How To Read Ukulele Chord Charts

There are a few variations in how chord charts are shown. But, since they’re a fairly intuitive picture of what to do, it’s not hard to work out.

The Dots

The type of chord chart I use shows the ukulele fretboard as if it’s pointing upwards and facing towards you. The strings are the vertical lines (starting with G at the left) and the horizontal lines are the frets.


Chord shapes are shown by dots at where each finger should go.


For this G chord, you play the C string at the second fret, the E string at the third fret and the A string at the second fret. Wherever there is a ‘o’ at the top of the string, that means the string is played open (it is not fretted at all).

The Numbers

The numbers at the bottom refer to the finger that you use rather than the fret. So a 1 would mean you fret that string using your index/pointer finger, a 2 would mean you use your middle finger and so on. It’s important to remember that the refer to fingers not strings (often they’re the same so it can be confusing).

For example, the G chord. You fret the A string at the second fret with your second finger, the E string at the third fret with your third finger and the C string at the second fret with your first finger.

These fingerings are just suggestions. If there’s another way of arranging your fingers, that’s not a problem.

Some, such as this ukulele chord chart, show the fingerings within the dots themselves.


You’ll sometimes see an ‘X’ at the top of the string. This means the string is not played at all. You might need to rest one of your fretting hand fingers against the string (without actually fretting it) to make sure it doesn’t sound.


Barre Chords

Barre chords, i.e. where one finger plays more than one string, can be represented by an arch over the barred strings (below) or with a black bar stretching across the strings (like this).


Chords Up the Neck

When a chord is played higher up the fretboard, the lowest fret played is indicated at the top right (sometimes it’s on the left). In this example, the C and A strings are played at the seventh fret, the E string at the eighth fret and the G string at the ninth fret.


Text Chords

Sometimes, when I want to refer to chord shapes quickly, I just use four numbers like this 2100. These refer to the fret numbers for each string in the order gCEA. So the 2 means you play the g-string at the second fret, the 1 means you play the C-string at the first fret and the 0s mean you play the E and A-strings open. Giving you the standard A chord shape.

View Comments


  1. BigV October 18th, 2011 4:59 pm

    Hi Woodshed, I’ve been using your tabs loads and I love them to pieces but I thought it was high time I learnt a proper song. I can make all the chord shapes and change inbetween them properly but I dont understand when the chords are written above lyrics :S Do I continue the same strumming pattern and change chords, or start the strumming pattern again when I change? Im so confused! :S Thanks :)

  2. Woodshed October 19th, 2011 10:32 am

    BigV: Usually chord changes will come at the end of a strumming pattern. So you do the pattern for one chord, change chords and do it for the next.

  3. davidx November 1st, 2011 7:34 pm

    brill site, just into the uke and loving it,a big thank you.

  4. Woodshed November 1st, 2011 9:51 pm

    davidx: Thanks very much!

  5. Elly December 5th, 2011 12:54 pm


    Just wanted to say thank you SO much for this site. I bought my first uke yesterday and I was really floundering until I found this goldmine!

    Thanks again *massive grin*

  6. Woodshed December 6th, 2011 7:49 am

    Elly: Thanks very much! Glad you’re enjoying it.

  7. Norina Shanley June 21st, 2012 11:42 pm

    need guidance plaese am a beginer., tnx lot!

  8. nancita wernett March 10th, 2016 4:25 pm

    how can C chord be so different. I learned it first by the one string….here you have it like a G..adding the first finger second fret. I don’t think the sound the I losing it?

  9. Woodshed March 11th, 2016 10:51 am

    nancita: Chords can be different shapes so long as they contain the same notes. So in the case of C you just need the notes C, E and G. And you can play those in different combinations to get the same chord.

    In the example in the post it’s the G chord shape but played up at the 7th fret.

  10. Paulie H December 1st, 2016 1:06 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing . You make the world a better place by showing how much joy you can get from a little sound box. Your a fair dinkum champion in my books bro.

  11. Woodshed December 1st, 2016 1:16 pm

    Paulie: Thanks very much! Very kind of you.

  12. "Dr. Ron" Knaus March 2nd, 2017 2:38 pm

    Needed to review and taking a look at your “How to Read Ukulele Chord Charts”, I noticed that in explaining how to make a G chord, in the 2nd Paragraph under ‘Numbers’ you have the “the C string at the fourth fret with your first finger.” I’m not a very good ukulele player but I do think a revision may be needed. Doc

  13. Woodshed March 2nd, 2017 8:29 pm

    Dr Ron: Thanks very much! Fixed it.

  14. Asen April 10th, 2017 12:28 pm

    Hello.Thank you for sharing your knowledge.I am just learning to play the ukulele and this site has been invaluable.
    All the best!

  15. Woodshed April 11th, 2017 9:19 pm

    Asen: Thanks very much! Really glad you’re finding it helpful.

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