Basic Ukulele Chords For Beginners
Shorthand chord naming
Aside from chord diagrams, another popular way to learn the finger placement chords is to know their shorthand. Remember that the vertical lines on a chord diagram represents the ukulele’s four strings, G-C-E-A? And that a 0 on top of the diagram means an open, or unfretted string? Those principles are used in shorthand chord names.
Let’s take for example the C chord. As a review, this is made by putting your ring finger on the first, or the A string at the third fret. In shorthand the C chord would be 0003. This means that strings G, C and E are not fretted, but A is fretted at fret 3.
Another example is the C7 chord, which you make by putting your finger on the bottom or the A string at the first fret. In shorthand, C7 would then be 0001. Since it’s at the first fret, you would hardly need to use your middle, ring or pinky finger there, and it would be natural to use the index finger for fretting.
Other examples of shorthand chord names: A is 2100, G7 is 0212 and A7 is 0100.
Shorthand chord names are a good way to remember where a chord is fretted but you still have to determine which finger to use for fretting. Don’t worry – this will be easy enough to work out once you know how to make chords.
Ukulele playing tips for beginners
- Take your time, don’t rush!
In each of your playing goals – playing faster, learning new chords, composing a simple melody – have patience with yourself and don’t rush. Muscle memory takes time to develop, especially in beginners hold an instrument for the first time. It’s normal and don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel like you’re not making any progress.
To track your progress and motivate you to keep playing, keep a daily practice log. Write down what you’ve accomplished for the day, say practicing chord transitions (moving from one chord to the next) between the C and F chord. If you can, record a video of yourself playing every day. We’re sure that your Day 30 video will show your improved your skills since Day 1.
Recording a video of yourself playing can also help you observe yourself and see what you’re doing wrong so you can make improvements.
- Maintain good form and posture.
Make sure you are sitting comfortably when practicing and you’re not slouching. Good posture also prevents unnecessary strain in your muscles and joints.
- Use a metronome.
Practice chords using a metronome (a physical one, an online metronome or a mobile app). Start with a slow pace then increase the speed or tempo steadily as you become more adept at playing chords.
For instance, play the F chord at 65 beats per minute (BPM) for 1 minute, then take 15-second break, then play the chord again. Repeat this twice before moving to the next chord. After playing the chords for 65 BPM, increase the tempo to 70 BPM, then 75 BPM, and so on. If the song your want to learn plays at 85 BPM, start with a slower pace and build up until you are playing the song at 85 BPM.
- Anticipate the next chord.
When you’re learning to play a song, it helps to listen closely so you can hear where the chord changes happen. When making chord transitions, it would help if you anticipate the next chord and prepare your fingers by hovering them over the strings they should fret.
Let’s take for example the C chord. When you play it, only your ring finger is fretting, leaving your index and middle fingers free. When you need to transition to an F chord from a C chord, you can prepare your index and middle fingers by hovering them over the strings they need to fret (E string at the first fret, G string at the second fret). This way, your fingers don’t have to travel far when you change chords.
- Do finger exercises.
If it’s your first time playing a string instrument, making the chords may feel awkward or uncomfortable to your fingers. To help you get used to playing, include finger exercises as part of your daily practice to increase the reach of your fingers and let you play faster and longer.
- Learn different strumming patterns.
Ukulele strumming patterns consist of various combinations of up strums and down strums. Strumming is another aspect of ukulele playing that can impact the sound and feel of a song, so practice different strumming patterns too. This is one example of a strumming pattern (D stands for down strum, U stands for up strum): D, D-U-D, D-U-D, D-U-D, D-U-D, D-U-D, D-U
Remember to strum with your wrist and not with your arm because moving your arm up and down repeatedly will tire you out quickly. It’s all in the wrist!
- Take breaks and allow yourself to develop muscle memory.
Allow your brain and finger muscles time to record your motor activity and make it easier for you to come back to the movement easily without that much conscious effort. This goes not only for making chords but for strumming as well.
- Hum the lyrics or melody.
If you’re learning to play a song, it would be helpful to hum along while practicing. This will help improve your strumming and keep the right timing while allowing you to get used to using your vocals. As you get better – you’re in tune, on time and can transition between chords easily, you can move on to singing the lyrics while playing effortlessly!
- Stay loose.
Another thing to love about the ukulele is that it gives off a relaxed and chill vibe. It doesn’t feel like a “formal” instrument like the harp or the cello. So when playing the ukulele, it’s best to stay loose and relaxed, not only in your fingers, wrists and arms but your entire body, especially your shoulders and your back. You can maintain good posture without holding yourself too stiffly, which can result in you getting tired quickly.
- Never stop learning!
Watch ukulele videos, listen to different music genres, play along with ukulele music, discover alternate fingerings – all of these contribute to you becoming a better ukulele player. Don’t stop with with just the basics; let your motivation drive you to learn more about playing the ukulele. Jam with your friends, try to compose your own song (or even a simple melody) – do whatever makes you motivated to learn and simply keep going!
I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty, Johnny Cash - Ukulele Tutorial
Easy practice songs for beginners
Here are some of the easiest ukulele songs for beginners. These songs use the chords we’ve listed above. Remember to start slow and have fun!
Songs using the ukulele chords G, D and C…
Blowin’ In The Wind (Bob Dylan)
Chords for the verses: G – C – G – G – C – D – G – C – G – G – C – D
When you get to “The answer my friend” parts, use these chords: C – D – G – Em – C – D – G
22 (Taylor Swift)
These chords just repeat throughout the song: G – D – C – D
Songs using the ukulele chords G, D, Em and C…
Someone Like You (Adele)
Chords for the verses, choruses and the bridge: G – D- Em – C
Chords for the pre-chorus: D – C – D – C – D
Tougher Than The Rest (Bruce Springsteen)
Chords for the verses: G – C – D – C – G – D
Chords for the bridge: Em – C – G – C – D – G – Em – C – G – C – G – D – G
I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty)
Chords for the verses: Em – D – G – Em – D – G – Em – D – C – Em – D – G
Chords for the choruses: C – D – C – D – C – D – Em – D – G – Em – D – G
Once you’ve got those songs down, you can try your hand at playing other beginner-friendly songs. There are plenty of ukulele tabs for these and other songs online – simply do a search to find your favorites!
- Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)
- I’m Yours (Jason Mraz)
- Let It Be (The Beatles)
- I Do/Falling For You (Colbie Caillat)
- Stay (Rihanna)
- Save Tonight (Eagle Eye Cherry)
- Hey Soul Sister (Train)
- Just The Way Your Are (Bruno Mars)
- Tears In Heaven (Eric Clapton)
- Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)
- Leaving On A Jet Plane (John Denver)
We hope our ukulele chord explanation for beginners helped out. All that’s left to do is for you to pull out your uke and get practicing. Practice does make perfect after all!
If you’re looking for an easy introduction to music, the ukulele is a phenomenal place to start. This amazing instrument manages to be strikingly versatile despite being incredibly easy to play. When you sit down to memorize a simple ukulele chord chart, you’ll be able to learn what you need to know to be able to play adaptations of your favorite songs. We’re going to walk you through some basic and not-so-basic chords that you’ll find in popular songs, but first let’s talk a little bit about some ukulele background and fundamentals.
The Ukulele’s History
The ukulele started showing up on the world’s musical stage in the 19th century when it was introduced by Hawaiian and Portuguese immigrants. It’s a small guitar-like adaptation of an instrument called a machete (not the sword type of machete used to slash through jungles) that gained prominence when it made its way to the United States during the 20th century.
Ukuleles, or ukes, feature four strings: G-C-E-A. Our favorite acronym to help us remember uke strings is “Greedy Cats Eat Avocados,” but feel free to create your own. Something seasoned musicians might find odd about the uke is that its bottom G string is tuned an octave higher than expected. This might seem counter-intuitive to guitarists and other string players, but it’s a special tuning that’s designed to help produce simple chords with only four strings.
Tips For Purchasing Your First Ukulele
If you’re considering buying a uke for the first time, it’s a good idea to do some serious research into finding out which ukuleles are worth purchasing and which ones are not before you make any final decisions. If you stumble across a $25 uke on Amazon with a 5-star rating, don’t believe what you see. The most important question you should ask when buying a uke is if the instrument you’re considering buying can stay in tune. Purchasing a cheap knockoff will just leave you frustrated. If possible, check out some ukuleles from a local music store so you can hold and play a few different ukes before making a decision.
Circle Of 5ths
To help teach you chords, we’re going to show you a ukulele chord chart that follows the pattern of the chords you see in the circle of fifths. This chart is a visual aid that describes how accidentals, or sharps and flats, are added to each key signature in music. The key of C major at the top of the circle has no sharps or flats. All of the keys you see here are major ones, but each key comes with its own parallel minor which is found a minor 3rd (3 half-steps) lower than the major. For example, C major’s parallel minor key is A minor. Feel free to skip ahead to the ukulele chord chart at the end of the article if you don’t need a music theory explanation of chords.
Most of the basic chords you’ll find in songs adapted for the ukulele are found on the right side of the circle in the keys of C,G, and D. We’ll show you how to play the chords found in those key signatures, but first let’s talk a little bit about how to build chords and how keys work in music.
Building Chords With Music Theory
There are three types of basic chords found in major and minor keys: major, minor, and diminished. In music theory, we can build chords and scales by following simple formulas based around the half-steps (one half-step = one ukulele fret) we find on not just the uke but many other instruments. These chords are built off of the root, which is the note name of the chord.
Major Chords: Root + Major 3rd (4 half-steps above root) + Perfect 5th (7 half-steps above root)
These chords sound full and complete and are found virtually everywhere in music.
Minor Chords: Root + Minor 3rd (3 half-steps above root) + Perfect 5th (7 steps above root)
Minor chords sound “sad” to most people, though they’re used in for many different purposes within music.
Diminished Chords: Root + Minor 3rd + Tritone (6 half-steps above root)
These chords sound tense and extremely dissonant. They convey a wide range of emotions in music including fear, doom, and longing.
In major and minor keys, chords are assigned to each note from the scale of those keys. The chords are either major, minor, or diminished. The great news here is that these assigned chords never change. We use a simple system of Roman Numerals to describe the way chords operate in keys. This is what the Roman Numerals look like for the chords of major keys:
The larger Roman Numerals represent major chords, while the smaller ones represent minor chords. The 7th chord at the end with the circle represents a diminished chord. Here’s what natural minor keys look like:
Roman Numeral analysis is meant to help musicians understand the relationships between chords, and we recommend using this system to get a better understanding of the songs you’re trying to play.
Now that you have a good idea of how chords work within keys, we’re going to show you how to play the chords of some basic major and minor keys featured in popular songs. Try memorizing each key by focusing on transitioning from chord to chord while playing to a set rhythm. Focus on one ukulele chord chart at a time and speed up as you get better with the transitions.
We hope this ukulele chord chart has been helpful for you. It’s a good idea to play the chords you’ve learned here to the slow click of a metronome for practice. For fun, try playing the chords from these keys out of order. Any of the chords you see here can easily be applied towards learning how to play popular songs. Experiment with adding in different strumming patterns with your right hand. Some of the shapes you learn on the uke can be directly applied to instruments like the guitar.
Best Chord Sites for Ukulele in 2020
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If you’re starting to learn the ukulele (which we named one of our easiest instruments to learn), you’re going to soon hit a point where you want to play some songs that you’re familiar with. That’s when you’re going to need to find the chords to the song you want to play.
What’s a Chord?
A chord is a set of three or more notes played together to produce the desired sound. Using chords you can play any popular song, it’s just a matter of finding out which chords to play and in what order. Below is a chord chart showing some of the most common chords you’ll run into, with the right-most string being the bottom string on the ukulele when you’re looking down on it from a playing position.
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Most Popular Ukulele Chords
Luckily for use ukulele players, many of the most popular ukulele chords are also the easiest to play! They are C, D, G, and F chords. A and Am and also very popular and should also be mastered quickly.
Many songs can be played with just those chords above. You should always try to practice and learn new chords to expand your musical expertise, of course.
The Best 4 Ukulele Chord Sites
In years past, finding ukulele chords online was hit or miss. Over the past few years, however, ukulele chords have become much more common. Let’s take a look at some of the sites that have the best inventory of songs for you to choose from.
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Ukulele Hunt is dedicated to ukulele chords alone, so it’s often your best bet for high-quality song chords that will sound great. The downside is that most of their songs are geared towards more advanced players, so beginners may struggle with most of their selection.
Check out all of their chords here. Many of them include an audio clip to give you an example for the strum pattern or any finger-picking sections. The chords and lyrics are usually given in a PDF format, which can be useful if you’re looking to print.
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UkuTabs is another ukulele-specific website, but it differs from Ukulele Hunt quite a bit. UkuTabs doesn’t go as deep into song explanation, but it does have a much wider library of songs. It also features some great interactive features like hovering over a chord to see a chord chart, an auto-scroll feature that will scroll the page as you play along, as well as a transposer.
The transposer will adjust the chords to a different key. Transposing chords can be extremely useful if the key that the chords are given in are outside of your preferred vocal range, or if you simply want to adjust the key to make the song easier to play.
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Chordie is a massive online database of songs that has a very clean interface. A chord chart specific to the song will display on the side, as well as a chord transposer. Chordie is a great spot to check in case the first two sites come up empty for your desired song.
e-chords boasts more than a million songs in its database, and most have ukulele tabs. Hovering or clicking on the chord name above the lyrics will bring up a helpful diagram which shows you the chord chart. One downside it e-chords is you can’t transpose the chords unless you pay for a membership, limiting its usefulness. For how many songs they have, you may still find it useful though.
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Author: Musical Pros
Cord chart ukulele
.The Best Ukulele Chord Chart for Beginners
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