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Thread: Chord Warning for Beginners

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Briarcliff, TX - Fabulous Hill Country home to Willie Nelson, and me!

    Default Chord Warning for Beginners

    Hey, all you newbies out there! I'm glad you're with us, and hope you're enjoying the heck out your new Ukulele.

    I wanted to give y'all a word of warning about chords. You'll be wanting to play a tune or two that you like, and you will probably find the chords for the song online. That's great, BUT don't be surprised if it doesn't sound right when you play it. No, it's not your playing that's at fault. There are just a whole lot of wrong chords published online. You can always find the right ones, sometimes by taking some from here, and some from there. But, I run across wrong, or dumb sounding chords all the time.

    To be clear, to me "wrong" chords are ones that don't sound like the chords used in the popular recording of the song that I remember. And, to be fair, many songs have been recorded with minor variations in the chording. So, technically, some of what I object to isn't so much wrong as it is just unfamiliar. What's "wrong" to me, may be "right" to you. That's OK. I'm just letting you beginners know that what you find online isn't necessarily gospel. You need to find the chords that make you happy with the song.

    Keep on strumming!
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2019


    Also, a lot of online ukulele music is transposed from the original guitar music to make it easier to play on the ukulele. Transposing changes the key of the music so it no longer sounds like the original recordings and sounds off if you try to play along with the original recordings. My understanding is that sheet music and play-along videos that you find on the Ukulele Underground website is always in the original key, but most other ukulele music sites do not have the same policy.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Capital District, New York


    And often the singer has a voice that works in an entirely different key than yours does, so you must transpose, in order to sing it (sometimes without hurting yourself).

    Fret the ukulele, not the key or the chords. Ask for help. Look for other versions.

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  4. #4


    I agree, this is a common mistake among beginners. Explore with your Uke and ask questions.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Safety Harbor, FL


    I might add that sometimes you can create your own "wrongness". If what you're playing doesn't sound right to YOU, or you simply can't play what they're asking you to play... experiment with alternate voicings and inversions of a chord, and alternate chords, like a 7 or whatever. Sometimes what you're playing that's "wrong" is so subtle that almost nobody will notice, and if they do notice, they won't care.

    There are certain chords that I just can't do... or can't do quickly. But, there are alternate versions that are easy. As long as it sounds good to me, I'm happy.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota


    Having made over 500 ukulele play alongs, I usually start with an existing chord chart. I'd like to think with my musical training (bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in music) that my play alongs are accurate to the original songs (unless i'm intentionally simplifying a song, which I rarely do). I would never say that I'm perfect in this work--there are mistakes from time to time, but overall, they're highly accurate.

    I seldom find the chords to a song that fit correctly--and many times, the arrangements identified by users as "most popular' are even in the wrong key (which doesn't work well when you're trying to play with the recording). I will change the pitch of a song (up to a whole step) to make it work better for ukulele (while you can play in F#, why would you?).

    And as you go through any resource, such as Jim Beloff's Daily 365 (Yellow Book), you'll find wrong chords here and there.

    I just write them in, and if I play with a group, I'll often let people know about the potential changes.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2021


    Thanks for the heads up! I have changed a chord in a song just because to my ear it sounded better. Or more right. I have been wondering if that's a big no no, but as I'm playing alone I haven't stressed that much about it.
    But with pretty much zero knowledge of music theory I try to avoid improvising if possible until I learn more.
    Imagine if John Lennon had composed "Imagine" on the ukulele
    Maybe folks would have more clearly got the message

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI


    There's also Ukulele Hunt's "Songs with Chords You Know"
    Concert: Lanikai LU-21C (Southcoast MU)
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    Tenor: Kala ATP-CTG (Southcoast LMU-NW
    Tenor "Low G': Kala KA-FMTG (Southcoast LML-NW
    Tenor: Kala SRT-CTG-E (Southcoast LMU-NW
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Port Hope, Ontario, Canada


    I have seldom intentionally made chord sheets in the same key as the most popular recording of a song. Since I don't have perfect pitch, I wouldn't know if it were in the same key (unless I were to try to play along with the original, something I seldom, if ever, do), so I write it in a key that's comfortable for my voice.
    I must agree with VegasGeorge, the OP, that you cannot depend on the accuracy of chord progressions posted online (This is similar to advice about vaccines, voter fraud, the best ukulele strings . . . posted online). Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's gospel.
    A mantra that I go by is "If it sounds good, it is good."

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ames, Iowa


    Some people are creative and want to make adjustments to songs in order to make them more to their liking. But others are literalists and consider anything other than the original, whatever rendition of original they want to play, is incorrect. Sometimes I, and other people in our group, submit a song that we have doctored up a little to our individual liking. Those are often met with criticism from the literal crowd as being wrong. In some cases we have several renditions of the same song in our library with the name of the person who submitted it attached to the title just to set them apart from what is considered the pure and noble rendition. It takes all kinds to make the world. I'm probably one of the most notorious of offenders as I can hardly bring myself to play and sing a song without leaving my own mark on it.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

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