How to Read Ukulele Riffs

Ukulele! You know why is it so popular? 

Because you will find it way easy to play with using only four of its strings. 

You just need to learn about a few chords. And then what? You’ll be able to play a number of songs using those chords only. But for that, you need to learn how to read the riffs. 

Ukulele riff is a series of notes that you play and that is what creates the melody of the song. The riff in a song is repeated several times often, so it would be easier for you to memorize the riffs. 

Ways of Reading Ukulele Riffs

If you are only a newbie and can’t read music, then it’ll be wise to start with the ukulele tabs. That will be the easiest way to read the riffs. 

Reading the tabs containing all the numbers and symbols might seem confusing to you. But be patient since it will become as easy as reading any book once you get the hold of it. 

What is Tab?

Tab is the abbreviated form of tablature. Tab does not simple tell you what notes to play. Rather, it shows you where the notes are. It acts as a fretboard and shows you what notes to play in sequential order. Plus, it points out where to find them on the ukulele fretboard. 

In one word, tab is the simplified music sheets that you can use to read the musical notes. 

You can play ukulele by following the tabs, even if you don’t have any idea about key signatures, time signatures, scales and harmonics. So let’s know about reading the tabs.

How to Read Ukulele Tabs

You need to know about strings, frets, chords and a few other things before you successfully start reading the tab. Let’s have a look at them. 

The Strings

At first, you need to consider the figure of tab to be the fretboard of your ukulele. This way, it will be easier for you to understand the notes better. 

Imagine you are holding your ukulele and you are looking down at it. Assume the four horizontal lines that are made up of dashes to be the strings of your ukulele. The letters on the left side would tell you the names of the strings. 

A | ———————— | ———————— |

E | ———————— | ———————— |

C | ———————— | ———————— |

G | ———————— | ———————— |

The Frets / Notes

Next, you have to learn the numbers that represent the frets or notes. This tells you what frets you should put your fingers on. 

So if there is number 3 on the C string, you need to use one of your fingers and press the 3rd fret. 

After that, pluck the string. 

A | ——-5-4———5-4—– | ——3–2———–5–4— |

E | —————5——-5—- | ————3———–5—- |

C | —2—————-2——- | —-0————2———– |

G | —————————– | —————————— |


You will see multiple numbers on each string. These numbers represent which cord you should be playing. 

Let’s say there is 

  • 2 on the G,
  • 0 on the C, 
  • 3 on the E and 
  • 2 on the A. 

Here, the tab is telling you to play a C Major chord. 

You can pluck all the four strings by using four fingers at the same time. 

Or you can play them depending on what that particular song requires.

A | –2—–5-4——2—5-4—– | –3—-3–2——–2—5–4— |

E | —3————5—3—-5—– | —0———3——-3—-5—- |

C | —0—————–0———- | —0—————–0———- |

G | —2—————–2———- | —-0—————–2——— |

New Sections

The vertical lines that split the strings signal that it’s the start of a new section of the song. 

A | ——-5-4———5-4—– | ——3–2———–5–4— |

E | —————5——-5—- | ————3———–5—- |

C | —2—————-2——- | —-0————2———– |

G | —————————– | —————————— |

These are the basic points that you should know for reading a tab. 

But there are some additional symbols that you need to know if you want to develop your playing skills. Let’s highlight those additional symbols. 

A Few Things to Remember For Reading Ukulele Riffs

Tab makes it easy for you to read the riffs and playing the ukulele. 

However, it essentially doesn’t mean that the Tab doesn’t have any drawbacks of its own. Please remember that tabs don’t show you which finger to use to play each note. 

You will have to figure it out on your own. 

At first, play slowly by using whichever fingers you feel comfy to use to play those notes. And once you acquire some advanced-skills, you will be able to use specific fingers for specific notes effectively and spontaneously. 

Moreover, tabs don’t tell you the timing of the notes, meaning how long you should be playing each note. 

Once you know the rhythm of the riffs of the particular song that you are playing, you will hopefully figure out the timing of those notes on your own. 

Theme Song of “Charlie Brown”

An easy but highly popular song that beginners like to play on ukulele is Charlie Brown’s theme song. All the notes of this song are on one string which is above the 5th fret.

This is what makes this an easy riff to start playing with. 

With this easy piece, you can start playing your ukulele so you don’t find playing ukulele to be tough.






Ukulele is an easy musical instrument to play. But you should approach it in the correct manner so you don’t feel disheartened at the very beginning. Here is another article if you are looking to know where to get free ukulele lessons.

Choose the right kind of Ukulele for yourself. Then start with an easy song by following the riffs and tabs correctly by understanding this article on how to read ukulele riffs.

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