Discover Classical Ukulele

Classical ukulele opens a whole world of music for you to discover. From Beethoven to Mozart to classical guitar music, there is a wealth of beautiful music you can play on ukulele. What’s more, much of this music is enriched by the unique sound of the ukulele, bringing a new sound world to familiar, timeless music.

For example, have you ever wanted to learn to play “Für Elise” by Beethoven on ukulele? Or what about the beautiful prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach’s first Cello Suite? This music has a rich, low resonance on the cello and its sonority has inspired thousands. But, hearing it on the bright, jangly four strings of the ukulele creates a completely new sonority. Have a listen below:

“Für Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven

“Prelude” Cello Suite #1 by J.S. Bach

What is classical ukulele?

Classical ukulele is a form of fingerstyle ukulele that brings some of the greatest classical music in Western history to our small instrument from Hawai’i. The great thing about classical ukulele is that it brings a completely new voice to timeless, familiar classics. Hearing Für Elise or a Bach prelude played on the ukulele (as opposed to the piano or cello) is a completely different experience and at times can even make this great music even better.

Whether you are wanting to learn how to play Beethoven or Mozart or Bach on the ukulele, classical ukulele makes this possible. So let’s walk through some of the technique that classical ukulele features and how this can help you learn to play these great classics on ukulele.

Classical Ukulele Technique

Right Hand

Classical ukulele is a form of fingerstyle playing and so it introduces fingerpicking (rather than strumming) in the right hand. If you are used to playing chords and strumming on ukulele, this might take some adjustment, but here are a few guidelines to help get you started.

First, knowing the terminology for the right-hand fingers is essential. Classical ukulele borrows terminology from the classical guitar, and so if you are familiar with those, you’re good to go! But let’s review them here:

  • p=thumb (pulgar)
  • i=index (indice)
  • m=middle (medio)
  • a=ring (anular)

(The little or pinky finger, “c” for “chicito” in Spanish, is typically not used except when strumming for classical ukulele.)

Using these four fingers in the right hand gives us the most flexibility to play across the strings and to maintain multiple voices at once.

  • Doing so means we can play accompaniment and melody together, like many opera arias, for instance;
  • It means we can play difficult counterpoint like the music of J.S. Bach;
  • And it means we can play moving arpeggios, like the beautiful Spanish Romance, a popular classical guitar song.

Left Hand

The left hand in classical ukulele uses numbers instead of letters:

  • index=1
  • middle=2
  • ring=3
  • pinky=4

The left-hand thumb is only used as a guide on the back of the neck and does not fret notes on classical ukulele.

One of the most challenging aspects of the left hand is, again, maintaining multiple, moving voices at the same time. When done well, this gives the effect of multiple instruments playing together on just one ukulele. To do so, we have to allow some fingers to hold on to notes in one voice, while other fingers are moving in another voice. We call this “finger independence” and this is one big distinction between traditional ukulele playing and classical ukulele.

Classical Guitar Music on Ukulele

Because so much classical music was written before the time of the ukulele, most of the music we play on classical ukulele will be arrangements. And a prime source of classical ukulele arrangements comes from classical guitar. Not only can we easily adapt classical guitar music, but we can also encounter another wonderful world of classical music written for the ukulele’s six-string cousin.

Here is just one among many examples of a classical guitar favorite brought to new life on the ukulele:

A classical guitar favorite, “Capricho Arabe,” by Francisco Tárrega

So classical music is indeed possible on ukulele and in many ways classical music takes on new life when brought to our little instrument. Here are some more wonderful examples of timeless pieces of classical music brought to new life on the ukulele. This is only scratching the surface of what’s possible. There’s so much more!

“Greensleeves” (English traditional)

Minuet in G by J.S. Bach (actually composed by C. Petzold)

“La Campanella” by Niccolo Paganini

Giacomo Puccini’s aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Gianni Schicchi.

Learn Classical Ukulele Online

Ukulele Corner is part of Guitar Corner Academy which has served thousands of musicians around the world with the Cornerstone Method. This method uses structure and progressive materials to fuel the joy of music.

One of the biggest problems you can face when learning music is frustration. It can be an obstacle to enjoyment and ultimately it might cause you to give up. Frustration arises from working on the wrong material. It could be material in the wrong order or given to you at the wrong time, whatever the case it can make you feel like you are not good enough. But its not you, it is the disorganized way you have been learning.

The step-by-step pathway that you find in the Cornerstone Method will guide you on your musical journey with the right materials in the right order. It will help you focus, give you guidance, and motivate you to practice.

  • Over one hundred in-depth lessons
  • Fingerstyle Practice Routines to Guide Your Practice

  • Performance Videos to Inspire You

  • All PDF Downloads Included

  • All Scores provided in standard notation and TAB

  • Graded repertoire to learn

  • World class instruction from a master musician

  • An academy trusted by thousands

The Cornerstone Method for Fingerstyle Ukulele

A Structured Curriculum for Fingerstyle Ukulele – At the heart of the Academy is a progressive series of lessons that guides you through your journey as a musician. It removes the confusion of information overload and helps keep you focused. The Cornerstone Method has been used by thousands of musicians around the world to great effect.

Classical Music

Classical Music Library – You will find a vast library of classical music that is organized by level of difficulty and composer. Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Mozart all have some beautiful music to explore.

Hawaiian Music

Hawai’ian Music Library – Hawaii has a rich music tradition that can be explored on the ukulele. Jeff brings his experience and knowledge of Hawaiian music tradition and shares valuable insights with you in detailed lessons and performances.

Folk and Popular Music

Folk and Popular Music Library – Enjoy arrangements of popular music that encompasses a wide range of styles from seasonal songs to rock music. It is amazing how versatile the ukulele can be!

Technique Library

Technique Library – Technique is taught throughout the fingerstyle method, but sometimes you need to zoom in on something that needs your attention right now. With the technique library you can solve problems quickly with clear and specific lessons on a full range of ukulele technique.

Forum & Live Events

Community Forum – Share your learning journey with musicians from around the world who share your passion and are following the same curriculum.

Live Group Lessons – As a member of the Academy you will have access to live lessons taught by Jeff Peterson where you can get direct feedback on your playing and ask questions in real time.

Practice Routines

Progressive Practice Routines – No matter how much you practice if you are not practicing the right exercises at the right time you could be moving backwards.

With pre-written and progressive practice routines provided in your membership you will be able to focus on what’s important and know that your practice relates directly with the music you are learning.

Meet your teacher

Your guide on this musical journey is Grammy Award winning musician, Jeff Peterson. A native of Hawaii and an active touring musician, Jeff offers you a world class level of teaching that you can rely on.

Quarterly Membership

  • All Grades, Courses, and Lessons
  • Progressive Practice Routines
  • Sheet Music Library
  • Community Forum
  • Monthly Live Group Lessons
  • Access to Regular New Content

Annual Membership

  • Two Months Free
  • All Grades, Courses, and Lessons
  • Progressive Practice Routines
  • Sheet Music Library
  • Community Forum
  • Monthly Live Group Lessons
  • Access to Regular New Content