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I love the ukulele, and I just bought one. The problem is I cannot sing, and I don't really want to.

It seems as though there are not a lot fingerpicking songs and most songs just have the chords.

I also googled chord progressions but again, not a lot of documentation.

Is it possible to play the Ukulele without singing and still know a lot of songs?

Should I just suck it up and learn how to sing?

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5 Answers 5

Although the ukelele is often used as an instrument to provide chordal accompaniment (strummed or picked) to other instruments, or commonly voice, there is absolutely no reason why you can't explore other ways to play it, which are not primarily as an accompanying instrument.

For instance, you can play single note lines, as you would on any other instrument, there is an interesting discussion about the right-hand techniques used for this on this forum page.

Of course, if you want to play recognisable pieces/songs solo on the ukelele, it will probably be more interesting if you can combine a chordal and melodic approach. The simplest way to do this, would be to learn a variety of chord shapes for each key and chord type, with different chord tones at the top. This would allow you to play the chords for a piece/song, with the melody notes at the top (of course, a little bit of extra study would be needed to find fingerings for non-chord tones in the melody above the chords).

In order to get started with learning more than just a few ukelele chord shapes, and so open up greater solo possibilities, it would be a good idea to find out about ukelele notation and technique. A good resource for this (and I just have to mention it, due to it's slightly naughty name!) is the amusingly named UkeHunt website. This has some great info about ukelele technique and notation. Also, there are a lot of TABs for pieces in a wide variety of styles on this site. Many of these illustrate the approach I outline above; they have a melodic line accompanied by some amount of harmony. Other pieces are far more complex, resembling the kind of pieces played on classical guitar, for instance. And then there are also short, relatively simple, single line riffs and melodies.

By all means learn to play chords on the ukelele, whether you choose to sing with it or not (and you may wish to accompany other instrumentalists and/or singers anyway), but there are plenty of resources available with a little bit of looking online, for learning to play single line melodies and pieces with more complex textures, too (melody and accompaniment or even contrapuntal).

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Is it possible to just play the chords of a song and not sing? would it still sound recognizable? –  user3731004 Aug 19 at 18:36
    
Well, of course you can, and you can gain a lot of personal satisfaction from doing this, especially while you are first learning an instrument capable of playing chords (guitar, piano, ukelele etc.) But, without wanting to generalise, most players and listeners gain greater satisfaction from hearing and playing the melody of a piece or song, as this is far more recognisable than the chords (harmony) alone. And, then it is even more satisfying to hear chords and melody combined, even if you only play some of the chords (eg. one per bar). –  Bob Broadley Aug 19 at 18:40
    
There is great value from learning ukelele chords anyway, though. They are, after all, an important part of ukelele playing. And, arguably, learning to play chords would most easily give you the means to start playing with other musicians. –  Bob Broadley Aug 19 at 18:44

If you want to get started playing fingerstyle ukulele, there are lots of books you can pick from. The one I used to get started and recommend is called 20 Easy Fingerstyle Studies for Ukulele by Rob MacKillop. The book walks you through a lot of the different techniques used in fingerstyle through exercises and simple instrumental songs. The book comes with a great CD that features both a fast and slow version of each song to help you understand what it is supposed to sound like. The author also has YouTube videos of himself playing many of the songs from the book.

After you've mastered that book, you will be ready to take on a variety of ukulele songs in tablature format.

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If you have the ability, you can rearrange songs yourself. There are plenty of fingerpicking style ukulele tabs out there, but their quality may not be the best.

As @MarkM suggests, Jake Shimabukuro is god-level at playing the ukulele but never sings.

I recommend listening to his songs, and if you like them, his songs and rearrangements are available as books.

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Youtube is your friend when looking for this kind of inspiration:

I think it's safe to say that it possible to play the Ukulele without singing.

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Jake admits that he can't sing. :) –  Memming Aug 19 at 20:13

Yes, of course you can play the ukulele without singing. You can play a lot of instruments while singing, but that doesn't mean that every time you play the instrument you should sing.

You should try it, and if you like it, you can sing and play ukulele at the same time.

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