Introduction: Advanced Ukulele: Using Tabs

When learning to play ukulele, most of us start by playing chords (C, Am, F etc) and the melody is played using other methods, be that singing, humming or whistling. Another way to play is called or "finger picking". This method generally "picks" the melody one note at a time (think violin). Although this does provide a melody line, you miss out on the fullness of the music.

Combining the two methods (chording and finger picking) gives you the entire package...a ukulele solo (sometimes called finger styling). But how is this accomplished? How is it notated?

Tablature or Tabs

If you can read music (don't worry if you can't), you will realize that a single note on a score can be played on any number of strings. Even for finger picking, it is often difficult to know which string to use when looking at a note. So using a musical score isn't specific enough.

Tablature or Tabs was created for guitar and adapted to ukulele. Basically, tabs tell you exactly which strings to play, where to fret them and when to play, thus, providing a full arrangement of the piece.

This instructable will get you started in using ukulele tabs.


A ukulele
A willingness to learn

Step 1: What Do Tabs Look Like?

I've provided an example of a song with uke tabs....that famous piece Chopsitcks.

In the provided image, you will see two parts that are self explanatory. If you can read music, you should recognize the Piano part, but the Ukulele part will look rather strange. It is really quite simple.

Lets review the ukulele strings. They are tuned G C E A from top to bottom. The tabs are written the opposite way with the top line being A followed by E C G. So if you think of placing the music on a table with the ukulele beside it, you'll be fine.

Step 2: How Do I Play?

The numbers on the Tabs indicate which fret to you (don't confuse this with which finger to use). So, for our Chopsticks example, you'd press the first fret on the E string and pluck the G and E string. Do this 6 times.

Now, don't use your left hand, but pluck the G and E string 6 times (thus the 0 fret).

Hopefully you get the idea. Watch the next set because you'll need to remove you finger for one beat then replace it (the 0 in bar 6).

Step 3: Is That All?

Yes, that's basically all there is to tabs. It does help if you can read music for the timing, but if you play songs that you know, the tabs will tell you the string/fret combos and your ear will tell you the timing.

Step 4: Want More?

If you have requests, send me an email, message etc and I'll see what I can do. Of course, check out my web page:

as I'll put completed Tabs there.