Compact Fretted Chord Notation

By | March 6, 2015

Compact fretted chord notation is a simple numeric method of notating fingerings on a fretboard. This page describes how to read and use this form of notation.

numeric chord notation

Chord diagrams are the most common way to communicate chord forms on a fretboard. The image above includes a chord diagram for the G chord on a ukulele and its numeric equivalent.

While diagrams are nice to look at, they also take up a lot of space, need special tools to create and get confusing when the chord isn’t near the nut or open chord position.

Throughout this site, I use what I refer to as compact fretted chord notation or numeric chord notation. I certainly didn’t invent this, but there isn’t an established name for it that I’ve found. Many players of fretted instruments use it nevertheless.

Numeric notation provides the fret number for each string from top to bottom when holding the instrument or left to right when facing the fretboard. So numeric notation for the G chord pictured above is 0232. This means the G or fourth string of the ukulele is open, the C or third string is on the second fret, the E or second string is on the third fret, and the A or first string is on the second fret. An X in place of a number indicates to mute or not strike that string.

Here’s a quick reference to common major chord forms for the ukulele:

  • A = 2100
  • B = 4322
  • C = 0003
  • D = 2220
  • E = 4442
  • F = 2010
  • G = 0232

Now that you know what all those numbers are in my posts, you may return to your regularly scheduled reading…

2 thoughts on “Compact Fretted Chord Notation

  1. Kerry Fielding

    Great post but C is 0003 not 0001. Do you know of any iPhone apps that use this form of notation? I’m blind and this is how I learn chords on the uke.

    1. Matt Post author

      Thanks, Kerry. I’ve fixed that typo. I haven’t seen much of anything published in digital or paper form that uses this notation. It’s much more compact, so I’m not sure why that is.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *