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9 easy steps to conquer chord changes on the ukulele

Updated: Jul 22, 2018

You learned the basics of playing well with others in kindergarten. Now we’re adding the ukulele to behaviors you’ve spent decades perfecting. Here’s how conquer chord changes on the ukulele, which will help you play more fluidly by yourself or with others in a jam.

The first step to getting there is learning how to change from chord to chord without looking at your fingers. If you have to look at your fingers, you'll have a harder time following a song sheet or seeing what chords the person leading the tune is making.


Take any song you’re really comfortable playing and make your first chord this way: 1. Take you hand away from the uke and look away from your fingers and the ukulele. Visualize how to make that chord with your fingers. 2. Keep looking away and make that chord on the ukulele. 3. Now look at what you’ve done. Note where you might be off, correct your fingers. If you’re on, celebrate! 4. Look away again and feel what it’s like to have your fingers correctly placed. Bounce your fingers up and down in place to get them used to landing correctly, all fingers landing at the same time, if possible. Notice what your fingers feel like. What your wrist feels like. What your arm feels like. What that smile on your face feels like. 5. Keep looking away, take your fingers off, and shake the shape out of your fingers. 6. Repeat steps 1-5 over until you can get that chord. 7. Now do the same thing with the next chord. 8. Go back and forth between those two chords, without looking. 9. Repeat all of this until you have all the chords in that tune down.

Each chord gets easier when you heighten your awareness about how to make it, and practice moving smoothly among all the chords in a tune.

If you're having trouble getting your fingers to learn a chord, split that chord up and learn it bit by bit. For example, the G chord can be hard to learn. Some people have difficulty figuring out how to squeeze all three fingers into that tight, little space. Try this:

1. Put your pointer finger on the C string, second fret.

2. Put your middle finger on the A string, second fret.

3. Now bounce them up and down. Take the fingers completely off and put them back on again. Do this until those two fingers can automatically find their way to the right place.

4. Now put those first two fingers in place, then add your middle finger to the E string, third fret. Feels a lot easier! Try this with any other chord you're having trouble with and you might just catch on a lot faster.

Happy strumming!


A tip o' the hat to Alan Levine for the image!


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