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.

blank ukulele chord chart

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

g ukulele chord chart

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.

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 fourth 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.

Xs

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.

G5 ukulele chord chart

Chords Up the Neck

When a chord is played higher up the fretboard, the lowest fret played is indicated on the left hand side. 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.

c chord ukulele chord diagram

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.

This series was derived from my ebook Ukulele 101: 101 Things Every Ukulele Player Needs to Know.

View Comments

57 Comments

  1. zym March 19th, 2008 7:44 pm

    You know, I would pay good money for a decent ukulele chord chart/booklet.

    I tend to find songs/chords on Guitar sites, so would love something that had all the sus4s ,sus2s, dim5ths, 9ths, slash chords, etc

    I would also like something that was small enough to fit in my case (maybe A5 size)

    (oh, and the moon on a stick)

  2. Woodshed March 19th, 2008 8:21 pm

    Of course, they’re all slash chords by the time I’m done with them.

    I am Rod Hull. Give me my jelly.

    Or is it the business man in his suit and tie?

    I’ve completely lost my train of thought now.

  3. zym March 19th, 2008 9:57 pm

    :D

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHDCSIJiWCM&feature=related

    Drink your weak lemon drink NOW!!!

  4. Minamin March 19th, 2008 10:18 pm

    You’ve both lost my train of thought.

    What do you do for something like the Dbm or Dm7 on this chart, with the extra white circles?

    http://nfo.net/usa/chart1.jpg

  5. zym March 19th, 2008 11:04 pm

    Mike,

    i think the white ‘notes’ are the second position for the chord. Im guessing that the are only shown where the second position is actually easier than the first.

    So on the Dm7 you could just barre the 4th fret rather than fiddle around for the 1st postion chord.

  6. Elijah Wilbury March 20th, 2008 1:19 am

    Zym – I use the Hal Leonard Ukulele Chord Finder book. It is fairly comprehensive and includes 3 fingerings for each chord covered in the book. And it is small enough to fit in my uke case :)

  7. Woodshed March 22nd, 2008 7:33 am

    Min: I think Andy’s right, those white notes are other notes that in the chord. You can play those instead of the black notes without changing the chord.

    And don’t worry about what me and zym were going on about. We were just playing silly-buggers.

    Elijah: Thanks for the suggestion.

  8. Jen Ritz June 4th, 2008 5:16 pm

    can anyone explain to me how you read the chords when they have the lyrics to the song and the chord over the words? how do you read it? do you just strum on the word that the chord is over? what kind of strum? thanks

  9. Gerry Long July 11th, 2008 9:36 pm

    Answer to Jen Ritz’ question.

    Jen: The answer is, the word above which the chord is found is the place where the chord begins. And you strum that chord until the music indicates another chord symbol or tab. Than you change to that symbol or tab.

    The answer to your “strum” question is a totally different thing. Strumming refers to style, and you must strum with whatever style you are intending to play, be it swing, rock, Latin, blues, etc.

    Unfortunately most uke groups strum constantly in a “swing” style, because so much of our music, including much of our best know Hawaiian tunes are played in that style.

    I hope this helps.

    Gerry

  10. Woodshed July 12th, 2008 4:17 pm

    Thanks for that, Gerry. Useful stuff.

  11. ?m September 3rd, 2008 2:48 pm

    i thought that the strings were A, D,F# and B?
    so how come the left one is G?
    can somebody please help me?

  12. Woodshed September 3rd, 2008 7:12 pm

    ?m: Some people tune their ukes ADF#B, but GCEA is more common and it’s the main one I use on this site.

  13. Kevin Lloyd December 15th, 2009 1:54 pm

    I’ve just ordered a Lanikai LU-11 Soprano, finding this site very useful. Can’t wait to get it and try some stuff out.

  14. Woodshed December 16th, 2009 10:12 pm

    Kevin: Hope you enjoy it.

  15. Lizzie April 22nd, 2010 3:13 am

    Hello Mr Woodshed Esq – so Cold-Comfort-Farm – verily gives me the shivers! :-)

    When there are different versions of a chord in the same song, is there any particular convention for naming the different versions?

    For example, when the fretting for one version of D7 in a song is 2-2-2-3 and for another version of D7 within the same song the fretting is 2-0-2-0

    I am using Songsheet Generator and it is easy to set up different versions of the same chord using the Custom Chords function. However, these then apply to all songs.

    So, I could name 2-2-2-3 as, say, “D7Wombat” and 2-0-2-0 as “D7Parsnip” or anything else that comes to mind. Adding “1″, “2″, “3″ or “a”, “b”, “c”, etc. to the chord name might be confusing for a whole lot of reasons.

    I have had a search around the internet but I haven’t been able to find any mention to how this is tackled or any conventions that are around. Apologies if this is all covered in one of your wonderful e-books, which I have been too miserly to buy. Yet.

    Best wishes,
    Lizzie

  16. Woodshed April 22nd, 2010 10:47 am

    Lizzie: It’s a good point. There isn’t any generally accepted way of doing it that I know of. I’ve used an apostrophe to indicate different inversions in the past e.g. D D’ D”.

    And I’ve toyed with the idea of using numbers in superscript showing the lowest fret played. E.g. 2223 would be D2, 2020 would be D0 and 5655 would be D5.

    The upside of this is that it tells you the chord inversion without having to consult the chord chart.

    It’s not foolproof though. 0001 and 3003 and 0063 would all be C70.

    And the 0 could be mistaken for a diminished chord.

  17. Joe April 23rd, 2010 2:59 pm

    When it comes to different chords inversions for the same song I have seen them listed with roman numerals. So 0003 would be just plain C and 5433 would be C II. I hope this helps.

  18. Lizzie April 23rd, 2010 6:09 pm

    Cheers Al :-)

    I think what I will do with Songsheet Generator is add new chords via the “Custom Chords” option, showing the fret numbers after the chord name, eg. D7-2223 and D7-2020. Then, voila! I can input these versions, rather than the “normal” version, eg. “D7″(shown by the 2223 grid), as and when called for.

    It is a bit messy in terms of space but will be self-explanatory to some people and perhaps have an educational/memory reinforcement aspect to it.

    If there is a convention that neither of us have come across, perhaps someone will eventually stumble across this discussion and tell us about it :-)

    Thanks again – and even more so for the wonderful website and blog :-)

    While I think about it, the other two tricksy things I have been playing about with are how to show arpeggios and picking via chord grids.

    I have done a first draft of the way I play “Green Door” for UkesForFun with examples of these. Is there anywhere to post stuff like that for comments? I had a look at “UkerTabs” but couldn’t see how to post anything and the link to the contact page, where I thought that there might be some clues, is broken.

    Unless there are already conventions for showing arpeggios and picking via grids, of course.

    Best wishes,
    Lizzie

  19. Josh Gordon April 23rd, 2010 6:40 pm

    For alternate positions, you might want to consider taking a cue from classical guitar notation. For example, a D7 with open strings doesn’t get anything special; the D7-2223 would be D7(II) (since you’re barring the second fret, at least theoretically). C is 0003, C(I) is 5433, C(VII) is 9787.

  20. Mike Dickison April 23rd, 2010 8:35 pm

    In the uke book I uses a superscript number before the chord letter to indicate inversions. My reasoning is the last thing we need is yet more crap tacked onto the letter, and when we’re talking about chords we’ll say things like “second position G” or “other kind of G”.

    I’m not a fan of Roman numerals for this, as they’re already used to indicate dominant, tonic, etc. But I like the idea of referencing the actual fingering—either all four fingers or a number indicating the barred fret.

    For example, 3C or 5433C.

  21. Mike Dickison April 23rd, 2010 8:38 pm

    Hmm, I hope those superscripts come out OK.

  22. Greg April 24th, 2010 12:29 am

    The formal musical analysis that I’m familiar with categorizes inversions based on the chord factor that is in the bass. I propose that for the purposes of chord-melody, etc. ukulele chord inversions are more conveniently categorized based on the highest-sounded note instead.

    One could use apostrophes to indicate which inversion is should be played.

    e.g.
    0003 => C
    0232 => G’
    2220 => D”
    2223 => D7”’
    2020 => D7″

    I understand that this leaves some ambiguity in fingerings (e.g. 0003 v. 5433), and that use of this nomenclature requires a little knowledge of music theory, etc. etc. but it might be a starting point.

  23. Josh Gordon April 24th, 2010 4:43 pm

    It occurs to me the music-theoretical aspects will get confusing when considering re-entrant vs. low-g tuning; the same position, the same chord, but a different inversion.

    2020 is an odd one, of course — there’s no tonic! It’s a D7-by-implication. I bet there’s a real name for that.

  24. Woodshed May 5th, 2010 10:40 am

    Joe: Thanks for the suggestion.

    Lizzie: The UkerTabs is in a certain amount of flux at the moment. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with it.

    Mike: I think we’re missing the superscripts. I think you mean: 3C and 5433C. Looks like a good way of doing it.

    Greg: Good suggestion. Although it would get a bit confusing further up the neck.

    Josh: That’s a good point.

  25. Jade P July 21st, 2010 7:37 am

    Im confused on G5. Is the illustration wrong or are the tab number underneath because they don’t match and I really need to figure out what G5 is for this song I’m working on D:

  26. Woodshed July 21st, 2010 7:56 pm

    Jade P: The numbers underneath aren’t the fret numbers. They’re the finger you use to fret the string.

  27. Freya July 24th, 2010 8:13 am

    Zym; I have a very good uke chord book, I think its called Ukulele chords by Ron Middlebrook. It’s really just a piece of card, but it doesn’t matter because there are around 99 chords in it plus a chart of notes and on the back there are lots of intros and endings in different keys, if you wanted to write your songs. It was only £2.95 at my local music shop.

  28. Grant Roy September 5th, 2010 9:01 am

    Uhm hi to all useres of ukulele!Because I am just a Grade 5 student in our school.I need to learn more about ukulele in our school its hard to do it.

  29. Sean October 7th, 2010 8:08 am

    Now I’m really confused!!??!!
    Surely if you want to play a D chord, does it matter where or how it’s played? As long as it sounds right, it’s right!

  30. Ron December 23rd, 2010 3:13 pm

    hey everyone… I was just wondering if anyone could tell me how the Aalt is played? I just got in to the whole ukulele playin and can’t find it anywhere. btw thank you so much for putting this side online!

  31. Woodshed December 23rd, 2010 3:20 pm

    Ron: It could refer to a few things – usually it’ll say on the chord chart. Where did you find it?

  32. Kelly January 1st, 2011 3:28 am

    Are there any different tunning considerations for a tenor ukulele? I know there are different ways to tune but am I best off as a beginner using GCEA?

    Also, are plastic strings common? I have never played a string instrument and bought a tenor ukulele that came with plastic strings, should I have it restrung with wire stings?

    I appreciate your advice and help!

    Kelly

  33. Woodshed January 1st, 2011 11:38 am

    Kelly: Tenors are sometimes tuned with a low-G string. You can tune a different way if you like, but it’ll make learning much easier if you go with gCEA (since that’s what most of the teaching material is for).

    Nylon based strings are standard for ukulele. I’d very much advise against using steel strings – they’ll break your uke.

  34. DoubleH January 8th, 2011 8:16 am

    What do the circles at the top mean?

  35. Scotty January 8th, 2011 1:17 pm

    Hi All, I’ve just ordered my first Ukulele, in fact it’s my first ever musical instrument at the ripe old sge of 37.

    As you can guess I am a total beginner, all this talk of frets, strumming, chords etc is completely new to me!!

    This being said can anyone recommend a good book or DVD that starts at the absolute basics?

    By the way I have ordered a Kala Joe Brown Signature in solid mahogany, is this a decent choice?

  36. Lizzie January 9th, 2011 1:22 pm

    Hi DoubleH,

    The little open circles mean that you do not fret those strings, instead you leave them “open”.

    Best wishes,
    Lizzie

  37. Woodshed January 16th, 2011 11:24 am

    Lizzie: Thanks for that.

  38. Gil March 19th, 2011 4:17 am

    Hi Scotty

    You wrote “By the way I have ordered a Kala Joe Brown Signature in solid mahogany, is this a decent choice?”

    I bought a Kala Concert Electric (KA-CE) from the Hilo Guitar and Ukulele music store on the Big Island last December. I’m so satisfied with it that if I ever felt the need to upgrade I wouldn’t hesitate to by a solid mahogony Kala.

    Have fun with it!

  39. joege March 27th, 2011 8:46 pm

    lalalal no se como se toca

  40. Kayla March 30th, 2011 3:35 am

    This is a great site. But I think that you should put up ALL of the ukulele chords. It would make your website a lot more successful ! :)

  41. Woodshed March 31st, 2011 2:05 pm

    Kayla: Thanks for the advice.

  42. swormy April 1st, 2011 10:45 pm

    I’m still confused on some chords. What would the black bolded line mean? I’m trying to play Dancing Queen and I’m not sure how to place my fingers

  43. Woodshed April 2nd, 2011 9:27 am

    swormy: It’s a barre – it means you hold down all those strings with the same finger.

  44. Bill McCahill April 21st, 2011 2:37 am

    Lousy in high school algebra lousy musician?

  45. swormy April 21st, 2011 11:49 pm

    Woodshed: Thank you

  46. Woodshed April 22nd, 2011 8:34 am

    swormy: You’re welcome.

  47. RetroRockem23 May 11th, 2011 10:34 pm

    I recently bought a makai soprano ukulele. And I was reading chords of some websites, but does it really matter where you play the chord on the fretboard? is there a difference? Like, if I were to do a G chord, would it matter if I did it 2 frets down the neckboard (other than sound)?

  48. Woodshed May 15th, 2011 12:05 pm

    RetrpRockem23: So long as you move the open strings up as well, you’ll still have a chord.

  49. Ged June 8th, 2011 2:22 pm

    Hi All,
    I’m no music professor, but I was always taught that C0 was the lowest C on the piano keyboard and that C3 was middle C. Are we in danger of confusing other musicians by having a different standard notation??
    There is a free TAB program called PowerTab, that actually has a function to check your creations.

    Perhaps the chord book Elijah mentioned “Hal Leonard Ukulele Chord Finder” could become THE standard, I know that it will for me.

    Hey Woodshed: thanks for all your work, Live long and Prosper V

  50. Woodshed June 9th, 2011 12:22 am

    Ged: Thanks for the info.

  51. 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 :)

  52. 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.

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

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

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

    davidx: Thanks very much!

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

    Hey,

    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*

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

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

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

    need guidance plaese am a beginer., tnx lot!

Got something to say?