretch the muscles so you can release tension. If you’re feeling discomfort or pain, your body is telling you to take a break and relax before you pick it back up. Add in your ukulele strap if you’re finding it difficult to keep your arm in place.

Adjust Your Grip as Necessary

Check that you’re holding your ukulele properly. If you haven’t yet found that sweet spot, don’t continue to hold things in the same place.

You may have to adjust your balance of posture and go back to the basics so that you can gain more control over the instrument and grip with the pad of your thumb. If you’re sitting, see how the ukulele is lying in your lap and question your placement so that you can adjust the grip.

Check how other musicians hold the ukulele or ask a friend or your instructor to check your placement and fingers.

Practice Exercises to Improve Muscle Memory

The first sounds you’ll make on the ukulele involve practice exercises. Learning chords and progressions involves taking time and making the effort to improve your muscle memory in a repetitive fashion so that, eventually, you can move on to playing good music.

It helps if you’re a guitar player to read guitar chords and take your playing instructions for the ukulele in the same manner. Guitarists also need to do a lot of exercises and practice moving their fingers across the frets from chord to chord or note to note.

Once you know you have the chords or progressions down, you’ll have mastered your exercises and can start on some more advanced learning.

how to hold ukulele

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As you learn how to hold the ukulele, there are some rules that go along with it. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Holding the Ukulele too Tightly

Most people, when they begin on the ukulele, tend to hold it tightly to their chest. If you squeeze it too hard, you tense your muscles and make it difficult for the sound to come through on the instrument.

Check that you’re able to take a hand away and the instrument stays in place, and ensure that you’re not clutching it too hard so that you end up with aching muscles.

Holding Ukulele too Loosely

On the other hand, some people end up letting the uke slide too much because of holding it too loosely. You end up with more wrist problems when you let the instrument move around too much.

You need to work on finding that sweet spot, or happy medium, where you can support the instrument but also feel relaxed.

Positioning Your Hands Incorrectly

Be sure to consistently check your fingers. Check with an instructor to learn the right way to position your hands across the body of the ukulele and the fretboard with each hand.

You want to ensure you hold the instrument near the top of the neck but not the top. Press the pad of your thumb against the back of the neck and let your fingers curl gently around the front and over the fretboard.

Advancing Your Skills

You should feel ready to play the ukulele by following this guide. If you’ve ever worked with an acoustic guitar, you will probably find that the ukulele is much easier to hold. But you still need to ensure you’re holding it correctly to play it properly.

If you want to be a master at the ukulele, you must learn how to hold it and position yourself comfortably so you can strum and pick without any issues. As always, working with a trained professional and taking private ukulele lessons is one of the best ways to advance your skills so you can play like a pro!

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