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Having played the guitar for 30 years, I’ve recently decided to spread my musical wings and pick up a Ukulele. Getting started was tough at first, as with any new instrument, but I soon got my four-string mojo working once I started adding apps and websites into my (quite random) learning structure.

Now, I’m not saying the following apps and guides will turn you into a ukulele champion, but they’ll certainly put you on course to gaining enough familiarity with the instrument to be confident playing it.

Get Tuned Up

Before you start playing, you’ll need to ensure that your ukulele is in tune. A mistake that many make is to assume that the four-stringed instrument — often shaped like a guitar — is tuned in the same way, skipping the bass strings to leave the baritone tuning of D G B E. While this is an option (you can tune it any way you want, after all!) the overwhelming majority of ukulele music that you’ll find online is in the instrument’s standard tuning, G C E A.

If you don’t have a piano or tuning forks to hand (and many of you won’t) then the best bet for tuning your ukulele is an app.

This video should help, from Ukulele Underground on YouTube.

For Android, I recommend Ukulele Tuner Free, an ad-supported tuner that supports the standard tuning along with many others (such as baritone).

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Meanwhile, iOS users might look at the Guitar Tuna app, which covers ukulele, bass and guitar tunings (as well as mandolin, balalaika and many other string instruments).

Don’t have a mobile device to hand right now? This YouTube video is remarkably popular:

And if you prefer something more dedicated, a physical guitar tuner can be employed for ukulele tunings.

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Learn Some Chords

With your ukulele tuned, it’s time to start thinking about learning to play some chords. With this knowledge, you’ll then be able to proceed to playing songs later.

Chords are two or more strings played simultaneously, usually with one or more strings fingered. They might be a little tricky at first, but in most cases, there are alternative ways of fingering the chords. Basically, you might use fewer fingers, or place them at different points on the ukulele’s neck.

To get the chords you need to start playing, you might visit a dedicated ukulele website, such as ukuchords.com. Here, you’ll find a great list of chords to view on the site, and even a PDF guide to download. Make sure you have a PDF reader installed Use a Real PDF Reader Instead of Edge in Windows 10 Use a Real PDF Reader Instead of Edge in Windows 10 Looking for a more powerful PDF reader in Windows 10 than Microsoft Edge? Here's how to change the default PDF reader to anything you choose. Read More first!

For a more portable approach, you won’t be surprised to learn mobile apps can help. Ukulele Chords is a no-nonsense, clear app that demonstrates exactly where you need to place your fingers for any chord you can think of.

Start Learning Tunes

You’ve got the chords sorted, and you’ve probably even been hitting a few individual strings and making up some licks. Now is the time to learn some tunes.

If you’re confident — perhaps you know other instruments — then you might try a website like Ukulele-Tabs.com (free registration required), where you can find a collection of tabs ranked by difficulty.

Meanwhile, you can start slowly, too, using apps such as iUke on iOS and Real Ukulele Free for Android, both of which guide you gently through the basics of learning and playing a song.

Practice and Practice

As you become more familiar with the uke, you’ll need to hone your ability. This might mean memorizing chords, or improving your strumming. You could perhaps also need help with your chord changing speed.

Woman Playing Ukelele
Image Credit: Navetnaya via Shutterstock

The best way to do any of this is to spend time with the ukulele, perhaps while playing along to a song you want to learn. Time and effort are the most important at this stage, but if you’re looking for extra help, you should consider some YouTube video channels (and remember to subscribe, as it helps the owners generate revenue How Hard Is It to Make Money on YouTube? How Hard Is It to Make Money on YouTube? You can make money on YouTube -- but how hard is it? Is it something that anyone can do, or do you need a specific plan? We explore the possibilities here. Read More ).

Cynthia Lin Music

Cynthia Lin has a massive collection of ukulele videos, covering everything from beginner’s stuff like strumming and chord changes, to blues. She sometimes performs live on YouTube and does live chats.

The Ukulele Teacher

This guy, John Atkins, is great, offering lessons for all levels of play. Covering golden oldies and modern tracks, when he’s not teaching, you’ll find celebrity guests and customization ideas, not to mention performance videos. Lots of fun, with videos for dedicated topics such as tuning and strumming and muting, to get you started.

Take Your Ukulele Love Further

The thing about ukes is that they’re so damned cute, you almost fall in love with them. Here’s me with mine:

Christian Cawley on the Ukelele

With such a wide collection of designs and finishes, you might find yourself becoming really obsessed with this little four-string wonder. Sadly, there’s no Rocksmith-style game How Rocksmith Can Help You Play Guitar Like a Pro How Rocksmith Can Help You Play Guitar Like a Pro It doesn't matter how long you've been playing the guitar for, you can always get better. Here's how Rocksmith can help even the most experienced players improve their skills. Read More for ukulele like there is for guitar, but you might consider one or two podcasts for your regular audio enjoyment. Before you download them, though, make sure you have a good podcast manager 5 Apps Every Podcast Addict and Beginner Should Know About 5 Apps Every Podcast Addict and Beginner Should Know About The podcast revolution has really taken off. These are the apps every podcast addict or beginner needs to know about. Read More .

OokTown — Launched in 2011, this is a great little podcast, a sort of audio love letter to the ukulele. Host Stuart chats with guests about playing and loving the ukulele. It’s a great show, don’t miss it!

The Ukulele Review — There’s more technical information in this podcast, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it, as the hosts keep things clear and concise. Listen out for side-by-side comparisons of different ukuleles.

You might go even further, and join up with other ukulele players in your area. Ukulele events take place all around the world, and you can find out more about those taking place near you by running a search on Facebook. But whatever you do, don’t let this kid put you off.

Your Tips

Do you play the ukulele? Are you new to it, or an old hand? Have you found some resources you think we missed (there are many ukulele resources on the web 5 Fantastic Resources On The Web For Ukulele Players 5 Fantastic Resources On The Web For Ukulele Players Many people will have a new (or used) ukulele sitting in their house, either received as a gift or bought by themselves. As a proud new owner of a ukulele myself, I straight away headed... Read More )?

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  1. Dave Jones
    July 18, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    John Atkin's (The Ukulele Teacher) has his own (free) app on iOS and Android that contains loads of useful tools (tuner, chord library, scales) as well as a searchable list of all of his YouTube videos.

    You can find it by searching for 'Ukulele' in any of the app stores or by going to TheUkuleleApp.com

    • Christian Cawley
      July 19, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Another one to check, thanks Dave.

  2. Mark
    December 12, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    A great resource I use almost daily is the free beta version of Riffstation. With settings for guitar, uke, and piano, it automatically generates the play-along chords for almost any song on YouTube. I use it to create my own lead sheets/ fake books to my favorite songs. Google riffstation beta to get to the link.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 13, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Great link, thanks for sharing Mark!