1. Fasten a non-slip piece of rubber at the bottom of your ukulele.
Holding the ukulele correctly is one of the single most things you can do to improve your playing. If your ukulele moves around too much whilst you are playing it you will never hit the notes accurately. Ukuleles are often very shiny. If you place a bit of non-slip rubber at the bottom of the ukulele (I use one of those non slip matts that you put on your dash board to stop a phone rolling off) it will stop it sliding everywhere. Sit up nice and straight and ‘clamp’ the ukulele between your inner arm and your leg.
2.Angle of attack on the strings.
Lots of players fail to achieve the best tone from their ukulele simply because their angle of attack on the strings is wrong. Don’t come straight up towards the strings – come across the strings towards your elbow. This will give a much sweeter sound.
3. Keep your fingers close to the fret board.
Try and make your fingers as efficient as possible. Achieve this by keeping your fingers close to the frets at all times. Often beginners let their fingers (especially their pinky) move too far away from the fret board. The further away your fingers are, the further they have to move. If your fingers are a long way from the fret board they will be inaccurate and slow.
4. Add dynamics and ornamentation to your playing.
Try and experiment with different tones when you are playing the ukulele. If you play close to the bridge, this is called Ponticello and it will give a more metallic sound. If you play further up the neck, this is called Dole and the sound will be sweeter. If you play two passages in a piece that are very similar, the second time, try changing the tone.
5.Play with others.
Playing with other people will improve your timing. If you don’t have the opportunity to play with anyone, consider a book like 2Kulele which is a book of duets, but the second ukulele part has been recorded so you can play along. My best students are the ones who improve their timing by jamming with others.
Paul Mansell is a professional ukulele player/performer and author. He has released 4 books – Classical Ukulele, Ukulele School, 2Kulele (with Tony Mizen) and Modern Pieces for Ukulele. You can contact Paul at www.paulmansell.co.uk and his books are available via musicroom.com