8 Best Ukulele Chord Progressions Ever

Chord progressions form the foundation of every song you can think of!

And while songs can take many forms, and some are little more than single note melodies, chords nevertheless end up being outlined and implied in the music, because of the song’s key signature and instrumentation.

What does that mean? In simple terms, it means you’d better study your chord progressions!

And here’s an excellent opportunity to do exactly that. What follows are several great ukulele chord progressions for you to learn, study, and explore.

I – V – vi – IV

Example: C | G | Am | F

The I, IV, V, and vi chords are especially important in pop music. You can mix them up any way you want, and you’re going to end up with a relatively familiar chord progression. Of course, for that very reason, you should make it a point to familiarize yourself with this sequence of chords.

There are many examples that should strike you as familiar, but Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours” is a popular song for ukulele players to learn, and for that reason, we’ll feature that tune here.

Note that “I’m Yours” is in the key of G, making the chord sequence G | D | Em | C. Although you can hear this exact progression (in C) in another popular tune for ukulele players, “Hey Soul Sister” by Train (you can explore that one on your own time too).

Notes About This Chord Progression For Ukulele

When playing the ukulele, you will often find yourself playing syncopated strums, or even island strumming. And “I’m Yours” is certainly a song where these types of strumming techniques can work quite well.

This progression is just as popular in rock and punk rock, and it’s basically the magic behind the entirety of U2’s emotive and evocative “With Or Without You” as well.

The I – V – vi – IV progression is a happy sounding one for the most part, but like U2, you can draw emotion out of it using riffs, melody, etc.

It is a cliché, but for good reason. It’s never too late to put your own unique spin on something old, mind you!

vi – V – I

Example: Am | G | C

More chords don’t always equal better, and there are plenty of songs that are based around two to three chords. If chords with just a handful of chords sound more complicated than that, it’s usually because of the layers of instrumentation that have been added on top.

Since this progression begins on the vi, it should be thought of as a minor progression of sorts. And you can hear it on songs like Vance Joy’s “Riptide.”

And “Riptide,” unlike “I’m Yours,” features a ukulele at its heart. I’m not a fan of the song myself, it’s a little too hipster, but I can understand its appeal. Either way, it’s great that it utilizes the uke.

Notes About This Chord Progression

Even though this is a minor chord progression, somehow it can end up sounding happy. Probably because you resolve to the I chord at the end.

Opinion – I think this is a progression best combined with other ones, as I don’t think it sounds all that interesting if used for the entire duration of a song.

That said, musicians are creative, and they always find ways of making old things fresh. And this is another one of those progressions you should be able to play at the drop of a dime (you never know when you might be asked), so practice plenty. Then, see if you can add a lemony twist to it for added zest.

I – iii – IV – V

Example: C | Em | F | G

You don’t often hear the ii or iii chords in pop music these days, but that isn’t to say they don’t have their place! If used well, these chords can add a lot of color to a song. And we will be looking at other chord progressions that use these.

You will have heard this specific chord progression in tunes like the legendary Israel Kmakawiwo’ole’s “Over The Rainbow.”

Of course, this progression is not used for the duration of the song. You will hear it in the first lines of each verse (e.g., “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…” etc.). It can’t hurt to learn the entire song mind you.

Notes About This Uke Chord Progression

If you’re a ukulele player and you take it seriously, then you should at least aspire to learn all of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s songs. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun while you’re hustling to get better. But IZ is kind of like to the ukulele what Chuck Berry was to rock and roll.

The I chord and iii chord tend to play nice with each other, and there are interesting ways of blending them too. For instance, as a slash chord, C/E sounds quite nice (and it’s the same thing in other keys – it would be G/B in the key of G, etc.).

Also noteworthy is how the iii, IV, V all appear in order, creating a nice ascending progression. There’s something to be learned from that, too!

I – iii – vi – IV – I – V

Example: C | Em | Am | F | C | G

So, at first brush, this might seem like a lot of chords. But don’t let it make your head spin. Once you’ve seen the example that follows, you’ll see that it’s not all that complicated.

This chord progression is great for a ballad. No wonder the “King” himself, Elvis Presley, used it on “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

As the story goes, the melody to this song was based on “Plaisir d’amour,” which was composed in 1784. So, the song, and to some extent the chord progression, carries quite the history!

Note – this progression is not used throughout “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Rather, it shows up in the first line of the verses (i.e., “Wise men say, only fools rush in…”). Although that’s not saying it wouldn’t be sufficient to carry an entire song from start to finish.

Notes About This Ukulele Chord Progression

I can easily imagine this chord progression being used in a Dylan-esque long-winded folk song. Maybe even in a Green Day style punk rock tune.

The most fascinating thing about it, I suppose, is how it returns to the I before it completes. That can certainly add some interest.

Add the 7 to the chords (i.e., Cmaj7, Em7, Am7, Fmaj7, Cmaj7, G7) and you can get a fun, laid-back, jazzy vibe out of it too. Although the same could certainly be said for other progressions. It’s worth playing with things like that, though, especially if you’re looking to draw something unique out of the progression.

vi – IV – I

Example: Am | F | C

This is quite like a progression we looked at earlier, but in that progression, we had a V in the place of the IV.

The transition from vi to IV, though, tends to sound a little more serious compared to vi to V, which sounds decidedly happier. The I still provides some resolution mind you.

So, where have you heard this one before? In Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” which we’ve found to be another popular pick for ukulele players (perhaps because of how easy it is to play).

It should be said, of course, that “Stay With Me” does have some other chords in it. And its similarities to Tom Petty’s “I Wan’t Back Down” are infamous.

Notes About This Chord Progression

When your song needs a bit of a serious tone, this is not a bad progression to lean on. Like I said, that IV gives it an urgency the V simply can’t. And it seems to like moving to the I after.

That said, the I chord still provides resolution, so this isn’t an all-out sad progression by any means. Give it a whirl for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

The interesting thing about that, though, is if you play the progression a little faster, the I chord always feels like it wants to move towards the G, or it can feel like the progression ends at a standstill. Interesting how that works, isn’t it (just by changing the tempo)? But that’s the magic of chord progressions!

I – vi – IV

Ukulele song structures

Example: C | Am | F

What? Yet another variant on the three-chord progression we looked at earlier?

As I said before, just about every variation of the I, IV, V, and vi chord combinations have been done. These chords work incredibly well together, like a well-oiled machine.

But what makes this one interesting is that it’s in another popular ukulele pick, Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are.”

“Just The Way You Are,” by the way, is in the key of F, and the Dm has been turned into Dm7. So, the progression is F | Dm7 | Bb| F. Yes, it returns to the I at the end, but when another round begins, it still starts on the I.

And the song doesn’t introduce any new chords or even put them into a different order. Of course, there are a lot of times when you can totally get away with that!

Notes About This Chord Progression For Uke Players

Overall, it’s another simplistic and happy chord progression. The vi in the middle gives it a slight “sad” sound, but not so much that you’d confuse it for a sad progression. The IV chord naturally wants to lead back to the I, and that gives it some resolution too.

As with “Just The Way You Are,” this is a good progression to bust out for a ballad. But it’s worth experimenting with, so try it out in a variety of situations to see where it fits.

I – vi – IV – V

Example: C | Am | F | G

I’m sure you’re starting to get the picture by now. Most popular songs are some combination of three or four chords. But in the grand scheme of things, we can’t just ignore this one, because it’s another classic, another important chord progression that’s made history (and it’s basically just adding a V at the end of the last progression we looked at).

And that’s also because this progression is used in another ukulele favorite of yours (even if it doesn’t explicitly feature the ukulele). Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.”

“Perfect” is in the key of Ab, so if you want to learn how to play it, it might prove easier to capo up when attempting it.  

Notes About This Ukulele Chord Progression

As Sheeran demonstrates, this is a great progression for a ballad, or even for a singer-songwriter / folk tune.

As it turns out, it’s a go-to in punk rock as well. All you’ve got to do is speed it up and play it as power chords instead. Which isn’t necessarily something you’ll be finding yourself doing on the uke all that often.

In this progression, the transition from I to vi is the most interesting. While it is quite natural, for whatever reason, it piques the curiosity of the ear a little bit.

But a cliché is a cliché, so if you want to take advantage of this chord sequence, it can’t hurt to come up with a riff that soars over the bass line like in “Perfect.”

vi – ii – V – I

Example: Am | Dm | G | C

This is not a progression you will hear everywhere. But it’s quite brilliant, especially how it creates a descending pattern that inspires interesting melodies and harmonies.

This progression will have a permanent association with Weezer’s vacation vibes hit “Island In The Sun,” a great tune to learn on the uke (though the original is played on the guitar).

“Island In The Sun” is in the key of G, so if you want to follow along, the chords would be Em | Am | D | G.

Notes About This Chord Progression For Ukulele

The question will probably be how to get away from sounding like Weezer when playing this progression, because that association with “Island In The Sun” is quite strong.

And as I see it, the trick would be to add rests / pauses, play it with a different rhythm, add a repetitive riff on top (for a more “emotional” feel), maybe “imply” the progression instead of outright spelling it out… Once you start brainstorming, a lot of ideas start coming to mind. And that’s how you want to start thinking as a creative anyway.

Either way, though, there’s no denying this is a fun progression to mess around with! Maybe give it a try at your next jam session.

Top Ukulele Chord Progressions, Final Thoughts

We hope you had as much fun looking at these ukulele chord progressions as we did compiling them!

But if you’re ever lost, remember – music is made up of melody, harmony, and rhythm. That means that if you don’t seem to be coming up with inspiring tunes on your own, it could be because you’re leaving something on the table in one of these areas. And that means it’s worth playing with these variables until you feel like you’ve got something great to work with.

We wish you all the best on your ukulele journey!