How to Play Chords on a Ukulele

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The simple four-string structure of the ukulele means you can form chords with less hand strength than you would need on a six- or twelve-string guitar. Here's how to play the various types of conventional chords on a ukulele.

  • Tune up your strings. The ukulele has its own string tuning system, which goes: G (bottom string), C (second string from bottom), E (third string from bottom) and A (top string). Identifying them is critical to learning ukulele chords. You have to have standard tuning, or chord "recipe" changes.

  • Find your ukulele chord recipes. Your major chords, for example, will be based on the first, third, and fifth notes of the chord scale. You can find comprehensive ukulele chord diagrams on sites like EZFolk (see Resources below), where you can cut through all of the note calculations and view chord patterns for the ukulele, assuming standard tuning.

  • Place the fingers of your left hand on strings according to your chord diagrams or note calculations.

  • Find a pick or position your hand for chord play. If you don't have a plastic pick handy, you can prepare to strike the strings with your thumb and index finger, or just brush the strings with your fingers in a "raking" gesture.

  • Strum all four strings to hear your chord sound. The ukulele as a "looser" string instrument has a wide, vibrant sound. When you play your chords correctly, the melodic harmony will be evident to listeners.

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