Play E Chord on Ukulele – Why it’s so hard (and what to do about it!)

4 Smart Ways to Play E Chord on Ukulele

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

(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 standard 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.

You can also browse through rest of The Ukulele E Chord Chronicles below:

  • Part II: How to SIMPLIFY the E Chord on Ukulele: click here
  • Part III: BEST way to make the ukulele E chord: click here
  • Part IV: How to AVOID E chord on ukulele altogether: click here

Would a video help?

I've got a lighting fast video mini-course that will walk you through the whole process.

Click for Details!

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.

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

  • 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 fret, 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, you 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.

Troubleshooting this E chord shape:

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 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 links above for various ways to play the E chord on ukulele.

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

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

How To Move Your E Chord to Instantly Get New Chords

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.

A Mental Trick to Help You Form the E Chord on Ukulele

Used much more often than E chord is D.

You may already have a favorite way to play D. If so, notice that: the E chord is the D chord moved up two frets.

(Of course you have to close off that open first string, but that's what this whole page is about!)

Over all, for me, it helps to visualize a new chord or a hard chord in relation to a chord I already know how to play.

Read Next:

  • Part II: How to SIMPLIFY the E Chord on Ukulele: click here
  • Part III: BEST way to make the ukulele E chord: click here
  • Part IV: How to AVOID E chord on ukulele altogether: click here

Would a video help?

I've got a lighting fast video mini-course that will walk you through the whole process.

Click for Details!

BLUES-KULELE VIDEO COURSE

Who says your ukulele has to sound happy?

This lightning-fast video course shows you how get that bluesy sound of the blues.

Comments on Play E Chord on Ukulele – Why it’s so hard (and what to do about it!)

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for the E chord inversions [ is that the right word?] – I often cheat and play E7, but I will try your second and third options, as they’re simple enough. Others battling with D might be interested in my way of playing it – essentially how to play when you’re hamstrung by big meaty hands and short fat fingers! I play it the usual way [ 2nd fret strings 234], but only use two fingers – this is one of those times where short fat fingers actually helps! So don’t bother with that funny 3/4 barre or using three fingers, just squash those first two fingers over the three strings and hey presto – D chord!

    1. Danno says:

      Funny to hear your D chord method for “big meaty hands.” The first time I saw it done that way was by a clever 10-year-old with tiny hands!

      Whatever works, right?

  2. Steve says:

    Absolutely! Also works with Eb – first finger on A1 and fat middle finger on C3/E3 at same time…

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