How to Play a C Major Scale on Ukulele

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to look at the twelve major scales and how to play those on ukulele. In the most basic way, a scale is a collection of notes arranged in ascending or descending order.

Every scale is built upon a root note called tonic. So in a C major scale, the tonic note of the scale is the note C.

There are only twelve major scales because there are only twelve notes in Western music from which we can build a scale. If we know a C major scale like the back of our hand, we can easily modify it later to play the other major scales.

For a broader explanation about scales, check out my post Ukulele Scales Explained for Beginners.

Why You Need to Learn Scales

Let’s be honest. While memorizing scales and patterns is an excellent exercise for your mind, that process can be quite boring and monotonous. I’m not going to try to tell you otherwise. :) (How’s that for some motivation?!)

However, we don’t learn scales because they are so fun. We learn scales because they equip us to play music that we might have shied away from before just because we didn’t understand it. The biggest part to successfully playing a piece of music is understanding what that song is doing. Scales allow you to understand any song by giving you a context and a framework for the chords and notes you are playing.

Let me unpack what this really means.

For example, if you know your scales, you don’t need a chord diagram (such as my chord library) to tell how you to play a certain chord. This means if you see a weird chord like Gadd9, you know which note to add to the chord and where to add it on the fretboard to make the chord an “add9.”

If you’re a songwriter and you know your scales, all the sudden you have a palette of creative options you can select from to build and create a beautiful and memorable song.

If you enjoy fingerpicking songs, you can look at a piece of sheet music and know exactly what notes to play and where to play them on the fretboard.

It’s true that you can play hundreds of songs without knowing a thing about scales or music theory, but if you really want to take your ukulele playing to the next level, and unlock a lot of creative options, learning scales is essential.

How to Build a C Major Scale

For these lessons on scales, we’re starting with a C major scale because it is the only major scale without any sharps or flats. If you’re at all familiar with a piano, this means the C major scale is only played on the white keys (no black keys).

There are only seven different notes in a C major scale.

The C major scale uses the notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

As you can see on the above musical staff, the C major scale starts on C and goes up to B. After the B note, the scale starts to repeat again, but on a C note an octave higher.


As I explained in my previous lesson Ukulele Scales Explained for Beginners, the quality of a scale (e.g. major, minor, etc.) is determined by the intervals between the notes of the scale.

The intervals we want to concern ourselves with are half step and whole step intervals.

Half Step & Whole Step

As you can see, when you play a note one fret higher than the original note, this is an interval of a half step. When you play a note two frets higher than the original note, this is an interval of a whole step.

A major scale has a specific pattern or arrangement of whole steps and half steps.

Major Scale Interval Pattern

This section here is the key to playing ANY major scale on ukulele.

If we look at the piano keys, it’s easy to see the pattern we use for a major scale. Because in this lesson we are looking at the C major scale, the scale demonstrated on the piano keys is a C major scale.

Again, since this is a C major scale, there are no sharps or flats (we don’t play the black keys). If we start on the C note at the far left and ascend to the B note to the right, we see that our interval pattern for a major scale is whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.

If we know this pattern, this means we can start on any note of the ukulele, apply this interval pattern of whole steps and half steps, and we have a major scale!

How to Play a C Major Scale on Ukulele

Now that we know how a major scale is built, we can apply this structure to playing any scale. As I mentioned, we want to start learning the C major scale because it has no sharps or flats. If we know the C major scale, we can use this as a starting point for easily learning other scales.

The Easiest Way to Play a C Major Scale

Like I said above, we can apply that whole step, half step interval pattern to any note to build a major scale. However, in order to play a C major scale, we need to build our major scale by starting on a C note (tonic!). Makes sense.

Let’s use our open C string (second to top string) as a starting point to build our C major scale:

As you can see, we start by plucking our open C string.

Because we know that the first interval of a major scale pattern is a whole step, we know we have to go up two frets (a whole step!) to get to the D. From there, we continue to apply the whole step, half step pattern of a major scale.

Because we started on a C, this is a C major scale.

The Most Practical Way to Play a C Major Scale

The thing about scales on the ukulele is that it isn’t very practical to play a scale just on one string. The best way to learn scales on the ukulele is to learn them across all the strings and in different positions.

There are five positions from where we can play the notes of a C major scale on the fretboard of the ukulele. For all these positions, the blue note represents the tonic note of a C major scale (the note C is tonic!).

C Major Scale: Position #1

For this position, you want to assign your index finger to fret any of the notes that fall in the 1st fret. Assign your middle finger to fret any of the notes that fall in the 2nd fret, your ring finger to the 3rd fret, and your pinky to the 4th fret.

C Major Scale: Position #2

Like the last position, assign your index, middle, ring, and pinky finger to fret the notes that fall between the 2nd and 5th frets.

C Major Scale: Position #3

This position is a little different. For the notes on the top two strings, your four fingers will hover over the 4th to 7th frets. When you get to the notes on the bottom two strings, your fingers will shift to hover over the 5th to 8th frets to fret the notes.

C Major Scale: Position #4

Assign your four fingers to fret the notes that fall between the 7th and 10th frets.

C Major Scale: Position #5

This is another position where you will need to shift your fingers. For the notes that are played on the top two strings, hover your four fingers over the 9th to 12th frets. For the notes that are played on the bottom two strings, hover your four fingers over the 10th to 13th frets.

If you have a smaller sized ukulele, it’s quite possible you don’t even have enough frets to play this 5th position. That’s okay!

How to Practice These Scale Positions

Learning the pattern of these five different positions is actually really easy with a little bit of practice. You’ll find that these patterns are easy to remember and not that difficult to play in the long run.

The biggest challenge is remembering the individual note names. So as you practice, it’s important to say out loud the note you are fretting.

It’s also extremely important to remember where the tonic notes are across the fretboard. If you can find the tonic note, you can more easily figure out how to play the rest of the scale.

As you practice these scale positions, I would only dedicate 15 to 30 minutes a day. You can practice more if you’d like, but what you’ll find is that your brain will need a rest in order to retain these different scales.

Final Notes

The last thing I want to quickly mention is about the ukulele tuning.

Because the top string of the ukulele is tuned higher than the middle two strings, when you’re playing these positions, it’ll sound a little weird if you’re starting on the top string, because the notes being played in succession are not in ascending order. If this throws you off too much, you can just focus on the position of the bottom three strings for now.

There is A LOT of information in this post. If something didn’t click for you, I encourage you to read this over again very slowly. As always, you can post a question or a comment right below this lesson! I’d love to hear from you and try to help in anyway I can.

We’re going to continue to look at the eleven other major scales on the ukulele. It’s a lot, but if we learn the C major scale, the other eleven are actually quite easy. You’ll see in the next lesson. :)

C Major Scale: All Positions

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  1. Keithmj

    Thanks Brett. I have been putting this off but guess it is about time to learn it. Just don’t expect to many tricks from an old dog like me. I am sure that this will be enjoyed by all fun loving Ukulele players who love this site. It will be a big hit..Keith

  2. Love it. Looking forward to the next lesson

    Making a plea for Low G users please.

    • Hey Brian, all this stuff applies for low G users since the notes are the same–just an octave lower. Playing these scales on a low G ukulele will actually sound more naturally because you’re playing a completely ascending pattern.

      • William

        I have no idea how to do these exercises! I have read this “slowly” dozens of times and just don’t get it. What are we suppose to be doing? Are we playing ALL the letters? I don’t have six fingers! I am a true beginner so I hope you understand.

        • Hi William, for each scale diagram, play the notes one at a time starting at the top g-string to the bottom A-string. Don’t try to play the notes all at once.

  3. Tony Tucker

    Huge thanks to you for taking on this project. Not easy to come up with a pretty easy explanation of musical theory, even the basics. Looks like you are doing it. I sorta’ learned much of this when I was young and glued down to the piano bench. But I broke away when we got to the Circle of Fifths. Time for me to review without all the struggles. Great job! Tony

    • Thanks, Tony! Music theory is a big monster that is hard to tackle. Glad you enjoy the lesson.

  4. Hal

    I’m an absolute beginner, so here is my stupid question…
    When playing the scale (I’m looking at position 1), is low c played on the open c string and high c (the far end of the scale) played on the 3rd fret of the first string?

    • Hey Hal, you got it. The lowest C that you can play on a ukulele in standard tuning is the open C string. If you are in that first position, the high C at the far end of the scale is on the 3rd fret of the bottom string.

      As a side note, the C note on the 8th fret of the second to bottom string is the same note in terms of pitch and octave as the C note on the 3rd fret of the bottom string.

      Fun stuff! :)

      • Lee

        Sorry am new to ukulele, am curious why can’t we use one string to play all the notes rather than learning the different position? And also if the C note on 8th fret, second string is the same as 3rd fret, 1st string C note, why do we need have the 8th fret?

        • Lee, these are great questions. The main reason you learn the notes in a position like this is so you can easily reach and switch between different notes in a scale. For example, if you try learning how to fingerpicking “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in this lesson here, if you download the sheet music and tab for the song, you’ll notice that the notes you fret and pluck are close together so it is easier to switch between the notes.

          As for your second question about finding the same note across the fretboard, this is extremely helpful in more complex solo fingerpicking pieces where you are required to move up to higher notes on the fretboard and then descend quickly to lower notes. For example, in a fingerpicking piece, you might be plucking the 1st string at the 12th fret (A note), but then have to descend to a C note at the 8th fret of the 2nd string. In this context, it would make more sense to pluck the C note at the 8th fret of the 2nd string rather than trying to move your entire hands and fingers down to the 3rd fret of the 1st string.

          • Kim

            Hi Brett

            Another beginner learning music. How do we know if a note is same note in terms of pitch and octave with another? Any logic we could follow?

          • Hi Kim, welcome!

            The easiest way to know if a note is the same note in terms of pitch and octave with another is its relative position with other notes on the ukulele fretboard. For example, if you play a note on the 2nd fret of the C-string (a D note), you can play the octave of that D note on the 5th fret of the bottom A-string. If you take this “position” where the octave note is relative to the C-string, you can find other octave notes.

            If you’re meaning listening to octave notes audibly, as in, hearing two separate notes: one reference note and another note played at a higher octave–-the best way to determine if they are in an octave is if they “blend” together audibly. The sound should be smooth, pure and “in-tune” with each other. This takes practice for your ear to detect these octave notes.

  5. Johanna Hartgring

    This is very useful! I understand now how it “works”! Thank you!

  6. tom nelson

    Well done.
    I think you will take this in small enough steps to easily follow. You might want to tell your fans that music and the writting of music has come down to us through thousands of years. This makes some of the things we do in music and the way we talk music a little illogical. ( why does the flat sign have a sharp pointed bottom and the sharp symbol lokks like a flattened bug on my windshield ? ) Some things are just the way they are.
    Looking forward to your next post !

  7. Will

    Hey Brett,
    I’m a real music and uke beginner, but I actually love playing scales and learning music theory on my Uke.
    Can you explain why in your diagrams there are 11 notes in the scale rather than 8 notes? If we take position 1, I would normally start by playing C open on the second to top string and play C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C and not use the top string at all. Could you explain why have you labeled G,A,B on the top string, where do these fit in?

    • Hey Will, excellent question!

      Each of these positions demonstrate all the notes that are found in a C major scale in that position. So the reason I included the G, A, and B on the top string is just to show that in that first position, those three notes are also found in a C major scale.

      The blue dots are important because they show the root or starting note (tonic) of a C major scale (C!). Typically, when you want to play a C major scale, you would start on the root note and ascend up the scale to the tonic note an octave higher.

      However, it’s good to learn all the notes in that position, because you’ll find that in songs that fingerpick a melody, there will often be an overlap between positions. So for example, in a song, the sheet music might ask you to play a C note on the 8th fret of the second to bottom string (3rd position), but then later on in the piece, it might play that same exact note, but on the 3rd fret of the bottom string (1st position).

      Hopefully, that answers your question. When you’re talking music theory, the words and explanation can make it seem harder than what it really is in practice. :)

      • Will

        Gotcha, thanks !

  8. John Dunn

    Great information, many thanks Brett. BTW it actually works right way up down under in Oz.

  9. Andy

    Hey Brett,
    thanks for your effort! As Keithmj above, I was avoiding moving from chords to scales. Therefore I greatly appreciate that you mention this aspect and give us the chance to follow you, one scale at a time.
    I think the uke is predestined as a solo instrument anyway due to it’s rather high pitch, and we sure need scales for those. With some background in music theory and <15 years on the piano, I'm hoping to get somewhere in that regard with you're lessons. 😉
    Take care and best regards from Cologne, Germany,

  10. Jane

    I have been using my electronic tuner to help me with learning these scales – easy to check you have got the note right and adjust as required up or down . Made it a lot simpler for me anyway.

  11. ukerick

    Brett, thanks for this post. As I get more experience playing, I’ve started to join in on informal sessions with other instruments such as guitars, flutes, harmonicas, even a trumpet. I’m still very much a low intermediate player and my challenge has been playing along to songs in other keys. I hope that learning the scales and how to use a capo will help me better able to follow along.

  12. Dennis

    Videos of you playing each of the positions would be helpful.

  13. Rhonda

    In the first position, where is the e note? Is it just the open e string? When you are referring to the top string is that a g or the a string? Need to get my bearings! Otherwise, great explanations.

    • Yep, the E note in the first position is the open E string. Whenever I’m referring to the strings, I’m viewing it from if I’m holding the ukulele. So the top string would be the G string and the bottom string would be the A string.

  14. red avendano

    great lesson!love it!

    many thanks!

  15. Dennis

    Are the following fingerings correct?
    Position #1
    notes C D E F G A B C
    finger 0 2 0 1 3 0 2 3
    string 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4
    fret 0 2 0 1 3 0 2 3

    Position #2
    notes C D E F G A B C
    finger 4 1 3 4 2 4 1 2
    string 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 4
    fret 5 2 4 5 3 5 2 3

    Position #3
    notes C D E F G A B C
    finger 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4
    string 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3
    fret 5 7 4 5 7 5 7 8

    Position #4
    notes C D E F G A B C
    finger 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 4
    string 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4
    fret 8 10 8 9 10 12 14 15

    Position #5
    notes C D E F G A B C
    finger 3 1 3 4 1 3 1 2
    string 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4
    fret 12 10 12 13 10 12 14 15

    • It looks those positions work. I see that for each position you are trying to play from the tonic note. It’s very important to know where these root (tonic) notes are across the ukulele, so this approach can be very helpful.

      I would also continue to learn the other notes in each of the five positions. Knowing these notes in the whole entire position will be EXTREMELY helpful when we learn other eleven major keys. :)

      • Dennis

        For positions 2 though 5, if I move down one fret, I get the C# scale, and if I move down two frets I get a D scale. Is that correct? I notice that I can use the same strings and fingering (moving down a fret or two), so if I learn the fingering, it is easy to play another scale.

        • You have the right idea! We will use these five positions above in C major as a “home base” or “default” position. As we look at other scales, we will only have to modify a couple notes from these default positions to make another scale.

          It’s not quite as simple to just move the entire positions down or up a fret or two to change the scale. So for example, if you were to move all of these positions down one fret (a half step) you’d actually be playing a B major scale. If you were to move these entire positions down two frets, you would be playing a Bb major scale.

          In the next lessons, we’ll be modifying a couple notes to change the scale, so these positions will change slightly, but what you’ll notice is that with each key, different positions will repeat themselves in different places across the fretboard depending on the scale we are playing.

          You are asking some great questions, and I think yours questions will become more clear in the coming lessons.

  16. MikeR

    I’m new to this, so thanks for posting! I’ve been coming back to this site several days now and I’m making progress! I have a question for you:

    Looking at your scale patterns and scales from another book, I see that conceivably, there are more than just 5 positions (in a book I’m looking at there are only 4 listed). What is your method of determining where the scale positions are going to be? Are you strictly looking at what is easiest to play so you don’t have fingers skipping frets twice on one string.


    • Excellent question. You are right that there can be more than five positions. You’re book probably didn’t include a fifth position simply because for most songs and on most ukuleles it isn’t very practical to consistently play up that high on the fretboard. I hesitated to include the fifth position because it gets really difficult to play these notes since the frets are spaced so close together.

      I try to think about each position in four to five fret blocks. I also am trying to find positions that are “stacked” so you’re fingers don’t have to jump around a lot. This allows your hand to stay in the same place for the most part.

      As we explore other major scales, you’ll see that these positions tend to repeat themselves in different places across the fretboard depending on the scale we are playing, which is another way I landed on selecting these positions. The positions end up being pretty natural in the context of all twelve keys.

      • MikeR

        Thanks Brett!
        After writing the question I started playing around with other fingerings, and I see that you are right. Other positions require a lot of ‘finger jumping.’

        I’ll keep practicing these scales every day. I’m trying to practice one new pattern each day while repeating the others. It’s amazing how much time you can pass by just trying playing each note saying C D E F G A B C D C B A G F E D C!

  17. First off, thanks for crediting my photo. A lot don’t bother!
    Secondly, I’ll be following this as apart from taking the photo of my uke, I’ve barely touched it!

    • Hi Niall! You are very welcome. It’s a wonderful photo. I would recommend to anyone reading this to head over to Niall’s Flickr page here!

  18. Gina

    Brilliant first lesson on scales Brett – i’ll be following along and learning all of them.
    I just have a question about the picking hand and whether there is a better way to pick these scales out?
    I was using my thumb for all the notes, however, my husband – a guitarist – caught me doing this and reminded me about “what I learned from playing classical guitar.” Not sure if alternating fingers is the thing to practice with uke though?
    Gina : )

    • Hey Gina, your husband is spot on if you ask me! As I’m fingerpicking on the ukulele, I find myself defaulting to alternating picking that I learned playing classical guitar pieces. In the long run, this is really helpful and quite practical. :)

  19. Zoe

    Brett, thanks for this lesson. I was a piano major, so know structure, but don’t know “beans” about how to find scales in several positions on my uke. I wonder if there is way you can direct me to a resource for a baritone uke, which is what I prefer to play?

    • Hi Zoe, unfortunately, right now, I don’t offer any scale position resources for the baritone ukulele. The best thing I can suggest is to look up guitar scales and just look at the bottom four strings.

  20. Jürgen

    Hi, first of all I want to add myself to the long list of people who say thanks for all the lessons. They’re really great, and even though I’ve only played the uke for only about half a year I feel I’m way ahead of where I’d been without them.

    Then a question to the positions: for positions 3 and 4 I bar, respectively, the 5th and 7th fret with my index finger, as I find I don’t have to move my fingers as much (this also applies for the 2nd and 4th positions on the G-scale). Do you see any possible downside to this? Apart that it tires my thumb out, of course..

    I’ve also put small pieces of paper on all the frets of my uke, which show me where the different notes are, but I’ve never really bothered using them to learn scales before now. Thank you:)

    • I wouldn’t worry about trying to barre the strings. While it can be a good practice exercise to do this, some of the positions don’t lend themselves well to barring all the strings.

      Right now, I would just focus on plucking each individual note and moving the tip of your index finger to whichever note you are plucking. Does that make sense?

      • Jürgen

        Yeah, it makes sense, although I only barre(*) on positions where I can hit all the notes I need further up on the fretboard (still just hitting them one at a time).

        I´ll practice moving my index finger as well, though, as I see that the practice will come in handy for other positions.

  21. Ray Chinery

    This might sound like a stupid question, but in position 1 you can play the scale two ways open C string 2nd fret C string open E string open A string or 2nd fret G string B can be played 2nd fret A string or 4th fret G string. So to my way of thinking there should be two positions, I must be missing something, I am totally lost.

    • I’m not sure I understand you correctly. You could play any of those notes in the way you described. The fret positions and strings you described are the right notes you are referring to. Are you trying to find ways to play the scale incorporating the top string in ascending and descending order?

  22. J'aime

    Brett, this is a super helpful post, which I’m just now getting around to working with.
    I was wondering if you could say more about which finger to pluck with. Someone mentioned above in the comments that she was switching from using all thumb to alternating fingers. With no guitar background, I’m not sure exactly what this means. I’ve been plucking with just the index finger with an upward stroke. Is this a bad habit that I will have to “fix” later?

    • Excellent question, J’aime. This is probably a question that I’ll have to address in greater depth in an entire lesson in the future.

      With alternate fingerpicking, you alternate your plucking between your index and middle finger if you are plucking notes on the same string. For example, in position #1, you might pluck the open G string with your index finger, then pluck the A with your middle finger, and then pluck the B with your index finger. Then, you might go on to pluck the open C string with your middle finger and the D with your index finger.

      This alternating between your index and middle fingers allows you to play passages in different pieces of music faster. You’ve done just fine to pluck the strings with your index finger. That’s great. An alternating plucking technique definitely takes some time and practice for it to feel natural and fluid.

  23. bonnie

    Hi Bret,

    now i’ve learnt the notes on the fretboard, can i play a piano music sheet on my uke?

  24. Tomo

    Thanks a lot for the lesson. So far, I’m really enjoying my first baby step towards learning how to play the ukulele. In addition to that, I’m having lot of fun. Thank Brett!

  25. Fbuitragos

    Hi…. Great Post!!!… Thanks for helping to spread the wonderful world of playing Ukulele… I’m writting from Medellin – Colombia, and as always this post has helped me a lot for imporving how to play Ukulele…. Thanks Brett!!!!

  26. SJ

    I’m a pretty new player. I’ve never learned any music theory but I wonder if you can explain in what order we are supposed to pluck these notes? When I look at the scale diagrams, I see lots of different notes but I have no idea in what order I’m supposed to play them. I understand that I am to begin on the open C and end on the A string 3rd fret. Other than that, I don’t know what to do with the other notes. What’s the pattern?


  27. James Arnett

    I assume one is supposed to play the scales in ascending order (and back down again) starting at “low” C then D, E, F, G, A, B, ending at the “high” C.
    My question is that in the second position both the C’s sound “higher” in pitch than the other notes.
    So, in short, I can play the scales in position 1, but don’t know where to begin in the other positions because the C’s sound out of place relative to the other notes.

    • Hi James, excellent point and question. The challenge with the ukulele is that because the top high-G string is tuned higher than the middle two strings, starting a scale sequence on this string won’t sound ascending because you eventually switch to strings that are tuned lower in pitch. As you point out, the C note on the 5th fret of the top high-G string is actually the same C note as on the 3rd fret of the bottom A-string.

      When practicing scales, I like to just practice the bottom three strings to get the ascending and descending sound. Then, I go back and work on memorizing the notes of the top high-G string. In your own practice, you might consider doing this.

      • James Arnett

        Thanks for the reply. I guess what still confuses me is when I look at only the bottom 3 strings I see only one blue “C” note. In position there are 2 blue “C” notes so It is easy for me to see where I begin and end (the open third, C string) and end (3rd fret of the A string).

        It just seems like the diagram in position 2 is missing a blue C somewhere…

        • James Arnett

          In position 1 there are 2 blue “C” notes….

          • All of these different scale positions are based around the C major scale because they use all the notes in a C major scale. Each of these positions starts on a different note found in the C major scale, which means not every position is going to have a root ‘C’ note at the start and the end of the position.

            For example, if we just pay attention to the bottom three strings, there are two blue ‘C’ notes in position #1 because the position starts and ends on a ‘C’ note: C D E F G A B C

            Again, just paying attention to the bottom three strings, position #2 starts and ends on the second scale degree in a C major scale–a ‘D’ note: D E F G A B C D

            Although, the scale sequence starts and ends on a ‘D’ note, it is still a C major scale because you are playing all the notes found in a C major scale. For this reason, not every scale position will have more than one ‘C’ note.

            The inner-workings of this stuff can get pretty complex, so let me know if you have more questions.

  28. James Arnett

    Thanks for clearing that up!

  29. Steve Hodges

    Hi Brett,
    So many thanks, I find this lesson very helpful. You explain how the fretboard works and busted the mystery that boggled my mind, it was the reason I couldn’t get used to guitar. Now I know how the scales work on uke, it will take some patience and practice but you’ve done me a great favour. Although, I would like to see a video showing how the fingers work the scales on the fretboard, that would be great as it’s just good to watch you play.
    Cheers. Steve, Wolverhampton, England.

  30. Emmanuel Ang

    Hi Brett! Nice page by the way, i just wanna ask that in some scale books, i found that in position #4 they start the scale at G at 3rd string then go towards A then B at the second string and so on. It should have start at C since the tonic is C right? But Why some scale books, they start at G, kinda confused me. Thanks!

    • Hi Emmanuel, great question. When talking about scale positions, such as position 1, 2, 3, or 4, the starting notes of that scale position will not always start on the tonic note. So in position #4, if you start on the G note on the 3rd string 7th fret, you’re still playing a C major scale because the notes in that position still make up a C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. When learning these different positions, it’s always important to be aware of where the tonic/root note is in that position. In the case of position #4, the tonic note (C) is on the 8th fret of the E-string. Does that answer your question?

      • Emmanuel Ang

        thanks Brett! i have some follow-up questions:

        you mean to say that i should do the scale where it sounds better? Because as I can observe when we start the scale at G in position #4 it sounds great but when I start at the tonic note it sounds a little off. Am I getting your point?

        • No problem. It’s not necessarily about playing the scale where it sounds better, but rather, where it makes the most sense in a song. For example, in some songs, the higher notes in position #4 might make more sense in the context of playing and navigating the notes in a song.

          The main point I’m trying to make is that within a C major scale the notes found in the scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) are arranged across the ukulele fretboard in different locations. The scale positions won’t always start on the tonic note but will help you locate all those notes found in a C major scale across the ukulele fretboard.

          • Emmanuel Ang

            Now I got you Brett! Thank you very much! I hope you would create another page for the rest of the tonic notes for major and minor as well, I love how comprehensive your page is! Thank you so much!

  31. Gabriel

    Thank you very much. It’s very hard to find how to play scales on ukulele!

  32. jeanne

    Hi, Brett. I’m sorry if you’ve already answered this question. I’ve just jumped on board. In the first position, why do you use the 2nd fret on the G-string for A instead of the open A string?

    • jeanne

      Is it because you always start on the top string for all of these positions?

      • jeanne

        I think I’m getting it now. It’s not like playing scales on the piano. In the first position you start with G on the first string (open position) and end with ‘C on the 4th string. Right?

        • Hi Jeanne, yes, you are correct. Because the ukulele is tuned so that the top string is tuned higher than the middle two strings, the scales will not play linearly like on a piano. As you practice, try starting the scale position on the C-string and proceed to plucking the notes up through the E-string and A-string up the scale. In this way, you might not worry about playing the notes on the top g-string. This will allow you to more hear the linear sound of the scale.

  33. Paul

    Great post, How do u play the whole scale as one though? it doesn’t make much sense to me

  34. greg

    Hi I thought that the position should equal all modes, which are more than five
    do you cover such issues and much detail in music theory in the full course?
    Thanks in advance!
    Kind regards- Grigoris

    • Hi Greg, I actually cover a lot more on scales in Part IV of my book “Ukulele Exercises For Dummies”. I look at scale positions that start on notes of the scale other than the root note. Technically, that gets into modes, but I avoid that terminology in the book because it can tend to complicate things more than it’s worth. I see a discussion on modal theory happening more after a student has a strong grasp on different scales across the fretboard and notes of the fretboard.

  35. greg

    Hi and many thanks for the response! I did the mistake to get the ukelle for dumies, not bad it is fun to read, but not for me, I need more theory
    Is it possible to email me a link with content of the book with scales?

    • You can learn more about Ukulele Exercises For Dummies on Amazon and even preview the table of contents. Part IV is the part you will want all about scales and learning the ukulele fretboard:

  36. Zachary

    So Im kinda new to all of this and may have a dumb question but here it goes.
    Im slightly confused about where to start, do you playC, D, E, F, G, A, B. in that order always starting on the open c string or do you start with the “tonic” note and work your way around. Thanks

    • Great question, Zachary. When first practicing, some like to start from all the tonic notes (the C note in this case of the C major scale) and work from there. However, it’s a good idea to learn the notes in each scale position too.

  37. Zachary

    Hi again! So I have recenly purchased your book and would like to say that I am finding it very helpful.
    I do though have a question. And as I read more of the coments I see you may have answered it but I was just wanting to know if I was on the right track. So in reading your book and looking at your site I see you only put up three scale examples C,G,F. And in each one I see you lay out certain patters that if need be can be modified for other scales. So in doing so we can use these layed out patters for all of the major scales? Maybe just modify them slightly in what ever way we need. When I had tried to use the scales before I always started on the root note, which sometimes was on the g string and I see now you kinda choose to skipp the g string all to gether. And you start on the second note of the scale sometimes. And it will still be in the same scale. So can you start from basicly any note in the scale and end it on the same one? thanks

  38. Zachary

    The reason I ask if you can start on any note is because from what I understand, in position #2 you start on the D note on the c string and on position # 3 you start on the E note on the c string correct?

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