Ukulele in secondary music education

What Chords Should You Learn?

I just wrapped up a mini-project that will continue…tracking the repertoire available for ukulele in the Dr. Jill Reese style of ukulele play along videos. I just re-worked the list to reflect the actual videos that are available, as well as to show an abbreviated listing of the chords needed in each arrangement.

At the time of writing, 304 songs are available…some are duplicates or in alternative keys. A summary of the chords used demonstrates which chords are most frequently used in these arrangements (many that are made for use in classrooms), and this information should impact pedagogical approaches. I ignored chords with less than 10 uses in the 304 songs.

The most popular chords?

  • C: 227
  • G: 182
  • F: 174
  • Am: 105
  • D: 96
  • G7: 78
  • Em: 73
  • Hawaiian D7: 62
  • Dm: 62
  • C7: 47
  • E7: 40
  • A: 39
  • A7: 38
  • Bb: 30
  • Am7: 14
  • Bm: 14
  • Bm7: 14
  • B7: 11

What is of interest to me is comparing this data with a summary of chords used at Ukulele Hunt. My data is in blue, the Ukulele Hunt data is in orange. Note the differences between “educational” videos and chord charts for ukulele players at Ukulele Hunt:

(This image from Ukulele Hunt)

I know that there are a number of teachers who teach one finger chords first, and obviously, C is a good thing to teach. That said, there is a case to be made to teach G and F before Am (or C7, or A7) simply on the argument of actual application. My current sequence is: C, F (2 fingers), G (3 fingers), G7 (3 fingers and harmonic sequences) and Am (followed by D, Em, D7, and Dm). I don’t think I would teach G before F. I want to teach to some level of developing complexity, and 174 (F) to 182 (G) instances isn’t that statistically significant.

I also find it interesting that Bb occurs so early on the Ukulele Hunt chord list–as well as E appearing on that list!

It is important to note–again–than many of the ukulele play along videos are created with beginners in mind, and transposed to keys that work with those beginner chords–even more reason, I would propose, to teach to the most frequently used chords first!

You can check out the video lists on the video play along page of this website. I will be providing the lists as viewable Google Sheets documents in the very near future.


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