Getting Started on Ukulele: Learn Your First 4 Basic Chords

By Ukulenny

Did you just get an ukulele but don’t know where to start? Or you’ve learned your basic chords but sometimes they sound buzzy, or just not quite right? Here are a few tips to help you nail those first few chords on ukulele.

C Chord

Of course we can start with everyone’s favorite first chord, the C chord.

While holding the ukulele, when you look down the strings are G, C, E, A. Use your third finger (ring finger) on the third fret on the bottom string—the A string—and you’ve got it! Now, here are a few “pointers” to help improve your finger technique.

ukulele C chord diagram and finger placement
Place your fingers closer to the metal fret for the cleanest sound

C Chord Exercise

  1. Play the A string (bottom string) with a steady pace
  2. Add the first finger (pointer) to the first fret
  3. Add the second finger (middle) to the second fret, same string
  4. Add the third finger (ring) to the third fret, same string
  5. Strum the C chord

Practice tips:

  • Try to ensure you’re bending your fingers and showing “knuckles.”
  • Practice placing your fingers closer to the metal fret for the cleanest sound of the chord.
  • You can also do this exercise on every string for finger strengthening and finger technique.

Learning to ‘Roar’ with the A minor

ukulele chord shapes C, Am

Now that you’ve got the C chord down, you’re ready to add more. Use the middle finger to go to the “other side” of the ukulele, placing it on the the 2nd fret of the G string to form the A minor (Am) chord. Practice going back and forth, third finger on the bottom, middle finger on the top, and you can play the chorus from “Roar” by Katy Perry, as demonstrated in the video above.

Adding the F Chord

ukulele chord shapes C, Am, F, C

While staying on Am, add the index finger on the E string, 1st fret, to form F. Practice going between Am and F by lifting and placing the index finger. Following the progression C—Am—F—C, you can play Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.”


The G7 Unlocks Dozens of Songs

ukulele chord shapes C, Am, F, G7

One more chord! Let’s practice the transition between F and G7.

ukulele chord shapes F, G7

Notice that F and G7 share a “dot” in the chord shape diagram on the E string 1st fret. You’ll be keeping your index finger down during this transition. Hold F, squeeze on your index finger, and then place your ring finger on the bottom string, 2nd fret, middle finger on C string 2nd fret, to form a triangle.

In this transition, it helps to swivel, or pivot, your wrist. The F chord employs a straight wrist, perpendicular to the neck, and the G7 takes your wrist closer to the headstock. You’ll find that if you swivel your wrist, the G7 fingers will “magically” be right where they need to be.

Now you’re ready to practice the popular progression of C—Am—F—G7. This progression can be heard in many classic doo-wop songs, including “Duke of Earl,” “Earth Angel,” “Blue Moon,” and “Stand By Me.”

Lenny San Jose, AKA Ukulenny, is a musician and educator based in Oakland, CA. You can find him on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram under the handle @ukulenny.

The Ukulele Owner’s Manual is the book that belongs in every ukulele player’s instrument case. Each chapter was written by the experts and performers at Ukulele Magazine, with topics ranging from commonsense instrument care to fixing rattles and buzzes to a pictorial history of the instrument. Book owners can also download how-to videos with step-by-step guidance on common set-up and maintenance topics.

Ukulele Basics – Learning and Practicing is a great resource for players just starting out, as well as those looking to build a more solid foundation of knowledge and skills. Get your copy today at