Beginner Chords for Baritone Ukulele: Which to Learn First

Beginner Chords for Baritone Ukulele: Which to Learn First

When I started playing baritone ukulele, I bought a chord encyclopedia with everything in it. But most of those chords were going to take time to master. And did I really need them? I wanted to start playing easy songs with beginner chords at first, so I could get started jamming right away! I needed something simpler.

The quest for the perfect chord chart absorbed a considerable amount of my time in those first few months. My solution? A printable one-page baritone ukulele chord chart with the chords that beginners need to learn first.

So, what is the best beginner chord chart for baritone uke?

For me, first off, I wanted one page with the chords I’m going to need most often. I got frustrated flipping back forth through the chord book in the middle of a song, or trying to scroll a website while playing my uke.

Second, I needed old-fashioned paper so I could have my chart at hand when no internet or cell signal is available, for example, around the campfire above 8,000 feet in a national forest.

Third, and most important, I wanted the chords to be organized the way songs are organized, so I could easily see the group of related chords I needed to play a song.

So I did some research. What are the most common chords? And why? Do I need the most common chords in all twelve keys? What are the most common keys for baritone uke songs? Why are some keys easier for baritone uke than others?

I’m a bit of a nerd so I scoured the internet for data, studied a lot of music books that I’ve collected over the years as an amateur keyboardist and singer, and consulted a friend who is a pro musician.

Meanwhile, my playing and my understanding of music improved. I realized that there is no perfect chord chart because our needs change from day to day, year to year, and song to song. So I decided to create the most helpful chord chart for myself that I could fit on one page, and not be too small to read by the campfire.

After my research and numerous drafts, and some lively debate with my theory-fluent pro friend, I came up with my Level 1 chord chart, which I offer here for free, no strings (pun intended!).


Related Posts:
Beginner Baritone Ukulele Chords: Level 2 – Ready for more chords? Read on.
Baritone Ukulele Builders and Brands Directory – Find baritone ukulele brands and see head stock photos.
Choosing Strings for Baritone Ukulele – See results of my long-term experiment trying lots of string sets.


For Theory Nerds: Why Are Some Chords More Common Than Others?

If you have theory phobia, look away and talk amongst yourselves—i.e. skip down to the next section!

But I promise you, basic music theory is nothing to fear. Theory is just a fancy word that means understanding the structure of music. You might come to like it. It makes things a lot easier. You might even find that you become a theory addict!

To explain why some chords are more common than others, I’m going to use the key of C major as an example. But the same concepts apply to all twelve keys.

C major is the simplest key because it has no sharps or flats (all white notes on a piano). These notes are called the natural notes, in the key of C. They are the notes in the C major scale and they repeat over and over to form a series of octaves, like this: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B.

These notes are the ones that appear most frequently in a song when it is played in the Key of C major. So it makes sense that the chords made up of these notes are the most common chords in C major.

You probably know that the basic three-note chords are called triads—major and minor triads. These chords are made of three notes by skipping every other note in the major scale. For example, C-E-G is the C major triad, the chord called C major.

Building the Beginner Chords

If you make a set of triads in C major (triad explained) using these notes and skipping every other note, you’ll have these patterns:

NotesC major scale
C-E-GC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
D-F-AC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
E-G-BC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
F-A-CC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
G-B-DC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
A-C-EC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B

As it turns out, these patterns represent the following chords:

NotesChordC major scale
1C-E-GC majorC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
2D-F-AD minorC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
3E-G-BE minorC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
4F-A-CF majorC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
5G-B-DG majorC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B
6A-C-EA minorC-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B

Violà! These are the most common three-note chords in the key of C major because they are made up of the natural notes of C major (the C major scale).

These chords are called the diatonic series of triads. Diatonic just means, using the notes of the major scale for the key you are in. You can call them anything you like; meat and potatoes chords, for example, because they form the meat and potatoes of songs in the key of C.

Why are some of the chords major and some of the chords minor? And why did I skip the last pattern in the sequence (B-D-F)? These questions are little more in depth, so we’ll save them for another time. We don’t want you to get theory overload on your first day.

Music structure is all about these repeating patterns. It takes time to learn all of the repeating patterns in music. But just a few patterns can take you a long way. And the same patterns appear in every key.

Part of the magic you see on the bandstand is the mastery of some of these patterns. Many performing artists are not completely fluent in all of the patterns. But you can make a lot of music just by knowing a few of the most important patterns.

Beyond the Beginner Chords

What about seventh chords? Sixth chords? Suspended fourths?

We’ll save most of that for a few months (see Level 2 chord chart) while you learn some simpler chords. But one chord that you’re going to see often is a dominant seventh chord, all called a seventh chord.

Often times when you come across a seventh chord, you can get by as a beginner by ignoring the 7 and just playing the major triad. For example, if the song calls for F7 but you don’t know that chord yet, try F major. Gradually you will learn more and more chords.

Among the seventh chords, the one you will need most often is known as the V7 (five-seven). The “V” or five refers to the 5th note of the major scale. In the key of C major, the fifth note is G, as in C-D-E-F-G. Therefore the V7 in the key of C major is G7.

To make the G7, you add one note to a G major triad.

I’ve included the V7 chords on my one-page beginner chart of the Most Common Chords for Baritone Uke because it’s the one seventh chord you’re likely to need most often. On the Level 2 chord chart, where you get two pages of the most needed chords, you’ll learn about the major seventh and minor seventh chords.

Which Major Keys Are Easiest for Baritone Ukulele?

Some keys are easier than others. For stringed instruments, it has to do with chord shapes. For example, if you play guitar or baritone ukulele, you know that the F major shape (Bb on tenor-concert-soprano ukes) is more difficult than the G major shape. For G major, you only to have to press one string. For F major, you have to fret all four strings on three different frets.

The more strings you have to press on more frets, the harder it gets. The fewer strings you have to press on the least number of frets, the easier it is to play.

Remember the series of chords we learned about above (the diatonic series)? The easiest keys for the baritone ukulele are the ones where you can play this series of chords with the easiest chords shapes. The more difficult keys are the keys that require mostly barre chords and more difficult shapes.

If you get really bored some evening, you can research which chords you’d need to play a simple song in D-flat (Db), and look up the shapes you’d need to master that key. Or you could just take my word for it!

The easiest keys for baritone ukulele the turn out to be:

  • G major
  • A major
  • C major
  • D major
  • E major
  • F major

I list G major first because it is the easiest key for bari uke. The chord shapes in this key are the easiest shapes to fret when you’re new.

Which Minor Keys Are Easiest for Baritone Ukulele?

For every major key, there is a related minor key that uses the same notes. It’s called the relative minor key and its scale is called the natural minor scale. The notes are exactly the same in both scales, but they start on different notes. In C major, it looks like this:

KeyScale
C majorC-D-E-F-G-A-B
A minorA-B-C-D-E-F-G
The keys of C major and A Minor have the same notes and chords.

When you learn the most common chords in C major, you already know the most common chords in A minor.

Notice that the relative minor begins on the sixth note in the major scale. The sixth note in C major is A. A minor is the relative the minor of C major.

Play a C major scale starting on A, and you’ve played the notes in the key of A minor.

This same pattern works in all twelve keys. For example, here’s G major:

KeyScale
G majorG-A-B-C-D-E-F#
E minorE-F#-G-A-B-C-D
The keys of G major and E minor have the same notes and chords.

The sixth note of the G major scale is E. Therefore, E minor is the relative minor of G.

Experiment: Trying making up a song using just those two chords. Super easy. And fun!

How Do You Know What Key a Song Is In?

There are a few simple tips to guess which key a song is in. These tips aren’t going to work every single time, but they help a lot.

  • Often the first chord indicates what key you’re in. If it starts with a C major chord, there’s a good chance the song is in C major.
  • Often the last chord of the song is an even better indicator. If the song ends in C, it is quite likely in the key of C.
  • If a song begins with C major and ends on C major, 99% of the time , you’re in C major. The same is true for all twelve keys.

Up above we talked about the diatonic series of chords in each key. To help you get familiar with that concept, download my free Level 1  beginner chart of the most common chords for baritone ukulele on one page. You can tell what song a key is in by looking at its chords and comparing them to the diatonic series.

You’ll learn more about keys as you progress. For example, you’ll learn how to transpose on baritone ukulele using the one-page chord chart. For now, let’s move on.

The Most Common Chords for Beginning Baritone Ukulele on One Page

Getting back to my one-page solution for the chords I needed most as a beginner, I chose the six major keys that are easiest for baritone ukulele, G, A, C, D, E, and F. This also gives you the six relative minor keys of Em, F#m, Am, Bm, C#m, and Dm.

Within each key, I included the six most common triads (three-note chords) in that key (refer to the diatonic series above) as well as the V7.

This Level 1 chord chart gives you the seven most common chords in the most common keys (six major keys and six minor keys) for bari uke. And I organized the chart by key so you can see groups of chords that are frequently played together.

The chart has 42 chord diagrams (6 rows x 7 chords per row), but only 22 unique chords and only 14 unique shapes. How can this be? Learn more in this article.

Quiz yourself: can you spot the 14 unique shapes on the Level 1 chart? If so, you’ve figured out how 14 shapes give you the 42 most-used baritone ukulele chords for beginners.

Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em

Some people are going to hate my chord charts. If you’re on one of those people, there are tons of traditional chord charts on the internet for you. I designed my charts to be the most helpful to ME. And I’m sharing them here for those who like to look at music from a similar point of view.

I like to understand what I’m doing. I’m curious. I want to see the big picture. But more than that, I want to know WHY certain chords work together so I can learn to play by ear, so I can play the music I hear in my head—cover tunes, yes, but also the music that comes from my imagination. I want to hear the next chord coming in my head and know what chord I need to play. I want my hands to just “GO THERE” because I understand what I’m hearing.

So my charts are organized by key. This is going to drive some people nuts. But probably there are some nerds out there who will like them. If so, I’ll do more of them. For example, you can get my free Level 2 chord chart, just two page, with the chords you need to learn next.

Conclusion

As a baritone uke beginner, you’ll start with simple songs in easy keys using beginner chords. Over time, you’ll learn many more chords. Meanwhile, you can click here for the free one-page pdf chord chart with the seven most common chords in the six easiest keys for baritone ukulele. Print the page and add it to your baritone ukulele ring binder.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of these basic chords, you can move on to the free Level 2 chord chart.

I added a list below of some songs you can play with the one-page chord chart I’ve provided. There are thousands others.

What are your favorite songs for beginner baritone uke?

What chords do you use most often for your favorite songs?

How I make the charts: I looked into various ways of making my own chord charts and eventually decided to create them from scratch using Adobe Illustrator. I enjoy digital illustration and I know the software pretty well so it was not too difficult for me (though time consuming), and I was able to do exactly what I wanted.

Song You Can Play With the One-Page Chord Chart

12-bar blues in six different keys

After the Gold Rush (Neil Young)

Against the Wind

Already Gone (Eagles)

Amazing Grace (traditional)

Bad Moon Rising (Creedence)

Blue Moon (Rodgers & Hart, various)

Bonnie Portmore (traditional)

Brown-Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

Can’t Buy Me Love (Beatles)

Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker)

Country Roads (John Denver)

Do You Wanna Dance (Ramones)

Down By the Riverside

Free Falling (Petty)

Gimme Three Steps (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Heart and Soul (Loesser/Charmichael)

Heart of Gold (Neil Young)

Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis)

Horse With No Name (America)

House of the Rising Sun (traditional)

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan)

La Bamba (Richie Valens)

Lay Down Sally (Eric Clapton)

Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver)

Love is a Rose (Neil Young)

Louie Louie (The Kingsmen)

Night Moves (Bob Seger)

Peaceful Easy Feeling (The Eagles)

Red River Valley (traditional)

Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash)

Riptide (Vance Joy)

Route 66 (Bobby Troupe)

Silent Night (various)

Southern Cross (Stephen Stills)

Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Stand By Me (Ben E King)

Tennessee Whiskey (Chris Stapleton, George Jones, David Allen Coe, etc)

Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)

Wild Thing (The Troggs)

With a Little Help from My Friends (Joe Cocker)

You Are My Sunshine (various)

And thousands of others.

I guess you can tell my age by this song list. There isn’t too much on there after 1985! Help me out by letting me know your favorite songs that you can play using the my one-page chord chart for beginner baritone uke!

Hi folks, I’m Cat. I fell in love with baritone ukuleles in the summer of 2017. I love to play and I love to practice. I created this site so I could spend even more time and money obsessing about baritone ukuleles!

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