Ukulele & Languages

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5 tutorials to play barre chords on a ukulele

14 2010

One thing I am struggling with in my ukulele learning are barre chords. As you already know if you’ve been following the blog, ukulele is my first instrument and as I am mostly learning on my own, things take much more time.

There is an overwhelming amount of things to learn and the time I can allocate to practising my uke is much less than I’d like. As a result, I often end up dismissing songs with chords I am not comfortable with so as to enjoy the time I spend on my uke rather than struggle and play a series of unsatisfactory sounds that are not exactly what you can call melodious.

My focus has also been on fingerstyle uke rather than strumming so far, thanks to the patient help of Herman via Skype.

However, I realised that avoiding difficulties was not a good solution when I met a ukulele friend of mine, Alex from the COULE,  at the Paris Ukulele Bazaar a few weeks ago, and we decided to strum a few songs in a park together to enjoy the sunny afternoon. He knew plenty of songs but most of them had barre chords and were too difficult for me to play at a correct pace.

I felt frustrated at my crappiness so I have now set myself the challenge to learn to master those @#!/|\!# (don’t ask me what language that word is in) barre chords before my next meeting with Alex, which gives me a few months to improve.

Here are some tutorials I have found on the subject and which I hope will help you too if you ever are in the same situation.

1. Ukulele Mike‘s excellent tutorial is a very good starting point to learn how to properly hold and play barre chords.

2. Ian Schwartz explains how to learn to bend your fingers to get better barre chords and mentions the sensitive subject of the E chord.

3. David UkesterBrown shows us an exercise to practise barre chords

4. Densetsunotoki‘s tutorial helps us understand the use of barre chords to make movable chords

5. Finally, a demo of how to play barre chords without your thumb touching the neck of the ukulele. Not really sure about that one though, I doubt you can play fast without the use of your thumb to steady the uke.

For further exercises, you can download chords for a selection of songs which contain barre chords from my favourite ukulele blog, Uke Hunt.

If you are looking for tutorials in French (with the French note system), check out Sleipnir‘s tutorial on the COULE‘s website here.

If you are a barre chord expert yourself, don’t hesitate to share your tips by leaving a comment.


  1. Flamby1er on the 14th of May 2010 @ 21:42

    It’s still a great pleasure to read your blog Armelle. We gonna have big fun in August!!!

    May the COULE be with you.

  2. LePotofBasil on the 15th of May 2010 @ 07:48

    Hi, Armelle. Yes, there are an overwhelming
    amount of things to learn and a limited amount
    of time to devote to all those things. Which means that most of us have to limit what we choose to learn and do on the ukulele. If solo fingerstyle is your one
    true ukulele love then that’s what you should do
    exclusively, and any time spent doing something else, such as strumming or chord melody, will only limit your advancement in your favorite style. Having said that, barre chords are necessary to move beyond the beginning stage of any style of playing, so they are essential to learn regardless of your playing future. And, as usual, you are way too hard on yourself. I think some macaroons are in order. I believe I could use some, too.

  3. Armelle Europe on the 15th of May 2010 @ 12:18

    Flamby1er : we sure will! Although I hope we’ll play songs without barre chords too ;)

    LePotOfBasil : limiting myself to one thing is something I’ve never managed doing so I am mediocre in a huge (and growing) variety of subjects.
    Bon appétit with the macaroons!

  4. Pierre on the 15th of May 2010 @ 12:29

    Thank you for sharing this, very interesting!
    Have a nice day Armelle.

  5. Armelle Europe on the 15th of May 2010 @ 13:35

    Pierre: glad you found the post interesting!
    Have a nice day too! I am still waiting for the return of the sun here…

  6. David aka Ukester Brown on the 15th of May 2010 @ 18:39

    Thanks for including my video. I’m glad you found it helpful. Soon I will be posting Ain’t she sweet using mostly barre chords.

  7. Armelle Europe on the 16th of May 2010 @ 00:27

    David UkesterBrown: You’re welcome. I’m looking forward to your barre chords version of Ain’t She Sweet
    I still need a bit of time to master your barring practise exercise though…

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