Are you wanting to learn to play the ukulele, but don't know where to begin? Well, you've come to the right place. We've broken down how to play ukulele chords into an easy digestible format. Learn a section at a time, or sit down and pull up a chair to memorize the whole enchilada.
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Where do I begin?
Before we jump into the chords make sure you're learning on quality instrument like Luna Mahogany Concert ukulele. If you begin on a cheap uke, you won't sound as good, which can be disheartening. Plus, budget ukuleles are difficult to keep in tune. The last thing you want is to strum a few chords and have to re-tune.
Next, make sure your ukulele is tuned properly. The notes and chords will sound horrible if you aren't. You can follow this guide to tuning your ukulele. A quick and simple trick is to get an electronic tuner and check before you start playing.
Let's start with our fingers. To the left, you'll see that we have each finger numbered. This is so you can identify which fingers need to go where on our diagrams. We won't be using the thumb, so just remember the digits from 1 to 4.
Where do I put my fingers?
Uke chord charts have four vertical lines that represent the four strings of your ukulele. The first vertical line on the chart is your thickest string, also known as the G-string. If you are right handed and fingering with your left hand. The G-string is closest to your nose. When you don't hold down on any frets, this plays an G note, or an open fret.
The chart goes in sequential order starting with G and moving from C (third string), E (second string), and last but not least, the thinnest string: A (first string).
What do all these symbols mean?
Luckily, these uke chords only have two symbols. The easiest and most used symbol is the black circle, which means to fret a note. Here, we'll also put the number of the finger you use.
An open string will be a white circle on a uke chart. The open strings are the notes at the top of the chart, G,C,E,A. A funny way to remember the order is by saying: Get Crazy Every Afternoon. If that's not a life motto, I don't know what is! Having these memorized will help you remember your finger placement.
Check out our cheat sheet to the below. Once you have those memorized, we'll get started!
What are some common ukulele chords?
I find it easiest to learn chords in alphabetical order. The first four chords we are going to learn are A, B, C, and D. You could have guessed that right? You'll find that B is tricky to play, but luckily you won't have to play it too often. It's important to know how to play B though and have it saved in your back pocket should the opportunity arise.
To master your first ukulele chord, place your index finger on the first fret on the C string and your middle finger on the second fret of the G string.
You'll notice that playing the B chord requires you to use a barre chord! This means that you'll use the same finger to fret multiple strings. Barre chords are usually achieved by laying your index finger flat against the strings. But, unlike the B chord, there are some tricky ones that require other fingers to fret the strings.
Prepare to bask in the glory of the easy C chord, they aren't all this simple! Place your ring finger on the A string, third fret. The D chord will use your three fingers sequentially on the second fret of the G, C, and E strings.
That wasn't too bad, right? Now you can play four ukulele chords, great job! The next three we are going to learn are E, F, and G. E is another tricky chord to learn. Unlike the B chord, you are going to see E around quite a bit. After practicing for awhile, you'll gain muscle memory and that tricky E chord will be a thing of the past.
One thing that can help you hit the E chord is by working on your reach and flexibility in your fingers. You can achieve this by including finger exercises in your daily warm up. This will not only increase your finger reach, but allow you to play longer and faster!
When playing the E chord, start with your first finger on the G string, first fret. Then your second finger on the A string, second fret. Your third finger will cross over the strings to hit the C string on the fourth fret.
To hit the F chord, you have to reach over the other strings to fret. Keep the C and A strings open with your first finger on the E string, first fret and your second finger on the G string, second fret.
The G chord will use all three fingers very close together. It may feel like your hand is going to cramp up, but with practice your muscles will get used to it. Your first finger will hit the C string on the second fret, your second finger will also be on the second fret, but on the A string. The ring finger is placed on the E string, third fret.
How do I play the minor chords?
You now know how to play the major ukulele chords. Next, we are going to learn how to play the minor chords. These bad boys create softer sounds, where as the major chords sound strong and happy. Don't dismiss the minor chords though. They can add a moody sound to your tunes. The first four minor chords are Am, Bm, Cm, and Dm.
Am is super easy, because it only requires one finger! Place your middle finger on the G string on the second fret. Instead of using four fingers for the Bm chord, use the barre chord we learned in the B chord a few minutes ago.
To play the Cm chord, move down a fret and either use three fingers, or use a barre chord again on C, E and A strings, third fret. The Dm chord is very similar to playing the F chord. You just need to add your ring finger to the C string, second fret.
Up next we've got Em, Fm, and Gm. After these three, you will have played 14 new ukulele chords! These chords aren't exceptionally hard, but will require some practice to trigger your muscle memory.
To get the Em chord down, you'll need to use your first three fingers and reach over the strings to fret. Start with your first finger on the A string, second fret. Your second finger will be E string, third fret. Lastly, your third finger will be on the C string, fourth fret.
You'll have to do a bit of a stretch to play the Fm chord. Your first two fingers stretch between the G and E strings on the first fret, then your ring finger hits the A string on the third fret.
The Gm chord is played with your first finger on the A string, first fret. Your second finger on the C string, second fret, and the third finger on the E string, third fret.
How do I play the 7th chords?
The 7th chords add a groovy vibe to your music. They are very common in blues and jazz songs. You can add a little soul to your tunes with these seven 7th chords, that's almost a tongue twister! The 7th chords are relatively easy to learn. First up, we have A7, B7, C7, and D7.
A7? This one is easy! Just use your first finger on the first fret of the C string. The B7 chord is a little more complicated. Use a barre chord on the G, E, and A strings on the second fret. Then add your middle finger on the C string, third fret.
C7 is another piece of cake! Place your first finger on the first fret of the A string. D7 is somewhat similar to B7. You'll use another barre chord on the G, C, an E strings on the second fret. Then add your middle finger down on the A string, third fret and you've got it!
We are on the final three ukulele chords for beginners. F7 is going to be one of the most difficult chords, but you've come this far you can do it! Add a little extra practice to these three and you'll be rocking it!
Hit the E7 chord with your first finger on the G string, first fret. Your second and third fingers will both be on the second fret, but on the C and A strings, respectively. F7 is just like the F chord we learned earlier, but you'll add your third finger on the C string, third fret.
Last but not least, G7! Place your first finger on the E string, first fret. Your second finger will reach over the string to the C string, second fret and your third finger will be on the second fret as well, but A string.
There you have it! You can now play 21 ukulele chords. You are on your way to mastery! Keep up the hard work and bookmark this page to return when you need a refresher. Happy uke-ing!
Tips for Beginners
- Invest in a quality ukulele. Cheap ones will be difficult to keep in tune and won't hold up with regular wear and tear.
- Always make sure your instrument is in tune. It will be impossible to sound amazing if you're off key.
- Learn how to read uke tabs.
- Spend some time learning basic strumming patterns.
- Take your time while learning. If you try to hurry through it, you could be memorizing things incorrectly.
- Have fun! It may be hard to motivate yourself to practice if you don't enjoy playing the ukulele. Try learning your favorite songs.