Welcome to Chord by Chord, a beginner’s guide for the ukulele. In the last lesson, I taught you a bunch of chord progressions in the key of F major. This time, we’ll move to the key of C, and I’ll explain how you can borrow chords from outside keys to add a little bit of electricity to your music.
Begin by borrowing the V chord from the key of G. I say borrowing because the D7 chord has a note in it that’s not part of the C scale, and that’s F#. Since D7 is not a part of the C chord family, it stands out a little bit and adds electricity to the music. For Example 1, you’ll play two chords in one measure for the first time. Remember to take this progression at a nice, slow tempo before trying it faster.
Next, try a progression that might look familiar to you. It’s called a I–vi–ii–V, but instead of playing the ii chord as minor, which is very sweet and poetic, you’ll add that electricity by playing D7 (Example 2). After you’ve repeated the progression, come to rest on a held C chord. In Example 3, you’ll borrow the V chord from the key of D, using A7 in the place of Am for even more electricity. This is the sort of chord progression heard during the Prohibition era—the sort of music that keeps you up all night.
To further explore the moods created by borrowed chords, play a I–vi–ii–V–I progression in the key of C (C–Am–Dm–G7–C), as shown in Example 4a. Again, it’s very sweet- and romantic-sounding. But if you instead play A7 and D7 (Example 4b), you get a very different sound. Let’s end with a very jazzy progression, VI–II–V–I (A7–D7–G7–C), notated in Example 5, which is very lively and energetic.
In the next lesson, we will do a deep dive into building chords from a scale. That way, you’ll be able to better understand how to borrow chords from other keys to create your own chord progressions.