You’ve been bitten by the ukulele bug and you’re excited to get your hands on a uke and start playing. If you don’t have a ukulele yet, you can start by picking a size. The three most common sizes are soprano, concert and tenor, with soprano ukuleles being the smallest of the bunch. Many beginners start off with an entry-level soprano uke then upgrade to a larger size or another, better-quality soprano ukulele.
Take your time to find the best soprano ukulele models, like you can find here, that look and feel right to you. If you think a soprano is too small, there’s no rule stating you can’t get started with a concert or a tenor!
There’s also the baritone uke, the biggest uke of all, but it has a different tuning and chords. You may want to skip that size for now and focus on the smaller sizes.
Once you have your ukulele ready, you can start playing! Of course, it would help if you’re already familiar with the parts of the ukulele so that it will be easier for you to follow instructions. Get yourself acquainted with ukulele anatomy, which includes the frets and strings. These are the parts you’ll use the most.
Also, make sure your ukulele is tuned every time before you play. At the beginning because your uke is new, you’ll need to give the strings time to stretch. It may take a few days for them to fully stretch and become stable, so be patient and tune them constantly. It’s a good idea to get a clip-on ukulele tuner to help you out in this task.
This stretching period occurs every time you change strings, so don’t be alarmed if your uke doesn’t stay in tune if you have new strings on. After the strings have stabilized and your ukulele is able to hold its tuning for a long period, you won’t have to tune it as often.
We’re sure you’re raring to play, so we won’t keep you waiting. There are plenty of songs you can start playing even if it’s your first day of learning ukulele. Three chords are all you need! These chords are used in a lot of songs – and many songs can be broken down into just these three chords. This means that even if these are the only ones you can play right now, you can already start strumming a popular tune. Awesome, right? Let’s begin!
The ukulele strings
The standard tuning for soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles is GCEA. The strings are also referred to as G, C, E and A. The G string is the one closest to your chin while the A string is the one closest to your lap. That’s all there is to it!
The first ukulele chord we’d like to highlight is the C major chord, or the C chord. It only uses one finger on the fretboard. It sounds easy and it is.
Here’s how to make the chord: With the third finger or the ring finger of the fretting hand (the left hand if you’re right-handed, the right if you’re a leftie), press the A string down on the fretboard at the third fret. That’s the third fret from the nut of the ukulele.
You’ve now made a C chord. Get used to how it feels making this chord and strum your uke a few times so you can also learn how it sounds. Tip: It helps if you curl and relax your fingers when forming chord shapes to make playing more comfortable.
Next up is the F major chord. The F chord requires two fingers – a challenge we’re sure you can undertake. You can make this chord by placing your first or your index finger on the E string at the first fret. Next, put your second or your middle finger on the G string on the second fret. You’ve made an F chord! Again, play it a few times to know how it feels and sounds.
Our last beginner ukulele chord for today is the G major chord. Now the G chord can be tricky to do, but with practice you pull this off without breaking a sweat.
Let’s start with the index finger of your fretting hand. Put it on the C string at the second fret. Next, your middle finger. Place it on the A string at the second fret as well. When those are in place, use your ring finger to hold the E string down at the third fret. Congratulations, you’ve just made your first tricky chord!
If you look at your fingers forming the G chord, it looks like they’re forming a triangle, or a D. Keep this shape in mind so you can more easily remember how to make the G chord. And again, play through the chord several times until you feel confident you can do it without needing to place your fingers on the strings one by one. Remember that you need to push the strings down to the fretboard at the same time, so just keep practicing!
Tip: Tilt your wrist off to the side a bit so your fingers are at an angle with the fretboard. Many players find this position more comfortable when using multiple fingers for fretting chords.
With those three basic ukulele chords, you can start playing popular songs, such as the classic tunes “You Are My Sunshine,” “Blowin’ in the Wind” or if you’re more into rock, U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” You can can try out different strumming patterns for different songs.
After learning those three chords and playing basic ukulele songs, you can take the next step and learn three chords more so you can expand your ukulele chord knowledge and playing skills. We recommend the A minor or Am chord, D chord and E minor or Em chord as your next chords. The more chords you learn, the more songs you can play! Have fun!