Ukulele Players: You’re Playing E-chord All Wrong!

Finally, how to play the dreaded ukulele E chord!

E chord on ukulele has got to be just about the most hated chord of all.

In this quick lesson, I’ll show you the standard method of making an E chord on uke, but I’ll also show you several alternatives that will make making E not only easier, but faster, too!

(And a bonus? The same techniques work 100% on those other hated chords, D and E-flat).

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Four standard ways to play E chord on ukulele (E major)

The way your SUPPOSED to play E chord (and why you hate it)

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Four standard ways to play E chord on ukulele (E major) :

fingering diagrams show how to play e chord on ukulele (four versions)

(BUT READ ON FOR SUPERIOR, SIMPLIFIED VERSION!)

E chord on ukulele is one of the most hated of chords

And for good reason–it’s hard!

Shown above are four “by the book” ways to play the E chord on ukulele (in standard C tuning) — but those diagrams don’t tell the whole story.

To be able to play E chords smoothly and effectively, you’ve got to figure duplicated notes, optimum finger positioning, and alternate methods that aren’t shown on the diagrams!

That’s what the rest of this page is about.

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E chord on Ukulele — widely hated, very necessary

I’ve known people to NOT PLAY songs they love, simply because those songs call for an E chord (or an E-flat — same shape!).

Don’t be that person. Don’t not play. Don’t not have fun.

Yes, E chord (and E flat) are physically tricky because it usually involves a barre with an awkward finger (more on this below), AND a giant reach across all the strings.

The next lesson will help you simplify and troubleshoot the tricky ukulele E chord.

(And read to the end for Danno’s Vastly Improved E Chord!)

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Danno’s Tips for making that icky E chord on ukulele:

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Danno’s Tips for making that icky E chord on ukulele:

For this “standard” version of the ukulele E chord, use these tips (–and read on for Danno’s Vastly Improved E Chord):

  • Do NOT use four fingers! This requires too much precision How to play E chord on ukuleleand will slow down your chord changes. If you want smooth, efficient chord changes…
  • Use the barre instead. The barre is just your ring finger laid across the 4th string, covering strings 4, 3, 2 (ceiling to floor). Check the pressure–just enough that each string rings out pure and true.
  • If your ring finger isn’t mighty enough, first, make sure your thumb is behind the neck providing a GI Joe kung-fu grip. You’re SQUEEZING the neck between your thumb and finger. Second, your barre finger (ol’ ringy), will need to bend and arc and scoop in order to NOT touch string 1.
  • Finally, pointer finger comes in to finish things up, string 1, fret 2. Sometimes it helps to place this finger FIRST, then add the barre. This lets you adjust this finger on its own, before you have to worry about the barre.

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Troubleshooting the standard E chord

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Lots can go wrong with this chord. There’s a reason so many people hate it.

A few things to try if you’re not getting a clear, pure sound, with each string ringing out.

  • Is your thumb pad pressing on the back of the neck? (It can’t be that lazy crotch of the thumb, like you can get away with for an easy G7).
  • Is your ring finger BENT to avoid string 1? For many, this is the hardest part.
  • BIG TIP: For this E chord, the back of your hand is parallel to the floor. Unlike an F or G chord, where you can move in from the top of the neck, for E, you’ve got to send your fingers UP from the floor!

Why Bother?

Well, maybe don’t bother. See the lesson above for other ways to play the E chord on ukulele, up the neck.

But once you master this shape, the world, my friend, is your oyster.

Why?

Because once you’ve closed off all four strings, you have, what the old-timers call, a movable chord.

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BONUS: How To Move Your E Chord to Instantly Get New Chords

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Do NOT change the shape of your fingers! Keep that E chord shape.

But slip the whole shape down (toward the head) one fret. (Now instead of the chord being at frets 2 and 4, it’s at 1 and 3).

Insta-Chord: It’s now an E-flat!

Let’s go back up.

Pass the regular E at fret 2, and stop at fret 3. Voila! Insta-Chord: that’s an F.

Keep going up the neck with the same shape. You’ll get to F#, G, and on and on, as long as your ukulele neck will let you!

That’s why bother.

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Now, go on to Part 2, and let me show you how to SIMPLIFY the E CHORD, and, after that, Danno’s Vastly Improved E Chord 🙂

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Let’s Simplify the E chord on Ukulele!

Yes, there is an easier way to play E chord on ukulele.

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The lesson above showed you how to play E chord on ukulele “by the book” — the standard method.  (It’s good to know).

It’s not the easiest chord.

In fact, in my real-world classes, it’s the uke chord that causes the most frustration.

Wobbly bent fingers and tears–that’s no fun, is it?

Let me show you an easier way to play E chord on ukulele, ok?

(And the good news is, the same strategy works for E-flat and D chords, too).

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The (slightly) simplified ukulele E chord

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Here’s the secret:

A standard E chord on ukulele looks like the little diagram there–

E chord on ukulele
Here’s the standard E chord. (4442)

(Uke pros use a shorthand to describe this. Going from ceiling to floor across the strings, we can just name the frets that are covered. So this E is: 4442.)

Simplification #1:

Add a high E note.

Now I already taught you to play the chord with a barre—that is, one finger across the strings. (VERY important).

The trouble is that it’s really hard to barre strings 4, 3, 2, and NOT accidentally close off string 1 as well.

Look at the diagram to see what I mean. Or better, try it on your uke.

So if you shouldn’t close off string one accidentally…

What if we closed it off on purpose?

Aaaah, now you’re thinking like a devious ukulele player who gets the gigs…

SO:

  1. Go ahead and barre at fret 4. All four strings. You want all four strings to ring out when you strum (check it and make sure!).
  2. Now, use that mighty little finger of yours and reach aaaall the way to fret 7 on string 1 (closest to the floor). So barre at 4, add fret 7.

E_02That’s an E note, and you’re adding it onto an E chord. It’s easier to make because you don’t have to be fussy about string 1.

For most people, this is much easier to grab than the “standard” form.

And it sounds just fine.

Until…

…it doesn’t.

Sometimes that high E note will just sound too…high.

Plus it’s slow to get to this shape. You have to go out of your “little box” where chords are comfortable. And that can make the transition awkward and make song sound a little sloppy.

So there’s one more variation that’s my favorite. My go-to ukluele E chord 90% of the time.

But give this version a go so you have it in your bag of tricks.

And we’ll talk about Danno’s Vastly Improved Ukulele E Chord in the next lesson.  (It’s not a new shape. It’s a trick.)

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Danno’s Vastly Improved Ukulele E Chord!

This is the easiest ukulele E chord

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Which is not to say that it’s easy.

But by comparison, this is the easiest E chord on the ukulele. 🙂

You’re either going to love this or hate this.

Because this method of making E chord on ukulele:

  • is fast to get to
  • is simpler to make
  • works for D chord and E-flat, too
  • sounds as good as any other version

So what’s to hate?

Well, there’s the burning anger you might feel at having done it the hard way all this time 🙂

And, I’ll admit, some people look down on this method as a “cheat.”

And that just makes me like it even more…

May I present: the best and/or easiest ukulele E chord.

Earlier,  made this argument:

I already taught you to play the chord with a barre—that is, one finger across the strings.

The trouble is that it’s really hard to barre strings 4, 3, 2, and NOT accidentally close off string 1 as well.

So if you shouldn’t close off string one accidentally…

What if we closed it off on purpose?

Today we’ll close off string 1 on purpose–but differently.

Stick with me now.

When you play an E “by the book” (4442, frets ceiling to floor), strings 4 and 1 actually play the same note (a G, if you’re curious).

And…string 1 is what makes the chord so hard to form.

And…if string duplicates the note of string 4…

(you see where we’re going, don’t you!)

What if…we eliminate string 1?

We’ve still got the other three strings ringing out, playing the same notes you’d have. But we eliminate the trouble spot.

Here’s how to do it:

We’re going to stick with the barre–one finger across all four strings at fret 4.

Now remember: you can’t barre string 1 or it stops being an E chord! You can do a very tricky dip with your barre finger to allow string one to ring out (where you’ve used another finger to cover fret 2) — yikes!

Or you can do the “slightly simplified” trick above and add string one, fret 7.

But with a little practice you can

  • barre at fret 4 (all four strings)
  • think of your finger as a rigid, um, bar
  • tilt that bar, just a tiny bit so that pressure is eased off string 1. NOT RELEASED–just eased.
  • goal is a muted string 1, while the other strings ring out loud and proud
  • AND THAT’S IT!

That’s another reason you might be angry…

Conceptually it’s just so EASY.

But it still takes some practice to get it.

But believe me it’s worth it. For all the reasons stated above, plus a few others that will become apparent as you advance your other ukulele skills.

A final word about this easiest ukulele E chord:

Yes, this is the method I use 90% of the time.

But all the other shapes and methods have their place and time, too.

It’s worth learning them all and having them at your beck and call.

But for speed and efficiency without sacrificing sound quality, Danno’s Patented E-Chords is the way to go!

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Bonus Video

How to AVOID playing E chord altogether

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By now you’ve discovered at least three workable way to play the much hated E chord on ukulele.

But there’s more than three ways to skin a cat.

(Keep an eye for a future article, “3 Ways to Skin a Cat”).

Because I’m a ukulele teacher, I want to teach you how to actually play those hard uke chords D and E (sure and E-flat, too).

But because am kind-hearted, I want to show you that you don’t ever have to learn those chords at all.

And that’s what this free bonus video teaches.

 

 

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More Ukulele Chord Info

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Your old pal Danno sez:

This is just one of many articles I’ve put together on Mastering Ukulele Chords. Check out that link to for much, much more!

And, as always, let me know if there’s something in particular you need help with!


And click here to leave your opinion about this mini-course 🙂

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