12 Basic Ukulele Chords for Beginners

basic uke chordsLearning how to play ukulele chords is perhaps one of the most exciting things. The reasons for this is that every song you here is composed of chords. So as you learn a handful of these chords you will be on your way to playing hundreds of songs and even thousands if you wanted to. This article will help you learn how to play ukulele chords easily. I’ve put together clear step by step instructions to help you. I hope to make your journey easier while you learn how to play ukulele chords.

These chords I will show you in great detail really are the most popular and the most common. There are many ukulele chords you can learn, but the reality is that there are a small amount of them that are most significant.

My goal is to save you a lot of time, money, and stress that may come with music lessons. I say this from personal experience. So here you will learn the chords that will help you play over 80% of all ukulele songs.

Learning how to play ukulele becomes a lot easier once you know that there are only 12 ukulele chords you really need to know to play 90% of songs. There are over 100 chords you can learn, but you would rarely need to use more than half of those if ever. So I’ve sifted through many songs to save you time and have come up with a list of the 12 most popular chords you should learn. After learning these chords you will be able to play almost any song you can think of. Oh, and did I already mention learning to play ukulele chords is really exciting?

By the way, be sure to check out the ukulele chords video library. It’s free and an awesome resource for beginners.

ukulele chords

How To Play Ukulele Chords

The Major Chords

1. How To Play C Ukulele Chord

C is the most popular chord of all time. Whether you play piano, saxophone, accordion, trumpet, the C chord is the most common and most played chord. This applies to any instrument you play and pretty much any musical genre. It’s basically the first chord every musician learns at the beginning stages. By the way, this happens to be the easiest to play of all the ukulele chords! Examples of songs that use C: Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I’m Yours, Let It Go, The Lazy Song, Imagine. Before trying this chord, make sure you know how to tune your ukulele.

The most common way to play this chord is simply to place your ring finger on the first string/third fret. The reason for this is that you can easily maneuver if you need to switch to play chords that include notes on the first and second fret for example A chord, or F chord. However, get used to playing this chord with the middle finger also as sometimes it will be a more comfortable position certain cases. For example at the very beginning of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

  1. place your ring finger on the 1st string / third fret.
  2. Or using your middle finger may be more convenient depending on the song.

2. How To Play G Ukulele Chord

G chord is a hugely popular chord as well. Almost as much as the C chord actually. A lot of the popular songs usually use the C chord and the G chord together. So it’s no surprise that G is the next most popular on the list of ukulele chords. Examples of songs that use G: Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I’m Yours, Let It Go, Imagine. Be sure to see my easy ukulele songs article where you can use this chord often.

  1. place your middle finger on the 1st string / 2nd fret
  2. place your index finer on the 3rd string / 2nd fret
  3. place your ring finer on the 2nd string / 3rd fret

3. How To Play F Ukulele Chord

Similar to the G chord, the F chord is widely used together with C. It is very common to see all three of these chords together. So if you’re getting started on the uke, these are the first three ukulele chords that you should learn really well before learning the rest. Examples of songs that use F: Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I’m Yours.

  1. place your index finger on the 2nd string / 1st fret.
  2. place your middle finger on the 4th string / 2nd fret

4. How To Play D Ukulele Chord

The D chord is another important chord to learn. Remember we went over learning how to play Happy Birthday together? The D chord was used a lot together with G and the next chord on this list. Example of songs that use D: Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace

  1. place your index finger on the 4th string / 2nd fret
  2. place your middle finger on the 3rd string / 2rd fret
  3. place your ring finger on the 2nd string / 2nd fret

5. How To Play A Ukulele Chord

A is the chord used in Happy Birthday right after D. If you get this chord, you’ll be able to play songs like Hey Jude, Hey Soul Sistah and other great classic ukulele songs.

  1. place your index finger on the 3rd string / 1st fret
  2. place your middle finger on the 4th string / 2nd fret

6. How To Play E Ukulele Chord

This one is a classic chord because probably the one you hear when you listen to sad songs like Somewhere Over The Rainbow. This chord is known for giving the sad vibe to songs. Get used to this chord because you will see it very often.

  1. place your index finger on the 1st string / 2nd fret
  2. place your ring finger on string 2, 3, and 4 / 4th fret

7. How To Play Bb Ukulele Chord

The most commonly used flat chord. This one is a must know.

  1. place your index finger and cover the 1st & 2nd string / 1st fret
  2. place your middle finger on the 3rd string / 2nd fret
  3. place your ring finger on the 4th string / 3rd fret

The Minor Chords

The following ukulele chords are just as important as the top 7. These are the minor chords you will see frequently as your learn to play. A lot of songs use these chords to add emotion and feeling. So you will likely see these combined with the top seven major chords we covered already.

8. How To Play Am Ukulele Chord

  1. place your middle finger on the 4th string / 2nd fret

9. How To Play Bm Ukulele Chord

  1. place your whole index finger covering all strings / 2nd fret
  2. place your ring finger on 4th string / 4th fret

10. How To Play Dm Ukulele Chord

  1. place your index finger on the 2nd string / 1st fret
  2. place your middle finger on the 4th string / 2nd fret
  3. place your ring finger on the 3rd string / 2nd fret

11. How To Play Em Ukulele Chord

  1. place your index finger on the 1st string / 2nd fret
  2. place your middle finger on the 2nd string / 3rd fret
  3. place your ring finger on the 3rd string / 4th fret

12. How To Play Gm Ukulele Chord

  1. place your index finger on the 1st string / 1st fret
  2. place your middle figer on the 3rd string / 2nd fret
  3.  place your ring finger on the 2nd string / 3rd fret

Well my ukulele friends, I really hope this article was informative for you. My main goal is to help beginner ukulele players and I’m confident this guide will help you learn how to play ukulele chords and how to become better. Remember that practice makes progress. Take it one step at a time. Learn a chord really well before you go on to the others. I hope you enjoyed this article from ukulele-lessons.com.
Here’s a really helpful video covering common chords.

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Somewhere Over The Rainbow Ukulele Chords

Difficulty Level: Easy

Somewhere Over The Rainbow ukulele chords are for beginners that now have some experience since the changes between 5 chords. The chords are basic and are among the top most popular ukulele chords. I highly recommend this song for beginners to learn. This song has a structure of AABA: verse /verse /bridge/verse. The song was written for the film Wizard of Oz for release in the 1930’s. Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoʻole popularized the song with the ukulele outside of Hawaii gathering millions of admirers. Enjoy learning to play with this somewhere over the rainbow ukulele tab.

Before you start, make sure you tune your ukulele. You can also use this ukulele chords video library to learn or refresh your memory on how to play the chords for this song.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow Ukulele Chords

Verse 1

 
C 
Somewhere 
 
 
Em 
over the rainbow
F 
Way up  
C 
high
F 
And the  
C 
dreams that you dreamed of
G 
Once in a lulla
Am 
by
F 

Verse 2

 
C 
Somewhere 
 
 
Em 
over the rainbow
F 
Blue birds  
C 
fly
F 
And the  
C 
dreams that you dreamed of
G 
Dreams really do come  
Am 
true 
 
 
F 
ooh 
 
oh

Bridge

 
C 
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
G 
Wake up where the clouds are far be
Am 
hind 
 
me
F 
 
Where  
C 
trouble melts like lemon drops
G 
High above the chimney tops
 
That’s wh
Am 
ere you’ll fin
F 
 
me

Verse 3

 
Oh,  
C 
somewhere 
 
 
Em 
over the rainbow
F 
bluebirds 
 
 
C 
fly
F 
And the  
C 
dream that you dare to,
G 
Oh why, oh why  
Am 
can’t 
 
 
F 
I?

Bridge

 
C 
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
E 
Wake up where the clouds are far be
A 
hind 
 
 
F 
me
 
Where  
C 
trouble melts like lemon drops
E 
High above the chimney tops
 
That’s wher
Am 
e you’ll  
F 
find 
 
me

Verse 3

 
C 
Somewhere 
 
 
Em 
over the rainbow
F 
Way up  
C 
high
F 
And the  
C 
dream that you dare to,
 
Oh w
G 
hy, oh why can’t  
Am 
I?
F 

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For practice, follow along with the song original song here:

How to Tune Your Ukulele (Ukulele Tuning Guide)

In this lesson we will cover a key step to take before actually strumming away at your favorite songs. That is to tune your ukulele.

There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, and I’ll be covering the most common ways to do so. So for example, I won’t be covering how to tune your uke with a tuning fork. But the best methods are all here. Now let’s get started.

Ukulele Tuning: The Easy Way

1. Using A Clip-On Tuner
My first recommendation is perhaps the most popular way to tune and maintain your tuning. That is to use a clip-on tuner. For absolute beginners this the best method as it relies on the accuracy of an electronic tuner and they are indeed very accurate.

They usually go for about $10-$20 on a site like Amazon. Not only is the price convenient, but they are very easy to use and portable as well. Clip-on tuners usually discovers the current tuning of your ukulele by feelings its vibrations when its clipped onto the headstock. Most clips-on work this way and are incredibly accurate in detecting the pitch of your strings.

The one I like to use is the Snark SN2. As with any other device, it will last long as long as its taken care of. However, there are many options available in the market and you may happen to find another that you make like better. But this one has excellent reviews and I have no complaints. It works perfectly fine and gets me up and running right away.

How to use the clip-on tuner

I would suggest starting from the top string (string #4, to be tuned to G) since it is the natural starting point when you strum. Although, feel free to start from the first string which will be tuned to A.

So suppose you are starting by tuning string #4. You’ll want to play the string without fretting at all. That means that you are playing the open string. Once you play the string, take a look at what the tuner is detecting. It will show you whether you need to tune up or down to reach the goal of the correct tuning, which in this case is G.

By the way, you will usually be tuning up, because when ukuleles get out of tune they usually do so by the notes becoming more flat.

If you’re using the Snark tuner, it will have a nice visually beautiful display that will show you that you are perhaps reaching G but needs a little more sharp or a little more flat. This determines how much or how little you need to tighten or loosen the tuning of the string to finally reach the right tuning.

You can basically go through this process with the other strings until you have your standard tuning of G-C-E-A.

2. Using a Smartphone App

If you have an iPhone, I recommend that you try out insTuner. It gives you the option of letting the app detect your tuning so you can adjust accordingly, or you can use its ‘tone generator’ which gives you the sound of the note of your choice for you to tune with by ear.

For Android users, you can try out DaTuner or Easy Ukulele Tuner. DaTuner is an all purpose tuner so it will apply to other stringed instruments as well, but it will help you reach your goal which is ukulele tuning.

These apps will help you tune to the standard G-C-E-A tuning (or any other tuning).

3. Ukulele Tuning By Ear

This method of tuning is just a tiny bit more advanced. The only reason for this is because you are relying on your ears to get the accurate tuning for your uke. This is perfectly fine as long as you are comfortable with getting the feel for the notes by ear.

So if you start tuning your first string and its not quite the tuning it should be, the rest of the strings will also be off. The starting off right is key here.

It’s just a matter of tuning the first string accurately so the rest can tune relatively to your first tuned string.

Speaking for myself, I’ve played music by ear for years. But I find that using an actual tuner benefits me the most because I never tune by ear as precisely as using a tuner would accomplish for me.

With that said, why not mix it up a bit? If you are not super comfortable tuning by ear you can use a tuner to tune the very first instrument and challenge yourself to tune the rest by ear. It will help you grow tremendously. Your skills will improve and it will make you a better ukulele player in the process.

This is how you would go about it.

Since C is the lowest sounding string on the uke, let’s get started there shall we?

  1. Once you tune the 3rd string  (C String), you can go ahead and play the seventh fret of this string to get G. So you will want to then match the fourth string (G String) to sound exactly like the seventh fret of the C string.
  2. Play the 4th fret on the C string to play E. Match the second string to the sound of E on the C string. So you want to make sure that the E string sounds exactly the same as the E on the 4th fret of the C string. Until it does, you will need to adjust the second string until it sounds identical.
  3. Once the E string is in tune, you can then tune the very first string which is A. So play the 5th fret of the E string to get the A note. You can now match the first string to this note.

So there you have it. In this lesson you have learned how to tune your ukulele in three different ways. I suggest to try them all out, since learning is best by doing.

After getting your uke in tune, you may want to take a look at this Ukulele Chords Video Library. It’s an excellent page for beginners to use as a chords reference throughout their ukulele learning journey.

Here’s a 1-minute video that briefly covers ukulele tuning. I hope you enjoyed this article. Are you on social media? Follow my easy ukulele songs facebook page.