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Types of Chords Available on Ukulele

Published: 01 Jan 2003 Updated: 08 Jun 2023Visits: 190Code: UL114

On the ukulele, there are various types of chords that you can explore, including open position chords, movable form chords, 4-part chords (commonly known as jazz chords), and free form chords.

Open Position Chords

These are the fundamental chords, basic first chords most players learn. These are 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 referred to as Jazz chords, they require knowledge of chord construction principles, understanding the names of notes on the ukulele fingerboard, and offer great versatility in expanding your chord vocabulary. With these chords, you can create complex variations like 9♯11 , 7 ♯5♭9 , 13♭5 , 7+9 , and more, 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. These chords can be created when you have a deep understanding of the notes on the ukulele fingerboard, chord construction principles, and the names of the notes and intervals that make up the chord.

Here are a few chords that would fit the Free Form definition.

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 when triads are introduced.

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 experience as a teacher and musician, I have found that triads pose a significant challenge after mastering the basic open position chords and basic movable chords. They can be even more challenging than 4-part jazz chords. However, by dedicating time and practice, you can conquer them and unlock a whole new level of musical exploration on the ukulele.

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8 Lessons in the “Types of Chords Available on Ukulele” Series

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