BY DANI JOY
Welcome to Chord by Chord, a beginner’s guide for the ukulele. You’ve reached the last of 12 lessons, which means you’re actually not too much of a beginner anymore. In today’s installment, we are going to talk about alternate chord voicings and why they are so cool.
On the ukulele, any chord can have a bunch of different voicings, or ways of playing it at various locations on the fretboard. Why would you want to learn new chord voicings? It’s kind of like only using the word happy to describe joy. You eventually learn different ways of saying the same thing, like elated, excited, and enthralled. Using different voicings for the same chord is a similar concept.
Let’s take a look at our first chord, C major, but not the same way that you’ve played it before. You might recall that a C triad is built from the notes C, E, and G. But you don’t have to play it with the same old cowboy shape. Instead, try barring the top two strings on fret 3 with your first finger and using your second finger on the third string to play the fourth-fret E, as shown in Example 1. Alternatively, add your third finger to the fifth-fret C, for a voicing that contains no open strings (Example 2). As you did in previous lessons, strum both of these chords for two bars each, first slowly and then a bit faster.
I’m sure you remember your open G shape, which looks like a little upside-down triangle. Move that shape up to frets 7 and 8 on the same strings, as shown in Example 3, and you’re actually playing a C major chord. Try strumming this new voicing for a couple of measures.
Now it’s time to explore the G7 chord in various voicings. You already know your open G7 shape, with your second, first, and third fingers on strings 3, 2, and 1, respectively. If you take that same shape up two frets, one two, leave your first finger there and continue traveling up with your second and your third fingers one more fret, you’ll be playing another G7 voicing (Example 4). Note that this shape is missing the third, B, but it still works. To play G7 with all four notes, try Examples 5 and 6.
For our final set of voicings, we’ll explore the D7 chord. One way to play it is with the “Hawaiian D7” shape, which includes the notes A, C, and F#, but not the root (D), as shown in Example 7. To play it with the root, just bar strings 2–4 at the second fret with your first finger, rather than playing the open C string (Example 8). If this shape seems familiar, that’s because you played it before for the G7 chord in Ex. 6, only then it was five frets higher.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series of lessons for beginning ukulele. As I mentioned before, knowing about music theory, like how chords are constructed and voiced on the uke, will open up doors for you in memorizing, composing, and arranging. But you don’t have to know all of that in order to have some fun, so follow your heart and do what feels best for you. Enjoy your journey.