Learning to Play the Ukulele: The Easiest Instrument for Beginners

Have you always wanted to learn to play an instrument? Have you tried guitar but got frustrated? You’re not alone. With fewer strings and smaller overall, ukuleles are the perfect place to start for both kids and adults that are brand new to instruments.

Strum along with musician, award-winning songwriter, and musical educator Emily Arrow, author of a Kid’s Guide to Learning the Ukulele, as she teaches you the basics below on how to hold, tune, and play the ukulele. And bonus, you can sample an easy ukulele song perfect for beginners from a Kid’s Guide to Learning the Ukulele with the free printable sheet music below!

Easy Ukulele Song for Beginners: Row Row Your Boat

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Kid's Guide to Learning the Ukulele

The Kid-Friendly Way to Learn the Ukulele! Kids will learn about all the individual parts that make up a ukulele, and even get a chance to give their uke a name! Simple steps for little hands to get the right grip on their ukulele, from neck to soundhole. Step-by-step, kids will learn how to tune their ukulele, starting off easy with an electronic tuning device or app! Fun songs and exercises encourage kids to play around with strum directions to create different sounds and rhythms!

Getting Started Playing the Ukulele

It helps to sit down on a chair or cross-legged on the floor while you’re learning to play. Be sure to sit up straight.

Right Arm Left Arm
Hand above the sound hole to strum  Hand wraps around the back of the neck
Fingers make a “pinch” shape to strum Thumb rests around the back
1, 2, 3, and pinky fingers curl down on the strings


How to Tune a Ukulele

Each string has its own number. When you’re holding your uke, the string closest to your eyes is string 4. Then 3, 2, and 1 follow. To tune our ukuleles, we assign each string a pitch. And each pitch has a letter name. Once we tune each string to its letter name, we can learn to play songs! The simplest way to tune is with an electronic tuning device or app.

Twist the tuning peg to change the pitch of each string and repeatedly pluck the string to hear how it sounds. It’s tuned when the ukulele string matches the sound of its musical letter on the electronic device or app!


Learn to Strum and the Chords

To strum, your right-hand makes a pinch shape with the fingers and thumb touching. To make different sounds on the ukulele, you’ll press your left fingers down on the neck in between the frets.

When your left hand makes a specific shape in between the frets (the lines on the neck), we call that shape a chord! Dot chords show you where your left-hand fingers go on the frets. You can try using stickers like mine in the photo above (available at office supply stores). If you don’t have stickers, you can imagine the colors on the fretboard to help you play.

Hello! Hello! This is Emily Arrow, author of Kid’s Guide to Playing the Ukulele. She brings children’s books to life with the strum of her ukulele named “Bow”. With her background in music education, she is revolutionizing how children connect with music and literature on her well-known YouTube channel. Learn more about Emily’s background in our Author Spotlight Blog here!

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