How to read music when playing the ukulele is very useful, and being able to do it will open up an entire world of music for you. In fact, reading music will eventually become much like reading words out of a book, with each tone represented in print sounding in your ear as you read it.
The ukulele is typically tuned G, C, E, A for a soprano uke, A, D, F#, B for tenors and D, G, B, E for baritone instruments. These notes are represented by both lines and spaces on the staff, depending on what clef the music is written in. Sheet music is actually designed to correspond to a piano keyboard, so stringed instrument players like ukulele players have to be flexible with their thinking and not get the impression that the lines and spaces represent the fretboard too accurately.
G, C, E, A on the treble clef is matched by using the following mnemonics. Line letter names of the treble clef correspond to the first letters of the words Every, Good, Boy, Does, Fine. This is an easy way to figure out which line is which. The spaces spell out FACE. Most of the time, the music you'll use for ukulele playing will be similar to guitar music in the way it uses chords above the staff lines.
If you just want to strum along with the accompanying chords to a song, you'll usually find them written above the staff. This is why teachers will make sure you know your chord positions by reflex. One other tip to remember is that, if there is a melody for the ukulele printed on the staff, the notes will oftentimes be very close to those of the chord listed above it. This is an easy way to figure out how to play complex passages. Sometimes, you just fret the chord and strum a complex line from high to low or low to high strings rather than by playing up and down the fret. The chord is there to tell you what form to make to accomplish this.
When you're strumming, pay attention for notes that are separated by a great deal of pitch with no filler notes between them. These are usually indications that a passage is finger picked. The notes sounded simultaneously are found on far apart strings, thus the pitch distance, and this makes finger picking necessary.
You can also adapt music for other instruments and use it to learn how to read music on the ukulele. For instance, any guitar piece that has a capo on the fifth fret in standard tuning will work very well for a ukulele, since the notes on the fifth fret of a guitar correspond to the typical turning of a ukulele. The baritone tuning is the same as a standard guitar's open 4th-1st strings.
Where rhythm is concerned, sheet music is quite complex. On a ukulele, you can use the chord changes as basic guides to the melody as you learn how to read sheet music more easily. The basic thing to remember, however, is that every undotted note on western music notation is worth half the next slowest note's value and is worth twice as much as the next fastest note's value. In 4/4 time, the most common time signature, a quarter note is worth one quarter of a measure, or one beat; a half note is worth one half of a measure, or two beats; an eighth note is worth an eighth of a measure's duration, or half a beat. Notes are spaced appropriately within the measure.
Another thing that can help you to how to read music for ukulele songs is tablature. Tablature is actually more practical for stringed instruments than traditional western sheet music. Tablature has the number of the fret for any given note on each line and each line corresponds to a string on the uke. This is a much faster an easier way to learn sheet music. Don’t let anyone tell you it's cheating! Players at very advanced levels oftentimes use sheet music and tab together to get the best possible understanding of a song they're learning!
Just remember that how to read music for the ukulele can be easy and fun! If not, you can go to my ukulele video lessons and I give you a basic lesson plan to get you on your way to become an epic ukulele player!