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View Full Version : How many chords to learn/practice at a time?



WifeOnFourStrings
04-27-2017, 05:12 PM
I don't think there's a definitive answer to the question "how many chords should a beginner learn at a single time?" but I would like to hear from others how quickly or slowly they learn new chords. I'm trying to get a feel for the "average" pace.

mikelz777
04-27-2017, 05:26 PM
I never set out to learn chords just for the sake of learning a particular chord. I wanted to learn them in some sort of context. I would just pick songs that I knew and would enjoy playing. I started by picking songs that had simple chords and I learned those chords as I learned to play the song. As I started picking up those chords, I would pick other songs that had some new chords and I would learn those new chords while playing the new song. Before long, you'll know a whole slew of chords with this approach.

vanflynn
04-27-2017, 05:30 PM
Learning chord progressions is more important than just learning every chord.
http://www.bytownukulele.ca/Portals/UkuleleClub/Songs/uke_chord_progressions.pdf
Here's a great guide on different styles.

Knowing C, F, and G can get you through a lot of songs.

Please also learn the C, F and A chord shape in barre form (up the neck). It opens a lot of options for you.
http://ukulelehunt.com/2011/04/06/barre-chords-and-inversions/


Have fun and enjoy

70sSanO
04-27-2017, 05:37 PM
My wife is learning to play and there are a half dozen chords that cover a lot of songs... G, C, D, Em, Am and F. My wife is playing these chords for the most part. By no means should you limit yourself to just these as you get better and the 7th version of G, C, D and F are very useful for some genres of music.

I agree with others that playing songs is more valuable than just practice. I would think you could play those chords to some degree in a few weeks.

John

Choirguy
04-27-2017, 05:44 PM
When I bought my first personal ukulele (I had already bought them for school), I wanted to be able to play every Major and Minor chord in the common positions...so I drilled those a lot. I still do that occasionally.

That said, you only have to know the chords that you need for each song; or more accurately, to refresh your memory of chords that you may not use that often.

I enjoyed playing all of the "Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele" as Jeremy Messersmith used a number of chords that I don't normally use (e.g. D4) and after playing those songs, those chords are now in my "chord vocabulary."

Most ukulele lead sheets will show you a fretboard chart of the chords you need in a song (on the top of the page, like the Daily 365 Yellow, or embedded as you play along).

My challenge right now is determining what chords are at the 2nd and 3rd position--unlike other instruments, there does not seem to be a consensus of what chords make up 2nd and 3rd position chords (just as there is no consensus of how E should be played). It will be educational to see the other comments in this thread.

vanflynn
04-27-2017, 05:46 PM
Yah, I agree with John. Hope I didn't throw too much theory out there. There is a lot to be said about playing the songs you like and the new chords will fall into place.

Make sure you are having fun.

WifeOnFourStrings
04-27-2017, 06:46 PM
Thank you everyone for your responses.

To provide some context, I was working with Essential Elements for Ukulele - Method Book 1 which introduced the C & F chords, added the G7, then the Am, and last I worked with it, introduced the G, C7 and D7 together. Obviously it was go at my own pace which would be considered slow by most. Fast forward to a lesson and I've been given 14 chords to practice (in two songs) over the week. The good news is there is some overlap with the Hal Leonard book so I already know 5 of the chords but learning 9 in one week is…daunting…to me.


Learning chord progressions is more important than just learning every chord.
http://www.bytownukulele.ca/Portals/UkuleleClub/Songs/uke_chord_progressions.pdf
Here's a great guide on different styles.

Knowing C, F, and G can get you through a lot of songs.

Please also learn the C, F and A chord shape in barre form (up the neck). It opens a lot of options for you.
http://ukulelehunt.com/2011/04/06/barre-chords-and-inversions/


Fantastic links, thank you!

jollyboy
04-27-2017, 09:34 PM
Hi,

I agree that learning C, F and G/G7 is a good place to start. Then you can play some songs :) After that, I think it's best to introduce just one or two new chords at a time. As well as learning the shapes you also need to learn to make smooth changes - between the new chords and the ones you already know. Fourteen (or nine) seems like a lot to be trying to assimilate in one go.

Croaky Keith
04-27-2017, 11:58 PM
Who on earth gave you a lesson to learn 14 chords in a week! :eek:

(To my mind, they are not a teacher. Even 3 or 4 in a week is a lot.)

andy2353
04-28-2017, 03:44 AM
I have been playing since December and would recommend Uncle Rod's Ukulele Bootcamp practice sheets. He encourages learning the chords before the songs; I think you at least need to be practicing some songs otherwise your practice will get boring, but learning the chords by family as he lays it out puts you in a good place to be able to progress quickly in many simple songs. His sheets also serve as a good warmup routine.

ukatee
04-28-2017, 04:10 AM
Who on earth gave you a lesson to learn 14 chords in a week! :eek:

(To my mind, they are not a teacher. Even 3 or 4 in a week is a lot.)

That was my reaction, too!

Personally I recommend (again!) Uncle Rod's Bootcamp (http://ukulelebootcamp.weebly.com/) (free download) which lays out standard chord progressions in each of the main keys - I love it. The chord progressions are great fun to practise and you can make up your own melodies above them. Don't try to learn too many at once - just take one line at a time.

There are also songbooks at the same link.

WifeOnFourStrings
04-28-2017, 06:26 AM
It's great to hear different perspectives. I told my husband that I needed to learn 9 chords in a week and his response was, "That sounds reasonable." :rolleyes:

The teacher's approach is to get students "playing" and these chords are in service to a song that I had it in my head I wanted to learn someday (the future is now :p). It's ambitious and I warned him he might be overestimating my ability to pick things up, but I'm going to give it my best since I'm committed to five more lessons anyway.

Based on the responses here I won't feel so bad if I don't master all 9. I will take a look at Uncle Rod's Bootcamp too. :)

acmespaceship
04-28-2017, 07:10 AM
It would be hard to master 9 chords in one week, but you can certainly put your fingers in the right places and play through those chords every day. Even if it's slow and awkward. You'll be better at it 7 days from now... and still better in a month.

Some music teachers like to give new students a big pile of stuff to learn right off the bat. Then at the second lesson the teacher will be able to see how far you've gotten, and have a better idea of what you can handle going forward. If you gave every student 2 chords to learn in the first week, then how would you find out which students can handle a faster pace?

I teach beginners 2-chord songs, but that's when newcomers show up and I only have 5 minutes to show them something. If I offered paid lessons, I would assume students are motivated enough to bite off more than that.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
04-28-2017, 08:21 AM
Aloha, All! Uncle Rod Higuchi, here :)

The Ukulele BootCamp materials can be intimidating.

I designed them for those who wanted a quick and dirty way to try to get into
song-playing shape ASAP.

that said, not everyone is on a personal fast track to playing the uke. That is
perfectly fine. unlike real military boot camps, uke students can go at their own
pace and pick up the fundamentals while in their own comfort zones :)

So take the BootCamp Practice Sheets according to your own sense of need,
and just know they are there for your independent use whenever you want to
revisit them.

keep uke'in',

BTW link to BootCamp in my signature below :)

Mivo
04-28-2017, 10:05 AM
For myself, I find it easiest to learn chords in the context of either a strumming pattern, a song (also with a strumming pattern), or an arpeggio/picking pattern while counting the beats out loud or using a metronome set to slow speed. In retrospect, one of my regrets is to not have considered rhythm and timing right from the start, beginning on the first day. The difficulty isn't really to form chords, but to transition between them while keeping time. I feel it's more beneficial to learn how to smoothly transition between three chords at a steady tempo than to erratically stumble through ten different chords. Rhythm is what turns noise into music.

But everyone learns differently. :) Do what's fun!

UkingViking
04-28-2017, 10:08 AM
The reason I am such a slow learner is probably that I never had the patience for learning chords for chords sake.

I would focus on whatever song I had my mind set on, then expand my chord repertoire as needed.
Off course some songs would have too many chords and scare me off to begin with, only to return when I was more confident.

Well, I started out easy to focus on strumming first:
Lime in the coconut - one chord - C7
Banana boat song - two chords - C, G7
Am blues progression - three chords - Am, D7, E7

sukie
04-28-2017, 11:57 AM
I have always learned them as I've needed them. Then I forget a few and relearn them in another song. It has taken forever to really grasp 2nd and 3rd position chords. But they eventually come.

Rllink
04-28-2017, 12:14 PM
I'm part of the pick 'em up when you need them crowd. I don't spend a lot of time learning things I'm not going to ever use, especially obscure chords that I never actually see in the songs that I want to play, and scales in keys that I can't even sing in. I think I picked up the C, F, Am, G and G7 the first week or so because I had half dozen songs that I wanted to play and they all had those chords in them. As soon as I learned those chords and started playing those songs I went forth to play the ukulele. After that I just picked them up as they showed up in new songs. It sounds here like I'm not the only one who has taken that approach to playing the ukulele.

Ziret
04-28-2017, 04:34 PM
I think in some ways, learning an instrument is like learning a new language. Some want to have Spanish workbooks and assignments and verb conjugations, some want to be immersed in the language and muddle through. Applied long enough and with enough diligence, either method works.

Santa
04-29-2017, 02:52 AM
Interesting thread, am replying to ensure I receive notice of new posts.:)

JackLuis
04-29-2017, 04:18 AM
One method I use is to play the chords in a key (off my Key Chord Chart) using one of several strumming patterns I know, or make up. First I start with I-IV-V then add a VI and a II. I try fitting them in as they sound best for five or ten minutes then move on to a different key. However I find that many songs have 'wild card' chords in them or 7th's or minors which makes song work interesting. Playing without lyrics can be more difficult, but with my singing it might be best.

Fuzzbass
04-29-2017, 04:54 AM
Learning chord progressions is more important than just learning every chord.
http://www.bytownukulele.ca/Portals/UkuleleClub/Songs/uke_chord_progressions.pdf
Here's a great guide on different styles.

Knowing C, F, and G can get you through a lot of songs.

Please also learn the C, F and A chord shape in barre form (up the neck). It opens a lot of options for you.
http://ukulelehunt.com/2011/04/06/barre-chords-and-inversions/


Have fun and enjoy

I love that Bytown Ukulele PDF, I shall be strumming my way through it tomorrow :-)

Nickie
04-30-2017, 05:16 PM
I teach my beginners at least 3 chords in the 1st lesson, and teach them going back and forth between all 3. By the end of the 2nd lesson, they know 6 chords, and can go back and forth on at least 4 of them at a time. My Advanced beginners can play 4 chord songs after 2 lessons.

ripock
05-01-2017, 01:36 PM
Interesting thread which proves what I had learnt quite a while back: I am a freak. I have a vague sense of who Bruno Mars is, but I don't want to learn the four chords needed to play his current song (or anyone else's); I just love learning chords for the pleasure of attaining the ability.

Of course I play songs, of a sort, by strumming and arpeggiating and progressing through the chords.

However, back to the question at hand: I usually try to learn all twelve chords in a category. I started with learning all 12 major chords, then the minor chords, then dominant 7 chords, then minor dominant 7 chords.

captain-janeway
04-19-2018, 09:35 AM
I have been playing since December and would recommend Uncle Rod's Ukulele Bootcamp practice sheets. He encourages learning the chords before the songs; I think you at least need to be practicing some songs otherwise your practice will get boring, but learning the chords by family as he lays it out puts you in a good place to be able to progress quickly in many simple songs. His sheets also serve as a good warmup routine.

I know that this is an old thread, but I guess I'm here. Started with Uncle Rod's and can do a fair amount of chord changes, but just don't feel like I'm going anywhere. It's like they're complete separated from any music. I guess I'm trying to find something with a beat I can follow. Long term goal is fingerpicking like bluegrass

Choirguy
04-19-2018, 12:38 PM
Have you seen the videos that I made that follow Uncle Rod’s progressions? They are intentionally designed with a “beat.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQBWVg_5p_A&list=PL6m5m3jQoANCDASrIiUZesInt2AlEAqCG

Jarmo_S
04-19-2018, 06:34 PM
Learning chord progressions is more important than just learning every chord.
http://www.bytownukulele.ca/Portals/UkuleleClub/Songs/uke_chord_progressions.pdf
Here's a great guide on different styles.

Knowing C, F, and G can get you through a lot of songs.

Please also learn the C, F and A chord shape in barre form (up the neck). It opens a lot of options for you.
http://ukulelehunt.com/2011/04/06/barre-chords-and-inversions/


Have fun and enjoy

Progressions like uncle Rod's or yours are nice to practise in many keys. I learned a new fingering today from that pdf. You favor like me letting often the 5th out in dominant 7th chords, because many times it sounds better.
So G#7 I have played always 1323. That is easy to play, but the 5th on C string booms and maybe in many cases 1023 sounds actually better. I'm always so happy when I learn a new thing, so thank you. If you are still reading this thread that is :)

captain_janeway, those progressions are used in songs, so yes they are related to music very much. I myself limit my progression practise to 3 or 4 chord sequences. That is what you should do too, separate some common progressions from them or form your own. Search internet for common progressions. As they are long continuous sequences, they serve better now for physical learning and with Choirguy's videos also as a relaxing play along.

captain-janeway
04-20-2018, 07:01 PM
Have you seen the videos that I made that follow Uncle Rod’s progressions? They are intentionally designed with a “beat.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQBWVg_5p_A&list=PL6m5m3jQoANCDASrIiUZesInt2AlEAqCG

Thanks! That's really helpful rather than me just running through 4 times, 3 times, etc. I find myself wanting to fingerpick your beat, but I guess I'm not there yet.

Choirguy
04-21-2018, 02:50 AM
Glad they help—that’s the goal. I have been using videos (and making A LOT of them) this year, and it is pretty amazing how much farther and deeper we got into playing than my previous two years of teaching with ukulele. Admittedly, the focus is ukulele as an accompaniment, not ukulele as a “full” music education tool (i.e. The Doane/Hill methodologies) as the “core” class is choir (and there are a few kids/parents that complain about its integration—but most students move quickly to get the ukuleles when it is time to do so).

Uncle Rod’s approach made me realize that I could make practice progression videos without a melody to get kids practicing a new chord in the context of the chords they already know without the complexity of playing along with a song or following a strumming pattern. After that, we played songs with only the chords they knew—and usually songs they knew/loved. I don’t stress out much about strumming beyond keeping a steady beat and keeping the hand moving (not freezing). And I use those Uncle Rod inspired progressions as occasional playing tests (I teach in a 1:1 iPad school, so students make a video of each other playing—focusing on both hands on the instrument at an angle that shows left hand fingers on the strings.

By the end of our three month every-other-day ukulele unit, I’d say 85% of our students were able to play a longer progression (almost similar to Uncle Rod’s) with a high degree of accuracy.

It works. I’m working on an inexpensive way to
Package the approach for other teachers.

Ziret
04-21-2018, 02:58 PM
Those videos are great, thanks for doing them, Chris, and Rod, for your Boot Camp.

WaylonUkulele
05-04-2018, 04:20 AM
I came from a guitar player background, so I found I could "instantly play" the ukulele. But with guitar chords. So, I was jamming on a Dm (which is an Emaj on a guitar). And G, (which is a D on a guitar). But then I was limited after that, and it seems I'd just bring in a chord as needed. Not really a schedule or a quota. I have been playing for 5 years and consider myself OK (not amazing) and there are still a ton of chords I don't know. I have a chord chart and sometimes I make a coffee and just sit and play through some of the weird chords! Then I find out.. "Oh cool.. This sounds good.. I can make a song with this one". Anyways. Not much help. Just sharing.

captain-janeway
05-04-2018, 05:51 AM
Thanks! That's really helpful rather than me just running through 4 times, 3 times, etc. I find myself wanting to fingerpick your beat, but I guess I'm not there yet.


It's been a couple of weeks using this video and even though I still get fingers tied on a couple of changes, it's MUCH smoother! These have helped much more than just practicing chords

Jim Yates
05-04-2018, 05:59 AM
It depends on the student.
If a student is having real difficulties getting their fingers to work, I'll stick to F and C7 for the first week, get them to cut their left hand nails and play Tom Dooley, Skip To My Lou and/or I's The B'y.
If a student catches on quickly, I'll teach them the C, Am, F, G7 progression. C to Am using ring finger on C and bird finger on Am, then drop the index on the second string for F, then, leaving the index in place, make a G7 chord, then slide the ring finger back to the third fret for a C and repeat. Four strums on each chord will let them play Ricky Nelson's Poor Little Fool. There are many songs that can be accompanied with two strums on each chord: Twenty-Six Miles Across The Sea, Heart And Soul, Blue Moon. . .
I urge my students to bring a phone to their lessons to record the song, especially if they've never heard it. (I used to keep a cassette recorder in my classroom and have them bring a cassette. That's how long I've been doing this.)

Jarmo_S
05-04-2018, 12:04 PM
It depends on the student.
If a student is having real difficulties getting their fingers to work, I'll stick to F and C7 for the first week, get them to cut their left hand nails and play Tom Dooley, Skip To My Lou and/or I's The B'y.
If a student catches on quickly, I'll teach them the C, Am, F, G7 progression. C to Am using ring finger on C and bird finger on Am, then drop the index on the second string for F, then, leaving the index in place, make a G7 chord, then slide the ring finger back to the third fret for a C and repeat. Four strums on each chord will let them play Ricky Nelson's Poor Little Fool. There are many songs that can be accompanied with two strums on each chord: Twenty-Six Miles Across The Sea, Heart And Soul, Blue Moon. . .
I urge my students to bring a phone to their lessons to record the song, especially if they've never heard it. (I used to keep a cassette recorder in my classroom and have them bring a cassette. That's how long I've been doing this.)

Nice post Jim ;)
You brought the thread back to beginners level. I have no idea if ever to teach a new uke player, but ur 2 chords, F and C7 (well C goes along with that too), and I think F key songs first same as you is a good idea. Then the C key songs. Bb barre takes in F some learning, but that after G and G7 in C songs.

Dm in F is the most difficult chord though, so after those 2 chords best stick with C key for a while. I still sometimes have to learn myself or rather remind that I play it clean on soprano. Btw it is Am in guitar unlike some above post lol :P