How to make a start on your little four string friend...
If you have much experience with the guitar then the Uke should be pretty easy to get going on - of course if you want to get amazing on it then you'll have to put the hours in but if you have the motor skills already going then I doubt you'll find getting started very hard!
Getting your Uke in tune is an essential first step. I recommend getting a tuner because you will find that most Uke's go out of tune pretty often! My Maton has a tuner built in, and some other ukes also have this feature, if yours does not then a small clip on tuner like the D'Addario NS Micro Tuner would be a great fit!).
The tuning is: G C E A
I think of the tuning like the thinnest four strings of a guitar with a capo at the 5th fret! This can make chords shapes easier to remember too.
So most people don't use a strap, they just grip it with their forearm... it can take a while to get used to it, I'd recommend sitting down and letting it rest on your lap when you first start and worry about playing it standing up a little later on.
I'll do a whole separate lesson on the basic chords but here's a few of the easiest ones to get you going. I'll get some proper chord boxes done soon, but I have to remake my guitar template!! So for now this shows you the frets from the top string (String 4, toward the sky) to the bottom string (String 1, nearest the ground).
C: 0 0 0 3
Am: 2 0 0 0
F: 2 0 1 0
G: 0 2 3 2
Comparing them with guitar grips: the C chord could be seen as the thinnest 4 strings of an Open G chord, the F like the top part of an Open C chord and the G looks exactly like an Open D. Guitarists MUST remember that there is a 'capo' on though and not get the shapes confused with the guitar shape names.
So strumming is very similar to playing guitar, it is possible to use a pick but most people seem to just use their first finger or thumb - my advice is to have a play about and go with what is comfortable with you when you start and worry about more technical aspects when you have been playing for a bit, if you want my recommended one it would be strumming using your first finger tip. It's very common to play even 8th notes, just playing regular down and up strums. There are of course more complicated patterns you can use later but as usual, starting simple is the key, just playing 4 down strums per bar on the beat and getting your chord changes smooth is the best thing to aim for when you start out!
A Basic Chord Sequence
One of the most basic chord sequences in music is called the I VI IV V, which is the chords C, Am, F and G. Try playing each one for two bars each (8 strums) and see if you recognise it, if you like it you could 'stand by me' ;) for the rest of the lessons.
Even more common is the I V VI IV sequence, C, G, Am and F for one bar each - you'll find hundreds of songs with this I V VI IV chord sequence.
So there's some basics to get you playing some tunes and having some fun on your uke.
More lessons coming soon!
Here's a link to Maton Ukuleles, makers of all my awesome acoustic instruments!
The Justinguitar Ukulele Songbook