Ukulele Utopia

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The Dreaded Ukulele E Chord and the Easy Way to Play It

The infamous E chord. There’s no doubt about it, it’s extremely awkward to play on a ukulele. The shape feels unnatural and it hurts your fingers. I have been playing the ukulele for over 7 years and I still struggle with it.

I’m going to show you a much easier way to play it. You only need two fingers for the fretting. It’s not a shortcut and it’s not cheating. If anything it’s going to make you a better player doing it this way.

Stop worrying about the pain in your fingers and keep reading to explore the E chord in more detail.

How to Play An E Chord

The "Correct" Way

To add some context let’s quickly get to grips with the official way to play the E chord. You would use your first finger on the bottom A-string. Then your pinky on the E, ring on the C and lastly your middle finger on the G string.

e chord normal hard
The main concern I have with playing it this way is that it forces your wrist to be on a peculiar angle (see image). it’s just downright uncomfortable, there’s no way you can hold that chord for too long without your hand getting sore.
On top of that, the notes are too clustered together. I use tenor ukuleles and I have smallish hands. I dread to think about how somebody playing a soprano with big hands deals with it.

The Easy Way

Its time to crawl out the cave you have been hiding in. The E chord has shed its scary skin and been reborn. For this way of playing it, we are only using 2 fingers. 

If barring chords is a new concept to you, it’s worth checking out this guide on how to play them effectively. The short answer is, you place your first finger across multiple strings.

Put your thumb right in the centre of the neck when playing a barre chord. This is going to spread the pressure evenly. Putting less strain on your other fingers.

e chord barre easy

This isn’t the magic bullet that’s going to have you instantly playing E chords on the ukulele. But there are many benefits of doing this way. Let’s take a look at them

The Benefits

This chord shape is one of the more basic barre chords you will come across. It’s a great foundation into perfecting the technique as you are only using two fingers. Before long you will be able to add more fingers and make super interesting chords with ease.

This shape is what we call a movable chord. You could do this same shape two frets down and that you create a D Major chord. Interesting to note that if you go down another two frets. You wouldn’t be barring anymore and you are left with a C Major shape.

The biggest benefit would be that it’s going to lower the hurdle. Tackling the E chord can be enough to put some people off playing the uke altogether. As a beginner in something, we are always seeking out the path of least resistance. Overcoming these issues is what gives us more confidence.

Lets Learn A Song

Time to take what we have learnt and apply that to a song. We will be using our new E major chord and the A Major chord.

Rolling Stones - Satisfaction

Moving from the barred chord to the open chord is great practice for strengthening your fingers. For this song all you need to do is switch between the two of them.

    D   D   U D U  D   D   U D U   D   D   U D U  D   D   U D U
A |-7---7---7-7-7--0---0---0-0-0-|-7---7---7-7-7--0---0---0-0-0-|
E |-4---4---4-4-4--0---0---0-0-0-|-4---4---4-4-4--0---0---0-0-0-|
C |-4---4---4-4-4--1---1---1-1-1-|-4---4---4-4-4--1---1---1-1-1-|
G |-4---4---4-4-4--2---2---2-2-2-|-4---4---4-4-4--2---2---2-2-2-|

So now you have mastered the dreaded E chord. It’s time to play it faster. I spent 20+ hours working on this technique that is guaranteed to increase your speed on the ukulele

It’s worthing considering that I wrote this article from my own perspective. No matter how hard I tried, I just could never get the hang of the E chord. So I decided to play it an easier way so I could focus on other challenging aspects of the ukulele.
There’s going to be some ukulele die-hards scoffing at everything I have written. Maybe they have a point but the truth is, you can play the E chord however you want too. If it’s easier to barre it, and you get a better sound out of it, then what’s the issue? All the matters are you are enjoying yourself.


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