How to Convert Guitar to Ukulele Chords

by | Apr 10, 2015 | Improvisation and song writing | 11 comments

How do you convert guitar chords into ukulele chords?

Jenny and Josh guitar:uke duet

Jenny Peters playing ukulele with her son Josh on the guitar.

The easiest way to play ukulele chords on a guitar is to put a capo on the fifth fret of the guitar and then play the ukulele chords on the first four strings of the guitar. Those four strings are tuned in the same intervals as the ukulele. You can think of the ukulele as a smaller and higher pitched younger cousin to the guitar.

A G chord on the guitar is a C chord on ukulele; a D7 on guitar is a G7 on ukulele and so on. Lots of guitar songs are in G major and use the four chords G, Em, C and D7. These songs go over to ukulele really easily as a C, Am, F, G7 progression. The pitch of the ukulele fits my voice better, so I just use the same chord shapes on ukulele that I would use on guitar and I am ready to go.

By the way, you can learn the C, Am, F and G7 chords in our first book, 21 Songs in 6 Days.

If you are going the other way and are playing ukulele with guitar players, go online to get the ukulele tab for that song. Sites I frequently use to download ukulele tab are ultimate-Guitar.comdoctoruke.com, and azlyrics.com.

After awhile, you’ll learn all the basic chords on ukulele, and be able to play with anyone.

Here is another post on reading guitar tabs: how to read guitar tabs. And, here is a post on reading ukulele tabs: how to read ukulele tabs. Both of these posts teach you how to play the melody on your instrument.

Check out our recommended products page if you’re looking to purchase a capo or other ukulele accessories.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Linda

    That's really cool! Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Heather Medlar

    Thank you for posting this! Very helpful info!

    Reply
    • Jenny Peters

      You're welcome. Glad we could help out.

      Reply
      • Darek

        Hello. Bm guitar how play in concert ukulele?

        Reply
        • Jenny Peters

          To play a B Minor chord on the ukulele, barre the second fret. Then put your ring finger on the G string in the 4th fret. B Minor is easier on ukulele than guitar. A B Minor shape on guitar is similar to an E Minor shape on ukulele.

          Reply
  3. Webmaster PLUC

    Actually, that's very misleading & will just confuse people! If a song being played in G major on the guitar has the chords G, Em, C and D7, you should still play the chords G, Em, C and D7 on the ukulele. This means that both instruments can play the song together in the same key.

    A G chord sounds the same on all instruments, as does an Em, C or D7. So all you need to do when looking at a piece of music arranged with a guitar in mind is play the appropriate same-named ukulele chords. And bingo, the song will work on the uke!

    There is absolutely no need to transpose the song to C major to play it on the ukulele. If you did & tried to all play it together, part of your group would be playing in G, some would be in C. And I've no idea what the singers would choose to do!

    What you are talking about is trying to play songs using the same chord shapes on both instruments. So, if you are a guitarist who has learnt a specific song off by heart, rather than having to learn ukulele chords, you are explaining that they could use this 'cheat' to play the same song with minimal effort on the uke by playing it in a different key to keep the fingering as similar as possible. But it's misleading to say you are converting 'guitar chords' to 'ukulele chords'.

    If you are a ukulele player, it makes no difference what the guitar fingering is. Don't confuse yourself – just look up the ukulele chord & use that straightaway without trying to do some convoluted transposing or thinking about capos on the guitar.

    I hope that helps. Happy strumming.

    Jeanette

    Reply
    • Jenny Peters

      Yes, Jeanette you are correct. A G Major chord is the same on all instruments. It has three notes, G-B-D. It will have a different left hand shape depending on whether you are playing that chord on the guitar, ukulele, violin, mandolin, banjo or any other instrument.

      With that being said, I frequently transpose guitar songs that are in G Major to the key of C Major when I learn them on ukulele. I find that C Major is both and easy key on the ukulele and the range of the song fits a woman's voice better. The G Major songs are often written with a high tenor voice in mind. I don't want to sing in the same octave as the men, because my voice won't go that low. I also don't want to sing an octave up, because the notes are really high. The C Major shapes are similar to the G Major shapes on guitar. The song also fits my voice better.

      Reply
  4. sharonauyang8@gmail.com

    Hi Jenny, so the guitar chords can be converted to uke chords. Can the uke play exactly the same guitar chords without converting? Will it sound wrong?
    Thank you!
    Sharon

    Reply
    • Jenny Peters

      If ukulele and guitar are playing together, both players have to play the same chords in order for the song to sound right. For example, both players have to play a G Chord if that is the chord that is asked for. Because the instruments tune differently, the chord shapes will be different on the different instruments. Make sure you know the shapes for the most common chords and you will be good to go.

      Reply
  5. Jeanette

    Hi, I am just learning the uke but I have a song with guitar chords to recompose to play on the uke.

    I don’t understand what a capo is to even begin to understand what your direction means. Is there a chart I can get?

    These are the guitar chords:
    Am
    E
    C
    A7
    Dm
    Dm7
    Em
    Bm
    G
    D
    F#m

    Thanks, Jeanette
    Am7

    Reply
    • Jenny Peters

      This post was written for guitar players reading ukulele chord stamps. They can play their guitars to sound like ukuleles. If a guitar player puts a capo https://ukulele.io/ukulele-capos/ on their guitar at the 5th fret, they can read the ukulele chord shapes the same way we do as ukulele players. In essence, the capo shortens the length of the strings to retune the guitar.

      If you are looking at guitar music, ignore the guitar chord stamps and look at the letters for the chords. Play the chord shape you know on the ukulele. For example, an Am chord (A Minor) has your 2nd finger in the 2nd fret on the G string (string closest to the ceiling.)

      You can get any of our books and they will teach you the basic chords on the ukulele and how to play simple songs. Each of our books come with a chord glossary with pictures of a hand making the chord shape and a picture of the chord stamp.

      Thanks for asking!

      Reply

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