One of the most widely-used chords in Western music, the C chord is one of the first chords you should learn how to play on the ukulele. It’s versatile, and you can hear it in countless pop and rock songs, among other genres. What’s more, the standard C chord shape is one of the easiest to play on the instrument.
If you’ve been looking for ways to play the C chord on the ukulele, then look no further. This article goes into different voicings and shapes for playing the C chord on the uke, as well as different songs that make use of the C chord.
Looking for more chords? Check out our guide >>> Easy Ukulele Chords for Beginners to Learn First
Before you learn how to play the C chord on ukulele, it can be helpful to understand how chords work more generally. Chords are essentially formed by playing a group of notes at the same time, rather than separately.
There are also many different kinds of chords, like major, minor, diminished, major 7th, and so on. The notes that make up a chord and the intervals between them are essentially what determines whether a given chord is a major chord, a minor chord, or another type of chord.
What Kind of Chord is the C Chord?
The C chord is a major chord. This means that the notes in the chord will be based on the major scale. Here, it’s also helpful to discuss triads, which usually form the basis for most chords. A triad is simply a chord that is made up of three notes (other chord voicings may have more than three notes).
We can think of triads at the building blocks for chords. A major triad is made up of the root, third, and fifth notes from a given scale. The third in a major triad is generally a major third. The fact that major triads contain a major third is what makes major chords generally sound bright and ‘happy.’ Minor triads contain a minor third and major fifth, and this is what makes these chords sound ‘sad.’
Whether a note is major or minor simply depends on how many semitones away it is from the note that we are using as a base or root. A major third is four semitones away from the root note in our major triad, and a minor third is only three semitones away from the root note.
Which Notes Make up the C Chord?
The basic C chord is made up of the notes C, E, and G. Commonly, when we play chords on the ukulele, we use all 4 strings at once. The standard C ukulele chord is made up of the notes G, C, E, and C again, played one octave higher.
How to Play the C Chord on Ukulele
As mentioned above, there are several different ways that you can play the C chord on the ukulele. This section covers a few of the most common voicings for the C chord on the uke, as well as tips on how to play them.
Standard C Chord
This is the most common voicing for the C chord on the ukulele. Fortunately, it’s also very easy to play; you only need to fret the A string at the 3rd fret, while the remaining strings are just strummed open. Most people use either their second or ring finger to play the high C in this chord.
Being that the chord has such a simple shape, it’s one of the easiest chords to play on the ukulele. The main thing to be mindful of when playing this chord is that the fingers that you aren’t fretting with don’t touch the open strings by accident when you strum.
C Chord Barred Version
This version of the C chord will give you a stronger, punchier sound than playing it with open strings. Fret the G string with your ring finger, the C string with your second finger, and the top two strings with your pointer finger. To do so properly, you will need to bar the string, which means using your finger to fret across multiple strings at once (rather than your fingertips).
Playing barre chords can be tough if you’re new to the ukulele. You might find that your hands start to cramp up after not too long when trying to tackle barre chords for the first time. All you can really do to prevent this is condition the muscles in your hands to get more used to this style of playing, so keep practicing!
C Chord Variation – Higher Up on Neck
This is a nice variation on a standard C chord with a lovely, ringing quality. You may notice that it has the same shape as a standard G chord on the uke, but you play it higher up on the 7th fret. Fret the A string with your middle finger, the E string with your ring finger, and the C string with your pointer finger.
More C Chord Variations
Songs that Use this Chord
As mentioned above, the C chord has been used in an incredible variety of classic songs from a wide range of genres. Here are just a few ukulele songs you might recognise with the C chord:
- Mystery of Love by Sufjan Stevens: Sufjan Stevens’ Oscar-winning ballad of heartbreak and infatuation made a huge impression on audiences as part of the soundtrack to the film Call Me By Your Name.
- Space Oddity by David Bowie: Inspired by the moon landing, David Bowie’s quirky pop classic is an excellent example of pop music from the late ‘60s.
- The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel: A simple, touching ballad, the Boxer is based around a fairly straightforward chord progression and feel that is very typical of country and folk music.