Ukulele Barre Chords: incredibly useful–and not that hard
Once you get the hang of how they work, ukulele barre chords (also called movable chords and 2nd position chords) can literally change the way you play.
First, What IS a Barre Chord?
As shown in the video below, a barre chord on ukulele, guitar, or any other similar instrument, is an open chord that you move up the neck and close off in the process.
For example, a G7 on ukulele is an open chord, because you’re not covering (closing) all the strings–only three of them.
So to move that chord shape up the neck, you have to close off the open string as you move it, so that all the strings are covered.
Your finger that closes off the open strings is essentially doing the job that nut of the ukulele does. That barre finger becomes the point at which the string’s vibration ends.
Why ukulele barre chords are so valuable
- Learn one shape and instantly know 12 new chords!
- Add variety and interest to your songs–not the same old chords!
- Vastly simply working chord melodies on ukulele (the melody is usually based around the chords, so flexible barre chords are perfect)!
A little secret
“Barre chords” may sound way out and exotic, something you need never bother with or worry about.
But odds are good you’re already doing some ukulele barre chords without even thinking about it.
- D7: frets 2223 — you probably play that as a barre at fret 2
- Bb: 1123 — the “11” is a mini-barre (but you can play it as a full barre)
- B minor: 4222
Definition: A barre exists any time you fret more than one string with the same finger (almost always your index finger).
A common problem for folks trying out barre chords is that it hurts.
And indeed, it can hurt at first, because the strings are digging into the soft baby flesh of your fingers.
But there are you a few changes you can make in your approach that assuage the pain even while increasing your speed and dexterity.
The video shows the moves in details, but here they are in a nutshell.
4 simple tricks to make ukulele barre chords much easier to play
- Use more of your barre finger. A barre is different from a regular chord, and you don’t need to be fussy about using your fingertip. Reach way across with the full might of your finger.
- Don’t neglect your thumb! Your thumb is in back providing the vital counter-squeeze to the barre finger. Small adjustments in thumb placement can make a big difference in the barre finger squeezing power.
- Double up! Instead of a single finger for the barre, pile another one on top for twice the squeeze power.
- Try: Add the barre LAST. Get your other fingers in place and working properly, then add the barre.
Video: Tips to Simplify the Ukulele Barre Chord
There’s a lot of theory and logic about when to use ukulele barre chords, but I hope this gives you an overview of how.
As always, let me know if I can help!
PS: Here’s a very detailed article on barre chords for guitar players. Most of it applies to barred chords for ukulele players, too, and there are a few interesting techniques worth checking out.
More ukulele chord tips:
- Play E Chord on Ukulele – Why it’s so hard (and what to do about it!)
- Simplify Chords: Tricky Ukulele Chords and how to untrickify them
- My top tips on playing that nasty ol’ B minor chord on ukulele