Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

Learn the six fingering principles to navigating the ukulele fingerboard.

Published: Mar 15, 2006 • Updated: Dec 31, 2019 • VISITS: 39

ukulele Subjects: techniquefingerboardfingering

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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

Product Code: 6SUF
Author(s): Curt Sheller, Chuck Anderson
Publisher(s): Curt Sheller Publications
Published: 2006-03-15
ISBN-10: 1-60321-041-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-60321-041-6
Size: 8.5 x 11
Size: 8.5 x 11
Pages: 42
Price, Hard Copy: $19.95
Price, PDF: $9

Learn the six fingering principles to navigating the ukulele fingerboard.

Introduction

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.

Technically, fingering problems are linked to an instruments tuning. The characteristics of a tuning can force constant adjustments in fingering and contribute to the difficulty of learning the notes on the neck*. Note duplications, 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 the application of the six principles of guitar fingering 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 the principles of motion with their applications. The first step is a good hand position. Critical for technique, a good hand position eliminates the needless waste of effort and energy so typical of under developed fingering technique.

NOTE: The fingering principles in the books are suitable for ANY ukulele tuning.

Hand Position and Technique


Efficiency of motion and energy is the key to technique. The thumb should be flat against the back of the neck approximately under the first or second finger. The exact position varies with thumb, neck and hand size. The thumb pushes up against the neck while the fingers press down and 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 over press. If a “buzzy” tone results, readjust your finger. Make sure that the tips of your fingers press the strings down straight 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 be your fundamental position. Work to develop the 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 ④ fret (1)
  • Play the A note - finger 2, string ④ fret (2)
  • Play the A# note - finger 3, string ④ fret (3)
  • Play the B note - finger 4, string ④ fret (4)


Continue this pattern on each string. This exercise when played ascending, descending, forward and backward 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 back of the neck at all times. Don’t lift the fingers unnecessarily high.

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Table of Contents

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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

Errata: Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

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  • 21 JAN 2010 - Book updated and corrections made.

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

    Changes when made to a few of the examples.

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

The latest download ( PDF or eBook ) always has the latest changes and errata changes incorporated and contain the most up-to-date version of the file. If you download the book from LearningUkulele.com you'll be notified when there is a new version of the book available.

Related Lessons

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Four Finger Slide Fingering Drills for Ukulele

Four Finger-Four Note Basic Single String Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

These four finger-four note drills are designed to get your fretting hand in shape.

One Finger-One Note Basic Single String Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

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Three Finger Slide Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

Three Finger-Three Note Basic Single String Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

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Two Finger Pass Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

Two Finger Slide Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

Two Finger-Two Note Basic Single String Fingering Drills for `Ukulele

Developing physical strength, agility, flexibility and coordination.

What Finger is What?

Just what are the fingers of the plucking and fretting hand called.

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Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for C Tuning, Low or High G

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for C Tuning, Low or High G.


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Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for D Tuning, Low or High A

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for D Tuning, Low or High DG. Shows natural, sharp and flat notes for the ukulele fingerboard. This tuning can be used on a soprano, concert or tenor ukulele.


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Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for G Tuning, Low or High D

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for G Tuning, Low or High D. Shows natural, sharp and flat notes for the ukulele fingerboard. This tuning can be used on a baritone or tenor ukulele.


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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering - Arpeggio Plus One Worksheet Example

Arpeggio fingering chart exploring different pathways through a 1 2 3 5 major arpeggios. This is the Trial Plus One lessons series.


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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering - Arpeggio Worksheet

Arpeggio fingering chart worksheet for exploring multiple and alternate pathways through an arpeggio.


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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering - Interval Worksheet

Scale interval fingering chart worksheet for exploring multiple and alternate pathways through scale intervals.


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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering - Scale Worksheet

Scale fingering chart worksheet for exploring multiple and alternate pathways through a scale.


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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering - Scale Worksheet Example

Scale fingering chart worksheet for exploring multiple and alternate pathways through a C Major scale.


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Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering - Sequence Worksheet

Scale sequence fingering chart worksheet for exploring multiple and alternate pathways through a scale sequence.


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QuickStart Arpeggio Fingerings for Ukulele, C Tuning - Major Triad

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QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, C Tuning - Aeolian Scale

The Aeolian or Natural Minor is one of six essential scales for ALL ukulele players.

QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, C Tuning - Blues Scale

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Any Song Will Do

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Related Lesson Series

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Pass Gymnastics for Ukulele

Beyond the basic four fret fingering position, it's on to the remaining fingering principles for navigating the fingerboard. The second in the series is the Pass.

Using the * Pass* fingering principle from the Six Secerts of Ukulele Finger to navigate the ukulele fingerboard.

Pass is used when the passage can not be played within a single 4 fret span or when more notes per string are needed to produce a particular effect.

Slide Gymnastics for Ukulele

Beyond the basic four fret fingering position, it's on to the remaining fingering principles for navigating the fingerboard. The first in the series is the Slide.

Using the Slide fingering principle from the Six Secerts of Ukulele Finger to navigate the ukulele fingerboard.

Slide is used when the passage can not be played within a single 4 fret span or when more notes per string are needed to produce a particular effect.

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