How To Unleash The Power of The Ukulele!


Anders Mouridsen
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Anders Mouridsen
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Joined: 03/12/09
Posts: 2,600
06/22/2010 5:56 pm
Hey everybody,

I saw a request today for a tutorial on basic ukulele technique, which is an excellent idea. The ukulele is an awesome instrument; It's small and easy to travel with, it sounds great by itself and with other instruments and it's always a big hit around the camp fire:)

So until I can get to do an actual tutorial, here's the secret!

[U]First let's break down the tuning:[/U]

Most people pick up a ukulele and notice that the tuning is kinda strange and therefore think it's much harder than it is. But here's the simple answer!

1st string: B (closest to the floor)
2nd string: F#
3rd string: D
4th string: A (high octave- one whole note below the pitch of the 1st string)

So if you look at the intervals you'll notice that apart from the A-string being an octave higher all the intervals are the same as on the top 4 string of your guitar! Here's the explanation:

4th - 3rd: a fourth (Just like from the D-string to the G-string on your regular guitar)

3rd - 2nd: a major third (Again, just like your guitar)

2nd - 1st: a fourth (You get the idea)

[U]So what does this mean?!?:[/U]

It means that you can play chords like you would on the top 4 strings of your guitar, since the harmonic relationship between a D-shape, G-shape and an A-shape will be the same. That was enough to get me started! Just imagine you're playing the top 4 strings of your guitar, and ignore the fact that the 4th string is higher (If you wanna play melodies, just stay on the top 3-strings)

[U]But what are we actually playing?!?!:
[/U]
You may not even need to know this, because most of the songs that are played on ukulele aren't very advanced harmonically. So if you know your I, IV and V in most keys on the guitar and you're playing ukulele by yourself you should be fine. But if you wanna play with other instruments, it's a good idea to know a little bit of the science behind it!

If you strum the open strings (top 4) on your guitar they form a G6 chord (D+G+B = basic G major triad. E is the 6 and makes it a G6)

If you strum the open strings of the ukulele they form a D6 chord (A+D+F# = D major triad. B is the 6 and makes it a D6)

D is down a fourth from G, so any chord you play will be down a fourth from what it would sound like on a guitar

[U]Examples please?!?!:[/U]

1) a D chord-shape on the ukulele will sound like an A-chord
2) a G chord-shape will sound like an D-chord
3) a C chord-shape will sound like a G-chord
4) an F chord-shape will sound like a _________?!?!

Hope this helped you. The rest is just strumming!:)

-Anders
# 1
Razbo
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Razbo
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06/22/2010 6:07 pm
Dammit, now I have to go buy a ukelele! :p
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
# 2
Jarsew
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Jarsew
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06/22/2010 6:40 pm
Hm, I always thought the Ukulele was tuned like a Violin, G-D-A-E (essentially upside down of the Guitar)... I wonder where I got that idea. :confused:
# 3
Anders Mouridsen
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Anders Mouridsen
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06/22/2010 7:31 pm
You're probably thinking of a mandolin!?
# 4
Jarsew
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Jarsew
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06/22/2010 7:50 pm
Originally Posted by: Anders MouridsenYou're probably thinking of a mandolin!?
:o yup, I definitely was thinking of a mandolin.
# 5
kjpro
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kjpro
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06/22/2010 9:13 pm
It means that you can play chords like you would on the top 4 strings of your guitar, since the harmonic relationship between a D-shape, G-shape and an A-shape will be the same. That was enough to get me started! Just imagine you're playing the top 4 strings of your guitar, and ignore the fact that the 4th string is higher (If you wanna play melodies, just stay on the top 3-strings)
# 6
kjpro
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kjpro
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06/22/2010 9:19 pm
Are you telling me that I could actually play the Ukulele?
Hmmmm... going to check the cost on eBay.

Look what I found.... note the Standard tuning G-C-E-A http://www.ukalady.com/Images/UkeChart.pdf
# 7
KFS1972
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KFS1972
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06/22/2010 10:05 pm
OK,,,, is nobody else at least a little entertained by the words "Power" and "Ukulele" being used in the same title?

I was just looking a these in a Guitar Center flier and thought the portability would be beneficial. And, just to annoy the bass players, I will say that seem like they'd be easier since they only have 4 strings :-)
# 8
ChristopherSchlegel
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ChristopherSchlegel
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06/23/2010 2:16 am
Originally Posted by: Anders MouridsenI saw a request today for a tutorial on basic ukulele technique, which is an excellent idea.[/quote]
Great idea & well presented, Anders! Thanks so much for a wonderful post. :)
[QUOTE=KFS1972]...is nobody else at least a little entertained by the words "Power" and "Ukulele" being used in the same title?

LOL! Absolutely. It is a good title & lead in. :)

In my experience the only thing to watch out for in getting one is actually able to keep one in tune regardless of which tuning you pick. Some of the inexpensive ones have cheap tuners that won't allow enough tension on the string to get & stay in tune. And sometimes the cheap strings they come with should be replaced immediately, vastly improving the tone & ability to stay in tune.

Once that detail is cleared, you can tune in several ways:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukelele#Types_and_tunings

As you can see, Anders gave a standard D tuning regarded by some to be a bit "sweeter" sounding. The handy chart kjpro found shows the standard C tuning, which is merely the D tuning, but every string a whole step down.

All good stuff. Have fun. And thanks again for the info, Anders!
Christopher Schlegel
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Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 9
GuitarPsy
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GuitarPsy
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06/23/2010 8:08 am
lol now I really wanna buy a Ukelele :D

and thnx CSchlegel for the string-info!
= good music is good drinking =
# 10
Anders Mouridsen
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Anders Mouridsen
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06/23/2010 5:34 pm
Yeah, some people tune them down a whole step, so the open strings form a C6 instead of D6. Same thing, just down a whole step!
# 11
Anders Mouridsen
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Anders Mouridsen
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06/23/2010 5:36 pm
Sorry Christopher. Didn't see your reply.... Exactly:)
# 12
gazstaf
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gazstaf
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07/25/2012 2:11 am
Just to add something to the mix here, my wife has taken up the POWERFUL Ukulele. To assist her playing I place my capo over the DGBE strings at the fifth fret of my guitar and the you have the same notes but obviously not the same pitches as the Uke.

Hence I can relate to her in a Uke fashion as opposed to translating from guitar voicings to Uke voicings.

Cheers

Garry
# 13

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