Ukulele Power Chords

Figuring out power chords on the ukulele is a lot trickier than most other chord types. There are more variations and considerations than you might think!

Here are some quick diagrams to get you started. There are many other ways to play these power chords!

An “x” means to mute or avoid the marked string.

C5

C#5/Db5

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D5

D#5/Eb5

E5

F5

F#5/Gb5

G5

G#5/Ab5

A5

A#5/Bb5

B5

The Power Chord Sound

The signature power chord sound comes from a lack of notes – only two. The so-called power “chord” is actually more of a pumped up double-stop, or interval. The difference is that usually an interval won’t have any doubled notes and a power chord often does.

They’re created by taking the 1 and 5 notes from a major scale.

The 3rd scale degree that makes other chords “sad” or “happy” is missing from an ukulele power chord. It is neither major nor minor because there’s no 3rd interval to dictate the sound.

This means a C5 (“5” is shorthand for power chord) could work in the place of a major OR minor sounding chord.

Keep in mind that, unlike other chords, power chords can benefit from a sparse layout. Especially if you’re plugging your ukulele into a distortion pedal, playing a two note only power chord can be desirable for keeping the sound from being messy.
When guitarists use lots of distortion, normal major and minor chords start to sound really muddy and out-of-tune. So instead, they use power chords to avoid dissonance.

Iron man by Black Sabbath? Power chords. Back in Black by AC/DC? Power chords. Holiday by Green Day? Power chords.

Power Chord Theory

To create a power chord on your ukulele from scratch, you need to find the 1 and 5 notes in a major scale. If you were to pull those notes out of a C major scale, you’d get:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
C D E F G A B C

You can arrange the C and G notes in any combination and get the sound a of a power chord on your uke. Just grab a fingerboard chart and highlight all the Cs and all the Gs. The way these notes lay out and because you only need two of them, there are many fingering variations. The ones above are just some common shapes to get you started.

Power Chords on the Ukulele

You might expect the wonderful rock guitar sounds of a big power chord to transform your ukulele. But the reality is that the uke doesn’t have many of the low notes that a guitar does. The extended range of a guitar and how it reacts to distortion makes power chords sound huge. The ukulele pales in comparison.

The lowest power chord you can pull off on an ukulele with a low-G is a G5: 02xx.

So if you were expecting to play Enter Sandman and have it “chug” …maybe you should take up guitar. But still, power chords on the uke are fun and useful in the right situations.

Power chords are one of the least-used ukulele chord type. You can learn more common, traditional chord shapes in:

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.

If you want to find more power chord grips, you can look them up on The Ukulele Helper.

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