Playing chords, chord progressions, and songs by ear is all about getting your ear to recognize the sound of chords and chord progressions and just like melodies, train the fingers and the hand to follow your inner ear and play these chords, chord progressions, and songs on demand.
This training involves the mind, hands and ear. Of the three the hands always need the most work as they can't hear or understand anything - only what they have been trained to do.
Learning to hear chord progressions and the chord changes. This is where to start and will get you off the page. Don't try and learn by ear. Learn from a position of knowledge and with an organized plan. "Playing by Ear" is for playing NOT learning.
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"Playing by Ear" vs. "Learning by Ear"
Don't get "Playing by Ear" and "Learning by Ear" mixed up. It's hit and miss to try and learn by ear. You need to train your ear and brain to understand what is going on in order to play by ear. Understanding the principles of how music works will go a long way on your ability to play by ear.
Start with training your ear to identify (hear) and sing melodic intervals.
Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution
Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It is the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition. This analysis is then used to make scale selections for improvisation and chord substitution.
The Advanced Guide to Chord Progressions for Ukulele - Volume I
Before individual chords become the background of songs, they must be put into orders called chord progressions. The Advanced Guide to Chord Progressions for Ukulele organizes progressions according to string family, position, voice leading and chord magnetism. The Advanced Guide to Chord Progressions for Ukulele is an excellent preparation for the art of melody and chord on the ukulele and more advanced accompaniment.
Core Ukulele Chords - The Big Six
Core Chords for Ukulele, The Big Six - From four F7 chord voicings or shapes, your can build your massive 4-part, a.k.a., “jazz” chord vocabulary. Beyond basic open position chords, basic movable form chords and a core set of 4-part chords. There are just too many chords shapes too memorize. Learning the principles of how chords are constructed and the ukulele fingerboard are the way to go. Then you can create more advanced chords like 9#11, 7#5-9, 13b5, 7+9 on the fly as needed.
Cool Chords are those crazy chords you won't find in a chord dictionary, software, chord chart, etc... They're a product of understanding how chords are constructed and how to derive them from known chords. These are the chords other players will say: "What's that crazy chord you're playing?".
Types of Chords Available on Ukulele
The types of chords possible on ukulele include open position chords, movable form chords, 4-part chords, a.k.a. jazz chords and free from chords.
Open Position Chords
These are the basic first chords most players learn. There're the chords in the first one, two, three and fours frets of the ukulele and include at least one open string.
Basic Movable Form Chords
Sometimes called "barre" chords, these chords are the basic open position chords that venture beyond the third fret and do not include open strings.
4-part Contemporary Chords, a.k.a. Jazz Chords
Beyond basic open position chords and basic movable form chords these are the core set of 4-part chords that are used to build ALL your contemporary, more advanced chords. Commonly called "Jazz" chords these are the chords where the knowing how principles of how chords are constructed and your knowledge of the names of the notes of the ukulele fingerboard offer the most benefit to using and expanding your chord vocabulary. From these core chords you can create all those crazy named chords such as: 9#11, 7#5-9, 13b5, 7+9 - and on the fly as needed.
Free Form Chords
Free Form chords are those chords that do not fall into one of the above categories. They typically don't show up in chord dictionaries or software programs. You can create these chords when you know the notes of the ukulele fingerboard, know how chords are constructed and know the names of the notes the chord and the intervals that make up the chord.
Traditional and Contemporary Triads
Somewhere in the mix of the above four chord categories, triads should be explored. Triads are the foundation of most chords. They are amazing versatile chords that can be used harmonically as chords or melodically in solos. The student and the type of music determines
A triad is a three note chord. In traditional chord theory there are four traditional triad chord types: major, minor, diminished and augmented. And four contemporary triad chord types: sus2, sus4, add2 and add9.
Triads can be used harmonically, as chords and melodically, as single notes. Triads are a great way to get started with creating melodic solos and improvising.
In my personal and teaching experience triads are the first real challenging chords after the basic open position chords and movable basic chords. I personally found them even harder that the 4-part "jazz" chords.
Basic Ukulele Chords Charts
Not so much a series - but the basic chords ALL ukulele players should know.
Basic Ukulele Chords Charts - As much as I preach the need to not have to rely on chords charts. When you're first learning the ukulele and chords these charts are a real help - just not long a term alternative to actually knowng your chords, where they come from and how to create them when needed.
Common Chord Progressions and Remembering Songs
Learning the similarities between chord progressions and songs helps you remember a lot of songs. There's a lot more in common between songs than one might think.
This series of lessons explores common chord progressions.
Remembering songs is lot like remembering the directions for a road trip. There are the turn-by-turn directions, road maps, signs and landmarks. Turn here, turn there, remember this and remember that landmark. With a songs it's the chords, the harmonic cells and form of the song.
With a few music tools and an understanding of the principles of how chords and chords progressions work. You can start unraveling what's going on in a song. There's a lot more in common between songs than you might think. Each song has it's own direction, signs and landmarks.
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