The Secret to Good Sound on Ukulele

Learn the secret to good sound on ukulele in this technique tip from Jeff Peterson. We’ll look at how the right hand makes contact with the string along with other elements that will give you a great sound! Let’s get started.


First, it’s important to make sure you don’t have any rough edges on your nails. Buffing your nails with fine-grit sandpaper will take you a long way to getting a better sound when playing fingerstyle on ukulele. This Tri-M-ite sandpaper would be a good place to start. Round off any corners and slope the nail in a ramp shape. This smooth curve will really improve your tone.

Point of Contact

And now for the most important part. Where you make contact with the string has a big impact on getting a good sound on ukulele.

First, let’s set up our right-hand position. You want to have more or less a straight, diagonal line from where the forearm makes contact with the body and the fingertip touches the string. If you do so, you’ll approach the string at a diagonal angle. What that does is allow you to play off of the left side of the finger, playing nail and fingertip together. The nail gives you volume; the fingertip gives you warmth.

Secondly, remember to push the string in toward the soundhole like we talked about in a previous technique tip here.

The sound of the thumb

The right-hand thumb is a bit different because it moves in a different direction than the other fingers. A lot of times I’ll use only flesh with the thumb and leave the nail out of it. But you can still combine the nail and fingertip together to get that same loud but warm sound from the thumb. The key here is to experiment and listen to the tone you’re getting. Make small adjustments until you find the sound you want.

Avoiding buzzing sounds with the nail

Finally, sometimes we will get a little “zzzt” sound when our fingernail touches a ringing string. You can avoid this sound by targeting the left-hand edge, touching flesh first, then nail.


We hope you enjoyed this quick ukulele technique tip! You can find many more resources on ukulele technique here. And we have a whole curriculum full of lessons to help you build up strong fundamentals with your technique at Ukulele Corner Academy. Find out more and join Ukulele Corner Academy today!