BY DANI JOY
Welcome to Chord by Chord, a beginner’s guide for the ukulele. In the last lesson, I introduced you to the mysterious-sounding diminished chord. This time, you’ll play your first songs, “Amazing Grace” and “Home on the Range,” in addition to the 12-bar blues progression. These examples all use chords you should know if you’ve been following this series—C, F, and G, and their dominant seventh counterparts.
While the music in the previous lessons has been in 4/4 time (four quarter notes, or beats per bar), “Amazing Grace” is a waltz (three beats). That means you will be counting to three instead of four in each measure. Try strumming through the song and singing, too, if you’d like, as shown in Example 1. This will be the longest progression that you’ve played in these lessons, so remember to breathe and be patient with yourself.
Now play “Amazing Grace” again, but with the addition of dominant seventh chords, which really keep the song flowing in a really beautiful way. Also note that this time you don’t strum through all of the beats in the last bar—playing a chord just on beat 1 and letting it ring makes the song sounds like it’s finished. This is a good way to end any tune.
For Example 2, we are going to do “Home on the Range,” also a waltz. This one is pretty easy, as it sits on a C chord for long stretches. Play the song first with only major chords and then, as you did for “Amazing Grace,” repeat it, but substituting some dominant seventh chords. In the second version, all of the G chords have been replaced with G7, and in bar 10 a C7 is strategically placed right after C, as it cues the ear to expect F in the following measure.
Example 3 introduces a 12-bar blues progression—the harmonic foundation of countless blues, jazz, rock, and popular songs. Play the 12-bar blues in 4/4 time, starting off nice and easy with C, F, and G chords. Then, repeat the structure, but instead using all spicy dominant seventh chords—C7, F7, and G7.
In the next lesson, I’ll introduce some very common chord progressions used by many different songwriters throughout the past century, so that you can expand your musical catalog right away.