Change chords smoothly on ukulele

Even if you really want to change chords smoothly on ukulele, I know–yes, Daddy knows:

You are going to ignore this idea about how to change chords smoothly.

You are going to skim this post.

And you’re going to say something not unlike, “Pshaw.”

But me? I will sleep well tonight, knowing that I’ve done my duty, sharing a red hot tip on how to change chords smoothly.

I’ll probably doze off with something like, “Lead a horse to water…” drifting through my mind.

In The Daily Ukulele Workout (my online daily workshop for ukulele lovers), we talk about this notion at many levels, but right now I’m going to give the most very, very basic version.

(And that is why you may be inclined to say, “Pshaw”).

The name of this concept: CONTEXT.

To change chords smoothly, you need to change the way you change the chords–depending on the CONTEXT.

A simple application: you don’t need to play a chord shape the same way every time–in fact, you should change depending on…context.

An embarrassingly simple example: C chord.

One finger, one string, one fret.

But which finger?

Depends, don’t it?

If you’re going to an F next, I’d say make your C with your little finger, so your others are hovering in position to quickly jump on the F.

But most people play C with their pointer finger, and that’s it.

So, take this for what it is–a simple idea (play C with another finger, depending on context), and apply to every aspect of your uke playing (chord shapes, strums, etc.).


It changes everything. Including your chords.

Sleeping well tonight,



The Problem Defined: How to make chord changes smoother on ukulele?

Because smoothing out chord change on ukulele is so important to overall playing, I've done some digging and pulled more information from all over the Internet in an effort to make this post as useful as possible.

I am struggling with changing the chords fast enough to stay in tempo.

I know I'm not alone, I've seen/read numerous postings from fellow learners who struggle with chord changing.

Anyhow.. here is the question:.. Do you have any practice exercises to help you speed up your chord changes? Not cheats, such as ghost strums. Actual chord changes.

Originally from :

I can't seem to change chords quickly enough…

Changing chords is a lot like driving a car.  The first time you try it, you usually fail miserably and are left thinking “How am I ever gonna remember to do all of this?”  I mean you've got to keep your eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, right foot on the gas, change gears with a free hand and somehow manage to avoid crashing into the picket fence.

Yet, after a month you laugh at yourself for thinking it was impossible – things that you needed to concentrate and focus on, have now become second nature and you do most of it without even thinking...

Guitar chords [ukulele chords] are very much the same.  The first time you try to go from G to D you're left thinking that there is NO WAY you'll ever be able to get all them fingersin the right place fast enough, like the guys on TV seem to be able to do without breaking a sweat.

And yet, with enough time and practice, changing chords will become second natureand you'll be able to switch between most chords without even looking at your hands.

Originally from :

So let's look at some answers

Uncle Rod's Ukulele Bootcamp???

Over at the Ukulele Underground, it seemed there was a lot of love given to “Uncle Rod's Bootcamp.”

Boot Camp is a book by Uncle Rod, that allows you to learn chords (by Key) and get comfortable changing chords without frustrating yourself over making the changes sound like songs. I am probably not explaining it correctly. I can say it has helped me a lot. No videos. A free download explaining what to do… It's worked wonders for me and I spend a few minutes with it everyday. I have only worked on two keys so far, C and I believe the second key is G… Good luck…

Originally from :

Danno sez: it took some poking around, but it looks like I found a link for much vaunted Uncle Rod's Ukulele Bootcamp: I only just had a look at it, and he seems to eschew learning from songs–which is the exact method I prefer!

(This may be cause for another ukulele knock-down battle, like the one I picked with Canadian wunderkind Ralph Shaw, right here.)

Here are some good words of advice from the Boot Camp regimen to help you make chord changes smoother on ukulele:

  • GO SLOW! and accept that you won't be perfect at first. But keep at it.
  • Here's what I did. Play page one for a week. I set the metronome at a very slow 40bpm.
  • First time through 4 strums(beats) per chord.
  • second time 3 strums per chord
  • third time 2 strums per chord
  • fourth time 1 strum per chord
  • Then repeat for line two, three and four, the same routine.
  • After one week turn to page two and follow the same routine.
  • Continue through all 5 pages (One per week) then repeat.

I did this for my warm up routine for months just about every day before practicing or playing songs.

After you feel like you can handle this without alot of mistake (and there will be alot, just do your best) increase the speed on the metronome.

I especially like the poster's conclusion:

Also find a uke group to jam with. This will help alot

Originally from :

(Be sure to see my article about finding a ukulele group–I name it as my NUMBER ONE way to get better at playing uke!)

Technology to the Rescue

Nothing beats an old-fashioned metronome. The key is start slow–probably slower than you think you need, then slowly picking up speed over time.

What helped is good ‘ol practice with a metronome. Starting with a tempo that is 1/2 the tempo of the song & kicking it up once a week or so built up the speed for me.

Originally from :

Or a new-fashioned metronome:

I put an app on my iPhone called TempoAdvance.

It is a metronome with a tempo increase function. I choose an intial tempo that is quite a bit slower than I think I can play. I tell the app how many measures to stay at that tempo and how many beats per minute to increase the tempo when the presrcibed measures are done. The new tempo is kept for the same number of measures and again automatically sped up by the chosen increment.

By picking a small increment, I can hardly notice the difference from one tempo to the next. I keep playing, even if I make a mistake. When the tempo gets so fast that I can't keep up, I've found my limit for that day. The next day I start far below the limit, but faster than the previous day's start.

It works for me, but it takes some serious discipline and concentration.

Originally from :

Speed aside, you can focus on the actual chords of a song, breaking them down into units–starting chord and finishing chord. Remember, you're not locked into a certain fingering for any ukulele chord! You can adjust the fingering based on the context in the song. Work out which fingering is easiest for the starting chord and the chord you're moving to–then practice that movement by itself for a while.

As well as practicing chord sequences it is worth spending some time concentrating on pairs of chords. Take the first two chords of a song. Strum down and up on the first chord then down and up on the second chord. Down and up on the first and down and up on the second. Try and set up a rhythm changing between these two chords. Start slow and get a good groove and gradually speed it up. Consitancy of rhythm first and speed later. After some time on one pair of chords try another pair. Some time in each practice session should be spent doing this until it is no longer an issue. Concentrating on pairs of chords can produced rapid results.

Originally from :

Here's a little tidbit I hadn't seen before. Haven't really experimented with it, so I'd love to hear if helps you:

One tip I've seen to speed this up was from a Bob Brozman DVD. You form the chord and then start to lift your fingers from the fretboard slightly and then place them back down, (like damping the chord) holding the chord shape. You then proceed to lift your fingers more each time until you are lifting them way up from the fretboard and then putting them back down on the board, all at the same time.

Repeat ad nauseum, or at least until your wife and family throw you out of the house!! By then you should be able to play a nice fast ditty about being a lonesome hobo.

I'm sure you have heard and experienced this before, but the things which are frustrating us, in trying to achieve in our playing, become second nature some months down the road and we wonder why they ever caused us so much trouble in the first place. This, of course, if we practice practice practice!!

Originally from :

A Helpful Video

Here's a video that does a good job summing up a lot of the above. He's talking about how to change chords on guitar, but he same concept will help you make chord changes smoother on ukulele, too.

And perhaps the very best solution:

Just place your fingers randomly and if someone comments, tell them you are “jazzing it up.”


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