How to Read Ukulele Music Notation

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For the uninitiated, music notation can look less like musical symbols than birds on a telephone wire or insects crawling on a page—inscrutable information that they haven’t a clue what to do with. But many who read notation find it an invaluable tool for learning new music and sharing it with others, while getting to better know their instruments. 

To get the most from our magazine, which is packed with music for songs and lessons in each issue, you don’t have to become a virtuosic sight-reader. But it would be a good idea to have at least a little understanding of how notation works. As with guitar and other fretted instruments, ukulele notation is typically conveyed in several ways—through the standard staff notation that any trained musician can read, and by tablature and chord frames, which are ukulele- and even tuning-specific. 

Here’s a comprehensive primer, covering all of the notational aspects you’ll typically find on these pages, for any type of ukulele. For handy reference, download the free PDF of the notation guide here. Devote a portion of your practice time to learning how notation works—and reading new music—and those strange symbols will become rich with musical information.

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