How To Hold A Ukulele – Guide And Tips
There’s a simple technique that can improve many aspects of the way you play and feel while playing the uke – and that’s good posture!
If you’re learning through a course, it’s a secret that your teacher has been showing you since he started teaching you. Also, it’s one of the first lessons taught in the best ukulele courses.
Edited by Ukulele Experts!
How To Properly Hold A Ukulele – The Basics
Why is it so important? Well, mostly because:
# 1 – It can save you from long-term injuries!
Yeah, we know playing the uke is not a contact sport, like Rugby – which we love, by the way.
Anyhow, if you’re serious about playing the uke, this is something you want to factorize into your practice time investment.
We’re very serious about this aspect because it’s true.
A bad posture can cause you long-term back, neck, shoulder, and even hand injuries from the strain of playing the uke without good posture.
At the very least, and if you’re a hardcore student and player, it can cause you to adopt a bad standing posture – which is hard to get rid of.
# 2 – It also affects how good you’re at playing!
If you want to play your best, you need to have a good posture while playing.
Aside from being the healthiest way, having a good posture is also the most efficient way of playing your uke.
This is because good posture gives you a better range of motion, which affects strumming, your chord shapes, and even how easy it is to play certain chords.
If you’re struggling with barre chords, you’re probably holding your uke with improper technique.
# 3 – It’s something so small, you can get it right from the beginning
Having good posture from the beginning will allow you to entirely master the uke.
It will also rid you of acquiring bad habits while playing, which are hard to eliminate once you’re used to them!
Also, it will rid you of the possibility of injuring yourself, which is our foremost goal with this article.
Something we forgot to mention up there is that, well, bad posture can also affect your uke, making it have a shorter lifespan to put it mildly.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of obtaining good posture in a simple, easy, and applicable manner.
Start playing the right way today!
Standing Position Vs. Sitting Position
After that lengthy intro – we’re very concerned! – we must discuss the two different postures you can use: standing up and sitting.
Holding A Ukulele – Standing position
Playing while standing up is the most common position.
It’s comfortable because the ukulele is not a heavy instrument, so if you’re straining your body, it’s probably because you haven’t achieved good posture.
It’s also common that it hurts when you try to have good posture, mostly because your body has adopted a natural bad position.
With a proper standing position, you can:
- Have improved playability because of a better range of motion.
- Avoid the different types of injuries we’ve mentioned.
- Protect your uke from a bad posture.
- Master the uke more easily.
We prefer the standing position because it’s simple, and we recommend it to most healthy people who don’t already have a back, knee, hip, or another type of injury that prevents them from standing.
Below, we explain how to obtain the right posture.
It all starts with a good base.
- Stand with your feet at a comfortable distance from each other, which is usually in line with shoulder-width.
- Lock your knees. This removes the strain from your leg muscles.
- Be relaxed. You shouldn’t ever play if you’re tight or tense, as this will surely lead to injury.
The chest should pop out a little bit, but the rest of your body should be relaxed.
If you’re a beginner, you might notice that it’s slightly hard to see the fretboard, which is ok.
Once you’ve mastered most chords, you won’t have to look at it!
To solve this, we recommend beginners master the chords while sitting since it’s way easier to check if you’re shaping them alright.
The right arm is what’s holding your uke from falling down, and you should press gently but firmly with the inside of your forearm.
The uke should rest on top of your chest and aligned like this:
- It should be placed on top of your breastbone or sternum.
- You should press only the lower, wider side of the body.
- The sound-hole should be pointing slightly to the right side if you’re pressing the body in the right position.
- The neck should also stick out a little bit forward.
Left-arm, hand, and elbow
Your left hand is your fretting hand – the one you’ll be pressing chords with.
At the same time, this hand will serve to complement the position you obtain by pressing the uke with your right arm.
Since the neck of the uke (so the fretboard) sticks out a bit, you can take advantage of that to press the shapes of the chords more lightly, and achieve better sounds.
Additionally, this is the correct way of holding it because it gives space to the soundbox to have enhanced resonance and sustain.
Your elbow should never stick out to the side so you can achieve a better wrist and hand position.
However, this may vary depending on the length of your arms, and the size of the uke you’re playing – for bigger ukes, it’s ok to stick it out a little bit.
Check out the following tips to achieve correct hand positioning:
- You should place your thumb on the back of the neck of your uke, and it shouldn’t stick out from above the fretboard.
- If your thumb sticks out, you won’t have the same strength to press the strings and range of motion for complex chords.
- The rest of your fingers should be disposed comfortably on top of your fretboard.
- A good measure for this is to check if the base of your fingers (and half of your palm if you have big hands) is visible and above the fretboard from your point of view.
Holding a Ukulele – Sitting Position
There are two types of sitting positions.
We call the most common one the straight sitting position, because it takes the same precepts of the standing position we explained above, while you relax your legs and back a little bit more.
And the Spanish guitar-style sitting position. In this position, you place the uke on your lap, leaving the neck exposed diagonally toward your fretting hand.
Playing while sitting, in either style, has several advantages that are worth considering:
- It’s easier for people who can’t stand up for long periods.
- It’s better for beginners because it’s easier to look at the fretboard.
- If you place the uke on your lap, it removes the possibility of straining your back, neck, shoulders, and arms too much – if you adopt a good sitting position, of course.
- If you place the uke on your lap, it also removes a little bit of the strain you put on your uke. This is because you don’t have to press it against your body with your forearm.
Take into account that, for tall people, the Spanish guitar style is rather impossible, because the instrument is too small for their bodies, making the position awkward.
Straight sitting position
The straight sitting position is almost exactly the same as standing from the waist up.
- Try to keep it in a good posture at all times.
- Set your feet on the ground however you like, but supporting correctly your good posture.
- And use the same posture we explained above from the waist up.
Spanish guitar style
As we briefly explained, not everyone can use this position because of the small size of the uke vs. the size of their bodies.
Following that same principle, you may be able to apply it with a bigger version of the uke, like the baritone ukulele.
To do it:
- Place the bottom of your uke on your lap.
- The neck of the uke should point up, and to the side of your fretting hand comfortably.
- Complete the position following the posture and hand positioning tips we gave you above.
This position is all about removing the strain from your uke, your back, neck, and shoulders.
We only recommend it if you can’t adopt a straight sitting position.
Left-handed people have three options:
- Learn how to play a regular uke – which is by far the best choice. If you’re left-handed, you must then replicate the tips above as they are.
- Learn how to play a uke for lefties. This choice has the disadvantage of the leftie uke: they’re more expensive than regular ones.
- Or reorganize the strings of a regular uke to play it from a left-handed position. Straight-up; this doesn’t work just as well, and it doesn’t work at all if you have an electroacoustic uke because the plug will be in an awkward position.
Pick the style that suits your needs!
Frequently Asked Questions – How to hold a ukulele
The ukulele is a right-handed instrument.
However, if you are left-handed, you have at least three options to solve the issue:
– Get a left-handed uke.
– Re-arrange a standard uke’s strings.
– Or learn how to play the uke as it is.
To hold a ukulele without it slipping beneath you, you can:
– Try and hold it with the inside of your forearm.
– Strum just with your hand – if you strum with your whole arm it will move around a lot!
– Develop hand and wrist mobility to improve your strum.
Check out our recommended straps for ukes if you can’t apply those tips.
The traditional way of strumming a uke is just to use your hand and fingers.
Now, there are several aspects you can take into account to adjust your playing style to your preference:
– Strumming with long nails.
– Strumming with a pick.
– Strumming with just your thumb or your index – some people even strum with their middle finger or all of their fingers!
Check out our article about how to strum a uke for an in-depth explanation.
Our personal opinion is no, they don’t.
Why? Because we’ve met many left-handed people that are just as good playing a standard uke as any right-handed person.
Don’t let your dominant hand dominate your musical future!
Still, if you’re bent on getting a left-handed uke, then stand by your decision and get it – because it’s surely the best for you if you truly believe that.
Take this guide with a pinch of salt – we can guide you however we think it’s right, but if you feel comfortable holding your uke behind your back, then that’s that!
However, do take into account that holding your uke the right way can save you from a lot of trouble in the long term.
Those issues include hurting yourself from a bad position, damaging your uke because you strain the body by holding it unproperly, and even hampering playability, thus taking power from your actual skill.
Our main concern is about how standing and holding your uke in the wrong position can give you an injure from bad posture, especially around the neck and the back.
You can buy a new uke if you break it – buying another neck is kinda hard.
Also, keep in mind that there are different holding styles.
We highly recommend that you check out each one, give them a test ride, and stick to the ones you like the most.
Don’t feel bad if you can’t play in certain positions, because there are things that are not so much under your control, like the length of your arms!
Instead, try to realize that there is no spoon – all you want to do is play the uke, and the position you do it in shouldn’t be that important if it gets the job done efficiently.
Are you holding your uke comfortably and efficiently?