Easy Peasy (part 1)

Believe it or not, the best way to do something is sometimes the easiest way. If you play your instrument the “easy” way (by which I mean without unnecessary effort), you’ll play better, sound better, and end up having more fun. And then you’ll be motivated to practice more, and your playing will get even better. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Of course, sometimes doing things the “easy” way does require a little bit (or a lot!) of preliminary work; for example …

  • It’s easier, in the long run, to strum syncopated rhythms accurately if you first learn to use a consistent up-and-down strumming pattern, which takes a lot of practice (more about this in a later post).
  • It’s much easier to play fast bass lines or lead riffs by first learning to alternate your right-hand index and middle fingers when playing slowly … which, again, takes a lot of practice.
  • It’s easier to play in sync with the rest of your band if everyone first learns to keep steady time by practicing with a metronome.

However, some things about the ukulele really are actually easy from the get-go!

If you’re not already familiar with Canadian ukulele virtuoso and educator James Hill, you should be. (Just enter his name in the YouTube search box, and prepare to be astonished and delighted.) He says his favorite ukulele chord shape is the two-finger “G6”, both because it has an authentic “Hawaiian” sound and because it is extremely versatile. (Here’s a YouTube video and an article with more details about the G6 chord.)

My favorite thing about the G6 chord is this: The absolutely easiest, quickest way for a beginner to get started playing real songs on the uke is by using this shape and its counterpart, the two-finger “Hawaiian D7”. (More on this chord, and other kinds of D7 chords, in a later post!)

These two shapes are mirror images on the fretboard: G6 is made with two fingers at the second fret on strings 1 and 3 (the A and C strings), while D7 is on strings 2 and 4 (the E and G strings). You can switch easily between these two chords by just shifting your left-hand fingers slightly back and forth. They sound great, and you can immediately play a few two-chord songs (like “Jambalaya”, “Darling Clementine”, and “Achy Breaky Heart”) in the key of G using these!

Better yet, you can play hundreds of three-chord songs just by adding the C6 chord, which uses no left-hand fingers at all!

So if you ever come across sheet music for an old familiar song with a lot of G, C, and D chords, try replacing them with these super-easy-to-play (but rather impressive-sounding!) G6, C6, and “Hawaiian” D7 fingerings. Be aware, though, that these versions of the chords might not quite fit for some songs and some musical styles, so you’ll eventually have to learn the regular G, C, and D chords too.

Just don’t be afraid to experiment and figure out what sounds right. In music, whatever sounds right … is right!