Here’s the truth: memorising ukulele chords is no walk in the park. Sure, those handful of beginner chords are easy, but if you really want to become a good ukulele player, you have to learn more than those.
This article has been written for RSL Awards by Rebecca Marlow on behalf of Know Your Instrument.
Learning new chords and making sure you don’t forget them can be a real struggle, especially for those of us who aren’t particularly skilled at memorising things.
Well, the good news is you can train yourself to store information in your long-term memory rather than your short-term memory. In addition, there isn’t just one way to learn and memorise new ukulele chords. Different techniques work for different people.
In this article I’ve listed some the various ways ukulele players can learn and master chords. You can also do these when learning to play six-string guitar, bass, and baritone ukulele chords.
Ready? Get your ukulele, try these out, and see which methods work for you.
Play songs that include new chords
One way to get a good feel of new chords is by playing songs that have these chords in them, especially your favorite tunes. The sound of the chords would already be familiar to you, which is helpful if you’re going to play them. It’s also a great way to learn to play your favourites, so start with a song!
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7 Step Guide to Learning the Ukulele!
Take your time
Memorising ukulele chords requires practice, so give your brain and body enough time to absorb and store the new sensory information. When making new chord shapes for the first time, do it slowly. Once you’re sure your fingers are in the right place, close your eyes and try to feel the shape on the frets.
Open your eyes and form the chord shape again but without looking at your fingers. You can take a peek at the fingerboard markers to make sure you’re at the correct fret. Do this several times until you feel confident you can form chords accurately. Next, try to change between chords with your eyes closed, relying on your ears and fingers.
When memorising chords it’s important to focus on accuracy, not speed, so go slow. Take your time and don’t rush.
Play chords that frequently appear together
When learning new chords, practise changing from one to the other. For best results, instead of picking out random chords to learn, choose chords that appear together frequently in songs and other musical pieces. They will sound more familiar to you this way, making it easier to remember chords and know how they should sound.
Two common chord sets as seen in the Debut and Grade 1 Rockschool books are C, G, Am, and F (set 1) and D, Bm, Em and A (set 2). Practise changing to and from the chords in each set and mix them up as you progress.
Give yourself a break
Even with all these techniques, you can only take in so much information during one practice session. If you try to absorb too much new information at once, you may not be able to process everything, making things counterproductive.
If it feels overwhelming to memorise five chords in one sitting or if you just can’t seem to absorb anything, take a break. Do something else - have a snack, walk your dog, do yoga, chat with a friend - anything that can take your mind off your ukulele for a while. When you return, lessen the number of chords to two or three, which should be more manageable. Taking a break doesn’t sound like a technique, but trust me, it works!
Chord mastery is something that can’t be achieved in a day. It requires plenty of focus and regular practice, but with the help of the techniques above you can learn and memorise chords more easily. Remember to take things slow so that you can process and store what you’re learning, and eventually everything will come naturally to you as you play.
This article has been written for RSL Awards by guest blogger Rebecca Marlow. She is a staff blogger at Know Your Instrument, and you can check out more of her work over on her website.