A Brief Guide to the Ukulele for Guitarists

how-to-hold-a-ukuleleSo you play the guitar and fancy having a shot at the ukulele? Of course you do! Who wouldn’t? Ukuleles are great. Not only that, but if you’re a guitarist, the transition is fairly straightforward. In fact, the most tricky crossover is learning to hold the ukulele.

Unlike the guitar, the ukulele doesn’t rest on your knee or hang on a strap. Instead it is held in place by the inside of your right forearm, supported at the other end by your left hand. As you can see in the photo above, the uke is held parallel to the ground with its body tucked into the crook of the right arm, leaving the hand free to strum around the point where the instrument’s body and neck join – known as the ‘sweet spot’. The left hand works in much the same way as with the guitar.

The standard ukulele tuning is G C E A, with the G-string being a fifth higher than the C-string. At first this may seem completely alien, but it’s actually very similar to the tuning of the top four strings on the guitar (D G B E). If you work up the musical alphabet from D, G is three letters higher. The same is true of the distances G > C, B > E and E > A. What this means is that the ukulele is tuned a perfect fourth higher than the top four strings of the guitar (or an octave and a fourth in the case of the G-string).


This being the case, you can make the same chord shapes on the ukulele as you would on the top four strings of your guitar, with the result that the chords will sound a 4th higher.

For example, if you use the guitar’s D major chord shape on the ukulele, it will sound a G major chord as shown below:


It’ll take a few days practice to get the hang of this transition, but you will quickly start to think of this chord as G on the ukulele and find your way around many other familiar chords. As I said at the start, it’s a fairly straight forward transition for guitarists. You’ll be strumming your favourite songs on this lovely little instrument in no time!