How to Play Seventh Chords on Ukulele | Chord by Chord Lesson 3


Welcome to Chord by Chord, a beginner’s guide for the ukulele. In previous lessons you learned about the major and minor chords in the key of C major. This time, I’ll introduce you to dominant seventh chords, those that have a letter name followed by the number seven. This type of chord basically adds a little bit of electricity or drama to the music. I like to think of it as a spice.

In Example 1, you will learn the G7 chord, which is like the G you learned in the first lesson—a pyramid shape—but flipped right-side-up. To form a G7, place your first finger on string 2, fret 1, then add your second finger to string 3, fret 2, and your third finger to that same fret on string 1. As in previous lessons, strum the chord for two bars, first at a nice, easy pace and then faster.

Your next chord is C7, which, like C, requires only one finger. Place your first finger on string 1, fret 1, and leave all of the other strings open. Now C7 isn’t technically in the C major scale (C D E F G A B), because it has the note Bb in it. So you can just think of it as a borrowed chord, which is often used for songs in the key of C. Now try strumming the C7 chord, as shown in Example 2.

This lesson’s final seventh is another borrowed chord, F7, containing the note Eb. To play an F7, start with the F shape you learned in the first lesson, with your first and second fingers on string 2, fret 1 and string 4, fret 2, respectively; just place your third finger on string 3, fret 3, to add the Eb for that spice. Once you formed the shape, strum it (Example 3).


For Example 4, you will play another of those “sandwich” progressions I introduced in previous lessons. Start off the one measure of C7, then switch to G7 for two bars before moving right back to C7, for a total of four measures. Remember to play the example slowly till you get the hang of changing chords, and then a bit faster.

Now try switching between all three chords, as indicated in Example 5. Note that when you move between the F7 and G7, you can keep your first finger down on the second-string F, as both chords contain that same note. 

In your final exercise (Example 6), you’ll see how a spicy seventh is perfect to add after a plain old major chord. The progression—your longest yet—begins with C for one measure, followed by C7, which naturally leads the ear to the proceeding F chord, and so on. In the next lesson you’ll learn about yet another chord type—diminished, perfect for adding a bit of mystery to your music.

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