Most Common Ukulele Chords

I was in the process of updating the Songs with Chords You Know page and became curious about the most used chords on the site. Here are the results (click it for the full size image):

And here’s one showing all chords used four times or more. The first thing that struck me was that it’s a Pareto distribution (near enough) which means if you learn the first few chords you’re going to be able to play most of the songs.

I was curious, so here’s a chart for the chords for ukulele-tabs.com’s most popular songs. The results are similar but there’s a much clearer gap after the top four. So if you want to write a successful ukulele song use the chords C, G, Am, F.

Songs you can play after learning 6 chords

Just learn these six chords:

C, F, G, Am, Dm and Em

And you’ll be able to play these songs:

NeverShoutNever! – Your Biggest Fan/Did It Hurt?
Noah and the Whale – Five Years Time
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass
Paolo Nutini – High Hopes
SoKo – I Will Never Love You More
The Bobby McGee’s – A Dog At All Things
The Lancashire Hotpots – He’s Turned Emo
The Tiger Lillies – Start A Fire
Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra/Kings of Leon – The Bucket
Addams Family Theme Tune
Alton Ellis – Rock Steady
Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance With You
Darren Hanlon – All These Things
Electrelane – Cut and Run
Garfunkel and Oates – Me, You and Steve
Florence and the Machine – Dog Days Are Over
GUGUG – California Sun
Israel Kamakawiwoíole/Jason Castro РSomewhere Over the Rainbow
Julien Dore – Cet Air-La
Kate Nash – Foundations
Kate Micucci/The Gooch – Mr Moon
Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next to Me
Phosphorescent – Wolves
She & Him – Sentimental Heart

If a song doesn’t use the most common chords

If you come across a song that’s all Eb and Bb and you haven’t mastered those chords yet, there is a way to make it easier: change the key.

To do that visit this site. Take your complicated chord chart. Copy and paste it into the box. Go to the ‘New Key (required)’ drop-down menu and select C. Click ‘Click Here’.

Whatever it spews out will sound right and will usually be easier to play (if not to sing).

Favourite Chord?

All of which raises this question: what’s your favourite chord?

I’m going with Caug (1003) or add in the 7 as well (1001). Leave yours in the comments.

View Comments

43 Comments

  1. Brice September 7th, 2011 7:41 pm

    I was wondering just the other day how chords ranked in popularity. Thanks for putting this together. I thought G and C would be closer, not that it matters to anyone.

  2. cardboardfrog September 7th, 2011 10:19 pm

    out of massive geekery i do have to ask if the chords were rated purely upon occurance in songs (as in appearing in a song counting for one unit) or whether they were also listed by their usage within each song (the more say G chords occuring in each song it occurs in counting for more) either way it’s excellent data and really helpful to anyone whose looking to apply the chords they already know.
    My favourite chord is a varient of F (2013) i dunno what it’s actually called but it works so beautifully as a pull off into f when fingerpicking.

  3. thegentlesurprise September 8th, 2011 1:04 am

    Oddly, I don’t think I have ever once used that Eb. Guess you learn something new every day.

  4. pepamahina September 8th, 2011 1:12 am

    I like froggy’s F(2013) too, for the fingerpicking reason also. But I also like D(2225), played as a first finger bar on 2 with the pinky on 5. It’s an easier for me to make than D(2220) and it sounds lovelier too.

  5. fencerboy September 8th, 2011 1:46 am

    My personal favourite is a chord that I’m not sure the name of but it is a variant of Fsus2 with a D on the A string (0015).

  6. Vincent September 8th, 2011 4:21 am

    Em (0432). I’m not that dark, I just love it.

  7. Adam September 8th, 2011 5:06 am

    My favorite is 2102 (Aadd9), especially with E7 nearby. I also like 0120 (Dsus4/Gsus2).

  8. Drew September 8th, 2011 8:01 am

    I am very confused about the input method for the transposing site that you have listed….my copy and paste of the image of the chords is non-functional….what should I do? Thanks!

    Cheers,
    Drew

  9. Al Napp (@alnapp) September 8th, 2011 8:43 am

    I’m still enough of a beginner to get a kick out of the C7 used in the wa-wa-waaah transition between C & F

  10. Julia September 8th, 2011 8:48 am

    Favourite chord would be F#m…. second favourite Eb… although cardboardfrogs F is quite nice to

  11. ritchie September 8th, 2011 9:11 am

    C, Am, F, G7 has a nice flow to it … I bet that’s the most used progression in the most songs ….my favourite sounding chord is Fm

  12. Liam Beeblebrox September 8th, 2011 10:08 am

    0402
    Don’t know what it’s called, but it go’s great with D6 (2222) another fav, and with the usual’s.

  13. Pete September 8th, 2011 10:21 am

    Like Vincent, I love Em (sometimes I am dark) but fingered as 0402 – the double E of the middle strings adds space and echo

  14. RobNY September 8th, 2011 2:31 pm

    I’m crazy about E7

  15. Stephen September 8th, 2011 3:48 pm

    Thanks for posting this. The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) is something I use quite often in my work when trying to figure out what problem to work on next. It’s very handy. I never thought that I’d see it applied to ukuleles! It makes sense though.
    I was kind of surprised to see G7 so far down. I was equally surprised to see that E made it onto the chart at all ;^)

  16. James September 8th, 2011 4:33 pm

    Great article! I think I’d go with the Fmaj7 (5500) as my current fave chord. Very dreamy.

  17. Readie September 8th, 2011 5:15 pm

    I’m with ritchie – I’m an Fm fan.

  18. Alex September 8th, 2011 5:20 pm

    Today I have been loving Fsus2 (0013). If you strum it and pull off into 0012 and go back and forth a few times, it sounds so brooding and deep.

  19. The Captain September 8th, 2011 5:45 pm

    Whenever I pick up my uke I play a G; so I guess it’s my favourite. And I don’t know this chord’s name: (0346) which sounds nice, too.

  20. carreg wastad September 9th, 2011 8:20 am

    aaah, theres some real nice chords here
    0346 – is it C7? makes me want to play fulsome prison blues

    fmaj7 – gets my vote too, especially in space oddity

    my other vote (do we get PR) goes to this chord 0424

  21. Woodshed September 9th, 2011 1:28 pm

    Brice: Good point. C and G almost always crop up together. I suppose G7 took a few away from G.

    cbf: Appearance in a song counted as one no matter how often it occurred.

    gentlesurprise: I almost always use that Eb.

    pepamahina: Yeah, that’s definitely a good alternative.

    fencerboy: Good one. F6add9 maybe.

    Vincent: Minor chord as a favourite. That’s a little dark.

    Adam: I think Gsus2/Dsus4 is 0230. Both are good though.

    Drew: You don’t put images in, you put the text in.

    Al Napp: Love the wa-wa-wah move.

    Julia: Eb is a good one. Should get more love.

    ritchie: Yep, that is definitely a bit time progression in uke songs.

    Liam: 0402 is another version of Em.

    Pete: Good to see a minor chord getting love.

    Rob: C to E7 is a classic uke progression. Love it.

    Stephen: I think that’s a slightly different thing. But related possibly.

    James: Yes!

    Readie: Some people really hate playing that chord. It is a bit tricky.

    Captain: Unusual one. G#maj7 perhaps.

    carreg: 0424 is an interesting one. Makes me want to resolve to B. So I’ll go with F#7b9.

  22. Jason Johasn September 9th, 2011 4:03 pm

    I’ve been digging on bar chord variations of just about anything. It helps when playing funk and reggae, which my band does a lot of. It’s amazing how many different chords you can play on uke without moving your index finger.

    Example: C, C7, Cm, Cm7, G#, D#, D#6, D#7, D#maj7, Fm, etc.

    I remember when I found out the some m7 chords can be played the same as 6 chords. Blew my mind.

  23. TJ Luschen September 9th, 2011 7:22 pm

    I don’t even know what my favorite chord is called – maybe someone can help me. It is 3324. Play it with two slow down strums, then slide up to 4435 and it sounds like instant “island mystery / 50′s exotica” Just wish I could find a way to make a song around it.

  24. banter September 9th, 2011 8:01 pm

    One of my favorite chord is Fmaj7. Difficult one but it sounds pretty good.

  25. Julia September 10th, 2011 12:47 pm

    one i forgot but might even be my absolute favourite one is Bbadd9 (3213)… so pretty

  26. Oscar September 10th, 2011 4:30 pm

    I’m not sure what the chord is called but my favorite is the e/C? (0007). Simple and amazing.

  27. Newke September 10th, 2011 5:14 pm

    Favourite chord is Bbadd9 (3213). So happy! :D

  28. Woodshed September 10th, 2011 9:08 pm

    Jason: Good point.

    TJ: It’s Ebm7.

    banter: Agree with that.

    Julia and Newke: You’re faourite chord buddies!

    Oscar: I take it you’re a Beirut fan!

  29. SamD September 11th, 2011 12:35 am

    C6. Or maybe Am7, can’t decide which one I like more.

  30. Mattsie September 11th, 2011 12:44 am

    I felt so proud that I knew all these chords :3
    I’ve never really thought about one favourite chord but I quite like O212 :B I forget what its called though

  31. Woodshed September 11th, 2011 11:02 am

    SamD: At least they’re both easy to play.

    Mattsie: That’s G7.

  32. SamD September 11th, 2011 3:23 pm

    Seriously though, it depends how you’re defining “favourite”. The chord I think sounds the loveliest on my uke is the Beirut C (0007). The chord I find most useful is E7 – when I found out it could be used in place of E in most cases it was a quantum leap in my uke playing. For pure scrunched up messyness I love 0312 (G7+5 I think…?), especially when it resolves to G7. My favourite chord in a song is the Beirut Bb (Bb add9 – 3213). And I’m surprised there’s been no mention of diminished chords :)

  33. SamD September 11th, 2011 3:46 pm

    PS I mean when the Bb9 is used in Postcards from Italy :)

  34. Woodshed September 12th, 2011 11:32 am

    SamD: G7+5 is definitely a favourite of mine too.

  35. Abbie September 12th, 2011 5:09 pm

    That reminds me of this YouTube vid that my sister showed me recently, demonstrating that once you know four chords you can play a hell of a lot of songs! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I

    I’m pretty new to the uke so my fave is the relatively simple G7. Anyway, I’m off to learn Eb, as your stats suggest I need to know it! Great site btw.

  36. Woodshed September 16th, 2011 8:14 pm

    Abbie: Hahaha! Thanks for the link.

  37. Braden September 19th, 2011 11:54 am

    Consider me a passenger on the E7 boat.

    In fact, I’m a fan of 7ths in general; they’re a great way for a mediocre player like me to change up a tune.

  38. Ambient Doughnut September 27th, 2011 4:42 pm

    I like the augmented chords but my favourite atm has to be the C6 (5757) (Or D/E whatever, but that shape). C6 to Cdim – lovely!

  39. Pao Pao October 12th, 2011 12:43 am

    i personally like (2213) XD even though i forgot what its called

  40. Kayleyukulele October 12th, 2011 9:08 pm

    E7 hands down

  41. Jon November 9th, 2011 7:35 pm

    My favorite chord is either a Bbadd9 (3123) or an E (2041). Can’t really make up my mind.

  42. Felix March 26th, 2012 2:18 pm

    I love the E7 variant with an open G-String (ah, the innuendo) 0202, its the starting chord for The Scientist by Coldplay, it also features in the Ellie Goulding Starry Eyed instrumental, which I have learned to play after half a year

  43. Woodshed March 26th, 2012 7:50 pm

    Felix: That’s a good one. It’s Em7.

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