Learning the Ukulele Fretboard

By | August 1, 2015

Ukulele Fretboard

I’m getting ready to tackle a pretty big topic that’s been in the back of my mind for a long time: Ukulele Fretboard Intuition.

My goal with fretboard intuition is to methodically take my ukulele skills to a whole new level. If you’re like me, you know your chords, you can get through a new tab arrangement with relative ease, and you have a basic knowledge of music theory. My skill level allows me to do a lot on the instrument, but I know there’s a lot further I could take it. I also know that learning more arrangements and increasing my dexterity won’t get me there.

Consider spoken language. It’s an incredibly complicated skill we all have, and we do it without any effort at all. We speak at an immediate, intuitive level. My sense for some time has been that learning the ukulele fretboard in a few different ways and at a deeply memorized level could give the same kind of fluency on the instrument as I have in spoken language. Or at least something close to it.

What do I mean by “a few different ways”? Well, we can approach memorizing the fretboard from a few different angles, and learning all the angles will give a 360 degree view. We’re talking serious ninja skills here. Some of the “angles” I’ve identified are:

  • Notes – Can you intuitively play all the Gb notes on your ukulele? What if I needed a Gb near an E?
  • Chords – Can you find all the C minor chords quickly? If you’re up at the 10th fret and need a C minor, do you know where to find it?
  • Inversions – Taking the basic chord forms to the next level, inversions rearrange the notes of a chord in every possible way. Using inversions, there are tons of ways to play every chord on the fretboard.
  • Scales & Modes – Learning scales and modes gives you truly ninja-like soloing ability. And I don’t mean just memorizing scales, I mean understanding what notes go into a scale and why. If you’ve memorized the notes on the fretboard, fingering the scale is a solved problem.

There may be more, but this is certainly enough to keep me busy for a while. I’ll be putting together a plan and study tools (yay, flashcards!) to learn this stuff and, of course, will share it all here.

In the mean time, here are past posts I’ve done on this topic.

Common Ukulele Chord Forms with Alternates

Memorize Traditional Notation for Ukulele

Ukulele Fretboard Memorization Tool


Photo Credit: monsieurgordon @ Flickr


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