If you’re serious about learning the ukulele, the first thing you need to master is how to hold it.
The good news is that learning how to hold a ukulele is pretty straightforward. In fact, because of the uke’s tiny size, it’s held and played at the same time, regardless of whether you’re sat down or stood up.
This means you can play the uke in just about any situation. Stood up, sat down, waiting for a train, on a country walk 🙂
So in this article, we’re going to show you how to hold a ukulele properly, including how to maintain correct ukulele hand positioning as well as posture.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Holding the Body
The uke should be positioned high up on the body, and as we mentioned in the intro, is held up with a combination of your arms and hands.
If you’ve ever held an acoustic guitar, forget all about that! You don’t rest a ukulele on your lap – it gets locked into place with limbs alone!
Look in the picture and notice how high the uke is (if my beard was any longer, it might almost touch).
The uke should rest at roughly the bottom of your sternum (or breastbone).
Pinning the Uke
Now, you should gently pin the lower bout of the uke against your body (in the crevice between your arm and body).
When you do this, you’ll notice the neck and head of the uke will push out away from your body. This is good. Now pull the neck gently back with your fretting hand.
In fact, this leverage makes it easier to press the strings down and prevents you from squeezing too hard (and even helps with tricky chord shapes and barre chords, etc.).
Notice where my thumb is, yes, right at the back of the neck. Where you can, try to keep it in this position. If you let your thumb wrap over the top of the neck it will restrict your movement, and it’s a bad habit that’s hard to break.
Note that this is particularly bad for playing barre chords as it makes them harder to play (it makes adding the right amount of pressure – i.e. squeezing the strings – more difficult).
So try not to let you thumb show up too much above the top of the neck, if at all. It’s not always possible, but try!
Try to arch your fingers as much as possible, and avoid bending your wrist (and keep your elbow tucked in). You want to keep your wrist as straight as possible and reach the strings by arching your fingers, not by bending your wrist.
Where possible, try and keep your fingers parallel to the frets too.
Once the uke is in position, all that’s left is to work out how to strum it. Bend your strumming arm at the elbow, and extend the lower part of your arm in a straight line over the ukulele just up from the soundhole (away from the fretboard).
Play all four ukulele strings at the same time using a combination of up and down movements. Remember to keep your right hand nice and loose.
I’m Left-Handed – What Should I Do?
You can get hold of left hand ukuleles of course, but they’re rarer and more money. A simple hack is to simply reverse the order of the strings (basically re-string a right-handed ukulele but switch the order)
You could always simply learn to play the instrument right-handed!
Learning how to correctly hold the ukulele is the first thing you should do when you’re learning the uke. Pick up bad habits from the get-go (and poor posture if one of the worst), and you’ll be making a rod for your own back for years to come.