If you just picked up a ukulele for the first time and are wondering what chords you should learn first, look no further! We’ve got you covered here at Uke Like The Pros, your one-stop shop for all your ukulele needs!
Every journey has a beginning, and playing the uke is no different. For King Arthur, his journey began when he pulled the sword from the stone. For you, it began when you picked up a ukulele and said, just as King Arthur once did, “how do you play chords on this thing?!” At least that’s what I think he said.
Whether or not King Arthur ever got his answer to that question, we may never know. You, on the other hand, are seconds away from getting your answer! Here is a list of the 5 most important basic chords every ukulele player needs to know.
What Is a Chord?
If you already know what a chord is, or you don’t give two hoots what makes a chord a chord and just want to know how to play the dang things, feel free to click on the chords above and jump right ahead to the chords. For the rest of you, let’s take a look at what a chord is before we try and play one, sound good?
Musical instruments, generally speaking, play musical notes. A chord is simply a collection of 3 or more notes played simultaneously. Now, you can’t just play any 3 notes at the same time and expect it to sound good, or even like a real chord. The two key components to making chords is to know that the letters of the notes within the chord will tell you which chord you are playing, and the distance (or interval in music terminology) between the notes in a chord determines what type of chord it is. For instance, an A minor chord and an B minor chord do not share any notes with one another, however, the interval between the notes within each of those chords is the same, which is why they are both minor.
Read more: Ukulele Keys And How To Understand Them
Don’t worry too much about this now, just tuck it away in your ukulele case somewhere for later. It’ll help you begin to understand how chords are made, but for now you just need to know how to play them.
Reading Chord Charts
And what you need to know in order to play chords, is how to read a chord chart.
As you can see, the chart is a representation of the fretboard of the ukulele. The four vertical lines represent the four strings of the ukulele – G, C, E, and A from top to bottom. The chart is designed to match what you’d see if you looked straight at your ukulele from the front. The horizontal lines represent the ukulele frets. When a circle appears between two frets, that means you put a finger there. More on that once we get to our first chord.
For reference, the four strings of the ukulele are sometimes also referred to by number.
G = 4
C = 3
E = 2
A = 1
Lastly, the fingers of your left hand are also numbered.
Pointer/index = 1
Middle = 2
Ring = 3
Pinky = 4
Ok, let’s take a look at some chords!
The most basic and useful of all ukulele chords, the C chord requires only one finger. As you can see from the diagram above, we need to put a finger on the third fret of the A (1st) string. Generally speaking, we use our 3rd finger for this. You can really use any finger here, but using the 3rd finger leaves your first two open, which will make shifting to other chords easier.
Give it a try!
Another staple chord, the F chord takes two fingers, one on the first fret of the E (2nd) string, and one on the 2nd fret of the G (4th) string. This is a perfect example of why we use the 3rd finger to play the C chord. To switch to F, simply take the first finger and place it on the 1st fret of the E string and your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the G string.
Boom. Two down!
Adding in another finger, we can play the G chord. Take your 2nd finger and place it on the 2nd fret of the A string. Then, take your 3rd finger and place it on the 3rd fret of the E string. Lastly, move your 1st finger to the 2nd fret of the C string.
This one can get people a little twisted up. I recommend slowly moving back and forth from F to G, making sure to use the proper fingers, and do the same with the C chord. Doing this back and forth will gradually help you form those chords on the fly as you progress – even when transitioning from other chords!
Ok, another easy one here. A minor, like C, only takes one finger to play. This time, we’ll take our 2nd finger and put it on the second fret of the G (2nd) string. Try alternating between C and Am. C with the 3rd finger and Am with the second.
There are two ways to play this one. You can put your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of G, 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of C, and 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of E. That works just fine! But that can be a little tight for some people’s fingers, and can be hard to switch between with other chords. Another option is to just take your 2nd finger and “bar” it across all 3 strings. This takes some extra practice and extra finger strength, but it can make for a quicker transition.
For more lessons on chords, techniques, and songs to help you along on your own uke journey, make sure to check out our site www.ukelikethepros.com. We offer you a bunch of great ukulele content that comes hand-in-hand with an awesome ukulele community that will support you in this journey.