Make the Most of Your Practice with These Ukulele Scale Variations

By Ukulenny

In this beginner ukulele lesson you will learn some scale variations for the C major and G mixolydian scales. This will help you get the most out of your ukulele practice and improve your playing faster than just playing straight scales up and down.

It’s not enough to just play these scales up and down. I’d like to think we can approach practice the same way Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors approaches practice. Steph doesn’t just shoot 3’s all day, he works out every possible situation that he might have to shoot the ball—running, jumping, moving side-to-side—and that’s what you want to do with scales. You want to practice forward, backward, upside-down, broken up in little pieces, all so that when it’s game time, you’re ready to rock!

C major scale variations

To start, we’ll take the C major scale and add an extra note at the top to extend it to the 5th fret of the A string.

C major scale ukulele extended music notation

Now, we’re going to skip around these notes in thirds. We’re playing the first note, then the third note, followed by the second note, fourth note, etc.

C major scale in thirds ukulele exercise music notation

It’s a good idea to try this while looking at the scale so you can visualize the jumps, but you can also just read the tab and learn it that way. Ultimately, you’ll just want to memorize it.


Another popular variation of scales is to play them in three-note groups. Play the first, second and third notes, then start on the second note and do three more notes, etc. When you play the exercise, it’s broken up in threes, so we’ll call this the C major scale in triplets.

C major scale in triplets ukulele exercise music notation

These are just two variations. As you can imagine, you can create your own patterns and variations as well. Try this: Take every scale and number the notes 1-8, then jumble up the numbers any way you like.

C major scale numbered ukulele exercise music notation

Try it in mixolydian

Here’s a three-note variation exercise using the G mixolydian scale. For this scale we’ll add an extra note on the top (12th fret on the A string), and an extra note on the bottom (5th fret on the C string). It might sound a little bit weird to your ears, but this way the pattern will remain the same when you play the thirds and triplets variations.

G mixolydian scale in triplets ukulele exercise music notation

And there you have it! Practice your scales daily in different variations and you can bring your uke game to the next level. Uke on!

Lenny San Jose, AKA Ukulenny, is a musician and educator based in Oakland, CA. You can find him on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram under the handle @ukulenny.

Ukulele Basics – Learning and Practicing lesson book from Ukulele Magazine

Ukulele Basics – Learning and Practicing includes lessons from some of the top names of the uke-teaching world including Jim Beloff, Heidi Swedberg, Sarah Maisel, Craig Chee, Jim D’Ville and Cathy Fink. These top teachers share important tips on everything from optimal practice habits to tuning with your ears and reading music.