Ukulele won’t play the right chords?

So I got a new ukulele and I’m having trouble playing the chords. I have it all tuned and ready, but when I put even the lightest pressure on one of the strings, it won’t make a sound. So if I’m trying to play, let’s say a C, and I put my finger down on the last string, it won’t vibrate. I’ve tried pressing harder and being gentler, but it just won’t work. Any advice?

5 Answers

  • 4 months ago

    Find a ukulele teacher. It'll be better for you to get help from someone you can talk to one on one. He/she can see if it's the instrument on if it's your technique.

  • 5 months ago

    Margeret, I'm going to make a leap here and assume that you're a beginner.  Otherwise, you probably wouldn't need to be asking this question. That's cool, we all had to start at the beginning too.  Please forgive me if my assumption is wrong.

    So there are multiple possibilities for what's going on, and without being there in person, we can only guess. It breaks down into two major categories: your technique, or something wrong with the instrument.  Let's examine both.

    Decent ukuleles are not particularly expensive, but there are a lot of "toy" ones out there. The most common issue with cheap ukes...say in the under $50 poor intonation.  That means that even when the instrument is perfectly in tune, all the chords sound off-key. The other issue is uneven frets or strings being set too high.  High strings are harder to press properly, so that could be a contributing factor. Please be aware that a lot of beginners blame their instrument, when the real problem is their technique.  I guess the best way to tell is to have somebody else play your uke and see.

    Technique is a biggie for beginners, and this is probably at least part of your problem.  When you press the string(s) you have to press between the frets, and use enough pressure for the string to lay firmly on the fret.  If your fingernails are long, they could be preventing your finger tips from pressing the string far enough down. I keep mine cut as short as I can go without cutting into the quick. Make sure that your finger isn't touching or overhanging the fret. This will cause the string to mute. Also check that nothing else (like other fingers) are brushing up against the strings and causing them to mute.

    The C chord is the easiest to play on ukulele, so that's a good one to start on. BTW, your finger goes just behind the 3rd fret of the *first* string.  I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but the strings are counted with the first being farthest away (closest to the floor) , and the fourth being the one nearest to you. So press that string midway between the 2nd and 3rd frets. Try to attack from as close to 90 degrees as possible, and be sure not to brush against the 2nd string.  The more perpendicular your attack, the less room your finger takes up. Press as hard as you can and see if you can get a clear note. It isn't always necessary to press real hard, but we want to see that the instrument is capable of producing a clear note. If the string is pressed firmly against the 3rd fret, it should ring clear.  If you hear buzzing, you either aren't pressing hard enough, or the string is vibrating against a higher fret. (This could be a high fret, or a low bridge and is less likely than a technique issue)  One other point...until your fingers toughen up, the strings will sink into the soft pads of your fingers, requiring more force to press the string down far enough.

    As you can see Margeret, there is more going on than one might think.  I hope you can find a player (of any fretted instrument) who can help you in person. If not, just keep at it, keeping in mind all the things we've mentioned here on Y!A.  Good luck, you'll get it.

  • Anonymous
    5 months ago

    It's not easy to help without seeing the ukulele and watching you play. 

    Can you actually play the ukulele? That's really important because if you can then the problem must be with the instrument and not the way you're playing it. 

    If you are are total beginner then the most likely problem is bad technique (you're not doing it right). Otherwise it could be that you have what is basically a toy that is unplayable. The action could be far too tow so the strings are touching all of the fretboard when they are fretted (You say it won't play chords properly - the whole chord or just the strings you fret?). It could be uneven frets, so that when you fret one string it is muted by the next fret up the neck. If only one string is affected it could even be a problem with that individual string. 

    I guess that's not much help. If you are a beginner then the only thing I can suggest is that you try to find a decent player who could maybe tell you what's wrong - good luck.

  • 5 months ago

    My first thought is, 

    What you have is a "toy" ukulele that is not intended to be played.

    If that is not the case, 

    Then, maybe there is some problem with the instrument itself. Let's speculate and say it's the action (intonation), or maybe the frets themselves. You might have a ukulele with worn frets to the point where they are flattened and even with the fret-board itself. 

    Whatever the problem here is, no one on Yahoo Answers is really going to know how to answer this question. 

    Not because we are trolling you, or giving you the runaround, but simply because, to determine the exact problem with your ukulele, someone (preferably a Luthier) will have to assess the problem first hand, by looking at it IN PERSON. 

    We can guess all day long, and still not be right, 


    You can bring your ukulele into a guitar shop for repairs and they will find and fix the problem - maybe the same day.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Anonymous
    5 months ago

    Ask your uke teacher to help you with this.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.