From “un-cool” to “very-in”, the ukulele (or “uke”) has come a long way in popularity over the past few years. Where once ukes may have been hard to find, now high quality ukuleles are abundant and accessible. Ukuleles are great fun to play, are small and easy to carry around, and have a delightfully bright sound. It’s also quite easy to learn ukulele! But to start, you need to know how to hold a ukulele so that you can get the greatest benefit from playing the ukulele.

Parts of a Ukulele


Parts of the Ukulele

How to Hold a Ukulele Sitting Down

  1. Sit up straight on the front part of the chair as shown in the photo below.
  2. The ukulele should be close to your body in an upright position with the neck pointing slightly upwards.
  3. Some players prefer to sit with their legs crossed. Experiment to find the sitting position which suits you best.

The main aim is to be comfortable and have easy access to the ukulele fretboard. A music stand will also be helpful for reading ukulele sheet music.

How to Hold a Ukulele Sitting

How to Hold a Ukulele Standing Up

Stand with your weight evenly balanced on both feet and tilt the neck slightly upwards.

How to Hold a Ukulele Standing

Left Hand Position for the Ukulele

The left hand fingers are numbered as shown in the left photo below. Your fingers should be on their tips and placed just behind the frets, not on top of them, as shown in the right photo below.

Left Hand Finger Numbers for Uke Correct Left Hand Placement on Ukulele

Be careful not to allow the thumb to hang too far over the top of the neck (see left photo below), or to let it run parallel along the back of the neck (see right photo below). These techniques are incorrect and make it more difficult to play.

Incorrect Left Hand Thumb Placement Over Neck on Ukulele Incorrect Left Hand Thumb Position on Ukulele

How to Strum a Ukulele

Once you know how to hold a ukulele, then you will need to learn how to play the ukulele. When strumming the ukulele, you typically play all four ukulele strings at the same time with your right hand, using a downward motion. This is called a ukulele strum. Make sure you keep your hand relaxed, don’t tense up and strum from the wrist. Keep your wrist relaxed. If any notes buzz or sound deadened, you may have to press harder with the left hand fingers and make sure that your fingers are just behind the fret. You can choose to strum the ukulele with your first finger, thumb, all four fingers or a pick; as demonstrated in the photos below.

Right Hand Strumming the Ukulele with Your Index finger Right Hand Strumming the Ukulele with Your thumb

Right Hand strumming the Ukulele with Your fingers Right Hand Strumming the Ukulele with a Pick

How to Hold a Pick

A pick is a piece of plastic or felt shaped like a triangle. Thick felt picks are the most popular pick to use when playing the ukulele. To use a pick, hold it lightly between your thumb and first finger, as shown in the left photo. Then use the tip of the pick to play the string.

How to hold Felt Pick correct placement of felt pick above nylon string

We hope you found this post on how to hold a ukulele useful in starting your journey of learning how to play ukulele, or just improving your ukulele technique. You can find more free beginner Ukulele lessons on our blog, and as always you can continue learning ukulele with Learn To Play Music at – This Post is a modified exert from the book Progressive Beginner Ukulele by Peter Gelling. – Instructional photography by Sarah Petrusma.