Hey, Kawika, let's look at chords!


Chord Structure;

A Beginning...

Wild and Crazy Tyll

Tyll Hertsens is a musician, webpage designer, acoustician and someone beginning to have a long-term affection for the ukulele. As a musician and webpage designer, he has been kind enough to volunteer an analysis of the ukulele fretboard (in GCEA tuning) as well as a number of figures for this page.

The following does not pretend to be an exhaustive discussion of music theory, but rather a compilation of information for the music student who wishes to study chord structure in an ukulele setting. For more thorough discussions of chord notations and such, the reader is referred to the music section of the public library or to any number of publications for sale at better music stores throughout the country. Not surprisingly, there are also several sites on the Internet which deal with , Music Theory , Chord Formation, and Chord Cadences. Most recently, Jerry Dallal has written a program for the IBM PC which actually creates chordal patterns for the ukulele from simple chord designations and lyrics. For more details see Jerry's Program UKE.EXE. Having said that, we still need a little basic information to interpret the figures below.

Fretboard tunings

Ukuleles are commonly strung in one of three different open string tunings: GCEA ("C" tuning), DGBE ("G" tuning) and ADF#B ("D" tuning). The figure above shows the fretboard for each of these tunings. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll use the GCEA tuning for the basic fretboard and the key of C for our chord examples. So, here's the basic fretboard again:

More fretboard stuff

And here's the fretboard with the designations of each note relative to the root note for that key, which in this instance is the "C" note.

Table 1 gives an initial go-by for the chords of C in the first positions. There are four columns to the table: the first gives the name for each chord in the key; the second gives the chord designation relative to the root note for that key; the third gives the actual notes for the chord in that key; and the fourth gives the fingering of the first position of the chord on the fingerboard (for example, 0003 means that the first string is fretted on the third fret but no others are). The important thing to understand about this table is that although the actual notes for each major chord in each key will change, their relative position to the root remains the same. That is every major chord for a given key will be formed by the "R 3 5" note combination, and so forth for each other chord.

Table 1: Chord Spelling for C Chords

Chord NameNumbersNotesFrets
C Major
R 3 5
0 0 0 3
C Minor
R m] 5
C Eb G
0 3 3 3
C Augmented
R 3 5#
C E G#
1 0 0 3
C Seventh
R 3 5 m7
C E G Bb
0 0 0 1
C Diminished
R m] d5 6
C Eb F# A
2 3 2 3
C Minor 6th
R m] 5 6
C Eb G A
0 3 5 3
C Major 6th
R 3 5 6
0 0 0 0
C Minor Seventh
R m] 5 m7
C Eb G Bb
0 3 0 1
C Major Seventh
R 3 5 7
0 0 0 2
C Major Ninth
R 3 5 m7 9
C E G Bb D
0 0 0 5

Now look what that wild and crazy Tyll has done! The next figure gives nearly all the possible fingerings for each type of chord in the key of "C". To begin figuring it out, compare the leftmost circled numbers to the "0003" fretting designation. The next "C major" chord will be "3345". Thanks, Tyll!

And as if that weren't enough, he's also done the basic root and relative notes descriptions of the GCEA fretboard for a whole bunch of other keys. Remember that for the same type of chord (major, minor, etc) in the different keys, the NUMBERS are the same, but the notes and fret positions will change. With Tyll's figures any of the chords for the various keys may now be figured out.

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