Ever since ukulele was first adapted from a Portuguese string instrument, it has grown more and more popular.
Over two centuries since its conception, the ukulele is now used by both professionals and amateurs to create the unique sound this instrument is famous for.
So, to help you jump on the bandwagon, we’re going to a look at common ukulele chord progressions. Let’s dive in!
Think of chord progression as a succession of musical chords. These chords can be minor, major, or diminished.
There are seven notes in the major scale, which are designated as C D E F G A B. They correspond with the musical notes: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti. C is Do, D is Re, and so on. Major chords are often used to create quicker melodies and more happy sounding tunes.
Minor chords also follow the same relation to the musical notes. However, minor chords are mostly used for softer sounds, unlike major ones. These chords are widely used because they work wonders for injecting tender feelings into any tune.
Chords can be strung together in many different ways. But some well-established chord families usually contain the same chords.
C chord family: C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G7, and A minor.
D chord family: D major, E minor, F minor sharp (marked as F#m), G major, A7, and B minor.
F chord family: F major, G minor, A minor, B major flat (marked as Bb), C7, and D minor.
G chord family: G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D7, and E minor.
A chord family: A major, B minor, C minor sharp, D major, E7, and F minor sharp.
Bb chord family: B major flat, C minor, D minor, E major flat, F7, and G minor.
The reason why we offer this classification is that it helps you understand what type of key you are playing. If you have a C major and D7 in one sequence, you can safely say you play as a G major.
Numbers to Chords
To better understand the chord system, there is an almost universal agreement to assign numbers to them. Usually, it is Roman numerals (I, VI, and so on). If we take C major as an example, it should be given the number I. All following chords are identified with a corresponding increasing number.
To set major and minor apart, you may use uppercase and lowercase numbers. C major can be I, D minor can be ii. This will allow you to make sense of the system without too much effort.
If we use the popular C major scale as an example, it will have this system:
- C – C major
- D – D minor
- E – E minor
- F – F major
- G – G major
- A – A minor
- B – B diminished
This can be turned into numerals as such:
- C major – I
- D minor – ii
- E minor – iii
- F major – IV
- G major – V
- A minor – vi
- B diminished – VII
Please keep in mind this exact formation is for C major scale. If you use the F scale, these designations will have to change according to how the chords are laid out for that particular key.
Strings and Fingers
A ukulele has four strings, and they’re directly shown in most music sheets online. These charts will also have dots on them.
A dot indicates which specific string needs to be pressed on. A number next to or inside the dot tells you which finger to use. A white dot means there is no need to press the string down.
Ukulele’s strings are G C E A, and there are usually five frets displayed in any of the sheets.
Why is it Important to Understand Ukulele Chord Progressions?
Simply put, there are only so many chords in a song. Once you understand the basics of recognizing majors and minors, you will able to understand basic chords in any song you listen to. It will improve your skills and enhance progression.
With enough practice, you will be able to play a song from listening to it. Additionally, the system behind chord progression will allow you to write your own songs.
Common Ukulele Chord Progressions
Simple ukulele chord progressions usually as little as 4 bars. But that can change due to the complexity of a tune. The numbering of chords will help you know what order to play the chords in.
In the C scale, try out these tunes:
- I – IV – V – I (C major – F major – G major – C major)
- I – vi – IV – V (C major – A minor – F major – G major)
Let’s take a look at another example:
I–vi–ii–V (C major – A minor – D minor – G major). In this particular case, G can also be G7.
The exercise is in C major, so your chord progression is I-vi-ii-V. When you take a closer look at the chord diagrams, you will notice that the C chord has a dot and number 3. This means, for this chord, you have to press the A (lower string) on the third fret with your third finger.
Moving on to the second chord, we have A minor. You’ll need to use your second finger on the second fret.
The following D minor chord will be more tricky, as you need to use three fingers. So, you need to place the second finger on G (upper) string on the second fret. The third finger goes on the C string also at the second fret. Your first finger has to be placed on the first fret on the E string.
The last G chord also uses three fingers. The second finger should be placed on the second fret on A string. The E string has to be pressed by the third finger on the third fret, and the C string will have to be held down by the first finger on the second fret.
And that’s how to read and play this 4-chord progression. Be sure to repeat it, preferably stating the passages out loud, so you can better get used to the shifts and changes.
Ready to Start Practicing?
Some say that knowing the mechanics behind music might ruin the experience. However, if you can deduce the type of chords just by listening, that shows your skill as a musician.
But this requires practice; small steps are the best way to go. By practicing ukulele chord progressions, you’ll learn to play passages smoothly and will have the skill to understand transitions and how they happen.
Experiment with your ukulele. When you comfortable can perform Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you can bravely move on to harder music because you will know how to read any sheet of ukulele music and will be able to determine the scale your music belongs to.