How To Read Ukulele Chord Diagrams

Last Updated on April 9, 2021.

As a beginner, it might be a little confusing when you first check out different chords and try to understand how to read the diagram.

For a majority of diagrams, it is not really hard to get the diagram.

However, some symbols won’t be intuitively understood, especially if you are a self-learner.

The good news is, the minute you start grasping how these diagrams work.

You will be able to learn a lot of chords in no time ergo; it won’t be long before you find yourself playing new songs.

So stick around till the end of this article, and hopefully, comprehending ukulele chords will become a lot easier!

First Base

  • For starters, you need to think of the diagram as another ukulele placed right in front of you.
  • You are facing the fretboard, and the strings are demonstrated as the vertical lines, and you are looking at the fretboard from the top.
  •  There’s a thick horizontal line at the top of the diagram representing the nut of the ukulele.

N.B: Some chords don’t start at the nut. In this case, you won’t find a thick black line at the top of the diagram. Instead, there’s a horizontal line with a number on the top right or the top left.

This number corresponds to the number of the fret acting as if it’s the nut.

  • The strings go (G C E A) from left to right, and accordingly, the horizontal lines represent the frets.
  •  The name of the chord is written on top of the diagram.
  • A lot of times, it’s abbreviated like Am for A minor, or Dmaj7 for D major seven, and so on.
  • The shape of the chord is pointed out using black dots.
  • Each of the dots on the diagram shows you where you should be placing your fingers.
  • In some diagrams, you will be able to see some numbers written next to each dot.
  • These numbers represent which finger should be placed at this exact position.
  • The numbers go 1,2,3, and 4 for your index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, respectively.
  • A circle is made opposite to the strings that should be played open, i.e., no fingers are to be placed on this string.

For example, if you check the G major chord, you should place your index finger on the second fret of the c string.

The middle finger should be placed on the second fret of the A string, and lastly, you need to place your ring finger on the third fret of the E string.

Because you will find an open circle opposite to the top string, you should conclude that you will be hitting this string as well while playing the G major chord.

Is It Possible to Play a Chord Without Strumming All Strings?

YES, it’s actually something that a lot of beginners skip, especially if they don’t take any lessons.

Somehow, there’s a common faulty idea that the strumming hand is always to be hitting all the strings.

However, some chords have “muted strings. “

When a string is muted, it should not be played at all.

You will find an “X” mark on top of the diagram opposite to this string.

  • To mute a string, you should rest one or more fingers of your fretting hand on it without actually fretting it.

An example of a chord that has a muted string is D#m9.

Bar Chords

If you have a bar chord, it means you should be pressing down multiple strings at the same time.

A lot of times, you will need to bar all the strings, using them as a ukulele capo.

Usually, you only need to use your index finger to get it done. Yet, rarely, you can use other fingers to bar a chord as well.

Lastly, there’s another – less professional – way to understand how a chord works.

You won’t find it in most ukulele books, but you will find it a lot if you are trying to learn a song over the internet or watching a YouTube tutorial.

This is what they call “Text Chords.”

It’s merely a way to simplify a diagram.

Numbers are used to indicate where each finger should be.

Each number represents the fret number on the specific string.

The order used for the strings being GCEA.

If there’s an open string to be played, it will be represented by the number “0”. And if there’s a muted string, it will still be represented by the symbol “x.”

So if you look at the examples mentioned above, if you want to use numbers to demonstrate a G chord, it will be “0232″.

And the D#m9 will be demonstrated as “35X6”.

So this is basically everything you need to know to be able to read any ukulele chord diagram you want to learn. Happy Strumming, folks!

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