Congratulations! You’ve learned the parts of the ukulele and how to tune it. Now you’re all set to learn how to play some ukulele chords and start playing your favorite songs. Let’s go over some terminology that will help you read ukulele chord diagrams.
The Chording Hand
Each finger on the chording hand, which is usually the left hand, has a label. The thumb is T, the index finger is 1, the middle finger is 2, the ring finger is 3, and the pinky is 4.
How to Read a Chord Diagram
The name of the chord is at the top. The diagram shows the nut across the top, the strings going down and the frets going across. The dots are where you place your fingers. Some diagrams suggest what fingers to use using numbers 1-4, while others only use dots.
Chord diagrams with open circles above the nut indicate open strings. An open string is a string that is played without placing your fingers on any frets.
Playing Your First Chord
The chord that most emergent ukulele players learn first is the C chord. Locate the dot and the string where the dot is placed. Note, some diagrams have indicated a suggested finger to use. In this example, the dot is located on the 3rd fret of the 1st string and suggests that the player use finger number 3 on the chording hand.
Note: Just like the diagram indicates, the placement of the fingers will be in between the frets and not on the metal frets themselves.
Tips for Better Sounding Chords
If you notice that your chords sound muffled, make sure that your fingers are right behind the frets and not on top of them. It also could be that another finger is touching or muting a string causing the chord to sound muffled. Strum each string to find the muted string. Notice whether or not you may need to apply a little more pressure to the string or use the tips of your fingers to lift part of the finger out of the way to make the chord sound clearer. Lastly, make sure your nails are trimmed because long nails may prevent a player from being able to form chords comfortably.
Now it’s time to learn some essential chord families, or keys, and some popular songs that use these chords. Learning the chord families below will help you play dozens of songs, and you’ll also find that some keys share some common chords.
The Key of C
Popular Songs in the Key of C:
“I’m Yours” – Jason Mraz
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – Simon Linda
The Key of G
Popular Songs in the Key of G:
“Love Me Do” – The Beatles
“Stand By Me” – Ben E. King
“Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker
The Key of A
Popular Songs in the Key of A:
“Three Little Birds” – Bob Marley
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” – John Denver
“Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
“Rockin’ Robin” – Leon Rene
Now that you know how to read a chord diagram, produce a clear sound, and some essential chords, you’re ready to learn some essential strumming patterns that you could use for literally HUNDREDS of songs.