Buyers Guide – Ukulele Basics
Ukuleles are a great instrument to learn, both in their own right and as a gateway to learning the guitar. Check out our new video in which George our resident ukulele expert at our Blackpool store shows us some of the basics:
Easy To Play
As George covers in the video, ukuleles can be incredibly simple to play. It’s even possible to play tunes using only one finger! The recognisable tune played by George is called In The Summertime by 70’s British rock band Mungo Jerry, which was later covered by the rap artist Shaggy in the 90’s. Originally a Hawaiian instrument that is still popular to this day, many Hawaiian pieces of music written for the ukulele heavily feature 6th chords and 7th chords as well as major chords which are very easy to play. Because a ukulele is tuned to a C6 chord, simply playing all open strings gives us this chord, whilst fretting one finger across all four strings at the same fret gives us different 6th chords depending on the fret. To play a 7th chord, use the same shape but with the addition of your second finger on the next fret on the A string (nearest string to the floor). And finally to play a major chord, change the second finger for the 3rd finger on the A string. So with the 1st finger across the 2nd fret, these would be the chords D6, D7 & D or D major. Use these easy chord shapes up and down the neck, and you’ll be playing lots of ukulele songs in no time! You might also want to check out some of our tuition books for more one finger chords and easy songs.
The most common tuning for Ukuleles these days is to tune each string to a different note in the chord C6. All this means is that starting from the string nearest to the ceiling, the strings are tuned in the order:
G | C | E | A
This can easily be remembered with the mnemonic “George Can Eat Apples”. You may notice that unlike the tuning for other stringed instruments such as guitars, the tuning of the strings on a ukulele doesn’t follow the conventional ascending order. This is because the G string is tuned an octave higher than you might assume, which is known as a type of reentrant tuning, which is also used on 5 string banjos. This tuning means that all four of the strings fall within the fourth octave on a piano’s keyboard, with the C string being tuned to middle C. As such you may also see the tuning written like this:
G4 | C4 | E4 | A4
This can be helpful when using electronic tuners that utilise numbers as well as the note letter so that you know you are tuning to the right pitch. Too low and the strings may seem too sloppy, whilst too high might mean that the strings will break!
Types of Ukulele
As George mentions, there are different types or sizes of ukulele with the general rule being that the larger the size of the ukulele, the deeper and richer the tone of the instrument is. The most common type of ukulele is the Soprano ukulele, which is the smallest and therefore ideal for children and beginners. Next up is the Concert ukulele which has a larger body but also more frets, allowing for additional higher notes as well as a slightly richer tone. Following these are the Tenor and Baritone ukuleles which each have larger bodies that are getting closer to the size and tone of a classical guitar. Because of this, it is not uncommon for a Tenor ukulele to be tuned with a low G string, whilst Baritone ukuleles are normally tuned to the highest 4 strings of a guitar, which is as follows:
D3 | G3 | B3 | E4
A very similar instrument to ukuleles is the Banjolele or Banjo-Ukulele, which as the name suggests is a cross between a ukulele and a banjo. Shown by George at the beginning of the video, a Banjolele has the body and bridge of a banjo and the nylon strings, neck and headstock of a ukulele. This instrument is played in exactly the same way as a ukulele, with the strings placed in the same tuning as a standard or soprano ukulele. Often confused for ukuleles due their similar register of sound, banjoleles are synonymous with the Lancastrian comedian and musician George Formby who most famously performed light hearted comedic songs with the instrument during World War II. Many of the original songs he performed are now seen as British standards on both banjolele and ukulele.
We Can Teach you To Play
Due to their similarities and shared playing techniques, our guitar teachers at each of our 8 Rimmers Music Schools across the North West are also able to teach you the ukulele. For small children, it can be a good idea for them to start off playing the ukulele before taking up the guitar, because the size of the instrument makes them much more comfortable to play with small hands!
For information on ukulele lessons, purchasing ukuleles for education or any other ukulele queries, feel free to contact us on 01772 62211 or email email@example.com