Everything I Learned About the Ukulele I Learned on the Internet

And that’s part of the problem.

The Internet is a great place to learn things. But it’s also full or wrong information. There are plenty of “experts” on the Internet. Unfortunately, a lot of them are just plain wrong.

One of the most popular questions on the Uke forums and Blogs seems to be about transposing guitar chords to the Ukulele. Somebody will find a song in guitar TAB or a chord sheet and want to play it on the Ukulele.

Invariably, the question goes like this one from an actual blog: “I found a song I like and tried searching for the chords but they only come up as guitar chords. Here are the chords. I want them in ukulele form: A#, F, Cm, Dm, D#, E#. I want to know how to play it on the ukulele. Does anyone know how to convert the chords from guitar to ukulele?”

Sounds like a reasonable question. Right?

Well, no, actually, it’s not. Because there’s no need to transpose the guitar chords to “Ukulele form”. The chords are the same. An A# on the guitar is an A# on the Ukulele. The chord shapes most likely will be fingered differently on the guitar and the Ukulele, but an A# is an A#. An A# on the guitar doesn’t become a C on the Ukulele. The chords will sound different because the Ukulele is tuned higher than the guitar.

Obviously you can transpose the chords from guitar to Ukulele if you want to. Maybe the song doesn’t sound so great in the higher register of the Ukulele. But you don’t have to. There is no need to assume the chords on the Ukulele are different than the chords on a guitar. If a song you like has the guitar chords A#, F, Cm, Dm, D#, E#, just play those chords on the Ukulele (using the correct chord fingerings for the Uke of course). That’s all there is to it.

Now, if the questioner is asking how to form the chord shapes on a Ukulele, that’s a different problem. But that’s not what he’s asking. He wants to know how to translate a guitar A# into a Ukulele A#.

Even worse, someone answered the question. And got it half right. Here’s what the answer was: “The four strings of the Uke are the same as the top four on the guitar. You would play a A# the same as a guitar.”

That would be true if your are playing a Baritone Uke or using a Tenor Uke tuned D-G-B-E. But if you’re playing a Soprano, Concert or Tenor in standard C tuning (G-C-E-A), that would not be true at all. It would be even worse if you are using the older tuning of A-D-F#-B.

The questioner never mentioned what size Ukulele he’s playing, so this answer ranges from not very helpful to downright incorrect. He’s assuming all Ukulele players are tuning to D-G-B-E. Which all of them don’t.

The Internet can be a wonderful thing. But you can’t always trust what you read.