10 Ways to Play an E Chord on the Ukulele

The E chord – the bete noire of all ukulele players. Trying to cram all your fingers into a tiny space on the fretboard. Impossible. So here are ten possible ways to play the E chord. Try them out and see if you like any of them (I don’t).

1) The Way the Books Tell You

Index finger – A string 2nd fret
Middle finger – G string 4th fret
Ring finger – C string 4th fret
Little finger – E string 4th fret

Disadvantages: A lot of fingers to fit into a small space.

2) The Double Up

Index finger – A string 2nd fret
Middle finger – G and C strings 4th fret
Ring finger – E string 4th fret

Disadvantages: Takes some practice to get the hang of.

3) The Treble Up

Index finger – A string 2nd fret
Ring finger – G, C and E strings 4th fret

Disadvantages: You need to have your ring finger leave the strings at a difficult angle so you can still hear the A string.

4) The G-String Block

Index finger – A string 2nd fret
Middle finger – Muting the G string (stopping it from sounding by resting against it rather than fretting it)
Ring finger – C string 4th fret
Little finger – E string 4th fret

Or with your thumb.


5) The Treble Up and Block

Ring finger – G, C and E strings 4th fret
A string muted with any finger (including the underside of the ring finger).

If you stop the A string ringing in the triple-up, you will still have and E chord as the G string is giving you the same note. You can use individual fingers along with a mute to make this chord.

6) The Fourth Fret Lay-Across

Index finger – Barre across all strings at the 4th fret.
Little finger – A string 7th fret.

Like a C chord moved up four frets. It’s one of my favourite ways to play it.

Disadvantages: The barre takes some practice. Can be a big jump to and from open chords.

7) The Blocked E7

Index finger: G string 1st fret
Middle finger: Muting C string
Ring finger: A string 2nd fret
E string open

Like an E7 chord with the middle finger muting the C string rather than fretting it. Or you could use the underside of your index finger to mute the string.


Disadvantages: Sounds a bit nasty as you have a big ‘thunk’ in the middle of the chord.

8) E5

Index finger – A string 2nd fret
Ring finger – G string 4th fret
Little finger – C string 4th fret
E string open

Disadvantages: No major third note so it’s not a major chord. In some songs this it doesn’t really matter.

9) Up the Neck

Index finger: E and A strings 7th fret
Middle finger: C string 8th fret
Ring finger: G string 9th fret

The Bb chord shape moved up the neck.

Disadvantages: A long way to travel if you’re playing open chords.

10) Thumb Lay-Across

Index finger – A string 2nd fret
Thumb – G, C and E strings 4th fret

Disadvantages: Makes changing to and from other chords difficult. Almost always sounds horrible.

View Comments


  1. Woodshed May 22nd, 2013 11:24 am

    Maree: Because it sounds bad and it’s restrictive.

  2. Alice October 6th, 2013 5:08 pm

    The first one, weirdly enough! :D Got used to playing D so it’s sort of the same, to me at least. xD

  3. Doc Kazoo January 3rd, 2014 5:50 pm

    Thanks for this post. I am a beginner with the ukulele and have trouble with the E chord. I had no idea there were so many options. This gives me lots of ways to practice and find one that works best for me.

  4. Woodshed January 3rd, 2014 9:57 pm

    Doc: Thanks! Hope you find one you like.

  5. Shirel February 17th, 2014 11:21 pm

    Thank you so much for the fourth fret barred E!!!! I am a guitar player by nature but the arthritis in my hands made it impossible for me to play my 61 Gibson any more but my NeoKlezmer band demands that I play some kind of rhythm instrument so I picked up the Uke. On one of the songs I play a very simple E-F progression. Easy if you play guitar. SUCKS if you play UKE. Now I just bar the E and slide it up one fret for F. It’s int eh song Et Dodim if you go give a listen. That’s me on rhythm guitar and singing. But now that will be on the UKE! YAY!!!

  6. Woodshed February 18th, 2014 8:59 am

    Shirel: Glad I could help!

  7. Ksenia July 11th, 2014 3:45 pm

    I have little fingers so there are no troubles with number 1, whereas typical 1402 is hard like hell :)

  8. Woodshed July 12th, 2014 10:55 am

    Ksenia: Glad you found one that works for you.

  9. Dani October 27th, 2014 3:37 pm

    Hm, I found my way to play that bloody E when I first learned it, and it’s not in this, haha wow. Didn’t expect that.
    Describing it your way,
    Index finger – A string 2nd fret
    Ring finger – E string 4th fret (with the very tip)
    And then I bar G and C on 4th fret with my thumb.
    Still uncomfortable, but everything I’ve tried is even worse:)
    So maybe there’s 11 then?

  10. Woodshed October 28th, 2014 6:50 am

    Dani: I’d definitely recommend against using your thumb to fret.

  11. Dani December 12th, 2014 2:33 pm

    Oh, why exactly, if you don’t mind me asking?

  12. Nathan December 31st, 2014 5:08 pm

    I used number ten, but with my middle finger on the second fret of the A string instead of my pointer finger. This allowed me to turn my thumb parallel to the fourth fret (I have small hands).
    Hope this helps! :)

  13. Annie September 18th, 2015 7:07 am

    It’s good I have a super tiny hand! Still difficult but not so much as if I had big fingers :))) (Im a girl btw)

  14. steve December 19th, 2015 7:57 am

    I like 6 and 10 but the more I play it 6 is winning me over.

  15. Jesus March 13th, 2016 11:39 pm

    I didn’t learn any of these; the E I learned is much easier than any of these!

    Index finger: G on the 1st fret
    Middle finger:A on the 2nd fret
    Ring finger: C on the 4th fret

    It was cumbersome to do at first, but after a couple of days its like nothing.

  16. Nola March 17th, 2016 4:56 pm

    Thanks so much for the many ways to play this chord. I am glad they weren’t all stretched out as I have small hands and cannot reach many chords.

  17. Woodshed March 17th, 2016 10:02 pm

    Nola: You’re very welcome!

  18. Tom McMillian April 24th, 2016 2:05 pm

    Working on playing Wagon Wheel – I love having the option now of playing the E chord so many different ways. I’m working on using the “Blocked E7” method. Works great between the A & F#m chords! Thank you

  19. Woodshed April 24th, 2016 8:20 pm

    Tom: Glad it helped!

  20. Al September 7th, 2016 2:56 am

    I learned something like #3 only, I’ve been barring with my index finger across all 4 strings on the 2nd fret and then bar the G, C, E with my middle finger on the 4th fret.

    Your 3 is easier with the same result.

    This was easy for me because I’ve been a guitar player for about 25 years and these kinds of bar chords come second-nature to me. It’s just a “D” slid up 2 frets.
    Thanks for the tips!

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