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5 Tested Ways to Dramatically Speed Up Ukulele Chord Changes

5 Tested Ways to Dramatically Speed Up Ukulele Chord Changes
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One of the most common issues that people face when learning to play the ukulele is changing chords. When you are first starting out, it can feel excruciatingly painful during those moments of silence as you take your fingers off from one chord, then awkwardly place them back on the fret board for your new chord, then when you finally do strum, the chord doesn’t ring out properly but instead sounds damp. It’s worse when you see someone strumming happily away and not even glancing down at the fretboard as their fingers move effortlessly up and down.

The good news is you can speed up this learning process and make those Ukulele chord changes quicker. The bad news is that it does need time.

1. Know your ukulele chords inside out

The first step for getting a ukulele chord change right is to really know your chords. If you don’t know the chord on its own, then it’s going to be pretty hard to change to it.

When I’m playing Jazz on the Ukulele, there can be some really strange chord names. If I have to look what that chord is, I’m possibly going to miss that chord change. When I read chords and know them even before I see the way to play them, then I’m going to be okay.
Check out this article on how to speed up your learning of chords.

2. Practice changing ukulele chords

Another obvious but very effective tip is to practice your chord changes. If you are practicing chords on their own, then you are doing yourself a deservice. There are some chord changes that are going to be more common than others (that’s due to musical keys) so practicing these chord changes now with help you in the long run.

Furthermore, it helps you practice moving your fingers between chords which will help you with your general finger dexterity which you need to improve when it comes to changing any chords.

You’ll also learn the chords better at the same time.

3. Find fingering shortcuts

These aren’t always easy to find but when you do, you can often save yourself a lot of effort by using a shortcut, a version of playing the chord which isn’t necessarily easier at the start but is easier to change to.

An easy example is G to E minor. Normally you have 0232 and move to 4432, barring the top two strings (not easy) and moving your index finger from the C string to the A string while your middle finger moves from the A string to the E string. Basically fingers are moving all over the place and you’ve got a difficult barre at the end of it.

change from Ukulele G to EM

As an alternative, you can use a shortcut version of E minor along with moving fewer fingers too. Instead of playing 4432, you play X432. In this case you keep your fingers on the same strings are you did for G, but now you put your “pinky” (little finger) on the C string on the fourth fret.

change from Ukulele G to EM 2

This maybe more difficult at first as your pinky is probably your weakest finger, but moving one finger (on and off) is much easier than moving all your fingers around.

4. Plan when to switch

When you are playing, you want to know exactly when you are going to switch. A song with fewer chord changes and more regular chord changes will help here (rather than fast paced erratically changing song). When you know a chord change is coming, get ready and then after you strum the last time on that chords, move your fingers to their new positions. As a rule of thumb, try to keep it on the off beat after each chord.

5. Start playing chords slowly but consistently

A final rule of thumb is to start of slower than your best and slowly speed up as you practice. This gives you a frame of reference, it also helps you work on getting it right first time with no mistakes and then focuses on speed. It’s much easier to go this way than the other way. Use a really slow strumming pattern and then slowly get faster as you practice. It also feels more motivating when you notice that you can do it quicker. As a final bit of fun, you can challenge yourself to see how quickly you can switch between a set of chords (once you’ve got pretty good)

Get a Free Ukulele Chord Changes chart

Need some chords to practice? Download our free key chord charts. These will let you practice switching between chords within the same musical key. Just sign up below and we’ll send them over.


Do you struggle with ukulele chord changes? Leave your comment below.

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About The Author

Chris Wilson

I'm a ukulele fanatic who also happens to teach English as a foreign language in Krakow, Poland.

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