How Many Ukulele Chords Are There?

There are literally tons of chords you can play on the ukulele. Most chord books only show a small fraction of the possibilities.

In this lesson we’ll look at the theoretical maths we can use to figure out how many different chord voicings you can play on the ukulele, along with some real-world perspective.

Big Picture: How Many Ukulele Chords are There?

If you had huge hands that could independently reach every fret, you could theoretically play:

  • 20,736 different chord voicings on a 12 fret ukulele

This math is figured by multiplying the number of note options per string (12 frets) as many times as there are strings (4).

12 × 12 × 12 × 12 = 12^4 = 20,736

You can use this calculator to figure out how many possibilities there are on your uke! Just put the number of frets for b and 4 strings for x.

Exponent Calculator

The Honest, Real Answer

The massive number above includes all note combination possibilities. Not all sound good. Not all are musically pleasing “chords.” And your fingers certainly can’t reach all of them!

To figure out a number that covers plausible fingerings, accounts for theory, and omits duplicates, you’d need some major mathematician chops or a much more useful ChatGPT.

Suffice to say, it’s a big number and nobody knows exactly what it is.

Working from what we know

If we take the opposite tack and assess the ukulele chords and shapes we know exist, we can get a more realistic answer.

A fairly comprehensive list of ukulele chords would include:

  • Major
  • Major 6th
  • Major 6/9
  • Major 7th
  • Major 7(b5)
  • Major 7(#5)
  • Major 9th
  • Minor
  • Minor 6th
  • Minor 6/9
  • Minor 7th
  • Minor 7(b5)
  • Minor 7(#5)
  • Minor (Major 7th)
  • Minor 9th
  • Minor 11th
  • Dominant 7th
  • Dominant 9th
  • Dominant 11th
  • Dominant 13th
  • Dominant 13(b9)
  • Dominant 7(b5)
  • Dominant 7(#5)
  • Dominant 7(b9)
  • Dominant 7(#9)
  • Dominant 7(b5b9)
  • Dominant 7(b5#9)
  • Dominant 7(#5b9)
  • Dominant 7(#5#9)
  • Suspended 2
  • Suspended 4
  • Suspended 7th
  • Add 9
  • Add 11
  • Diminished
  • Diminished 7th
  • Augmented

That’s 38 chord families; the same ones included in my Ukulele Chord Shapes chord book.

If you go on Ukulele Buddy and average the number of voicings you get for each chord based on a C root, you get 13. This is probably high since C chords use open strings that other keys don’t, but we’ll assume that there are some voicings that the chord tool missed to make up the difference.

38 chord families × 12 keys × 13 voicings = 5,928

I think this is a low number. There are more chord families and alterations.

How Many Ukulele Chords are There for NORMAL People?

Even a fraction of 5,928 chords is much, much more than any average person can keep in their head.

And musically, what is the point of knowing so many chords if you rarely use most of them? The majority of Western music can be played with major, minor, and 7th chord shapes.

Most people will happily get by with knowing less than 40 chords on the ukulele.

3 chord families × 12 keys = 36 + extras

If you’re a more advanced player who dabbles in jazz, you can add maj7, min7, 6th, 6/9, and dim7 to cover most situations. These chords (except dim7) have 4 main voicings each.

8 chord families × 12 keys × 4 voicings = 384

Conclusion

This a fun mental exercise, but don’t let it distract you from the main purpose of a chord: making music. It’s better to know 10 chords and be able to play each one well in a musical situation than to memorize thousands of possibilities that you don’t understand.

Truly, less is more.

If you want to learn my big-brain approach to learning and memorizing chord shapes, which cuts down on memorization by 12x, check out my chord reference book:

ukulele chord shapes ebook cover
PDF Ebook

A neo-traditional chord reference book. Learn to create 2,268 chords out of 189 moveable shapes and learn the theory behind the magic.

ukulele chord shapes book on floor
Print book

Physical print version of the classic ebook. 8.5×11″, 60 pages, color printing. USA shipping included.

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