Welcome to Chord by Chord, a beginner’s guide for the ukulele. In this lesson we’ll focus on the three major chords in the C chord family, otherwise known as the key of C major. A chord family is simply a combination of harmonious chords. Every key has a chord family, and you will learn to recognize them.

In C major, which is the friendliest key for ukulele players, you’ll find the first chord that most learn: C. To play a C chord, place the tip of your third finger on the A string, right behind the third fret. The other three strings should all be left open. Try two measures of C, as shown in Example 1. Play it slowly at first, and then a bit faster, remembering to breathe while your strumming.

For Example 2, you’re going to learn a new chord, F, using your “peace sign” fingers (1 and 2). Place the tip of your first finger on string 1, fret 1 and your second finger on string 4, fret 2. Once again, strum two measures at a nice, slow pace to begin with. 

Now it’s time to switch. In Example 3, learn your first chord progression, alternating between C and F, one measure each. Keep your first and second fingers near the first and fourth strings, respectively, throughout, so that you’ll be able to get to the F chord in time.


For your last chord, G (Example 4), you will use not one or two but three fingers. Place your first finger on string 3, fret 2; your third finger on string 2, fret 3; and your second finger on string 1, fret 2. If you find yourself struggling, make sure you’re pressing the string(s) against the fretwire, and equally distribute the pressure between each fingertip. Also make sure your thumb is helping out on the back of the neck, or just a little on the side, but not all the way over the edge.  

Next you’re going to make like a sandwich-like progression—C for one measure, followed by two of G, and then back to one bar of C, as shown in Example 5. Remember to start nice and easy, gaining confidence in switching between the chords in rhythm before gaining speed.

With these three chords, you can play hundreds of songs. Be patient with yourself in learning them, and consider that the only difference between an amateur and a master is that the master simply has simply spent more time with the materials. The more you practice, the better you’ll sound. In the next lesson, you’ll learn the three minor chords in the key of C, so that you can add a little bit of emotional quality to your music.

We’ll be releasing a new lesson in this series each month. Can’t wait? Support Ukulele on Patreon and you’ll get access to all twelve video lessons right now!