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Uke Chords Basics

Updated on January 13, 2024

Ukelele basic chords for guitar players

If you already play guitar, it's possible to learn ukelele (uke) very easily. The first time I tried, it did not go well, as the different tuning complicated things too much. The second time it went well, and I was able to play the uke in half an hour, albeit to a basic level. Here are some tips:

  • Use familiar guitar chord shapes first - just apply the shape, and don't think about the chord name.
  • These will be in a different place on the neck, on different strings.
  • A good example is the D7 shape -
  • The chord shape is exactly the same, only now you have a G7 chord on the uke.
  • This is because the tuning has changed.
  • Look at the F chord on the ukelele - I think of this shape as an Am7 shape on guitar, in the same place on the top four strings.
  • In the same way, the G chord on uke is the same as a D shape on guitar. From this you can see that the intervals are the same, but a fifth higher on the uke.
  • Tuning - the C string on uke is the same as middle C on piano, and the other strings follow the notes of a C6 chord, that is - C E G A but in a different order.

Reading the Chord Grids

The strings are the vertical lines, the frets are the horizontal lines. Guitar has 6 strings, uke only has 4, which is a significant factor in making it easier to play.

Uke chords

Chords for uke: C, F, G7

The chords 1, 4, and 5 in the key of C - the most important chords used in hundreds of songs - are C, F and G7. A song like You are My Sunshine just uses these three chords, as shown. Each bar has four beats, the ditto sign means that you stay on the same chord.

Some more easy three chord songs -

  • When the Saints Go Marchin' In
  • Twist and Shout
  • La Bamba
  • The last two are essentially the same song. Don't tell the lawyers.

12 Bar Blues

It's always a good idea to learn the chords for 12- Bar Blues in different keys, as it is the basis for so many songs. In this case, the chords are C7, F7, and G7 as shown.

  • Houndog
  • Rock Around the Clock
  • Blue Suede Shoes
  • Johnny B. Goode

Ukelele World

My other hub Ukelele World contains a great video and some more info on the uke.


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