The ukulele is a small and very fun instrument to play and it’s quite easy to learn. However, before you start to learn how to play it, you have to learn how to hold ukulele properly.
With such a small instrument it’s very easy to choke all the sound out. The general rule is to make as little contact with it as possible, but more about that later.
Also, it is very important to hold your instrument the right way so you can feel comfortable while you play. If you are uncomfortable it will most likely be harder for you to practice and advance.
Before we get to the step by step instructions, you need to learn the parts of the ukulele. By learning the parts of the instrument you will be able to easily understand the instructions.
Overall Parts of the Ukulele
- Body – The body is the biggest part of the instrument and it consists of a top, back, and sides. These parts of the body can be solid wood or laminated, and the choice of the tone-wood is quite important for the sound the instrument makes.
- Sound Hole – The sound hole is a round hole in the body’s top that lets the vibrations out of the body.
- Bridge – The Bridge holds the saddle that holds the strings in their proper positions and it’s mounted on the top of the body. When you string your ukulele, the bridge is where you make the knots.
- Neck – The neck is the solid piece of wood that connects the body and the headstock and supports the fretboard.
- Nut – The nut holds the strings in the proper position together with the bridge. It’s located between the neck and headstock.
- Headstock – The headstock is the top part of the ukulele. This is where the tuning pegs are located. Also, the brand’s logo and the serial number are usually on the headstock too.
- Tuning pegs – Tuning pegs hold the strings. By twisting them you can tune your ukulele.
- Fretboard – The fretboard is the part of the neck where all the frets are. The fret that is the closest to the headstock is the 1st These are usually made of rosewood but some of the more expensive ukes can feature an ebony fretboard.
- Frets – Frets are the metal bars on the fretboard.
Benefits of Holding The Ukulele Properly
The benefits of holding your instrument are numerous but some of the most important ones are:
- You won’t choke the sound out.
- Feeling comfortable while playing.
- You will learn the techniques properly because of the proper positioning.
- Prevent injuries.
- The playing fatigue will be significantly reduced.
How To Hold a Ukulele (Step by Step)
Step 1 – Pick up your ukulele with your strumming hand
For the most people this will be the right hand. Grab your ukulele where the body meets the neck. Do this by wrapping your hand around the front of your ukelele.
Step 2 – Press it to your chest
If pressing the ukulele against your chest feels a bit uncomfortable, try moving it slightly lower or higher until you find the most comfortable position. Your ukulele should be parallel to the ground, but you can also hold it with the neck slightly at the angle.
Step 3 – Use your right (strumming) arm to cradle the ukulele’s body
Your elbow should form a 90 degree angle and the ukulele’s end should be pressed against your forearm. If you feel that your ukulele might slip, try holding it a bit tighter. However, don’t squeeze it too much.
You should apply just enough pressure so it stays in place. Keep your hand between the neck and body, where you grabbed the ukulele to pick it up, until you position your left hand.
Step 4 – Put the thumb of your left hand on the back of the neck
Your thumb should be somewhere between the nut and the 3rd Now wrap the other four fingers around the front side of the neck and place them to be parallel to the frets. Your fingers should float above the frets while only your fingertips are touching the strings.
You shouldn’t be holding the weight of the ukulele with your left hand, so make sure you are not grasping it with this hand. You should be able to move your fingers up and down the neck freely.
Step 5 – Make sure your left elbow is away from your body
Your elbow shouldn’t be pressed against your side. Keep it a few inches away from your body. Both of your elbows should be at the same height. Also, try to keep your wrist straight. In some cases, when you play some difficult chords you’ll need to twist your wrist a bit, but in most cases it should remain straight.
Step 6 – Extend your strumming hand along the ukulele’s bottom
You should keep your wrist straight but your fingers should be at the bottom of the ukulele, cupping it. Make sure that your thumb and index finger are free so you can use them for strumming. Some players strum above the sound hole, while the others strum between the neck and the body. No matter what method you choose, you should feel comfortable.
There are additionally some variations that you might find more comfortable. If you don’t feel very comfortable with the way of holding ukulele we described above, try some of these variations.
- Rest your instrument on your leg while sitting. In order to play in a sitting position, you need to sit down and rest the bottom part of the ukulele on your leg. In this position, you should hold your ukulele with the neck held up at the angle. This position is especially helpful for beginners or larger versions of the ukulele.
- If you are a bit more advanced player you can hold your instrument with only your forearm. Just remove your fingers from the bottom of your ukulele and float your wrist over the top of the sound hole. This technique gives you much more movement. However, if you can’t hold it this way without it slipping, you might not be ready for this technique yet.
- Use a strap. You can buy a ukulele strap in any instrument store or order it online or you can even adjust a guitar strap. The strap keeps your instrument in the position so you can play freely. If you are playing sitting down you don’t need a strap.
- Squeeze your ukulele too tight. Find the medium pressure that will keep your ukulele in place while letting you relax.
- Hold your elbow tucked in.
- Hold your elbow too far away from your body.
- Let your ukulele sit flat on your lap. This will make it more difficult to play.
Tips for Holding Ukulele Right and Left-Handed
Most of the ukulele players play with their right hand (they use the right hand for strumming). However, some of the players feel more comfortable to strum with their left hand.
Both ways are proper, and there is no “best” way. If you are not sure which way you are the most comfortable with, we suggest that you try playing both ways and then decide.
If you decide that you want to play with your left hand, you have two options when it comes to strings. You can either keep your ukulele the way it is and play upside down, or you can put the strings backward so that your uke mirrors the right-handed ukulele.
The decision is completely up to you. The upside of playing the upside down way is that you can pick up any ukulele and play. You won’t need a specially tuned instrument.
However, the ukulele is made the way it is made for a reason, and it’s much more convenient to have your lower notes higher up on your fretboard.
How To Check if You Are Holding Your Ukulele Properly
To check if you are holding your instrument properly, you can move one hand to see if it stays in position. First, try with your fretting hand and then with your strumming hand. To be sure your ukulele won’t fall down, do this while sitting in a chair.
If your instrument slips, you need to hold it tighter; if it stays in place you are holding it properly. Make sure that you always have one hand on your ukulele.
Check if your elbows are in line. The strumming elbow should always be at the 90 degrees angle and not to close to your body.
Try to play some chords. If you can reach all of the chords comfortably, you are holding your ukulele properly. If you feel tired after just a few minutes, you might be gripping the neck too tightly.
Holding your instrument properly is the first step on your journey of learning to play it. We hope that our guide will be helpful and make your journey a bit more comfortable. Make sure that you practice as much as you can and always make sure that you are holding your ukulele the way you are supposed to hold it while you practice.