Lesson 1: What Other Books Teach



In This Lesson

  • Learn three chords
  • Learn to play Amazing Grace
  • Re-think the conventional way of learning ukulele!


What Other Books Teach

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C 200 F G7


C, F and G7 are the three pillars of nearly every ukulele method ever written.  “Learn three magic chords,” goes the familiar sales-pitch, “and you’ll know 1000 songs.”  Here, for example, is one of the most enduring of all three-chord songs, Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace (CD Track 1)


bu 1 amazing grace c6


Popular as it is, the “three magic chords” approach to learning ukulele can have it’s drawbacks:

  1. Is it really that easy?  
    The C chord is easy to play, no question. But to play a simple song in the key of C usually requires a G7 chord as well.  G7 is a three-finger chord and could be a serious roadblock for an absolute beginner.

  2. One, Two, Skip a Few
    C is a one-finger chord.  F is a two-finger chord and G7 is a three-finger chord.  This rapid progression is too much for some learners.  Why not start with a few songs that use just one-finger and two-finger chords?

  3. C.S.O. (Chord Shape Overload!)
    C, F and G7 each have unique chord “shapes.”  For a beginner, this can be a lot to take in.  Why not re-use familiar shapes?

  4. Trapped in the Key of C
    Putting so much focus on the C, F and G7 chords sometimes has the effect of “trapping” students in the key of C.

  5. Timing is Everything
    For most beginners, the hardest part isn’t forming chords, it’s changing between chords smoothly and on time.  Even the elegant Amazing Grace has eight chord changes, each  requiring a change in finger position.

  6. Musical Monoculture
    The “three magic chords” approach tends to expose beginners to a very limited range of styles and genres, primarily mid-tempo folk and pop songs.  What about Blues, Jazz, Latin and Hawaiian pieces?


With all that in mind let’s explore a fun, alternative approach to beginner ukulele: Chord Twins!

By the way, you don’t need to use any fancy strums to play the pieces in this book.  My two favourite strums are the thumb strum (just brush the strings in a downward direction) and the finger strum (strum with the index finger both downward and upward):

thumb and double strums

Master these two strums and you’ll have all the strumming technique you need for this book!

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