How to Read Sheet Music for Ukulele- Step-by-Step Guideline

Being able to read and write music is an important skill for musicians. For ukulele, there are two ways to do this. One is Tablature and another is a music sheet.

What is sheet music? Sheet music is a universal music language and has been used for hundred years. Its also known as standard notation. It is possible to write down any instrument music on a musical sheet. Knowing the basics of how to play sheet music, you can able to play any music on any instrument you want. 

Learning to read and write music opens up a whole new musical world to explore. For absolute beginners, it’s a bit difficult to learn but with proper practice and guidelines, everyone can learn it. Let’s explore how to read sheet music for the ukulele. 

Steps to read sheet music for the ukulele

Sheet music is made up of a variety of symbols and the most basic ones are staff, clefs, and notes. Every instrument’s music sheet contains these fundamental symbols. To learn music language you must familiarize yourself with these basics.

Step-1: Learn the Basics

Musical Stuff

The staff is the framework of the music sheet on which all music notation is placed. It consists of five horizontal lines and four spaces. Unlike the tabs, those lines don’t represent the strings of ukuleles. But it shows the value of a note.

Clef

There are three types of common clef on sheet music. These are the G-clef, the C-clef, and the F-clef. But for the ukulele, we need two of them. The C-clef for the classic ukulele and the F-clef for the bass ukulele. 

G-clef (Treble clef)

The treble clef is a common clef for ukulele and guitar players. One can easily point out this clef by seeing the ornamental ‘G’ letter at the beginning of the staff. As treble clef is used for high notes music, it suits ukulele music. Let’s see how treble clef looks and where to find notes! 

Treble clef

Similar to all staff, the treble clef comes with 5 horizontal lines and 4 gaps. Each and every line and gap contains notes indication. From the bottom to the upper, the 5 lines indicate the EGBDF, and the gaps indicate FACE. Personally, I use common mnemonics for remembering it. For lines, I remember “Every Good Boy Deserves Football”. And for spaces between lines, I remember the word “FACE”. 

F-clef (Bass clef)

The bass clef notates for the lower registers of music. That’s why it suits lower pitch instruments like the bass ukulele or bass guitar perfectly. Let’s have a look at the bass clef:

Bass clef

The bass clef lines indicate notes GBDFA and the spaces indicate notes ACEG. Sometimes it’s difficult to memorize notes. You can use some tricks to remember. For example, “Good Boys Deserve Football Always” and  “All Cows Eat Grass”. You must memorize these notes’ placement for playing music with a music sheet. 

Notes

Notes on a music sheet’s staff tell us which notes to play and how long to play them. It’s not that difficult to figure out which notes to play to get the exact tune. but the real difficulty comes when it’s time to memorize which strings to pluck and play for the exact tune. Let’s have a look at finger positioning for playing exact notes on the ukulele.

ukulele notes

There are five types of notes symbols on sheet music. These are whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, 8th notes, and the 16th notes. 

music notes

So, how long to play those notes? Let’s count 1, 2, 3, 4! The duration of counting 1-4 is the duration to play whole notes. Similar to that, to play the half notes count 1, 2! The time it takes is the duration of a half note. What’s about the quarter notes? The quarter notes duration is like counting a single number. You can play 4 quarter notes continuously within the duration of a whole note. 

The length to play 8th notes takes ½ of a quarter note and the length of the 16th notes is ¼ of a quarter note. In short, for playing the eighth note you have to play notes very fast and for the sixteenth note, you have to play faster than the eighth note. 

notes measurement

There are some other ways to extend notes duration. The dot after the half notes is equal to a (half notes + quarter notes). That means if you see a half note with dots on the right side, play notes longer than a half note and less than whole notes. If we put it on our counting method, just count 1,2,3 normally. The time it takes is the duration of a half+quater note. Another thing that enlarges notes duration is TIE. You can see a curved line on the top of the stuff showing the connection between the bar lines. This symbol is called TIE. to play this, you have to tie two values to play one note. For example, a half note tied with quarter notes. To play this you have to play the exact same notes that stuff indicates to play but a bit longer in length (half+quater). 

dots note and ties note

Step-2: Learn Time and Notes Measurement

Unlike the tabs, sheet music shows the timing of the exact notes, where to slow down, where to speed up and where to take a rest, and how long to take. The standard notation uses some signature and rest symbols to give step-by-step instructions on times and notes measurement. Let’s break it down!

Time signature

The time signature plays an important role in sheet music. It allows users to understand notes measurement per bar line. Let’s make this easier. Have a look at this photo below!

4/4, 3/4, 2/4 time signature

The first-time signature is the very common time signature in sheet music. The 4/4 time signature indicates to play 4 quarter notes per bar line. But that does not mean there will be exact 4 quarter notes. 2 quarter notes and a half notes are equal to 4 quarter notes. In short, 4/4 time signature indicates to play a whole note or, 4 quarter notes per bar line. 

the 3/4 time signature tells the user to play 3 quarter notes per bar line. As this signature is not that common in ukulele music, for beginners it’s not recommended to worry about it. And lastly, the 2/4 time signature is the rare one. In this case, you have to play 2 quarter notes per bar line. 

Key signature

A signature that tells us which notes are sharp or flat is called a key signature. There are two types of key signatures. One is sharp (#) and another is flat ( ♭ ).

So, how do play these notes? That’s super easy!

To play sharp notes you have to play notes one fret up and to play flat you have to do this one fret down.

Rest

The rest symbols are some of the most important parts of sheet music. It allows the user to understand rest time between two measurements. 

There are five common rest symbols in ukulele standard notation. These are whole rest, half rest, quarter rest, eighth rest, and sixteenth rest. 

rest in sheet music

Whole rest: A whole rest lasts as long as a whole note. 

Half rest: A half rest lasts as long as a half notes

Quarter rest: A quarter rest lasts as long as a quarter notes

Eighth rest: A eighth rest lasts as long as an eighth notes

Sixteenth rest: A sixteenth rest lasts as long as a sixteenth notes

Repeat

Repeat plays an important role in sheet music. It makes music easy to read and write. the most common repeat symbols are ||: & :||. These symbols are known as the start repeat symbol and end repeat symbol. The end repeat symbol tells us to play the notes from the beginning or from the starting repeat symbol.

Want to know about other complex repeat symbols? Read here, Repeat in sheet music.

Other signs for time and notes measurement:

Notating Articulations

This sign tells you to hold the notes longer than the note’s actual duration. 

Notating Articulations

The 8va sign tells the user to play notes one octave higher than written.

Notating Articulations

This sign tells to add extra volume to indicated notes. 

Notating Articulations

This last sigh tells you to stop the note as soon as it is played. 

Step-3: Practice (Our Guideline on Ukulele Sheet Music)

There is a big difference between knowledge and real-time experience. You won’t be able to understand the whole lesson without practicing the whole. So, let’s grab your ukulele and start practicing with us.

standard notation for practice

In this ukulele music sheet, we can see the clef at the beginning. This is a treble clef. So, the notes between the line will be E, G, B, D, F, and the gap will be F, A, C, E. After the treble clef there is a time signature. If you read the whole previous lesson carefully then it will be very easy for you. So, play this quarter and whole notes and jump on the next practice lesson.

standard notation for practice

Here, we can see a half note on the beginning and quarter, eighth, and a whole note on the line. Play this easy one and jump on to the next section.

standard notation for practice

Rest plays an important role in every music. It’s important to take a rest between two notes to make music comfortable to listen to. Here, we can see quarter rest at the starting point. So, take a rest as much you take time for a quarter note.

ukulele standard notation for practice

Memorizing key signatures is a bit difficult for actual beginners. It’s because the key signature always remains at the beginning of the music sheet and you have to memorize it till the end. In this section, we can see the 3/4 time signature at the beginning. That means there will be three beats per bar line. Let’s play this easy one. Remember! Here all F notes will be sharp notes.

ukulele standard notation for practice

Don’t you know how to play dot and sixteen notes? We already mentioned it before. For playing dotted half notes, you have to add an extra 50% time for the exact dotted notes. And to play sixteen notes perfectly you have to be very fast at finger tapping and plucking.

music sheet for practice

Now practice this sixteenth and dotted note. It might a bit harder for noobs but it will be easy with day-by-day practice.

ukulele music for practice

Let’s try some flat notes. Here, we can see all B notes are flat. So, play all the B notes one fret down.

sheet music for practice

What’s about notating articulation? It may sound new to you. well, let’s explain! Here, we can see the notes slide at the starting. Slide means sliding fingers from one fret to another for the different textures of tune. To play these slide notes, tap the F note (first fret of E string) on your ukulele fretboard then pluck strings. After that slide your finger to the G note (3rd fret of E string).

The next articulation we can see is called hammer-on. You have to do the exact thing as you do with a hammer and bricks but the plot is different. Here, hammer-on means tapping tuning notes using finger force. To play this hammer-on, you need to play the ‘A’ note and then tap the same strings ‘B♭’ note. Remember! All the ‘B’ notes on this sheet are flat. It is because there is a flat key signature at the beginning.

The half note and rest are on the line after hammer-on. That’s so simple to play. The difficulties come at the last notes of the second measure. There is a quarter ties note from the 2nd measure to a whole note from the 3rd measure. To play this articulation tap and pluck F note as long it takes time to count 1,2,3,4,5 (1+4=5).

sheet music for practice

In this practice season, we can see new articulation on the line. It is called pull-off. To play this articulation tap D and C notes altogether on the exact same string and play. After that release a D note to get a pull-off effect on the tune. Remember! You have to take your finger a bit downward then upward while releasing to get the extra sound effect.

music notes for practice

Let’s try some multiple key signatures! In this music sheet, we can see four sharp symbols at the beginning. That tells us all the G, F, E, D notes are sharp. So you have to play all the G, F, E, D notes one fret up. So, practice this lesson carefully because it is not as easy as it looks.

The Bottom Line

Mastering sheet music level-up musical skill and make learner able to read and write down music. To gain this professional skill, all you need is strong attention through the lesson on ukulele sheet music and extreme practice. We hope our article on sheet music for the ukulele was helpful to you. If any queries, feel free to comment below!

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