How to Read Ukulele Tablature: A Beginners Guide

Reading ukulele tablature, also known as “tabs” are an easy to way to learn to read music and also to write songs for the stringed instruments. In this article, we are going to cover how you as a beginner can start reading ukulele tabs and get familiar with it.

Reading ukulele tabs is simple and one of the most straightforward ways you can progress to playing the instrument better.

The problem however with reading music tabs is that you cannot define how long each note should be played. Take piano for example, you can play a music just by looking at the piano sheet without even knowing what song you are playing.

With a tab, you can’t do that. And that’s the frustrating thing most people discover about it.

But there is a simple rule that you can follow to avoid getting frustrated about it.

It’s called the “hum it” rule. If you can hum the tune you see in the tab, then you can learn from it and try to play it. If you can’t hum it, then don’t try.

Avoid the frustration by just not trying to learn songs you can’t hum. As a beginner, you want to make this learning process as simple and straightforward as possible. The less peaks and valleys you go through, the better.

So without any further ado, lets jump into it.

 

Learning to Read Ukulele Tabs

There are some simple fundamentals you need to keep in mind when you are looking at a tab:

Horizontal Lines

The horizontal lines represent the strings. And there are 4 horizontal lines that represent the 4 ukulele strings. The first line from the top is the one that corresponds to the first string (the string that is near our leg) and the fourth line from the top represents the fourth string on the ukulele (the string that is closer to our heart).

 

The Numbers

The numbers on the lines represent which fret you should press and which string to pluck.

If you are right handed, you will be pressing the frets with your left hand and vice-versa. And you will be plucking the strings with your right hand if you are right handed.

In the example below, you see that there is a 2 on the first line. This means we will press the second fret on the first string and make a sound.

But you also see that there is a zero on the second line which means we will pluck that string but not press any fret. Why? Because there is no number on it.

We only press a fret if there is a number on it.

The Sequence of Notes

Speaking about the sequence, it is pretty easy to read. We read from left to right, just like everything.

 

Simultaneous Notes and Chords

As a beginner, you will find that trying to play simultaneous notes and chords is a bit challenging. Which is okay because you are just getting started. You will get used to is. Here’s how you play them.

If  you see the numbers vertically aligned, then you just press and pluck the corresponding frets and strings simultaneously. It does take a bit of getting used to like I mentioned above, but you will quickly get a hang of it.

By the way, if you want a list of cute ukulele songs that you want to try out, check out this post we wrote last week. They are some simple songs that you can master and play for your loved ones.

 

Rhythm and Strumming

When it comes to creating a rhythm pattern you will see that there is an annotation besides the line of numbers. They will be either a dot, flag, bar, etc. And for strumming, there will be an arrow that gives you the direction in which you should strum.

But here’s the confusing part, if the arrow is pointing upward, that corresponds to a downstroke. And an arrow pointing downward corresponds to an upstroke. I know this is a bit confusing but once you get your practice hours in, you will quickly get used to it.

Cute Ukulele Love Songs You Can Learn Right Now

Valentine’s Day is upon us and there’s no better way to make your girlfriend feel like the amazing woman she is than playing a ukulele love song for her. I wanted to curate this list early on for you guys so you can get a few weeks of practice is in before you have to play for your girlfriend.

Here’s a list of a few songs that you as a beginner can easily master in a few weeks and be ready to wow your girlfriend. Hopefully, you’ll get a chance to play it in public so you can get a small audience as well. And if you do, make sure you stay safe and wear a mask. Don’t want to risk your health or others for it.

Let’s jump into it!

 

Moonlight Bay by Doris Day

Originally this song was published by Edward Madden and Percy Wenrich back in 1912. And there have been a ton of artists that have recorded it in their own version of it. But for one reason or another, the Doris Day  version stuck with me as the most romantic version of this song.

This is one of the most fun songs you will play once you get the hang of it. Make sure you give a little swing to the strum to give a bit more taste to it. Also, pace it moderately. You don’t want to go too fast or too slow.

When you start to practice it, you can start slow and then pick up the speed as you get along.

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz

As the name suggests, this could be a perfect ukulele song for the Valentine’s Day.

It is almost like Jason wrote this song for his Valentine. It is one of the most popular songs because it has that carefree and uplifting feel to it.

While this could be the perfect Valentine’s Day song for you, I have some bad news for you – you will have to deal with the E chord. Most beginners have a hard time with it. But if you put the time in now, it will make it easier for you to play almost any other song with the E chord.

But here’s some good news as well – you only need to know 5 chords to play this song because for the most part, the song keep repeating. That makes it simple for you to follow along.

 

When I’m 64 by Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney wrote this song when he was 16. The Beatles used to play it in the early days when the electricity would go out in the clubs. Funny thing is, the song mentions Valentine’s in the lyrics. So its not like your girlfriend would have to think too much about why you are singing it for you.

Not just that, the overall song has a silly love song feel to it which everyone loves. This is perfect if you are someone who likes to joke around all the time and just have a fun time overall. Your girlfriend will know why you picked this song.

The hardest part about playing it will be the Ab7 chord. So you will have to practice it quite a bit to get the hang of it.

Also, you don’t have to stress out about it if you don’t perfect it. The best part about playing this song is that it has that carefree attitude. So if you play it in that attitude and hum the simple bass of the song in the intro, you will be all set.

 

Till There Was You by Meredith Wilson

Meredith Wilson wrote this song for his musical play The Music Man. Right out the gate, I have to tell you that if you pick this one, you will have to practice this song more than the others.

Only choose this one if you have the time to practice it everyday.

It is easy to practice. Just start by playing the chords one at a time until you get used to them and notice if your speed automatically starts increasing.

This is perfect if you like to combine playing ukulele along with singing. Its just that perfect combination of both and you can give it your own feel to it just to make it extra special for your lady.

 

Sh-Boom by The Chords

Sh-Boom is one of the most popular songs from the doo wop genre back in 1954 when it was just getting started. The original version isn’t as famous as the one played by the group The Chords.

The song is a bit fast compared to the others on this list, but in the beginning, you can slow it down and get the rhythm of it. Also, since you are playing this song on a ukulele you can slow it down even after you have almost perfected it.

Although, I would say that you should try to play it at the same speed as you hear it because that just makes it sound amazing.

The hardest part for you will be the main hook which is F-Dm-Gm-C

You will have to practice this progression a few times or even more than that depending on your current skill level. But once you get the hang of it, you will have most of the song down except for the bridge.

And that is it. This was a short list that I wanted to create for you romantic guys that want to take things up a notch for your girlfriends or wives to make them feel special.

Are there other songs that you can play?

Of course there are. And you can Google them. But the problem is, there will be some songs that just don’t translate well to the ukulele. So you will have to make sure that you are looking up all the chords and trying them out before deciding which song you will want to stick to.

But all the songs in this list translate very well to the ukulele. So feel free to pick any one from this and you won’t go wrong.