Identify the chords
When you begin to learn to play the ukulele, your first challenge is to exercise on a few chords that will allow you to learn your first songs. If you look at the different books or online courses you will find many different advices. You will often find C & F but, what next?
If you are like me you want to invest in easy chords and you also want to learn the most useful that will allow you to play many songs. So, I study two great sources of songs: ukulele-tabs.com and the ukulele teacher which have lots of contents dedicated for beginners. If you don’t know them, you should definitively have a look at it!
For ukulele-tabs I focus only on « easy » songs (almost half of the songs) and count the number of songs which use the chords. For the ukulele teacher I took a different approach and count the number of occurrence of the chords in the whole songbook.
As you can see there is a great similitude in results:
Based on my beginners experience I group those chords by difficulties.
Chords by difficulties
Most useful and easy to learn
When you have those 4 chords you can now begin to play lots of songs!
For instance you can invest on a very cool song for ukulele: Riptide by Vance Joyce (you need only Am, G & C), Budapest by George Ezra (C, F & G) or a classic Disney song from the little mermaid (C, Am, F & G).
Very common and still quite easy to learn
Now you are ready to play the eternal ukulele classic : Over the rainbow by Iz!
A bit more challenging
These three chords are often used, but can be a little bit tricky. For the D chord you will need to find a way to put three finders one next to the other. D7 & Bm will require you to flatten the second fret (use your index to press several strings).
Hard ones, don’t rush at them too quickly
If you don’t need them, I think that you should not rush to learn them as they are clearly harder!
The coordination of the 4 fingers are a bit tricky. Many advise to flatten the second fret with your index instead of using two fingers. Mastering B is interesting as it will allow you to play Bbm which is a classic chord too (same position but shifted by one fret to the top).
The E chord is the beginner nightmare 🙂 but don’t worry. If you find it impossible to play you should have a look at E alternatives (but the alternative are also challenging, ok). An other alternative is to replace E by E7, in many songs the change very acceptable (for instance in this version of You and I by Ingrid Michaelson where the classic E is replaced by E7).
How to practice
When you learn a new chord I advise you to focus on chord change. For instance, suppose you now C & Am and now learn F. You will train on switching from C to F to Am then from Am to F to C. When the transitions are smooth and you are ready to learn A, you will then exercise :
- C -> A -> F
- F -> A -> Am
- Am -> A -> C
Repeat the same approach for each new chord, and by the way, don’t forget to have fun!