Having trouble learning chords on the ukulele? Here are some tips from ukulele teacher Willy M. that will help you master playing chords…
Sometimes chords can be tricky to learn on any stringed instrument, and the ukulele is no exception. The good news is that with its nylon strings, a fewer number of strings, and a limited fret-board, learning ukulele chords is a little bit simpler than learning guitar chords.
Nonetheless, there are still a few important things to keep in mind when learning the ukulele. So here are three tips and tricks to help you as you practice and memorize ukulele chords. I am sure there are other tricks, so if you have any you’d like to include, let us know in the comment section below!
1. Draw it out
One of the things I see students do over and over again is forget where to put their fingers. If you practice drawing your own version of the chord diagrams, you will have an easier time understanding where the tips of your fingers go.
2. Do not place your fingertip on the fret
If you put your finger on the fret, you will only get a dull thudding sound. Many new students of mine spend a lot of time looking at their fingers, trying to figure out why my ukulele sounds crisp and clear, and theirs only produces a dull thump.
I do not put my finger over the fret. I try to get as close to the fret without actually putting my finger on it. Sometimes, because I bend a lot of notes, I just shoot for putting my finger smack dab in the middle of the frets. This gives me the ability to play what I want.
3. Play through the chord
Once you have your fingers in place, play through each string slowly until you can make each and every string sound crisp and clear. There should be no dull thuds, no buzzing, no strange noises of any kind; only beautiful, clear tones. Once you are able to produce that sound for each of the chords in your song, all you have to do next is practice the song until you have it mastered.
My final bit of advice about learning ukulele chords would be that once you begin playing songs, learning chords becomes easy. I cannot stress this enough to beginning players.
Once you’ve played through that first song, and feel the satisfaction of actually playing music, you will become addicted. There is nothing more amazing this world has to offer than to play a beautiful piece of music and enjoy listening to what you are producing. It’s magic.
So, play as many songs as you can, because it will get you hooked, and soon you’ll find yourself trying to learn another chord, and another chord, and another, and then a variant of the chord, and then a second variant of the chord, and then a minor version, and on and on, until you have hundreds of chords memorized.
People often tell me that there is no way they could memorize all of those chords, but think about it –most people can memorize all the various traffic signs out on the streets. Why not memorize ukulele chords? They are at about the same difficulty level as the traffic signs, and they can all be broken down into a few basic patterns.
So there is a bit of info to help you with your ukulele chords. Keep practicing, and soon enough you’ll be putting these tips and tricks into effect!
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Willy M. teaches guitar, ukulele, and mandolin lessons in Winston, NC. He is the author of the “Dead Man’s Tuning” series of mandolin songbooks, and is a former member of the American Federation of Musicians. Willy has been teaching for 20 years, and his students have ranged in age from young children to folks in their 80s. Learn more about Willy here!
Photo by Del-Uks