How to Read a Ukulele Chord Diagram

By Alistair Wood

Luckily, you don’t need to be able to read music to play your ukulele — you can play chords just by looking at the pictures. A chord diagram shows you exactly which finger you need to put where in order to play a certain chord.

A chord diagram represents the top five frets of the ukulele as you’d see them if you stood the ukulele up and looked straight at it:


The parts of the chord diagram are as follows:

  • Vertical lines represent the strings of the ukulele, starting with the g-string on the far left, moving to the A-string on the far right.

  • The thick horizontal line at the top represents the nut of the ukulele.

  • Thin horizontal lines represent the frets. The first line below the nut is the first fret and the very bottom line is the fifth fret.

  • The dots show you exactly where to put your fingers. For example, if a dot is on the far left line between the first and second line, you need to hold down the g-string at the second fret.

    The dots always appear on a vertical line and between the horizontal lines.

  • The 0s at the top are strings that are played open, which means you don’t fret them at all.

  • The numbers at the bottom tell you which finger to use to fret that particular string:

    • 1 = Index finger

    • 2 = Middle finger

    • 3 = Ring finger

    • 4 = Little finger

Not all chord diagrams start at the nut. If you see a chord diagram that doesn’t have a thick black line at the top, a number should appear at the top right (or sometimes left). In these cases you need to treat the top line as the fret given rather than the nut.

Chord diagrams can be tricky for left-handed beginners. You need to create some way to interpret the regular diagrams in a way that makes sense for you. Many left-handers imagine chord diagrams one of these ways:

  • Picture the chords as a mirror image: This method is definitely the best way of interpreting the chord charts when you’re forming chords.

  • See ‘through’ the neck: Imagine the neck of your ukulele is made of glass and you can see the frets and your fingers through it. So the standard chord diagram would be like holding the ukulele in front of you with the fretboard pointing away from you. You just need to mimic what you see in the chord diagram on your ukulele.