Forever Site Access Membership for $149 $279 and never worry about a subscription again! Annual plan also available.











Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering

The art and science of chord fingering. Learning your basic open position chords in common keys.

PUBLISHED: Jan 2, 2005 UPDATED: Nov 15, 2019 • LESSON CODE: ULM40

Instruments: ukulele Subjects: chordsfingering

This Download is NOT part of your membership level. Sign-up for Premium Site Access or Upgrade Your Plan your current access level to download this PDF or your can purchase a copy for download.

Each PDF file is a formatted high resolution file that prints out great. You'll need Adobe Reader or a PDF viewing application to view your PDF file.

Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering

The art and science of chord fingering. Learning your basic open position chords in common keys.


We have four fingers and there're all not equal. Some shorter then others and some stronger that others. Everybody's hand is a little different. This does play a role in fingering chords. A example shows up with the first chord most ukulele players learn, a C major chord. It's a one finger chord. That one finger can be anyone of your four fingers.

The combination of fingers used play a role. Whether the fingers are on adjacent strings or skipping strings, different frets or adjacent frets, the total range of frets that need to be covered, your finger dexterity, etc...

Additional Content Available for Premium Site Access Plans Only

This content requires a Premium / Gold Access Plan or enrolled in the Study with Curt - On-line or Private Lesson Program.

To view additional content for this page you'll need to either Sign In or Register for or Upgrade to a Premium Site Access Plan.

Login or SignUp to View Complete Page

Photo from WikipediA

This above photo is intended to show a chord and inadvertently shows several points of bad technique:

  • A – Thumb creeping above the neck and out of its support role.

  • B – Palm touching the neck, which limits the range and dexterity of the fingers ability to finger the individual notes of a chord.

  • C – The pinky on the frets and not right behind it. I'd be surprised if the C note on string five sounded when played. The same can be said for the other C note on string two and the index finger being on the frets and not behind it.

This following photos I'm sure where intended to show a chord and inadvertently shows several points of bad technique:

  • A) Thumb too high in a non-supporting role.
  • B) Too far from the fret.
  • C*) Fingers not over fingerboard and out of position.
  • A) Knuckle collapsed. The end knuckle of the third finger is the weakest knuckle on the hand and needs more work.
  • B) "Impolite Fingering" - Finger one, the index finger is the only finger that is really capable of a Full barre across all the four strings.
  • B) Too far from the fret. Right behind the fret is the position of least effort to get a clear note. Any further away from the fret and you need to press harder.

* All the non chording fingers in the above photos are out of position. Most likely to show a chord fingering – but not good fingering and really drives home the point of why photos are not the way to show a chord.

What is a Chord?

A chord is a group of three or more different notes sounded together or almost together. Note: Not all of the notes of a chord need to be played to imply the actual chord.

On stringed instruments like the ukulele, chords can be grouped into four categories for learning: Open Position Chords, Movable Form Chords, 4-Part Contemporary or “Jazz” Chords and Free Form Chords. This lesson focuses on basic open position chords and why some might be harder to play vs. other basic chords.

Basic Open Position Chords


An open position chords is one of the basic, first chords most ukulele players learn. These chords are played in the fret one, two, three and four area of the ukulele and include at least one open string.

Learning Chords

There are two approaches to learning chords, the song based approach and learning the fundamentals approach. I'm a big advocate of building a solid base of the fundamentals. A lot of players new to the ukulele like to jump right in a learn songs.

For the song approach you pick a song learn the chords you need to learn know for the song. A song is like a recipe, the chords are one of the ingredients. Look them up, ask a friend or take a lesson or two. Then learn at least one version of each of the chords in the song.

Another approach is to learn the most common chords that show up in common keys and songs. This is especially helpful for occasions where you might have never played a particular song before or are reading the chords as you go. This happens a lot at jam sessions and club play-a-longs. You never know what songs are going to be played and would like to participate in every song. No time to look up chords, you need to know chords.

For Folk, Rock, Pop, Country and and Bluegrass common major keys are C, G, D, A, and E. S ee the Common Chord for C Major chart below.

For most simple songs the chords all are from the main key and stay in that key. There are a lot of songs with just two or three chords.

Common Chords for Common Keys

The chords for a major key all come out of the major scale for that key. If we number each scale degree of the major scale from 1 to 7 we have the chord's position and harmonic function within the key. When talking about chords these position numbers are typically indicated using roman numerals: I II III IV V VI VII. This position will help with transposing to other keys and to recognize similarities between songs and chord progressions. There a quite a few common chord progressions that are used in popular music.

Using triads, three note chords, the chords for all major keys are:

  • major
  • minor
  • minor
  • major
  • major
  • minor
  • diminished

On the ukulele these triads are commonly played with one of the notes doubled. Giving us a four note chord that matches perfectly with the four strings of the ukulele. Allowing you to strum all the strings.

Common Chords for the Key of C Major and the C Major Scale

  • C major
  • D minor
  • E minor
  • F major
  • G major
  • A minor
  • B diminished

The diminished chord rarely shows up and when it does a diminished seventh chord can be substituted for it. Diminished Seventh chords are a 4-part chord covered in a later section.

With major chords being the most common chord, the "major" part of the chord is typically not said or notated. The minor chord type is shortend to "min" or "m". The diminished notation is shortened to "dim" or a degree sign. Leaving use with an easier to read list.

  • C
  • Dm
  • Em
  • F
  • G
  • Am

Seventh Chords

Any one of the chords can be a seventh chord C7, D7, E7, F7, G7, A7, and B7. These are 4-part chords containing four notes with no duplicate notes. All but the G7 are chords outside of the key of C major but some are common.

Here are all the possible open position seventh chords. A few do not contain any open strings and their basic movable form is shown.

Download or View PDF for Complete Lesson

Download this lesson's PDF file for the latest, complete, and most up-to-date version of the lesson. As well as additional information not presented on-line.

Members and Active Students need to sign-in
to download this lesson's PDF for the complete lesson.

Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering at this time.

Hearing the Changes • Updated: May 22, 2020

"Hearing The Changes" are knowing what the chords of a song or chord progressions are and when they change. This lesson gets you on the road to developing this ability. This involves know the chords of the keys and scales that are used for common progressions and songs. And the ability to recognize the sound of intervals, the distance between intervals.

Basic `Ukulele Strums and Variations • Updated: Apr 26, 2016

"A strum is the execution of a specific rhythmic pattern, at tempo, in a particular style." A strum can be broken down into its rhythmic syllables. These rhythmic syllables are defined by what particular style is being performed. Basic ukulele strums and variations to get you started.

Basic Open Position `Ukulele Chord Chart • Updated: Nov 29, 2019

A core set of basic ukulele chords that ALL Ukulele players should know in the five common keys of C, G, D, A and E. With the possible seventh chords for the same common keys. The chart is organized in common keys and covers basic chords in these keys.

Basic Open Position `Ukulele Chord Chart for Lefties • Updated: Mar 26, 2019

A core set of basic ukulele chords that ALL Left Handed Ukulele players should know in the five common keys of C, G, D, A and E. With the possible seventh chords for the same common keys. The chart is organized in common keys and covers basic chords in these keys.

Related Books

Related Books for Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering at this time.

Ukulele Chords - C Tuning
Updated: Aug 31, 2019

This mini (1/2 size) chord book is the perfect size for every ukulele gig bag or case and a great addition to you music book library. Ukulele Chords covers basic open position and basic movable form chords.[OUT OF PRINT]

Related Songs

Related Songs for Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering at this time.

Bingo Updated: Dec 6, 2015

Bingo, also known as Bingo Was His Name-Oand There Was a Farmer Who Had a Dog, is an English language children's song of obscure origin. In most modern forms, the song involves spelling the name of a dog, and with increasing letters replaced with handclaps on each repetition.

Danny Boy Updated: Oct 1, 2011

Danny Boy is a ballad written by Frederic Weatherly and usually set to the tune of the "Londonderry Air". It is most closely associated with Irish communities. The words to "Danny Boy" were written by English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly in 1910.

Happy Birthday Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Happy Birthday to You, also known more simply as Happy Birthday, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person's birth. According to the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records, "Happy Birthday to You" is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and "Auld Lang Syne".

This Train Updated: Nov 28, 2017

This Train (is Bound for Glory) by Woody Guthrie.

Brown Eyed Girl Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Brown Eyed Girl is a song by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. Written and recorded in 1967 by Van Morrison and produced by Bang Records chief Bert Berns, it was first released in May 1967 on the album Blowin' Your Mind!. When released as a single, it rose to number eight on the Cashbox charts, and reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering at this time.

Basic Ukulele Chords Charts Updated: Jan 1, 2003

Not so much a series - but the basic chords ALL ukulele players should know.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Basic `Ukulele Chord Fingering at this time.

Basic Ukulele Chord Chart Updated: May 11, 2019

A chart of the most common ukulele chords in the most common keys of C, G, D, A, and E.

Site Access Plans for

Forever Access - With Forever Premium Access, you get ALL the benefits of a Premium Access Subscription such as Unlimited 24/7 access to ALL lessons, downloads, songs, play-along jam tracks, videos, email access to Curt, resources, related assets, and ALL books by Curt as FREE downloads. Pretty much everything on the site, and NEVER worry about a subscription or surprise payment again. And jump the queue for responding to any questions.

If you're anything like me (Curt) and getting Subscription overloaded with everything on-line wanting money from you once a month — I'm with you. For like-minded individuals, this forever plan is a pay once, and you're done.

The price for Unlimited Forever access is right around the cost of a few months of private lessons. I can guarantee there is more than enough material on-line to keep you busy for a long, long time. And, you get all of my books for FREE. That alone is more than the cost of this plan.

Premium Access - This premium gives you Unlimited 24/7 access to ALL lessons, downloads, songs, play-along jam tracks, videos, email access to Curt, resources and related assets. As well as ALL books by Curt Sheller as FREE downloads.

Basic Access - A limited selection of basic lessons — ( currently over 140 ) and 100+ songs for ukulele as well as basic general music reference material — Completely FREE — Simply Register/Signup. HOWEVER - I've been doing ukulele and since 2003 and probably have given too much away already - as reflected in my income from the site in relationship to the time spent on the site. So help support this site and its continued development by signing up for one of the below Premium Access Plans or buy a few of my books. - Thanks, Curt

NOTE: Each higher access level includes ALL the benefits of the lower levels. Private Lessons include all the benefits of a Premium Access Plans as long as you remain a student on the schedule.

Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

Aloha, Curt, All I can say is WOW! What you have accomplished is simply incredible! All the bestGlen Hirabayashi, The Aloha Boys

Folks, if you haven't stopped by Curt's site, do so right now! ..And get his books, they are fantastic. This guy knows his stuff and is able to pass it along too.Alan Johnson Proprietor, The 4th Peg

I can highly recommend Curt's Uke books — I have four of them and they are excellent.fatveg — Portland

Thanks for visiting and checking out the site!


Original Curtie Animation from 1987 for my first web site on a Macintosh II. 34 years ago. Man, does time fly.

“Built for myself (Curt), and sharing with the `Ukulele community!” has one of the largest collections of lessons, songs, and TABS, Luthiers, ukulele builders, ukulele festival and club information, and, ukulele links on the web. I’ve been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!

Content is added and updated almost daily - so check back often. I really do need to get out more ;-)