How to Read Chord Charts

Originally published June 2, 2011

A chord chart usually contains the lyrics of the song, with chord names placed over the word or syllable where the the chord changes. For instance:

     F          G         C               F
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
     F        G               C
The answer is blowin' in the wind

The easiest way to use a chord chart is to strum a chord and then sing or recite the lyrics. Hold the chord you just played until you arrive at the next chord.

Normally, each chord will last one measure, or four beats. If the chord lasts two measures, rather than writing it twice, I’ll often place a (2) after the chord name. That means “two measures,” which comes to eight beats.

Sometimes you’ll have to change chords in the middle of a measure. If a chord lasts only half a measure (two beats), you’ll see a (1/2) after the chord.

In my chord charts, I’ll sometimes give you numeric fingerings for chords. These might look like:

A       2 1 0 0

From left to right, those numbers refer to the fourth, third, second, and first strings. It’s the same order you see the strings when you look down at your uke.

This chord is fingered “Second fret on fourth string, first fret on third string, and leave first and second strings open.”

Finally, sometimes in the spirit of simplicity, you’ll find a chord chart that doesn’t include chord durations or fingerings. In these cases, you’ll just need to listen to the original recording to get a feel for how long each chord lasts. Following along with the words can help, too.

All right, grab your uke songbook (or favorite website) and get strumming!

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