April 09, 2015
Six Tips for Improving Your Ukulele Playing
When it comes to improving your ukulele playing, our number-one, sure-fire tip is to practice, practice, practice. If you aren’t putting in hours on your ukulele, you simply won’t improve. In addition to carving out enough time to practice, there are a variety of things you can do to improve your playing. From trimming your fingernails to recording yourself playing, here are some tips for improving your ukulele playing.
Learn How to Tune
Did you ever stop to think that your ukulele sounds off because it is off? As with any other instrument, ensuring your instrument is in tune is one of the best ways to improve its sound. Though you can explore a number of different tunings, the standard tuning for a ukulele is CGEA. Your teacher can show you how to tune or ukulele, but in case you aren’t taking lessons or want to get a head start there are plenty of tutorials and videos available online. Keeping your ukulele in tune is especially important when playing with others, so you might want to get a clip-on tuner that you can easily take with you in your case.
Maintain Good Form
Holding your ukulele correctly is one of the most important things to get out of the way, especially right at the beginning before bad habits have a chance to form. An uncomfortable position will hold you back, and poor posture can strain different parts of your body–some of which can lead to injury. Since you want to have fun while playing the ukulele, you want to do what you can to avoid unnecessary strain. If you’re sitting down while playing, make sure to sit upright. Hold the uke right below your chest, and use your forearm to hold the body of the ukulele in place. For more info on form, talk to your teacher or watch videos of ukulele players online.
Keep Your Fingernails Trimmed
Believe it or not, something as simple as the length of your fingernails can have a huge impact on the sound of your instrument. Keep your fretting hands’ fingernails short; this actually allows clean fretting which contributes to a more distinct sound. Letting your strumming fingernails grow a little longer can help product a great sound. For this purpose, you might want to grow your nails on the thumb, first, middle, and ring fingers a little longer than the rest. You might feel weird walking around with different fingernail lengths, but if it improves your playing it might just be worth it.
The recording of your playing doesn’t have to be super high-quality, just good enough so you can listen to yourself play. If you want to work on your posture, consider making a video. Through recordings you can track your progress and hear where you need to improve. Forgetting how you used to sound is all too easy, especially as you get better and better at playing the uke. By holding onto hold recordings and revising them, it’ll be easy to identify all the progress you’ve made. Once you start to play with other people, things like being able to maintain a steady tempo will be crucial, so be sure to pay attention to tempo issues in your recordings, too. (PS- a metronome helps!!)
Know When to Stop Practicing
Yes, we know…we said above how important practicing is to progressing at an instrument, but knowing when to STOP practicing is just as important. You may be tempted to push through pain in your hands, but if the pain is internal you can do some serious damage. If your hand is feeling sore or if you’re experiencing cramps or shooting pains in your arms, hands, or fingers, put down the uke and take a break. If the pain in your hand persists, even after days of not playing, visit your doctor, as the pain may be more serious than a simple strain or muscle ache.
Watch Other Ukulele Players
Listening to or watching other ukulelists play can give you an idea on how to improve your playing. Whether you listen to old recordings or find videos on YouTube, you should consider this as a chance for you to learn other techniques that you can incorporate into your own style. If you’re taking ukulele lessons, you can still learn a thing or two online–watch some videos, write down what interests you, and ask your teacher to teach you how. Not only does this help improve your playing, but it’ll show your teacher that you’re serious about improving your craft.
Last but not least, have fun! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to become the best ukulele player in the world. Instead, celebrate the small victories and enjoy yourself. The very sound of the uke should instill joy in people’s hearts, so go out and make people happy with your new skill. 27
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