A Practical Approach to Exploring Scales

Published: 16 Jul 2013 Updated: 22 Jul 2022Visits: 58Code: UL04p

Topic: Scales Instruments: Ukulele Subjects: Beginner • Intermediate • Scales • Advanced • Intervals

On ukulele there aren't many positions where you can play a one octave scale from the root to octave. An instrument like the guitar with the additional lower strings five and six allows one to play a one octave scale in multiple positions in the basic 4-fret, 4-finger position. On ukulele there might be one or two depending on the scale and the key - and whether your using a low string four tuning.

Here are a few ways to practice all your scales. Ideally, you should be able to play any phrase, lick, riff, or melody from ANY starting finger, in any octave and on any string. This is a lot of work and a long-term goal well worth the effort.

  • Ascending lowest note to the highest note of the scale position. This is where knowing the notes of the fingerboard really is beneficial.
  • Descending the highest note to the lowest note.
  • Vary the rhythm with long and short notes.
  • Explore in ALL 15 keys. There are no common keys for scales, scales can start on any root - any key.
  • Explore the most common intervals of 2nds, 3rds, and 6ths. And, ultimately, all intervals.

Every Finger, Every String

Getting your fingers to behave and follow your inner ear and mind is a lot like trying to herd cats - They just don't like to cooperate and do as they are told. It takes a lot of patience and determination.

Most players, like myself, typically didn't play all my melodies, scales, licks or riffs from ANY starting finger on any string. Not that we didn't see the value in being able to do that - it just seemed like a lot of work. This is especially true for a guitar with six strings. And in my case, as a seven string player, seven strings — HOWEVER, I DID do all of this and more. With the ukulele, it's only three or four strings and a lot less work. At least do it with melodies — there is a lot of value in this. All we are doing is reinforcing the inner ear to hands connection.

Frank Vignola says: Learn 200 songs - the melodies, and you have no problem learning to improvise.

Finally, you need to be able to play starting on any note, on any string and starting on any finger. This is where my book The Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering comes into play. It's more of an exploration and discover, and NOT the memorizing of any additional new patterns. It's navigating the various possible pathways available on the fingerboard that really open up the fingerboard.

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.

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

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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.


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Learn to create exciting solos in a variety of contemporary styles! Scales are used to improvise, create melodies and riffs. With broad knowledge of the essential scales that are used in contemporary music and a mastery of the ukulele's fingerboard and fingering principles, you're well on your way.

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