Ukulele — the early Years.

In the Beginning

Some pals have been recommending I get a ukulele (a beginner soprano model).

Then Day Zero arrived and a Friend of a Friend gave his ukulele to me.

Tuning For The Tone-Deaf

Tuning an instrument is the hardest part for someone that is tone deaf ... and particularly for all without perfect pitch.

So for ease, get one of the wonderful widgets where all you have to do is read a meter.

A great option is a little back-lit electronic gizmo that you clip on the ukulele and then in a minute you can have it tuned:

So you don't need any ear at all: you turn a string's peg and pluck the string and watch the display till it has the letter you want and the needle is centered.

It is as smooth as chocolate.

I used Hawaii tuning for the soprano ukulele:

G - C - E - A

Ginger Cats Eat Anything


Month by Month
Month 1

  • Tune the ukulele by ear. This means learning:
    • The strings are numbered "1" for the string at the bottom (when you hold the ukulele in playing position across your font) increasing through "2" and "3" to "4" for the string at the top.
    • The basic convention of G-C-E-A tuning.
  • On the open strings, began to learn The Common Stroke with the Right Hand:
    • Glide the first finger down and up, crossing each string near the upper edge of the sound hole.
    • Make stroke with the wrist, keeping the wrist high and the hand relaxed.
    • Down stroke on the finger nail.
    • Up stroke on the ball (fleshy part).
  • Learn how the left-hand fingers alter a string's pitch:
    • Place a finger BETWEEN frets (not upon them).
    • Use a different finger, depending on what fret you are behind. For the first four frets, use the first finger for the first fret, the second finger for the second fret and so on.
    • Practice the above: this does a lot to reduce the Fat Finger Feeling of initial playing on the ukulele.
  • Learn one-finger chords:
    • C Major: All strings open except for String 1 which has the 3rd finger behind the 3rd fret.
    • A Minor: All strings open except for String 4 which has the 2nd finger behind the 2nd fret.
  • Devised BRILLIANT scheme (The Santa Cruz Notation) to describe the string to pluck and where to place your fret fingers when picking a tune!!! Simply use one letter of G-C-E-A tuning:

    Then add a single number!!!!

    Buy a UKULELE 0 means unfretted: an open string. Use
    • G0 for: G,
    • C0 for: C,
    • E0 for: E, and
    • A0 for: A.

    1. 1 means put the first finger on the first fret: A1 for B FLAT.
    2. 2 means put the second finger on the first fret.: A2 for B.
    3. 3 means put the third finger on the first fret: A3 for C.
    4. If needed, 4 means put the fourth finger on the first fret.
    5. And we won't go beyond that for a year or two!

  • Check it out! Here is Happy Birthday To You:

    C0 C0 C2 C0 C1 E0
    C0 C0 C2 C0 E3(OR G0) E1
    C0 C0 A3 A0 E1 E0 C2
    A1 A1 A0 E1 E3(OR G0) E1

  • Finally had enough of a clue to be making enough mistakes that I needed a lesson. Found a BRILLIANT teacher but took a pal along so she could play when I whimp-called after the first song that my fingers were hurting. Also, she could sing and I cannot. We learned chords though I found the 3-finger chords hard and vetoed the 4-finger chords. "Officially" we learned:

    • Support the uke in the crook of your right arm, leaning the neck diagonally across your body to "two o'clock" (perhaps hold it below your right boob to avoid it being slightly boob-crushing).
    • Your fingers fall on top of the frets near the sound hole, and not over the sound hole itself.
    • Make the sweet strum (strum down toward your toes with pad of your thumb and strum up toward your head with pad of forefinger) -- maybe this is what Bette Middler (our Diva) uses.
    • C chord: only hold down one string: A3.
    • C7 chord: only hold down one: A1.
    • F chord (two hold-downs!): G2 and E1.
    • G7 chord: three hold-downs -- the horror, the horror: G is open, of course; then C2 and E1 and A2.
    • VERY IMPORTANT: how to fake it when you get to a chord that you don't know! Sorta just keep singing and smiling and moving your strumming hand.

    Then we were ready (in theory) for some songs from Camp Ukulele! We tried to play the chords and strum and sing along to:

    1. "You Are My Sunshine"
    2. "On Top of Spaghetti"
    3. "Simple Gifts"

  • Check it out! Here is "On Top of Spaghetti":

    C0 C0 E0 E3(OR G0) A3 A0
    A0 E1 E3(OR G0) A0 E3(OR G0)
    C0 C0 E0 E3(OR G0) E3 C2
    E0 E1 E0 C2 C0