Starting to learn any instrument can be an intimidating proposition. While it’s not quite like learning a foreign language, you will have to memorize new skills and unfamiliar letters to start on your journey to mastering the instrument.
When it comes to the ukulele, new symbols such as ‘#’ and ‘b’ may look familiar but will have new meanings. But, there is no need to panic! We are here to help you progress and pick up songs as quickly as possible.
When it comes to playing the ukulele, most songs are made up of basic ukulele chords. These are generally major, minor, and 7th chords. Each group contains 7 chords, one for each note.
This equates to 21 basic chords. As soon as you strum just one of these chords, you will feel overjoyed. Thankfully, the upbeat tones of a ukulele will match your emotions!
The ukulele is a great instrument to begin with, especially if you don’t play any other instrument. It’s small in size meaning you can take it anywhere with you.
Also, the neck and fretboard are much smaller than standard-sized guitars and bass guitars meaning it’s not so strenuous on your fingers. And, with only four strings, it’s one of the simplest yet most enjoyable instruments anyone can play.
To help you get started on your ukulele journey, we have created an in-depth guide to show you the best chords to play for ukulele beginners. So, if you have a ukulele at hand, let’s start learning those chords so you can play effortlessly as soon as possible.
Before we take a look at some ukulele chords, you need to learn how to tune the instrument. For ukulele, there are two main ways to tune it – standard and re-entrant tuning.
These are the most popular methods of tuning and are always displayed on chord charts.
This is why you should pay close attention to these tunings before tackling a song. If no label is applied, it’s usually in standard tuning.
The open notes of a ukulele with standard tuning are G-C-E-A. The thickest string is the G string (lowest and closest to you) while the thinnest, and farthest away string is A (high string).
Sometimes, you may see or hear the string referred to as the first string, second string, third string, and fourth string. In this instance, the first string is the A, the second is the E, the third is the C, and the fourth string is the G.
Many ukulele players actually prefer to use re-entrant tuning. Unlike standard tuning, the open notes are tuned from lowest to highest as you work down the strings. Here, the third-string, C, is the lowest note.
This tuning requires different strings as the fourth string (the G) will be thinner to produce a higher G note.
For re-entrant tuning, the chord diagram will have a lower case ‘g’ showing g-C-E-A.
Chords For Ukulele
To begin with, we will take a look at the major chords for each note. These are the most common chords and simplest to play for ukulele newbies. Nevertheless, some of these chords are a little tough at first but with time, you will be able to master them.
First up, we have the A, C, and D chords.
- A major chord – This is a nice simple one to start with. You place your middle finger on the second fret of the G string and your index finger on the first fret of the C string. With your two fingers so close together, it’s a comfortable position to begin with.
- C major chord – We’d have to say this is probably the easiest chord of all. You use just one finger on the third fret of the A string (thinnest). You should use your ring finger for this note as it tends to be easier to transition to other notes from this position. But, it’s up to you. Find what works best for you before moving to another chord.
- D major chord – Although not as easy as the previous two chords, the D major chord is still relatively simple. You use three fingers (index, middle, and ring) on the second fret of the G, C, and E strings. This can be tough to accomplish at first as each note may buzz a little. Take it slowly and place one finger on each note separately to make a barre chord.
Next up are the F, G, B, and E chords.
- F major chord – This is another simple chord that is similar to the A major chord. Keep your middle finger on the second fret of the G string but move your index finger down onto the first fret of the E (third) string.
- G major chord – If you play guitar, you will recognize this shape as the D major chord on a six-string. Place your first finger on the second fret of the C string, your second on the second fret of the A string, and your ring finger on the third fret of the E string.
- B major chord – Okay, now it gets a little more difficult. The B major chord requires you to hold your first finger over the second frets of the A and A strings. You will need to stretch your middle finger onto the third fret of the C string while your ring finger is on the fourth fret of the G string. Yes, this is horribly tough at first but you will get there with practice!
- E major chord – Here is another hard chord to play but totally achievable. This requires some stretching as your first finger is on the first fret of the G string, your second is on the second fret of the A string, and a big stretch for your ring finger to the fourth fret of the C string. If this is too much of a stretch, try using your pinky instead of your ring finger.
Once you have practiced the major chords, or as we like to call them “the happy chords”, it’s then time to tackle the more melancholic sounds of minor chords.
Well, even on a ukulele, minor chords still manage to sound upbeat!
Minor chords may not sound as full and strong as their major counterparts but they are ideal for softer, more tender sounds. They can create a sort of ‘attitude for your playing.
More importantly, most ukulele songs use a combination of both major and minor chords so it’s critical that you learn the basics.
You’ll be pleased to know that the minor chords tend to be easier to play than most of the major chords (excluding the easy C chord).
There is one minor chord (the B minor) that is somewhat difficult but we will cross that bridge further down.
We will start with the A minor chord and progress to look at C minor, D minor, E minor, F minor, G minor, and B minor.
- A minor chord – This is pleasingly similar to the easiest of the major chords, the C major. All you need is one finger. Place your middle finger on the second fret of the G string. You can and should practice this with other fingers as well to make transitioning to other chords as smooth and easy as possible.
- C minor chord – This is a little more difficult and requires three fingers. These three fingers will be on the third frets of the highest three strings (C-E-A).
So, place your middle finger on the third fret of the C string, your ring finger on the third fret of the E string, and your pinky on the third fret of the A string. Three fingers, three strings, third fret! You can also try this with your index, middle, and ring finger if it’s easier for you.
- D minor chord – Back to another easy chord! For guitarists, this is the same shape as an E major or A minor chord. Place your middle finger on the second fret of the G string, your middle finger on the second fret of the C string, and your index finger on the first fret of the E string. This may be an easier alternative than the G major chord above, especially for songwriting.
- E minor chord – Remember the E major chord? Yeh, that was not a pleasant chord to try but we have some good news! The minor equivalent is much easier to play. Place your ring finger on the fourth fret of the C string, your middle finger on the third fret of the E string, and your index finger on the second fret of the A string. This is a relatively comfortable chord to play and isn’t as hard as it first looks.
- F minor chord – The F minor chord takes a little more practice and patience to master. Place your index finger on the first fret of the G string, your middle finger on the first fret of the E string, and your pinky on the third fret of the A string. You could use your ring finger instead of your pinky but we believe the pinky is the easiest option.
- G minor chord – As with the G major chord, the G minor follows the same pattern as D chords on a guitar. Play the D major chord with your middle finger on the second fret of the C string and your ring finger on the third fret of the E string. Now, move your index finger to the first fret of the A string. Move between the G major and G minor chord and you will notice the difference in tonality.
- B minor chord – Now, we come to the most difficult of the minor chords. This requires a three-string barred chord again where your index finger covers the second frosts of the G, C, and E strings. While this can be hard to master at first, you will also need to stretch your ring finger to the fourth fret of the G string. If this is challenging for you, it’s normal for most. Try using your pinky if you find it hard to reach with your ring finger.
To complete your knowledge of the basic chords of a ukulele, we need to examine the seventh chords. Once you play these, you will notice they have a distinct jazz and blues feel to them.
- A7 chord – This is easy! Just place your index finger on the first fret of the C string.
- C7 chord – Another easy chord! Lace your index finger on the first fret of the A string.
- E7 chord – Things get a little more challenging with the E7 chord. Place your index finger on the first fret of the G string, your middle finger on the second fret of the C string, and your ring finger on the second fret of the A string.
- F7 chord – With the same shape as the G minor chord, you need to place your index finger on the first fret of the E string, middle on the second fret of the G string, and ring finger on the third fret of the C string.
- G7 chord – This is another easy one. Just flip the G major chord around. Place your index finger on the first fret of the E string, middle finger on the second fret of the C string, and ring finger on the second fret of the A string.
- B7 chord – We’re down to the most difficult seventh chords. However, if you’ve mastered the B minor chord, this will be easier. Place your index finger on the second frets of the G, E, and A strings. Your middle finger should rest on the third fret of the C string.
- D7 chord – Finally, we have a shape similar to the B7 chord. Press down on the second frets of the G, C, and E strings with your middle finger on the third fret of the A string. Difficult at first but, as with all the chords, practice will make it easier.
We hope this guide has helped you understand the basic ukulele chords. Now, all that is left is for you to tackle each chord and commit to a practice regime.
In time, you will play each chord without even thinking.