How to play some common ukulele scales

2 Mar 2015

Ukulele Scales

Ukulele scales are an important part of playing the ukulele.
A scale is just a collection of notes that evoke a particular sound, played in sequence. Scales are used to create melodies, and being familiar with playing your ukulele scales means that your ear and fingers are trained to play the right notes when you are faced with a melody to play.

The ukulele scales we’re going to look at are different ‘flavours’ of the D scale. Notice that none of these scales contain any open strings – this means you can use the same pattern at different points along the neck to play scales in different keys.

The first scale is D major. The major scale is the most commonly used scale. You will have heard the sound over and over again, in nursery rhymes, folk songs, and classical music.

Don’t forget to think about your fingering choices. Notice there are no notes played at the first fret. Because of that, it’s sensible to use our index finger to play the notes at the second fret, our second finger on the third fret, etc. That way we don’t have to move our hand position at all, as all the notes fall nicely under our fingers.

Here’s the D natural minor scale.

Notice how it has a sad sound when compared to the major scale. The fingering is a little more tricky for this one. It starts off with the same hand position as the D major scale (one finger per fret, starting with the index finger on fret 2), but when you reach the first string, your index finger needs to reach back a little to play the note at the first fret.


  • Try to stick with the finger-per-fret fingering system. This will pay off when you start playing melodies based on the ukulele scales.
  • Use a thumb rest stroke to play the notes (a rest stroke is when the thumb plucks the string and comes to rest on the next string down).
  • Try to keep an even tempo, even if it means going very, very slowly in the beginning! A metronome is a great tool to help you stay in time.
  • Once you can play the scales going upwards, try them downwards too (just read the tablature from right to left!).
  • Download our FREE Ukulele Scales PDF to learn more types of scales. Simply fill in the form in the green box for instant access (you’ll also receive 9 other useful ukulele PDFs!)
RELATED ARTICLES: Easy Ukulele Songs, Ukulele Tab

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