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Types of `Ukulele Chords FREE LESSON
Published: 2005-01-02 Updated: 2015-12-04 00:00:00 • 5031

Types of `Ukulele Chords

Open position chords, movable form chords, 4-part "jazz" chords, and free form chords.

by Curt Sheller, Curt Sheller Publications

Naturally, for ukulele, all chords need to be voiced using only the four strings available. You would think that this is limiting when in actuality it's quite liberating when you learn the makeup of chords. This lesson covers the types of chords possible on ukulele.

Chord can be categorized in to four categories: open position chords, movable form chords, 4-part - a.k.a. jazz chords and free from chords.

Open Position Chords

The basic first chords most ukulele players learn. There are the chords in the first one, two, three and fours frets of the ukulele and include at least on open string. The first chord every one learns and the most common chord is the C major or C chord. A simple one finger chord.

Basic Movable Form Chords

Sometimes called barre chords, these chords are the basic open position that venture beyond the third fret. These chord can be transposed to ANY key.

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 you contemporary 4-part chords. Using the principles of how chords are constructed and the ukulele fingerboard, from these core chords you can create all those crazy named chords such as: 9#11, 7#5-9, 13b5, 7+9 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 for most chords.

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 improvisation.

In my personal experience and my experience with students these are the first real challenging chords after the basic open position chords and movable basic chords. With these it really pau off to know the names of the notes of the fingerboard and the individual notes and chord degrees of these chords.


Open Position Chords

The basic first chords most players learn. There are the chords in the first one, two, three and fours frets of the ukulele and include at least one open string. Learn about 19 open position chords and you'll be able to play a load of songs.

Open Position Chords

Basic Movable Form Chords

Movable forms of the basic open position, first chords players typically learn. Bb is usually the first movable form chord you encounter on the ukulele in C tuning.

Traditional and Contemporary Triads

Triads - At the heart of most chords there is a major, minor, diminished or augmented triad. Theses are the fundamental, traditional three note chords that have been around for centuries. The basic major and minor Open Position and Movable Form chords where triads with a duplication of one of the notes in the chord.

Triads are at the heart of the Open Position, Basic Movable Form and 4-Part Jazz chords.

Traditional and Contemporary Triads

“Jazz” Chords

These chords are simply 4-part Contemporary Chords used in a wide variety of music and where you start to learn how chords are constructed and where they come from. Beyond a core set of chords this is where you'll start to realize that they're too many shapes to memorize all the possible chords shapes. You need to build and derive all your chords from a core foundation of chords.

“Jazz” Chords

Free Form Chords

It’s just the notes!!!

Free Form chords are those chords that do not fall into one of the other 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.

Free Form Chords

End of Lesson

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books! — Peter Rhee

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