Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

Learn the six fingering principles to navigating the ukulele fingerboard.

Published: 15 Mar 2006 Updated: 03 Oct 2022Visits: 432Code: 6SUF

Topic: Fingering Instruments: ukulele Subjects: Technique • Fingering • Fingerboard

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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

Product Code: 6SUF
Author(s): Curt Sheller, Chuck Anderson
Publisher(s): Curt Sheller Publications
Published: Mar 15, 2006
Updated: Oct 3, 2022

ISBN-13: 978-1-60321-041-6
Size: 8.5 x 11
Pages: 42
Price: Hard Copy: $19.95
Price: PDF: $9

cover

Learn the six fingering principles to navigating the ukulele fingerboard. Fingering is one of the most universal topics. Whether your style is Rock, Blues, Country, Jazz or Classical, these principles will improve your technique, your solos, even your sight reading. Think of fingering as a series of pathways. When you learn to connect these pathways, there are benefits not only to technique but also to creativity. All fingering on the ukulele can be reduced to 6 principles of motion. Each principle has physical and musical characteristics that you can use to improve your playing.

Introduction

Fingering is one of the universal topics. Whether your style is Rock, Blues, Country, Jazz, or Classical, these principles will improve your technique, your solos, even your sight-reading.

Think of fingering as a series of pathways. When you learn to connect these pathways, there are benefits to technique and creativity. All fingering on the ukulele can be reduced to six principles of motion. Each principle has physical and musical characteristics that you can use to improve your playing.

Technically, fingering problems are inseparably linked to an instrument's tuning. A tuning's characteristics can force constant fingering adjustments and contribute to the difficulty of learning the notes on the neck. Note duplication, open strings, and unequal tuning all contribute to the complexity of fingering. Since strings vary in diameter, notes produced on different strings vary in tone color. Generally, thicker strings produce warmer or darker tone color. Thinner strings produce a brighter or more cutting tone color.

This book is devoted to applying the six fingering principles as applied to the ukulele. The study of fingering can be broken down into several topics of study. They are position and technique, finger independence and strength, and motion principles with their applications. The first step is an efficient hand position. A good hand position is critical for technique, eliminating the needless waste of effort and energy, typical of underdeveloped fingering technique.

NOTE: The fingering principles in the book are suitable for the common C, G and D ukulele tunings.

Hand Position and Technique

Efficiency of motion and energy is the key to developing your fingering technique. The thumb should be flat against the neck's back, approximately under the first or second finger. The exact position varies with the thumb, neck, and hand size. The thumb pushes up against the neck while the fingers press down and stay poised above the strings, ready to move in any direction.

The four fingers span four frets, one finger per fret. By laying the first finger flat across all strings at the first fret or by playing the Bb7 chord at fret (1), the wrist naturally bends, giving each finger equal access to all strings within a four fret span.

In playing single notes, place the finger just before the fret. Use enough pressure to get a clear tone but don't exert more effort than required. If a "buzzy" tone results, readjust your finger. Ensure that your fingers' tips press the strings down straight, right behind the fret, without pushing or pulling the notes.

NOTE: The fourth finger will not be as arched as the other fingers because of its size and relative reach.

The fingering hand should not support the ukulele and needs to be free to move over the fingerboard.

The high thumb position has always been a controversial subject. If your thumb takes a high position, the finger span is reduced from four to three frets. You'll need more movement and effort to play anything in the standard four fret position.

The high thumb position is often used as a leverage device for bends and vibratos in Blues and Rock music. It is an exceptional position and should not be a fundamental position. Work to develop a low thumb position.

If you need to stand while playing and want to use the four fret span position, wear the ukulele high. In this way, you can easily reach the four fret span, and there is little change in playing angle from a sitting to a standing position.

Finger Independence and Strength

The four fingers of the fingering hand need to function independently of each other. Strength, agility, and control are necessary for great hands. Practice the following exercise:

  • Play the G♯ note — finger 1, string fret (1)
  • Play the A note — finger 2, string fret (2)
  • Play the A♯/B♭ note — finger 3, string fret (3)
  • Play the B note — finger 4, string fret (4)

Continue this pattern on each string. When played ascending, descending, forward and backward, this exercise is an important first step in developing control of the four fingers in a four fret span. It's also an essential step in synchronizing both hands. Keep the thumb in the back of the neck at all times. Don't lift the fingers unnecessarily high.

Table of Contents

Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

  • Introduction 5
  • Hand Position and Technique 9
  • Finger Independence and Strength 10
    • 4 Finger Combinations 11
    • 2 Finger Combinations 11
    • 3 Finger Combinations 11
  • Notes on the Fingerboard 12
  • Motion Principles and their Applications 13
    • Stationary 14
    • Mobile 14
  • Summary of Fingering Principles 17
  • Basic Applications of the Motion Principles 18
  • Priority of Motion Principles 19
  • Motion Principles - the Details 19
    • Basic 19
    • Slide 19
    • Pass 20
  • Ascending Passes 20
  • Descending Passes 21
    • Contraction 23
  • Ascending Pitch Contractions 23
    • Descending Position Changes - Same String 23
  • Descending Pitch Contractions 24
    • Ascending Position Changes - Same String 24
  • Ascending Pitch Contractions 25
    • Descending Position Changes - Cross String 25
  • Descending Pitch Contractions 25
    • Ascending Position Changes - Cross String 25
  • Stretch 27
  • Leap 29
  • Double Stop Fingering 30
    • Double Stops on Adjacent Strings 30
  • Non Adjacent Strings 31
    • Motion Principles Applied 33
  • Model One - Single Principle Solutions 34
    • Basic 34
    • Slide 34
    • Passing 34
    • Stretch 35
    • Contraction 35
    • Leap 35
  • Model Two - Combined Principle Solutions 35
    • Slide and Stretch 35
    • Passing and Slide 35
    • Contraction and Passing 36
    • Stretch and Contraction.36
    • Slide and Contraction.36
    • Passing and Leap 36
  • The Art and Science of Fingering 36
  • Reading 38
  • Improvisation 38
    • Phrasing 40
  • Conclusion 41

The current PDF or eBook always has the latest changes and errata incorporated for the most up-to-date version of the file. If you downloaded the book from LearningUkulele.com you'll be notified when there is a new version of the book available or let me know if you need the lastest version.

Errata

Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

Any owners of the book can e-mail curt@curtsheller.com for an updated version.

  • 9 AUG 2021 - Book updated and corrections made. * Fixed a bunch of the examples in the back part of the book. - OOPS!

  • 21 JAN 2010 - Book updated and corrections made. Changes when made to a few of the examples.

  • 17 OCT 2003 - Book Released and Errata Log File Created

The current PDF or eBook always has the latest changes and errata incorporated for the most up-to-date version of the file. If you downloaded the book from LearningUkulele.com you'll be notified when there is a new version of the book available or let me know if you need the lastest version.

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Pass maximizes the number of notes per string, making the timbre consistent. It's used to move up or down the neck to cope with a passage in which the range is unusually large. The pass provides an effective way to move straight up the first string. It's particularly useful in developing 3 octave fingerings and in playing melodies with an adjacent drone string.

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Two Finger Slide Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

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Slide is used when the passage cannot be played within a single 4 fret span or when more notes per string required to produce a particular effect. I's also used in situations where a gradually ascending or descending diagonal motion best solves the physical and musical demands of the passage.

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Just what are the fingers of the plucking and fretting hand called. There can be a bit of confusion as to what the names and numbers of your fretting hand and the plucking or strumming hand are. Here are some of the common fingering notations I’ve encounter over the course of my studying ukulele and guitar.

Related Book Files, Resources and Assets

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Related Lesson Series

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