Chords are the fundamental building blocks of your Ukulele education and any song.
By Ben Nemeroff
The cheerful, happy-go-lucky sound of a ukulele is one of the reasons so many players pick the instrument up and want to learn to play. However, to begin bringing the lilting tones of a ukulele to life under your own fingers, it’s essential to learn some easy ukulele chords that can be strummed along with some of your favorite songs. Fender Play is the perfect place to start your musical journey as you learn to play the ukulele!
Beyond its upbeat sound, there are a number of reasons to learn to play the ukulele. Not only are the ukulele’s nylon strings gentler on beginner’s fingers, but the small-sized instrument is highly portable, allowing you to carry it with you on your travels and connect with others through the art of music. And there are a number of styles of ukuleles to choose from! Our new interactive gear guide, FindYour.Fender.com, matches you with the perfect model by learning about your sound & style. You’ll be well on your way to finding the right ukulele for you.
Ready to learn some beginner ukulele chords and expand your knowledge of this small-on-size, big-on-fun instrument? Grab your uke and let’s go!
At its most basic level, a ukulele chord is a combination of three or more notes that produce a pleasing harmony when strummed together. At a broader level, ukulele chords are the building blocks of the musical foundation you’ll need to learn to play songs.
Chords are the heart-and-soul of making music on a ukulele. Whether you’re strumming along to some of your favorite songs, or writing music of your own, learning basic ukulele chords can help you bring those creations to life and spark the joyful sound that’s synonymous with the ukulele.
It only takes minutes to learn to play chords on a ukulele. Start by learning how to properly place your fingers on the fretboard of your ukulele to create chord shapes. Then, listen to the tone and practice transitioning between different chords.
It’s easy and fun to start learning ukulele chords and work your way up to ukulele chord progressions heard in songs. In just minutes a day, with bite-sized lessons, you can learn to play ukulele chords and songs. Fender Play teaches beginner ukulele players with a mix of chord charts, tablature, and video lessons to show you where to place your fingers, and just how each chord sounds.
Start committing chords to memory and work on proper finger placement. With time and practice, strumming ukulele chords will come to you like second nature!
The key to learning to play the ukulele is learning to read ukulele chord charts. Ukulele chord charts serve as a visual representation of the four strings on the fretboard of your ukulele:
• G = The fourth string
• C = The third string (lowest tone)
• E = The second string
• A = The first string (and highest-tone string)
Unlike the guitar, where strings are in a descending order, the lowest-toned string on a ukulele is actually the third string.
You’ll also find numbers and other symbols on ukulele chord charts that show you where to put each finger to play the chord properly.
• O - A circle above the string means to play that string in an open position
• X - An “x” above the strings means you won’t play that string or mute it • when playing
• 1 = Index finger
• 2 = Middle finger
• 3 = Ring finger
• 4 = Pinky finger
Here are chord charts for some of the most common ukulele chords:
While there are dozens of ways to play ukulele chords, they can be broken down into three specific types of chords. These types of ukulele chords have their own mood and sound when played as a single chord, or create the feeling of a song when different chords are played as part of a chord progression in a song.
Strum a major chord on the ukulele and you’ll instantly be struck by its bright, zingy sound. Just as major chords are formed on a guitar, the same formula applies to create major chords on a ukulele. Major chords are composed of a root (or first) note, third note, and fifth note of a given major scale.
While major chords have a happy tone, minor chords often have a darker, or slightly sad tone. When played on the ukulele, minor chords also use the same formula as minor chords on a guitar. The formula to play a minor chord is the root (or first) note, the flattened third, and the fifth note of any major scale. By making the third note flat, lowering it by half a step, it gives a minor chord its more somber sound.
Power chords are made up of only two notes: the first (root) and fifth notes of a major scale. Power chords, on both guitar and ukulele) are often played in open position or with just one finger. They make it easier to transition between chords. The interesting thing about ukulele power chords is that they are neither major or minor chords. They can work together to create a different mood or feel within a song, often taking the place of a definite major or minor chord and adding to the atmosphere of a song. Talk about versatile!
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned ukulele player, you’ll find that some of the most popular ukulele chords are among the easiest to learn and play! Start off learning some of these basic ukulele chords, then use them to play some of your favorite songs.
These nine chords are a great springboard for beginners to learn songs like “My Strange Addiction” by Billie Ellish, “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, and Grace VenderWaal’s “I Don’t Know My Name.” Check out some of the most popular beginner ukulele chords:
Made up of the notes E, G#, and B, the E major chord forms the foundation of a variety of songs across all genres. Learn the E major chord.
Composed of the notes A, C sharp (C#) and E, the A major chord is a plucky sounding chord that feels right at home when strummed on the ukulele. It’s also a great chord for beginner ukulele players to learn. Unlock a free trial of Fender Play to get video lessons like this one that shows you how to play the A major chord on ukulele.
The F minor chord consists of the notes F, A flat (Ab) and C. Strum this sad-sounding chord and learn to play it in different songs. Learn the F minor chord.
Comprised of the notes B, D, and F sharp (F#), the B minor chord lends a downcast tone to the normally chipper ukulele. Sign up for Fender Play and you’ll get video tutorials showing you how to strum the Bm chord in 2nd position on your ukulele.
The notes C, E flat (Eb), and G make up the C minor chord. Learn to play the C minor chord on ukulele.
Seventh chords take the standard formula for a chord and tacks on an extra note -- the 7th note of a scale. The E7 chord contains the notes E, G sharp (G#), B, and D. Try your hand at strumming the E7 chord. With a Fender Play membership, your free trial unlocks lessons like this one, plus even more videos that show you how to play ukulele chords, songs, and more.
The D major chord is made up of the notes D, F sharp (F#), and A. Give this bright-sounding chord a strum. Learn to play the D major chord on ukulele.
Made up of the notes D, F, and A, the D minor chord can be heard in a variety of different songs. Learn to play the D minor chord.
The G major chord is made up of the notes G, B, and D. Listen for it in some of your favorite songs. Then hear and play the G chord yourself by unlocking Fender Play video lessons with a free trial.
The best part of learning chords on ukulele is getting to play them in some of your favorite songs. Chances are, some of your favorite songs are actually quite easy to play. Check out some of these songs to play on ukulele that feature easy-to-play chords suitable for beginners. Then, unlock even more tunes with the Fender Play app.
An alternate version of “watch,” Billie Eilish’s “&burn” is one of several songs that’s put the young artist on the map. Known for her eclectic, ethereal sound, Billie Eilish is a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist who recently came out with her own signature ukulele this year.
Learn to play “&burn" by Billie Eilish on ukulele. A free trial of Fender Play lets you learn this song and many more.
The Hawaiian roots of the ukulele are on full display in this title song from the short Disney film, Lava. Grab your uke and strum along!
Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” is the perfect blend of sweet and upbeat for beginner players to learn to play on ukulele. Swift wrote the song in just 20 minutes -- and in less time than that, you can learn the song on your own!
Learn to play “Love Story” by Taylor Swift on ukulele. Like this song? Learn more Taylor Swift tunes when you subscribe to Fender Play ukulele lessons.
Shakira’s soulful and inspiring “Try Everything” is a fun song for players new to ukulele to strum along to!
Written in 1939, “You Are My Sunshine” has proven to be one of the most enduring ballads of all time. All you need to know are three simple chords to play this sentimental favorite on ukulele.
Learn to play “You Are My Sunshine” by Jimmie Davis on ukulele with a Fender Play subscription.
The unmistakable melody of “Happy Birthday” is simple and fun to play! With just three easy chords, beginners can play this celebratory tune on ukulele.
Want to learn more ukulele chords? Check out all the available ukulele chord lessons in the Fender Play app here: https://www.fender.com/play/ukulele/skills/chords
Learning to play ukulele can be fun and rewarding. It’s impossible not to smile when you hear some happy-go-lucky chords being strummed on this tiny instrument. Sign up for a free trial of Fender Play and unlock a whole new world of chords, skills, and songs to play on ukulele.