Who are you boa chords too amazing

How to play chords on the ukulele

In order to play songs with the ukulele, we must first learn how to play chords on the ukulele. Because they are the cornerstone of a song and everything that most ukulelists and guitarists play when they accompany their voice on a song.

Playing chords on the ukulele is really easy, especially compared to the guitar, but you can still make mistakes. In this post, I'll explain how it works properly. Then you don't have to laboriously break the wrong techniques later.

How a ukulele chord is structured

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Fortunately, chord fingerings follow a uniform pattern. Whether you are using the one from Ukulele Insider, the one from another website or Google Images or those from a book. The principle remains the same. Some are a bit more detailed, others more minimalistic, but nothing changes in the basic function.

First of all, you should know a few terms that keep coming up:

  • Strings: The strings, who would have thought it, are the long strands that are stretched from the neck to the bridge below the sound hole.
  • Frets: The frets run across the strings. They divide the fingerboard evenly.
  • Frets are the spaces between the frets.

The chord scheme is just a picture of your fingerboard. If you place your ukulele in front of you so that the neck points towards the ceiling and you can look into the front sound hole, then it is exactly in the position from which the chord schemes start. This is unusual at first, but after a short time you will automatically turn the pattern in your head.

Above the chord scheme (also known as the fingering) you will find the name of the chord. It can be something simple like “F” or “C”, or something complicated like “F13 # 9”. But do not worry, we are still a long way from the latter and it is also nothing that you need in everyday life.

By far the most important thing on the fingering is the black dots. Because they mark where your fingers should press down the strings.

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Tip: If you see a longer black bar instead of black dots, then it is a barre chord. This means that you press down all the strings that the beam is above with a single finger. That’s either two, three or all of the strings. These chords are much more difficult to play for beginners and should never be placed at the beginning of learning.

Between the chord name and the fingering you will often see small rings (strictly speaking, "zeros"). These only indicate that the respective strings are so-called "open strings" or "open strings". This means that you must neither press nor touch this string. This will make the fundamental note of the string sound because it has not been shortened by your fingers.

The posture of the fingers of your left hand

You have probably already watched some YouTube videos of ukulele players. And depending on who you were watching, you may have seen a wrong technique for holding your left hand. Most of the time, the players picked it up at the beginning because they didn't know any better or because the other posture seemed more comfortable at first, and now it would be too exhausting to change that.

However, a wrong hand position can lead to your game being restricted in the long run. Especially with the typical "thumb on the edge" you restrict the freedom of movement of the other fingers, which becomes a problem with advanced techniques at the latest.

The thumb belongs to your left hand Not on the edge of your fingerboard and should never reach over to the fingerboard - it only belongs behind the fingerboard. So while you are pressing down the strings with your other four fingers, your thumb is pressing against it from the back. This will also prevent your other fingers from becoming too tired.

Just imagine that you wanted to squeeze the fingerboard very tightly with your left hand and your four fingers had to be in front of the fingerboard and your thumb behind it. How would your natural hand position be? And that's how you pick ukulele chords.

You can also practice this with a pencil first. I got this exercise from the great book The ukulele book of Andreas David, which I would really like to recommend to you again. If you try to hold a pen with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other, you will find that there is only one way to position yourself. And that's exactly how you hold the neck of your ukulele.

Your four fingers from index finger to little finger should always press the strings as vertically as possible. Otherwise it quickly happens that you touch other strings and then no clean tones are produced. A finger pressing down a string must not touch any other string - unless it is a barre chord in which one deliberately presses several strings down with one finger at the same time. But that is then stated and is not yet of importance.

How much do I have to push the string down?

At the beginning you can't really tell how hard you should push down the strings of the ukulele.

If you apply too little pressure, the strings will sound muffled and there will be no sound. Because for a tone to be produced, the string has to touch the fret that is next to the fret in which you are pressing it down. Yes, there are almost always two frets next to a fret. What is meant is the fret that is closer to the sound hole.

As I said, the string only has to touch the fret. Any additional effort is wasted and can even lead to distortion. The chord change is also made unnecessarily difficult by a hand that is too cramped.

You can easily practice how much strength you need, and over time this information will migrate into your muscle memory. Press the string down so lightly that it is definitely muted and play it briefly with the thumb of your right hand. Now play it over and over again, slowly increasing the pressure of the finger on your left hand. Until a clean sound is created. Now you know exactly how hard to push.

Where is the best place to press the string down?

So far we have agreed that a string should not be pressed onto the fret, but always in the space in between, i.e. in the fret.

But depending on the size of your ukulele and the size of your fingers, this is a very flexible term. I mentioned above that the string has to touch the fret that is next to the fret (towards the sound hole).

It's best to touch the strings as close to this fret as possible, but never on it. You won't always succeed with more complicated chords, and that's okay. You should always grab the string at least in the middle of the fret. Everything between the middle and just before the fret is the sweet spot where the string sounds optimal.

But give it a try with your ukulele. Press the string down directly on the 1st fret (yes, exceptionally) and play the string with your right hand. Now play them again and again and slowly wander with your left finger into the second fret until you have landed on the second fret. Where did the string sound best in this area? This is your sweet spot.

You always put your fingers on at the same time. Period.

There are ukulele chords that require you to pick one string, two strings, three strings, or even four strings at the same time.

With three strings at the latest, but with most even with two strings, the fingers automatically do something that you should get used to quickly: They get on the corresponding strings one after the other instead of simultaneously.

That is wrong and you will notice that at the latest when you play a little faster.

The fingers must always land on the strings at the same time, without exception. I know that sounds utopian at the moment. At least, that's what it sounded like to me. I declared everyone crazy who tried to convince me that this could really work. I thought my fingers just weren't made for that.

But there is, you just have to practice it. This is what practice is for. Especially with the E minor chord, which is a bit dreaded by beginners, in which three fingers have to grip the lower three strings in three adjacent frets (it looks like a staircase), one believes that this will never work. But it will be faster than you think. The brain is amazingly flexible, even if you are well over 7 years old.

So make it a firm rule to put your fingers on the strings at the same time. Do not allow yourself any exception. Period.

The floating fingers - or: how do you change chords?

Once you have learned several chords, you will need to practice switching between them over and over again. But how will that work?

The trick is to prepare the next while playing one chord. That sounds like too much effort to start with, but it happens all by itself later. If you practice it now.

As soon as you play a chord, the unneeded fingers should float just a few millimeters above the strings in the formation that they are then supposed to take up.

Sometimes they can float above the right string in the right fret, sometimes you have to be content with them forming roughly the right formation. But that helps a lot when switching.

As a beginner, you have to prevent a tendency that most people naturally have: When you press down strings with your fingers, you spread the fingers that are not needed. This is a cardinal's mistake because it will not allow you to effectively switch between chords. After all, we're not at the Queen's for tea.

First, practice not spreading your fingers. It will take a few days for the brain to overwrite that old tendency, so don't put any pressure on yourself about it. But practice it consciously every time you play a chord. After a short time, the problem will resolve itself and you can focus your attention on preparing for the change.

Just remember: As long as the unneeded fingers only hover a few millimeters above the strings instead of being splayed, that's half the battle. If they still have the right formation, the change is extremely easy.

What's the most effective way to practice chords?

Once you learn the second chord, this is actually the only time you can begin to practice chords properly. Since you usually start with "C" and "F", so on the first day, because both are pretty easy.

I recommend the following to you 3-step program to practice your chords:

  1. Put your fingers on the strings and press them down neatly as the diagram shows. Now let them float a few millimeters or even a centimeter above the strings. Then put them back on. Repeat this, calmly 20, 30, 40, 50 times, as often as you need, so that it works absolutely smoothly. To check whether you have fingered the chord correctly, you should play all the strings one after the other with your right hand as soon as your fingers are positioned on the strings.
  2. Now you grab the C chord and then switch to the new chord. And from now on you switch back and forth. Make sure to put your fingers on at the same time. Even if it doesn't work right away, try again and again. At some point your brain has memorized the movement. Also make sure to always prepare for the change and to let the fingers that are not needed only hover a few millimeters above the strings instead of splaying them off. Here, too, it helps to play the strings one after the other with your right hand in order to check that they are gripping properly.
  3. As soon as you can do more than these two chords, you regularly switch back and forth between all the known chords and the new chord. Because you never know in which order you will have to grab them at some point.

It's a bleak, but really good workout. And you will find that you can grasp the first chords fairly cleanly after about a week. And it's getting better day by day and week by week, just stay tuned. The more frequently and regularly you play, the better and more permanent the nerve pathways in your brain become.

If you practice your chords diligently, it's just a blink of an eye to playing songs.

Don't go into too much

You have probably already picked out the lyrics and chords for all of your favorite songs and are now trying to determine which chords you can learn the fastest.

Do yourself a favor and don't set the bar so high. Personally, I even think it makes sense not to learn songs at all for the first 1-4 weeks, but rather to practice the most common chords first.

The beginner's books always work towards some kind of song, but they mostly only do that because children and young people in particular can quickly lose interest. I therefore advise adults at least to bite the bullet and only postpone this project for a few weeks.

That has a huge advantage. If you have practiced your chords diligently by then (and for the time being consider it like brushing your teeth), then you already have a foundation that you can play safely and cleanly. From there it's just a blink of an eye to playing songs.

Conversely, however, it can be quite frustrating and overwhelming to want to play a song but not be able to keep up with your own expectations. Because you have to grab the chords, hum the strumming pattern and maybe sing along with it. It can't all work at the same time. Most of them then choose chords or songs that are far too complicated to start with and make life unnecessarily difficult for themselves.

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Which chords should I learn first?

You can of course learn any chords you want. But there are simply some that are particularly familiar and at the same time particularly simple. With which you can achieve quick successes and still start something. That's why I suggest this order:

If you can do these 10 chords, you can already play most of the popular songs.

If you want to play the first songs as quickly as possible and the didactics are not that important to you, then concentrate first on the following four and then continuously add the above:

C - G - Am - F is a very typical chord progression, it is based on I - V - vi - IV. Even if songs are not written exactly in these chords, the songwriters mostly used the same relationship between the chords. In other words, you can play the songs with them, they may just sound a little lower or higher than the original (because they have been transposed). If they sound deeper, you can just use a capo.

To the video on YouTube

With these four chords you can play hundreds if not thousands of songs. The video above already demonstrates this. If you don't know it yet, you should definitely take a look. You will get a whole new look at the quality of today's pop music.

Common mistakes

Playing chords does not always work as smoothly with all chords as it does with C major, for example. Sometimes something just doesn't sound. Here are reasons why this could be.

  • Muted strings: The most common thing is that you touch strings with your fingers that you shouldn't touch. Remember that each finger only presses down one string and must never touch another, so you have to place your fingers as vertically as possible on the fingerboard. Only with barre chords do you press down several strings with one finger, but then explicitly and not accidentally.
  • Snarling strings: Sometimes strings also produce a snarling sound. In most cases this is due to a messy game. So you may not be pressing the string in the correct place and with the optimal intensity. But it can also be that there is a deficiency in the ukulele. Because there are constructions or construction errors that encourage buzzing.
  • Weird sounds: Make sure that your ukulele is in tune before every game, otherwise everything can just sound wrong.But even when everything is in the mood, it can still happen that notes do not sound right. You may have pressed the string too hard or you are pressing on the fret. Use only as much force as is needed to create a clean tone and push the string down between the frets.

A few general study tips

The following learning tips are not only valid for playing chords, but also especially for playing chords. The more closely you stick to it, the faster you will be successful.

  • The brain learns through Repetitions. Only when you repeat something over and over - over days and weeks and months - does it know that this information is important and keep it. Regardless of whether the factual knowledge is on index cards or something that should be included in the so-called muscle memory. Like movements on the fingerboard.
  • regularity is the key: don't just practice new chords, but build your repertoire. It's best to practice everything you've learned so far every day. Not for long, what matters most is regularity, the best daily occupation with it. So switch back and forth between all the chords you have learned. Practice all of the strumming patterns you have learned so far so that they sit permanently.
  • There is no point in practicing for hours on one day of the week and doing nothing on the remaining days. No brain learns anything like this. Better just play 10 minutes a day than an hour on the weekend. The brain needs repetitions - and sleep between repetitions - to process what it has learned. Timpani is ineffective during exams and even more so when learning instruments.


Every beginning is difficult, even on the ukulele. So it's not entirely fair that everyone always says the ukulele is so easy to learn. It is objective too, but in the first few days you can still have the feeling that nothing works. And that you will never learn that.

But I can guarantee you one thing: if you stick with it, you will learn, unless you have some pathological condition that makes it impossible. But then you probably wouldn't have bought a ukulele in the first place. Anyone can learn ukulele, it just has something to do with perseverance, as with all good things in life.

The brain always needs some time to learn completely new movement patterns. Especially for the left hand, which is very neglected, at least for right-handers. It is completely normal that it feels like a knot in your head at the beginning. The feeling does not mean that something is not possible for you, just that it is unfamiliar.

If you just stick with it, you will notice how quickly the successes come suddenly. Things that were initially calculated for weeks because they seem so difficult suddenly work after a few days. Or on the same.

The most important thing is that you don't get ready for it. I know the higher your demands, the more likely you are to do it because you are so disappointed. Ignore that and just keep playing. You'll be surprised.

Sources of the images used (in order of their placement):

  • Monkey: unsplash.com / Jared Rice (@jareddrice)


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