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A chord is the intended intermingling of several tones to produce “an indivisible sound unit”. 1) Chords are used to add harmony to a melody. What type of chords are used depends heavily on the taste of the age and the musical genre. An absolutely valid “right” or “wrong” does not exist here (but well-established rules what is fitting when composing and what not). Many pieces of music contain regular patterns of sequence of particular chords called chord progression.

Melody is the body, harmony the clothing that changes with the fashion.2)

Chords are build by stacking several notes in certain intervals. In the four-string Ukulele, they can appear as triads or tetrads.

Root position and inversions

Each chord has a root note on which the intervals are stacked to the remaining notes. Depending on which string of the ukulele the root note is in the chord, the following reversals (also called descending chords) exist:

  • root position (root note on string 3)
  • 1st inversion (root note on string 1)
  • 2nd inversion (root note on string 2)
Example: C Major

root position: C-E-G

1st inversion: G-C-E

2nd inversion: E-G-C

Diatonic

A diatonic chord consists only of the seven notes of the scale in which the piece is written.

Chromatic

A chord in which sounds occur that do not belong to the scale of the piece is called chromatic. Chromatic tones are e.g. contained in the Seventh Chords. Chromatic chords generate tension and are therefore an important means of melody guidance (e.g., modulation).

Triad

A chord consisting of three notes.

Tetrad

A chord consisting of four notes.

Major chord

Major chord

In a major chord, the root note is followed by a major third, followed by a minor third.

Minor chord

Minor chord

In a minor chord, the root note is followed by a minor third, followed by a major third.

Sixth chord

Sixth chord

The sixth chord is used to create harmonic ambiguity. As a triad, the sixth chord corresponds to the 1st inversion of a major chord so that on the lowest note there is a third and a sixth (instead of fifth). (Contrary to this, in pop music a triad to which a sixth has been added (sixte ajoutée) is called a sixth chord; actually, this is a quint-sixth chord.) Therefore, it can also occur in inversions. It is often used in pop and Jazz as a substitute for the major chord. The major sixth chord is identical to a seventh chord in minor:

  • Its root position (where the added sixth is on the 3rd string) corresponds to the minor seventh chord of the 1st string (1st inversion);
  • the 1st inversion (sixth on the 1st string) corresponds to the minor seventh chord of the 4th string (3rd inversion);
  • the 2nd inversion (sixth on the second string) corresponds to the minor seventh chord of the 3rd string (basic setting);
  • the 3rd inversion (sixth on the 4th string) corresponds to a minor seventh chord of the 2nd string (2nd inversion).

The minor sixth chord is used in jazz.

Seventh chord

Seventh chord

The seventh chord expands the fifth of a triad to a seventh, thereby becoming dissonant.

Dominant seventh chord

If a minor third is played on a major chord, it is almost the same as the dominant of the root note. Since this is by far the most common form of the seventh chord in the case of ukulele music, the dominant seventh chord is usually (and here too) abbreviated to the seventh chord.

Major seventh chord

A major chord on which a major third is built. It seems softer than the dominant seventh chord and is frequently used in pop, rock, funk and disco music.

Diminished chord

Diminished chord

In triads, a diminished chord consists of two minor thirds, in tetrads of two small thirds and a major third (semi-diminished seventh chord) or (extremely dissonant) three minor thirds (diminished seventh chord).

Diminished seventh chord

A chord formed of three minor thirds. It expresses strong tension and can be resolved into the key of every note involved. It is popular in both classical music and jazz.

Augmented chord

Augmented chord

Augmented triads consist of two major thirds placed on the root. An inversion is therefore not possible; each tone of the chord can be considered the root note. In a tetrad, a minor third may be added. If, instead, another major third follows, only the root is octaved. Augmented chords sound dissonant and are often used (for example, in jazz) to move from one key to another.

Suspended chord

Suspended chord

In a suspended chord, the first third of the chord is replaced either by a pure fourth (5 semitones = major suspended, sus4) or a large second (2 semitones = minor suspended, sus2). This creates a violent dissonance which according to traditional conception calls for the dissolution in the corresponding third chord. Suspended chords are often used in Folk music and pop music as loosening or transition to another chord; but nowadays, they can as well stand alone. The suspended chord with fourth (sus4) is the inverse of the suspended chord with second (sus2) and vice versa. If in a notation only sus is used, usually the suspended with fourth (sus4) is meant.

sus4

Suspended chord with fourth, consisting of the root, fourth, and fifth of the root (I-IV-V).

sus2

Suspended chord with second, consisting of the root, major second and fifth of the root (I-II-V).

7sus4

Suspended chord with fourth and with seventh, consisting of the root, fourth, fifth, and minor seventh of the root (I-IV-V-vii). Is often resolved down to the third triad.

7sus2

Suspended chord with second and seventh, consisting of the root, major second, fifth, and seventh of the root (I-II-V-vii). Is often resolved to the third triad upwards.

Added-ninth chord

Added-ninth chord

The added-ninth chord adds a major or minor chord to a ninth. It is popular in pop music.

G-Cadd9-D-G

Powerchord

Powerchord

Power chords are chords in pop music in which the third above the root is omitted and therefore only the root and fifth (possibly with doubled octaves) exist. This leaves it undecided whether it is a major or minor chord.

Open Chords on the Ukulele

In the open basic position (every string is open = no string is plucked) of a tuned Ukulele the following sounds are heard:

tuning
StringC6D6Es6G6Interval on root note
1ABCEsixth
2EF#GBMajor third
3CDEbG
4GABbDfifth

Thus, the open chords on the ukulele are a third-fifth chord (= major chord) with additional sixths (hence, depending on the chord root, called C6, D6 or G6; see sixth chord).

Chord notation

Chord notation

The simplest form of recording a ukulele accompaniment for a song is chord notation: The symbol for the chord is written over the lyrics at the position where is to be played. It will continue to be played until the next chord symbol in the rhythm of the song.

Example of chord notation
      D           A
Happy Birthday to You
      A           D
Happy Birthday to You
      D             G
Happy Birthday dear *NAME*
      D        A--D--
Happy Birthday to You

(Source: Uketabs)

For more musically demanding notations, tablature and score are used.

Movable patterns

Movable patterns

Distributed over the fretboard, there are regularly recurring [en:vok:Bewegliche Griffmuster] on an ukulele for each of the different types of chords, each of which plays a chord of a particular type.

Helpful tools

Finding chords

Finding chords

The following tools allow you to find all the chords in the tunes C6, D6 und G6:

References

References

  • Richter, Axel: Ukulele Handbook For Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone Uke. Pacific: Mel Bay. 2004 (Enthält die wichtigsten Akkorde in jeder Stimmung)
  • Ukulele Chord Encyclopedia. Van Nuys: Alfred Music. 2013 (1600 Akkorde, allerdings nur in C6)

2) Kretzschmer: “Über deutsche Musik des Mittelalters.” In: Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 4 (1827), S. 139