One of the many reasons people turn from guitars to ukuleles or pick up ukuleles in the first place is their comfortable size. The only catch is that their small sizes make them hard to hold, especially if you’re not a big fan of playing the ukulele with straps.
Whether you own – or planning to own – a baritone ukulele or a small soprano ukulele, the technique is the same, so continue reading while we tell you some tips and tricks on how to hold a ukulele.
Before we start with the holding techniques, it’s important to know how to pick up a ukulele. We see many rookies picking up their ukulele from the headstock or the sound hole. This is just an easy and sure way to ruin your uke quickly. The right method to pick up your instrument is by holding it from the place where the neck meets the body.
Also, if you’re a beginner, we recommend that you hold the ukulele while sitting on a chair to have the music stand and ukulele sheet music at eye level. This will also help you balance the weight of the uke on your lap if you find it difficult to hold the instrument to your chest.
Holding a Ukulele For Beginners
The first thing to make sure of is to maintain the right posture while sitting. Hunching over your ukulele will only put stress on your spine and hinder you from achieving the proper hand position.
The first step is to hold the ukulele up to your chest. The main support comes from your right arm, so what you’ve got to do is place your forearm on the body of the ukulele, slightly above the strings.
Your right arm is your strumming arm, so you should bend your elbow 90 degrees to give your strumming hand access to the strings.
That alone isn’t enough to keep a ukulele in place, so you’re going to use your fretting hand (left hand) to hold the neck at a slightly elevated angle. To adjust the position of your left hand, let the neck sit between your thumb and index finger. Your fingers should be curling around the fretboard while the pad of your thumb is supporting the back of the neck.
Now that you’re holding the ukulele the right way, you can use your right-hand fingers to pick notes while your fretting hand deals with the ukulele fretboard.
Note that the neck might move while you’re playing as you exert different pressures on the fretboard. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as your right hand is supporting the ukulele’s body not to slip.
The position mentioned above will be convenient if you’re strumming or playing barre chords. However, things can get more challenging when you play fingerstyle. In this case, instead of using your arm, use your fingers to support the base of the uke while picking on the soundboard with your thumb.
Also, the more you advance, try to resist the temptation of pulling the ukulele towards you and looking at your fingers while playing. This will help you have better control over the instrument and hit a greater range of chords.
Must You Hold a Ukulele with Your Dominant Hand?
It takes both hands to play the ukulele, so whether you’re right- or left-handed, you’re going to use both. There’s no rule that says you should strum with your right hand and pick with your left fingers, though.
However, most players feel more comfortable strumming with their right hands. Even some lefty players find it easy to play this way since it’s a 50/50 split using both hands, so it won’t matter which hand is doing what.
What About Left-Handed Players?
If you’re not comfortable holding the ukulele with your right hand, you have two options. Either use a lefty ukulele or restring your instrument.
There are ukuleles specifically made to accommodate left-handed players on the market. To hold them, you’ll have to follow the same steps; just switch your hands.
What if you already have a normal ukulele and want to play it left-handed? All you have to do is reverse the order of the ukulele strings. Instead of going G-C-E-A from the top-down, restring the ukulele, starting from the A string at the top and ending with the G string at the bottom.
On a Final Note: How to Hold a Ukulele Properly!
Just like you learn to walk before you run, you’ve got to learn how to hold a ukulele before you rock your socks off to iconic Hawaiian songs. With these simple instructions, we’re sure you’ve put your foot on the road to becoming a ukulele master.
Keep in mind that it takes time and practice to learn how to hold a ukulele as much as learning the chords does, so don’t beat yourself if you find it hard in the beginning. After all, many seasoned ukulele players still prefer using straps for this exact reason.