Finger Placements on the Ukulele

by Cara Batema Google
The ukulele is a fun instrument to play.

The ukulele is a fun instrument to play.

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The ukulele is a string instrument that originated in Hawaii. It has since become popular not only in Hawaiian folk music, but also as part of country, rock, indie and other modern styles of music. The ukulele is similar to the guitar, but it is much smaller and has only four strings. The technique of playing the ukulele is similar to that of the guitar, so guitarists can usually pick up the ukulele quickly.

Hand Position

Curve your fingers and make a "U" shape with your hand. Place the thumb of your left hand in the middle of the back of the neck of the ukulele. You want to keep your thumb in the back rather than letting it slip up; a person sitting in front of you should not be able to see your thumb stick out above the fret board. Your other fingers will be ready to play on the fret board. Keeping your thumb back prevents tension and pain after playing for a while, and it also keeps your palm from touching the fret board and muting strings while you play.


Chord diagrams are easy ways for you to understand where to put your fingers on the fret board. There are four lines going down, one for each string. The lines going across the page show the different frets. Dots placed on a vertical line show you where to put a finger; sometimes the dots are numbered, which refers to a finger number. Your index finger is number one, middle is two, ring is three, and pinky is four. Your thumb does not get a number because you do not use it to play on the fret board. An "X" above the vertical line tells you not to play that string, and an "O" means you should play the open string. The C chord, for example, shows a dot with a number "3" on the third fret of the first string (the one all the way to the right). Put your third finger on the third fret of the first string and strum all the strings to play this chord.

Fret Board Placement

When you place your finger on the fret board of the ukulele, you should use the tip of your finger. Do not have your fingers flat. Your finger tip should also not rest directly on the fret bar, but just behind it. If you have your finger on the bar, the sound will be muted. If your finger is too far back and closer to the fret before the one you want to play, then you may get a buzz or problem with intonation.


The ukulele has about 12 to 20 frets, depending on the size of the instrument. You can make chords anywhere on the neck, but most players stick to the first few positions, meaning your index finger usually plays the first, second or third frets. Each consequent fret goes up a half step, so if you understand some music theory and how to build chords, once you learn where each note is located, you can build your own chords. To play on the ukulele, keep your fingers curved; flattening your fingers shows poor technique and can cause pain and poor sound quality.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

Photo Credits

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