Five Best Ukulele Chords

What Makes a Good Chord?

When I’m analysing a chord progression I like to think of it in terms of a story. With each chord being a new mood and scene and pushing the story forward.

For example, play a simple chord progression like C – F – G7 – C.

The C chord is the family at home all safe and settled. The F chord moves somewhere unfamiliar with the kids wandering off into the woods and finding a gingerbread house.

Then the G7 chord is pivotal. It’s the part that has you on the edge of your seat waiting for what comes next. If you stop a progression on the G7 it’s ending the story, “Then the witch grabbed the annoying kid and marched him towards the oven. The End.” There’s a tension that you need to resolve.

That propels the progression back to C. Taking you back home where you can feel safe and settled.

A good chord is one that tells its part of the story. You can read a whole lot more about this in the book I wrote about chords. But here are my favourites. Let me know yours in the comments.

Dm

Dm

The saddest of all the chords. I don’t know why but it makes people weep instantly.

In a Progression

Dm – A7 – Dm – Gm – Dm – A7 – Dm – A7 – Dm


Dm Progression MP3

Some Songs that Use It
Karen O – The Moon Song
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Basia Bulat – Sparrow
Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Bright Eyes – First Day of My Life

C (with an E on top)

C

C is the most common chord so it’s good to spice it up sometimes. For this inversion of the chord (which I’ll refer to as C/e) you just move your finger up from the 3rd fret to the 7th fret.

The high E gives it a bit of sweetness at the top end. And makes it sound less final than the usual C chord. So it’s a good place to start a chord progression which heads towards the final C.

In a Progression

C/e – D7add9 – Fmaj7 – C


C/e Progression MP3

Songs That Use It

Death Cab for Cutie – Talking Bird

Fmaj7

Fmaj7

Fmaj7 gets overlooked a lot. Probably because it’s usually rendered in chord books as 2413 (presumably by either people who’ve never played the chord or shadow puppet masters). The vastly easier way of playing it is 5500.

I find Fmaj7 a very hard chord to pin down. It’s relaxed but it has a melancholy edge to it. It has the sweetness of a standard F chord. But it also has the tension between E and F notes. Hold down the chord and play the C and E strings together and you’ll hear how dissonant it is.

In a Progression

Fmaj7 – Gm7


Fmaj7 Progression MP3

Some Songs that Use It
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Caetano Veloso – O Leaozinho
Lightspeed Champion – Tell Me What It’s Worth

Cdim7

Cdim7

My favourite property of diminished chords is that all the chord inversions up the neck have the same shape. For example the Cdim7 (or Co7) has these inversions:

Cdim7s

So all these chords have the same notes. Just in a different order. The notes on the first chord (going from the g-string to the A-string) are: A – Eb – F# – C. On the second chord it’s: C – F# – A – Eb. On the third: Eb – A – C – F#. And finally: F# – C – Eb – A.

Same notes, different order. Try this with any other chord shape and you’ll get completely different notes.

I regard it as the ‘girl tied to the train tracks’ chord. It’s a nervous chord. Full of peril.

In a Progression

Here I’m just playing the inversions of Cdim7 going up the neck in sequence.


Cdim7 Progression MP3

Some Songs that Use It

Caug7

Caug7

This is what I went with for my favourite chord. It’s just C7 with the G moved up one fret. You can also play it like this.

It has a double dose of tension with the 7th note and the raised fifth. If I play it I can’t get on with my day until I play an F chord afterwards. That makes it a great chord to add to the end of a progression to propel you back to the home chord.

In a Progression

Here’s an 8 bar blues with the Caug7 at the end moving you back to the start of the progression.

F – F7 – Bb – Bb7 – F – C7 – F – Caug7 – F


Caug7 Progression MP3

What’s Yours?

Let me know your favourite chord (or chords) in the comments. Especially if there’s one you think I’ve overlooked. I enjoyed putting this post together and might well do a follow up in future.

Links

How to Play Ukulele Chord Progressions

Songs With Chords You Know – Updated

I like to keep a list of songs that use just the most common ukulele chords. Arranged by the order people usually learn them in. That way you can find some songs to play no matter how few chords you know.

And here’s the updated list including some notable new additions like:

Lorde’s massive hit Royals as ukuleled by Walk off the Earth: C, Bb and F.
Skinny Lister’s summer hit Colours: G, Em, D and C.
Kelli Rae Powell’s massive singalong Some Bridges are Good to Burn: C, G, Am, F.
Darlene Love’s Crimbo classic Christmas (Baby Please Come Home): C Em F G Am

C, F and G

If you prefer, you can use G7 in the place of G or vice versa for any of 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

Plus Am, Dm and Em

Addams Family Theme Tune
Alton Ellis – Rock Steady
Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance With You
Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
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 – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Julien Dore – Cet Air-La
Kate Nash – Foundations
Kate Micucci/The Gooch – Mr Moon
Kelli Rae Powell
Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next to Me
LP – Into the Wild
The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Phosphorescent – Wolves
She & Him – Sentimental Heart

Plus D

Allo Darlin’ – Tallulah
Allo Darlin’ – Space Christmas
Amanda Palmer – In My Mind
Antsy Pants/Bear Creek – Vampire
Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
Daniel Johnston – Living Life
Gothic Archies – Shipwrecked
GUGUG/The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
Keston Cobblers’ Club – You-Go
Phredd – Elmer’s Electric Tricycle
Skinny Lister – Colours
The Dubliners and The Pogues – The Irish Rover
The Pogues – Fiesta
The Little Ones – Tangerine Visions
Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
Velvet Underground and Nico – I’ll be Your Mirror
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London

Plus A and E7

Camera Obscura – Cock Up Your Beaver
Florence & the Machine – Kiss With A Fist (don’t panic, you can use E7 instead of E in this song)
The Pogues – Sally McLennane
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation
Junior Brown – Better Call Saul
Kate Micucci & Ted (Scrubs) – Screw You
Paolo Nutini – Pencil Full of Lead
The Pogues – Streams of Whiskey
The Weavers – Pay Me My Money Down

Plus Bb

Beirut – A Candle’s Fire
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (You can use C instead of C5)
Ingrid Michaelson – Be OK
Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
Lorde/Walk off the Earth – Royals
Lorde/WIOU – Team
Mumford and Sons – The Cave
Nevershoutnever – First Dance
Neutral Milk Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers
Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love
Sufjan Stevens – Lumberjack Christmas
The Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

More…

Mastered all those? Tackle more:

Easy ukulele songs
Beginner ukulele lessons

Songs With Chords You Know – Updated

Here’s an update of my list of songs with beginner level chords. So no matter how few chords you know you can still bash out a few songs.

C, F and G

If you prefer, you can use G7 in the place of G or vice versa for any of 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

Plus Am, Dm and Em

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 – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Julien Dore – Cet Air-La
Kate Nash – Foundations
Kate Micucci/The Gooch – Mr Moon
Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next to Me
LP – Into the Wild
The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Phosphorescent – Wolves
She & Him – Sentimental Heart

Plus D

Allo Darlin’ – Tallulah
Amanda Palmer – In My Mind
Antsy Pants/Bear Creek – Vampire
Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
Daniel Johnston – Living Life
Gothic Archies – Shipwrecked
GUGUG/The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
Keston Cobblers’ Club – You-Go
Phredd – Elmer’s Electric Tricycle
The Dubliners and The Pogues – The Irish Rover
The Pogues – Fiesta
The Little Ones – Tangerine Visions
Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London

Plus A and E7

Camera Obscura – Cock Up Your Beaver
Florence & the Machine – Kiss With A Fist (don’t panic, you can use E7 instead of E in this song)
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation
Kate Micucci & Ted (Scrubs) – Screw You
Paolo Nutini – Pencil Full of Lead
The Pogues – Streams of Whiskey

Plus Bb

Beirut – A Candle’s Fire
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (You can use C instead of C5)
Ingrid Michaelson – Be OK
Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
Mumford and Sons – The Cave
Nevershoutnever – First Dance
Neutral Milk Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers
Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love

More…

Mastered all those? Tackle more:

Easy ukulele songs
Beginner ukulele lessons

Basia Bulat – Sparrow (Chords)


Basia Bulat – Sparrow (Chords)

While you’re waiting for me to get more Beirut stuff together, here’s one from their recent support act Basia Bulat.

Suggested Strumming

The song is in 3/4 time. You can just use three down strums:

d – d – d –

Twice for each chord (apart from the fancy bits and the end of the verses and first chorus).

But you can fancy it up by playing a touch strum (t) as the first strum:

t – d – d –

For the touch strum you only do a half strum (hitting just the g and C strings). Although I like to do the IZ thing and pluck the g-string with my thumb then do two down strums.

Twiddly Bits

In the chart I’ve written up the verse ends as C6 and C7. But she actually hammers-on the g-string notes like this:

She does an extended version of this at the end of the first verse (don’t play it at the end of the second verse).

More Basia

Before I Knew

Buy MP3

Songs with Chords You Know

Just because you’re a newbie doesn’t mean you can’t rock the raging patootie out of a few songs. Here’s a list of songs with chords for all.

C, F and G

If you prefer, you can use G7 in the place of G or vice versa for any of 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

Plus Am, Dm and Em

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 – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Julien Dore – Cet Air-La
Kate Nash – Foundations
Kate Micucci/The Gooch – Mr Moon
Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next to Me
LP – Into the Wild
The Lumineers – Ho Hey
Phosphorescent – Wolves
She & Him – Sentimental Heart

Plus D

Allo Darlin’ – Tallulah
Amanda Palmer – In My Mind
Antsy Pants/Bear Creek – Vampire
Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
Daniel Johnston – Living Life
Gothic Archies – Shipwrecked
GUGUG/The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
Keston Cobblers’ Club – You-Go
Phredd – Elmer’s Electric Tricycle
The Dubliners and The Pogues – The Irish Rover
The Pogues – Fiesta
The Little Ones – Tangerine Visions
Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London

Plus A and E7

Camera Obscura – Cock Up Your Beaver
Florence & the Machine – Kiss With A Fist (don’t panic, you can use E7 instead of E in this song)
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation
Kate Micucci & Ted (Scrubs) – Screw You
Paolo Nutini – Pencil Full of Lead
The Pogues – Streams of Whiskey

Plus Bb

Beirut – A Candle’s Fire
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (You can use C instead of C5)
Ingrid Michaelson – Be OK
Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
Mumford and Sons – The Cave
Nevershoutnever – First Dance
Neutral Milk Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers
Noah and the Whale – Jealous Kind of Love

More…

Mastered all those? Tackle more:

Easy ukulele songs
Beginner ukulele lessons

Alaska in Winter – Close Your Eyes, We Are Blind (Chords)


Alaska in Winter – Close Your Eyes, We Are Blind (Chords)

It’s been far too long since I had some Zach Condon on the blog. And the tune he did with Alaska in Winter is packed with Beirutisms (the Bbadd9 chord, hammering on the g-string, 2nd fret in the F chord, switching the song half-way through).

Suggested Strumming

In the first half of the song use:

d – d u – u d u

Once each for Bbadd9 and C7.

For the F chord do the same strum twice but on the first strum only hold down the E-string, 1st fret of the F chord and hammer-on the g-string 2nd fret. He does vary the strum in the second bar often. You could also use:

d u d u d u d u

With your finger off the g-string (so you’re playing 0010) for the second half.

There’s not much uke for the second half of the song, so feel free to make up your own strum. Once it picks up, you could use:

d – d u d – d u

More Beirut ukulele

Death Cab for Cutie – Talking Bird (Demo) (Chords)


Death Cab for Cutie – Talking Bird (Ukulele Version)(Chords)

Death Cab for Cutie’s new odds-and-ends EP, The Open Door, includes the original ukulele filled version of Talking Bird (you can listen to it on Stereogum). It is, naturally, far superior to the full band version (for which Zakulele has already written up the chords).

Stereogum were, unusually for them, very musically astute to mention Beirut in that post. The song contains a lot of Beirut like touches: it’s in waltz time, the C chord is played up the neck, there are Fadd9 chords all over the place.

I’ve written the chords up in a slightly simplified way (just make sure you pay attention to the C chord – the A string is played at the 7th fret rather than the 3rd). The do occasionally add in passing chords. This sort of thing:

talking bird ukulele tab

Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele – Meet Me in the Garden (Chords)


Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele – Meet Me in the Garden (Chords)

Looks like I’m going to be doing a Beirut on the Dent May album, The Good Feeling Music of….

The album version of Meet Me in the Garden has the uke turned down and guitar and Gainsbourg-ness turned up compared to the demo version but with the 6th and major 7 chords it still keeps a very island theme.

Suggested Strumming Pattern

For the Eb6 and B7M chords:

d – x u d – x u x u x u d u d u

The x’s are chnks (bring the underside of your strumming hand down on the strings to mute them).

For ‘Out by the pond…’:

d – x – u d u

for Eb6 and F6 and just d u d u … for the G.

More Dent May

Oh, Paris! (Chords)
You Can’t Force a Dance Party (Chords)
Love Song 2009 (Chords)

Florence & the Machine – Kiss With A Fist (Chords)


Florence and the Machine – Kiss With A Fist (Chords)

A very strange year for me was 2008. It was the first time in history my Crush of the Year wasn’t a musician or Janeane Garofalo (24?) but Countdown champion, writer and bus-atheist Ariane Sherine.

But she hasn’t written any shouty, punk-pop songs so today’s post is about Florence & the Machine who distinguished herself by using ukes, covering Beirut and kicking ass.

Kiss With A Fist is a simple three chord slash-a-long. If you wanted to avoid the E chord, you could move everything up a fret so the chords are Bb, Eb and F.

Buy Florence & the Machine

Beirut – Hallelujah


Beirut – Hallelujah (Chords)

Zach Condon quite often finishes off Beirut gigs with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Although his version is closer to Jeff Buckley’s (one of the best cover versions ever recorded).

The chords are fairly simple. One thing he does a few times in the song (and loads of times in his own songs) is play the F chord with the G string open, then hammer on at the second fret. He does a similar thing with the G chord. This time the A string is left open then hammered on.

I’ve included two versions of Am in the song (one with the A string open and one with it at the third fret). He always uses the third fret version on the C – Am change that you hear at the beginning. He throws in the easier version on a few occasions towards the end.

Kudos to Leonard Cohen for making my job easier by describing the chords in the lyrics. Why can’t all songwriters be so helpful?

Suggested Strumming

Any simple 3/4 pattern will see you through. A good one to start out with is:

d – d u d –

More Beirut Tab and Chords

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