We all start playing the ukulele from basically the same chord set. We learn the C chord, the F chord, the G7 chord, and likely, the A minor chord. It’s true that you can play virtually hundreds of songs with those four chords. It’s also true that most ukulele books have a page or two in the back that show you how to play EVERY SINGLE possible chord there is on the Ukulele – All the Major chords, Minor chords, Dominant Seventh chords, Diminished chords, etc… in every single key. Is that really necessary? Short answer: No. Not really.
The question we need to answer is: What are the most useful chords commonly played on the ukulele? or another way to put it: What is chord set represents the shortest distance between my ukulele and the music I want to play?
That is the topic of this post and what I’m giving you in the PDF.
Over my 20 years playing the ukulele, I’ve come to realize that, while it’s great to know a bunch of chords, there is a specific set of chords that seem to get used far more than others. Of course, there will always be certain songs that require exotic or less-frequently used chords, and you can always add those as needed. It’s also useful to learn new chords so you can play a song in a different key – to make it easier to sing for certain vocal ranges, for example.
I created this one-sheet chord set so we can all focus on what I believe is the most important set of chords every ukulele player should know – and the chords that will get every beginning student the farthest down the musical road with the least effort in the shortest amount of time. Forget about that page of 100 ukulele chords for now. Learn these 10 and you’re good to go.
Why are the the most useful ukulele chords and why?
C, F and G7 are the most common and widely used ukulele chords, period. They allow you to play hundreds of songs in the key of C, including I-V7 and I-IV-V7. The key of C is the most common key for Elementary music.
Adding C7 (modifying the C major chord) opens up I-V7 songs in the key of F and works as a transition to the IV chord (V7 of IV) in the key of C.
Adding Am and G to the above opens up hundreds of songs that use the 50’s (I-vi-IV-V7) and Pop (I-V-vi-IV) chord progressions.
Adding Dm allows for alternative 50’s progressions (I-vi-ii-V7) and the “Don’t Worry. Be Happy” Progression (I-ii-IV-I). Dm is also the IV chord in A minor.
Adding E7 opens up songs based on the Andalusian Cadence (vi-V-IV-III7). E7 is also the V7 in the Key of A minor.
Adding A7 and the easy D7 opens up the Blues (I7-IV7-V7) and lots of Hawaiian songs that start with the common D7-G7-C (II7-V7-I), also known as the “Hawaiian Vamp” or “turnaround.” It also opens up songs, such as the Hukilau Song in the Key of F.
Here’s the final list: C, C7, Dm, D7, E7, F, G7, G, Am, and A7.