Hang on Barry - you told me the ukulele was easy! What's with this E Chord??
A very common question I get asked this. Why is the E chord so difficult to learn? Help!
Yes, the E Chord is tougher than some chords - but really - it's just another chord and it's something to learn not avoid. I have said many times that the ukulele is an easy instrument to START to learn. The learning curve is not all that steep in the early stages, but sooner or later you are going to hit some hurdles, and a common early hurdle is the E Chord. Hey - you don't have a right for the ukulele to be easy you know!
If you take a look at my ukulele chord charts, you will see that the standard shape for the E Chord is as follows
For beginners, it can be awkward, it hurts, and is just plain difficult, particularly when trying to effect a smooth transition to or from other chords.
In short, it would be plain wrong of me to tell you to avoid it. Its a chord that you really do need to learn, and understand that this one will take more practice to get right. There are, however, some other alternatives, that you may find easier to play if used in the right circumstances.
You could try to play it 1402 (ie G string at the 1st, C string at the 4th, E string open, and A string at the second) which many recommend but you may also find a bit of a stretch. It does however sound great because you are creating two E notes in the chord.
My own favourite alternative is to do a fourth fret lay across. This involves using your index finger to barre across all strings at the 4th fret and use your ring finger to hold the A string at the 7th fret. This is written as 4447, and whilst its a bit of a leap in distance from the nut for chord changes, its not too difficult to actually finger and sounds nice. You could even try barring those first three strings at the fourth fret by laying your thumb across them - unconventional, but many play this way. The only downside to that is that it does make the chord 'feel' higher on account of that 7th fret addition. It's not wrong, but it's a different feel of the E. With a low rooted song it may not fit just right.
If you really want to cheat, depending on the song you 'could' try replacing the E chord altogether with and E7, or even and Em - A warning - this will not work on all songs by any means, you will have to try it and see if it sounds and feels right to you. In bluesy stuff it can work, but not always. I stress, this is NO substitute. In fact I am now regularly seeing bad uke advice that says the 'E7 is just the same'. It really really isn't!!!
So, all of that said, don't try to avoid the E, its a very common chord, and whilst on the face of it, it just doesnt seem fair when you have such nice easy chords as C and A, you will come across it more and more as you advance your playing and learn more songs. To avoid it means avoiding so much the ukulele has to offer. And bear in mind that if you go the barre route - learning barres early is a great key to unlocking so much on the fingerboard. This piece may also interest you in that regard.
As with everything in life though - the real answer here is practice and not cheats!
Good luck with it!