What musical instrument could be more joyful than this little Hawaiian guitar? I tried the ukulele for the first time many years ago, but it still brings me joy. I even have four of them (five if you count the banjolele) which you can see on the feature image of this post. Now, I can hear some of you saying: “But I have no musical talent, how can I possibly learn to play this wonderful instrument?”. Don’t worry, you can. After learning only the 4 simple chords I teach you here, you’ll be able to play a whole lot of songs (more than 30!). If you don’t believe me, just watch this video of Axis of Awesome. They play all those songs with only four chords.
The ukulele does have many advantages over other musical instruments: it’s easy to get started, small to carry around, inexpensive, and still complex enough to provide you with a lifetime challenge to master all the musical possibilities. It’s fun for beginners and for advanced musical players. You can easily find a cheap ukulele in any store that carries musical instruments. Do not worry too much about quality; cheap ukuleles are good enough for beginners although they lose their tuning more easily. I still play on my first cheap ukulele even though I have a better one, especially in settings where I would be afraid to damage it.
Practical Accessories and Tuning
Only you have your ukulele, you should first tune it.The most common tuning for the ukulele is GCEA, i.e. when you face the ukulele, the leftmost string is tuned to a high G, then going right, you have a low C, followed by the E string and the rightmost string is tuned to A. There are free phone apps for tuning the ukulele, but I recommend this nice little tuner (I bought 3) that clips on the ukulele head and that will work even in noisy environments. Another practical accessory is a visual chords guide that can fit in your ukulele bag’s pocket, even though you can find any new chord on the web very easily.
4 Easy Chords: C Am F G
Are you ready to embark on a musical journey? These four chords will get you started in no time. Here we go:
Choose a Song
Choose a song to try your new musical skill. You can find a selection of songs here (15) and here (24) which use only the C, Am, F and G chords. Choose one that you’d like to learn and go pick your ukulele. For example, you could pick “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (French version). After your left hand fingers are positioned on the fretboard like shown in the pictures above, your other hand can simply strum down through all the strings with your right hand on every beat until you reach the place where another chord is written above the lyrics in the music sheet. Try to keep your strumming steady and in rhythm. Practice playing each chord with a down strum 4 times and then moving to the next. That’s it! You know how to play ukulele.
Share the Fun
A great way to improve and to have fun is to join a club. We do have a great ukulele club here in Quebec city. Ukulele players are usually kind and welcoming. Playing as a group is good because you get a lot of practice, following others helps keeping the tempo and nobody hears your mistakes if you play softly. After a while, you’ll find that you have learned many chords and how to move more easily between chords without thinking too much about it. There are plenty of ukulele clubs and groups around the world. See if you can find a club in your city in this long list of ukulele clubs worldwide or by searching directly on this map.
I recommend the following practice book if you want to improve your ukulele playing skills. I have used it and it helped me a lot.
Challenge for YOU
Get your hands on a ukulele and learn the 4 simple chords to play one song you like. Bonus: check if there’s a club near you. Tell us you chosen song in the comments and whether your city has a club. What’s in it for you?
- Make you happier (as well as people around you), it’s good for the soul
- Improved dexterity, coordination and memory
- Join a ukulele club and you will certainly meet great people too.
Here I have gathered some ukes that I like. Click on the image to know more.