An Explanation of Ukulele Chord Families, Using the C Family
A ukulele chord family is made up of six main chords. Each chord in the family is identified by a Roman numeral so you don’t mix them up with all the other numbers flying around. (They’re spoken as a one chord, a two chord, and so on.) Minor chords are shown in lowercase and major chords in uppercase.
The C family is the most straightforward set of chords to play on the ukulele:
V: G or G7
vi: AmDiagram of the C chord family.
A vii° chord is also in the sequence, but that’s a bit trickier and not often used, especially on a ukulele.
Each family of chords is named after the I chord (also called the root). So songs that draw their chords from this set are in the key of C. The I chord is almost always the first and last chord in any sequence.
Chord families work so well together because each chord contains notes from the same scale. So in the C family of chords all the chords are made up of notes in the C major scale.
Each key also has a relative minor key that uses exactly the same chord set. In the case of C, the relative minor is A minor.
The basis of almost all popular music is just three chords; whether the genre is rock, pop, blues, country, jazz, or punk, these three chords are in there. If you can get your head and fingers around this fact, you have a strong basis to tackle almost any song you come across. For example, the three-chord trick in the C family are the I, IV, and V of the family. So
The I chord is C.
The IV chord is F.
The V chord is G7.