Learning to play the ukulele is not intimating as you think it is! Basic ukulele chords are easy to master even for individuals who haven’t played any string instrument before. As matter of fact, you can play some of these basic ukulele chords only require you to use one to two fingers!
Chord Finger Numbers
If you go to an online ukulele chart website, you will notice that the chord diagrams have numbers on the frets. The number shown in the diagram is the finger you’ll use at that fret. The numbers correspond to the fingers of your left hand.
- 1 = Index finger
- 2 = Middle finger
- 3 = Ring finger
- 4 = Pinky
Like any instrument, you will have to tune your ukulele before learning the basic ukulele chords. We recommend using a clip-on digital because it’s faster and more convenient than tuning by ear. If you are unsure of the string names, always keep in mind that the closest to you is G and the string closest to your feet is A.
Keep in mind that you will still have the adjust the tuning pegs when using a tuner.
- Tighten the E and A strings by turning the pegs clockwise.
- Tighten the G and C strings by turning the pegs counterclockwise.
Pro tip: If the tuner displays a flat note, you will need to tighten the strings. When the note is sharp, you will have to loosen the strings.
1. Standard Tuning
Stringed instruments are usually tuned by keeping the lowest note on the lowest string and ascending to the top string. This is called linear tuning. Soprano and concert ukuleles use a standard re-entrant tuning.
2. Re-Entrant Tuning
Re-entrant tuning means the order of the strings’ pitches is mixed up. To tune your ukulele using a standard re-entrant tuning, tune your fourth string G one octave higher. Your fourth string should now sound higher than your third string.
You’ll often see re-entrant tunings written as g-C-E-A and linear tunings as G-C-E-A.
Ukulele Chart Symbols: How to Read a Ukulele Chord Diagram
The chart mirrors what a ukulele looks like when you’re facing it. Usually, you will find a ukulele chart with finger numbers in the grid itself but there are some charts where the number is underneath the grid.
You will also find other symbols, including the chord name, string names, open string, fingered fret, and muted string.
If the chart has the symbol “O” that means the string is open and strummed without pressing a fret. You will also find an “X” mark. This symbol is the complete opposite of “O,” meaning you shouldn’t play the string.
So, how about the grid pattern? Well, that is the fretboard. The four vertical lines represent the strings of your ukes while the horizontal lines are the frets. If you notice that there is a thick line, there’s no need to panic. It is only the nut.
Pro Tip: When learning how to play ukulele chords, you should place your finger right behind the fret, not directly on it.
Major chords are built with a major third between the root and the third notes and a minor third between the third and fifth notes. You will find many easy ukulele songs or beginner-friendly ukulele chord progressions using major chords.
This basic ukulele chord only uses one finger! Place your third finger on the third fret of the first string. As for the other strings, you should openly strum them. If it hurts to press down on the strings, try playing more on the tips of your fingers and less on the pads.
You should place your second finger on the fourth string at the second fret. Position your first finger on the first fret of the third string. The first and second strings are open strings.
Pro Tip: You can push your left elbow forward a bit to ease the strain on your wrist.
The fourth string is open. The index finger is on the fourth string, the second fret. The middle finger is placed on the second fret of the first string. The third finger is placed on the second string, the third fret.
Fingers one, two, and three rest in a row on the second fret of strings four, three, and two. Remember that you should play the first string open.
How about playing the B major? You will need to place your third finger on the fourth fret of the fourth string. Then, the second finger goes on the third string, the third fret. Put your first finger across the second fret of the first and second strings.
Minor triad chords are composed of a minor third interval from the first to third tones. A major third interval is built from the third to the fifth. They add richness to songs.
A minor is one of the basic ukulele chords. Place your first finger on the second fret and play the other strings open.
Place your second finger at the second fret of the fourth string. Your third finger rests next to it on the third string at the second fret. Place your index finger at the first fret of the second string. Play the first string open.
Easily play an E minor chord by playing an open fourth string. Your third finger goes on the third string, fourth fret. Place your second finger on the second string at the third fret. Your first finger is placed on the first string, second fret.
Seventh chords are created by building a minor third interval from the fifth of a major triad. It’s named for its relationship to the bottom note. As its name suggests, you will find the number “7” written after the note.
First in the 7th chords is the E7. To play this chord, your index finger will go on the fourth string, first fret. Then, place your middle finger on the third string, second fret. As for your third finger, position it on the third string, second fret. Don’t forget to play the first string open.
Play the fourth string open. Place your middle finger on the third string, second fret. Your first finger goes on the second string, first fret. Place your third finger on the first string, second fret.
Using your first finger, barre the second, third, and fourth string at the second fret. Place your second finger on the first string, third fret.
Some lists of easy ukulele chords use the first finger on the fourth string, second fret and the second finger on the second string at the second fret. This chord is missing the root D note.
Learning to barre chords helps you develop your finger strength and technique.
What’s Your Favorite Basic Ukulele Chord?
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You have learned the basics of tuning your ukulele, reading chord charts, and playing basic ukulele chords. Have fun and enjoy playing your ukulele.