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Guitar vs. Ukulele Chords: Converting Guitar Chords

Feb 22, 2018
Ever met someone who thought a ukulele was just a “cute mini-guitar”? And then have to resist from raging about how totally wrong they are?

Ukuleles are full-fledged instruments with a passionate following among young and the more seasoned alike. If you visit the acoustic section of any major music store, you’ll see ukuleles hanging alongside some of the most expensive, high-end guitars.

Photo Credit: Fender

If you’re already an avid guitar player though, you might be wondering about the best (and fastest) way to transfer your skills between the two instruments.

So, without further ado, here’s a crash course on working out ukulele chords. Standard Tuning for a Ukulele The standard string tuning for a uke is G - C - E - A (with the G string being thinner than the C string or the first bass string).

Standard Tuning for a Ukulele

The standard string tuning for a uke is G - C - E - A (with the G string being thinner than the C string or the first bass string).

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More importantly, the four ukulele strings use the same set of intervals as guitar strings, but are just raised by a fourth. What’s a fourth? A fourth is basically just the distance between four notes. For example, A to D.

The intervallic relationship between G-C-E-A is the same as that of G-D-B-E; the top four strings of your guitar. Therefore, all the guitar chord/scale shapes you already know (minus the A and E strings) translate immediately.

The main takeaway: if you want to play a song you’ve always rocked out to on the guitar on your ukulele, you can very easily transpose the song by moving each chord up a fourth.

For example, if you took a typical D guitar chord and used the same fingering on a ukulele, you’d be playing a G chord on the uke. (Remember: D → E → F → G.)

In cases where you’re playing guitar chords that have more than four notes, you can usually opt for a “lighter version” of the chord that can be transposed. For example, an E minor guitar chord can be modified to be played with just one finger on the D string at the second fret, and three open strings.

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If you take that exact same shape and use it on the ukulele, you’ll find yourself playing an A minor chord instead.

And it doesn’t stop there. You can play guitar barre chords by removing the first two bass strings from the chord and then transferring the exact same shape to the ukulele. Just remember to transpose the root of the chord first!

With those simple transposition rules in mind, you’re pretty much ready to go. If you’re one for finger-picking play, you’ll also find the ukulele lends itself incredibly well to your stylistic choices.


Check out these easy online tutorials (or find a YouTube master) for some extra uke tips; then give us a shout when you’ve decided to release your work to the world. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and tag us! If you’re a Graph Tech fan and have any of our gear on your guitars, remember you can get Graph Tech nuts and saddles for your uke, too.