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Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics

The roadmap to reading standard music notation.


ukulele Subjects: beginnerintermediatereading

Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics

The first step in learning to read is to first recognize the notes on the staff and know where on the fingerboard they are located. Knowing the name is also a beneficial skill.

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Note Recognition


Music uses a five line staff with four spaces and the first seven letters of the alphabet ( A, B, C, D, E, F, and G ) to names notes. Notes can fall on the lines and spaces of the staff and above and below the staff. Additional lines called ledger lines are added for notes above and below the staff.

The ukulele uses the treble or G clef.

The Lines and Spaces of the Staff


The lines are named, starting with the bottom line, E G B D and F. This has been traditionally remembered as Every Good Boy Does Fine. Other popular nemonics include Empty Garbage Before Dad Flips,

The spaces are named, starting with the bottom space and going up, F A C and E. This spells "face".

Practice reading and writing these notes.

There are two notes that fall directly above and below the staff. There are D and G. D is the first space below the staff and the G is the first space above the staff.

Note: Put the names of the lines and spaces in a continious loop and you have: E G B D F A C E G B D F A C E G B D F E C ... In music the distance from one letter the next in this sequences is an interval of a third . You'll find that chords are typically built in thirds - so this sequence is handy to rember when somes to reading chords and arpeggios.

Sharps, Flats and Naturals - Accidentals

accidentals_sharp_flat_naturalThe Sharp(), flat() and natural() symbol always appear to the left of and before the note. Just say the sharp, flat or natural after the letter name of the note. C sharp, B flat, F natural, E flat, etc...

The sharp raise the pitch of a note 1/2 step or semitone.

The flat lowers the pitch of a note 1/2 step or semitone.

The natural return a previously sharped or flatted note to it's original "natural" note.

Learn the recognize these sharp, flat and natural notes. Where to play them on the ukulele will come after learning the locations of the natural notes.

For more information on whole step and half steps visit this lessons page on the The Chromatic Scale

Ledger Lines


Ledger lines are small lines that appear above or below the staff. These extend the range of notes above or below the staff. The ukulele will use one or two ledger lines below the staff depending on the tuning you use. C tuning uses one ledger line below and a C tuning with a low G uses two ledger lines below.

Natural, Sharp and Flat Notes of the `Ukulele Fingerboard - C Tuning

Here is a FREE Chart of the Natural, Sharp and Flat Notes in C Tuning .

Note Duration

First the note symbols used to indication the length or duration that a note is to sound.

Whole Note Semibreve

In music, a Whole note (American) or Semibreve (British) is a note represented by a hollow oval note head and no note stem.

Half Note Minim

Half note (American) or Minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note (or semibreve) and twice the duration of a quarter note (or crotchet).

Quarter Note Crotchet

A Quarter note (American) or Crotchet (British) is a note played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve). Often, musicians will say that a crotchet is one beat, but this is not always correct, as the beat is indicated by the time signature of the music; a quarter note may or may not be the beat. Quarter notes are notated with a filled-in oval note head and a straight, flagless stem. The stem usually points upwards if it is below the middle line of the stave or downwards if it is on or above the middle line. However, the stem direction may differentiate more than one part. The head of the note also reverses its orientation in relation to the stem.

Eighth Note Quaver

An Eighth note (American) or a Quaver (British) is a musical note played for one eighth the duration of whole note (semibreve), hence the name.

Sixteenth Note Minim

Sixteenth note (American) or minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of an eighth note (quaver), hence the names.

Thirty-Second Note

Thirty-Second note (American) or Demisemiquaver (British) is a note played for ​1⁄32 of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve). It lasts half as long as a sixteenth note (or semiquaver) and twice as long as a sixty-fourth (or hemidemisemiquaver).

Other note durations such as Hemidemisemiquaver / Sixty-Fourth note, Semihemidemisemiquaver / Quasihemidemisemiquaver / Hundred Twenty-Eighth note and Demisemihemidemisemiquaver / Two hundred Fifty-Sixth note. Which are quite rare.

Time Signatures

The actual duration depends in the Time Signature. A time signature is a notational used in standard music notation to specify how many beats are to be contained in each measure and which note value is equivalent to one beat. That equivalent to one beat is critical to know.


The time signature appears at the beginning as a time symbol symbol_common_time or 4
stacked numerals.

Music Symbols

Musical Symbols are the marks and symbols, used since about the 13th century in the musical notation of musical scores, styles, and instruments to describe pitch, rhythm, tempo and, to some degree, its articulation (a composition in its fundamentals).

A great list of music symbols, more then you'll ever need or see can be found on the WikipediA page: List of Musical Symbols

D.C, D.S., and Endings

Most musician terms are Italian, French, or Germany - with Italian being the most common.

Da Capo (lit. "From top") Tells the performer to repeat playing of the music from its beginning. This is usually followed by al fine (lit. "to the end"), which means to repeat to the word fine and stop, or al coda (lit. "to the coda (sign)"), which means repeat to the coda sign and then jump forward.

Da Segno (lit. "From the sign") Tells the performer to repeat playing of the music starting at the nearest segno. This is followed by al fine or al coda just as with da capo.

Da Capo al Fine Back to the Beginning and then to Fine (the end).

Da Segno al Fine Back to the Sign and then to Fine (the end).


Repeats come in two flavors. Both indication what measures or section to repeat.

For the next repeat it used to indiation repeating long section, more measures that the above repeats. Repeat once if there is no indication of the number of times to repeat.

Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics at this time.


Reading Music on `Ukulele Series - Reading in Open Position • Updated: Sep 4, 2013

Music notation is the Lingua franca of amateur and professional musicians alike

Reading Music on `Ukulele Series - Reading in Open Position, Introduction • Updated: Sep 4, 2013

Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths • Updated: Nov 18, 2019

The magical, mysterious, and mystical Cycle of Fifths.

Enharmonic Equivalents • Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Different names and notation for the same pitch.

The Major Scale • Updated: Feb 11, 2016

The most important scale in ALL of music.

Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained • Updated: Jun 7, 2019

The distance between any two notes can be defined by steps - half steps, whole steps, semi-tones, whole tones.

The Chromatic Scale • Updated: Nov 26, 2018

The only scale containing ALL 12 notes available withing in one octave.

Glossary of Music Terms • Updated: Jan 18, 2019

A glossary of common music and not so common music terms. Learn the "Lingo".

Modular Phonetic Rhythm • Updated: Aug 1, 2018

A significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm, by Chuck Anderson

Harmonic Analysis Lesson Series • Updated: Jan 6, 2020

For scale selection and chord substutition.

Proper Fretting Hand Placement • Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Efficiency is the key to proper fretting hand technique.

Standard Music Notation • Updated: Oct 11, 2019

A complete lesson on what is Standard Music Notation.

Related Books

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Ukulele- Reading Music Series - Primer
Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Learn to read single note melodies in the first/open position.

Modular Phonetic Rhythm, The Foundation and Workbook 1
Updated: Nov 9, 2015

Modular Phonetic Rhythm represents a significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm.

Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering
Updated: Dec 31, 2019

Learn the six fingering principles to navigating the ukulele fingerboard.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics at this time.


Reading for Ukulele - The Next Steps
Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Reading can be thought of on many different levels. 1) the ability to slowly and painfully work out the written music. 2) the ability to hear the music by looking at the notation. 3) the ability to notate< your ideas in standard music notation. 4) the ability to read music as you read a book or an article. 5) the ability to communicate with other musicians in the written language of music. 6) the ability to learn songs that you have never heard.

Modular Phonetic Rhythm by Chuck Anderson
Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Modular Phonetic Rhythm represents a significant advance in the teaching and application of rhythm. Eliminating many inefficient aspects of rhythm education, Modular Phonetic Rhythm streamlines the traditional educational approach, resulting in a reflexive reaction to rhythm.

Reading Standard Music Notation for Ukulele
Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Reading music on ukulele is all about learning what the notes look like and where there are on the instrument for your favorite tuning.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics at this time.


Open Position Flash Cards for Ukulele C Tuning
Updated: Dec 31, 2016

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