In the previous post, we covered a strategy for learning every note of the ukulele fretboard using the chromatic scale. Knowing all those notes is useful to someone playing a melody from sheet music, but its also the foundation needed for mastering chords. If you know the notes of the fretboard and the major chord formations, you can play any chord anywhere on the neck. For someone who’s been stuck on the first few frets playing open chords, this is something of a super power.
Moveable C Chord Form
If you know the basic open chords on the ukulele, you already know most of what you need to play any chord anywhere on the neck. Let’s start with the first chord most people learn on the ukulele: C major.
In this chord diagram, the root note is in red. The root note is the C note of the C chord. The root note of a D chord is the D note, and so on. When you play a chord, the root note is the note that the chord most “sounds like”. As you play the chords on this page, listen to the chord and its relation to the root note – it’s hard to explain but easy to hear. This C chord actually has two root notes: the one in red on the 1st string and another an octave lower on the open C (3rd) string.
Moving It Up
The idea here is that you can play this chord formation any where on the neck, and if you know the notes on either the 3rd or 1st string, you know what chord you’re playing. As you move up the neck, you’ll need to barre the three open strings with your index finger:
This is the same chord played up two frets. With the chromatic scale under our belts, we know that after C comes C# and then D. That tells us the C root note of the C chord is a D when played two frets up. Move this up two more frets and you’re playing an E chord. Up one more fret for an F (because, remember, B and E don’t have sharps after them).
Open C and D Chords are Really the Same Formation
That D chord in the picture above may look familiar. The 1st string position in this chord form can also be dropped five frets without changing the chord. Doing this gives us the D chord in the open position that most people know:
And just like the C chord version, this can be moved up the fretboard. Use the 3rd string to figure out what chord you’re playing. Can you figure out what chord this is?
Hint: It’s an E.
With this walk-through of the C chord formation and how it can be moved up the fretboard to play any chord, let’s look at how this can be done with the other open chord formations.
Open A Chord Formation
Below is the A chord (on the left), and what you may know as the B chord (on the right). The B chord, of course, is just the A chord moved up two frets. Move the B up one more fret and you have another way of playing a C. Remember, the red dots are the root notes.
Open G and F Chord Formations
And here’s the G chord. Just like the C and D formations, you’ll see that the open G and F chords are really the same base formation with just the 4th string position moved up or down 4 frets.
The left-most image below is an open G. Move it up one fret for a G# (and keep going with that formation for any chord you want). Move the G down two frets to make the open F chord formation. And move that up one fret for an F# (and keep going with that formation for any chord you want).
As you can see, the open major chords are really using only three basic chord formations. All of these can be moved up and down the fretboard. As long as you remember (or can hear) which is the root note, you can use the Chromatic scale to play any chord, anywhere on the neck.
In the next post, we’ll look at the variations of these three basic forms: minor, seventh, minor seventh and so on.