Voicing is the selection and distribution of the notes of a chord or the voices of a polyphonic piece in a musical passage. It uses the root and inversions and enharmonic replacements of the chord or inserts suspense-enhancing elements (cf. lead chord) to make the passage easier to play for a given instrument easier to play or to achieve a certain harmonic effect. The distribution of the notes to the strings of the ukulele dictates the physical scope of the possibilities: Voicings must always be executable. Especially useful are moveable patterns.

Example: Voicings for C Major

00.03. 0403. 0433. 5.433. III00.15 III0501. III3.0.15 III3.211. III3.215 III3.501. III3.515 IV015.4 V1.303 V1.34.3 VII00.01 VII012.1 VII312.1 VII312.5 VIII10.02 VIII201.3 VIII25.1.3 IX10.42 IX14.02 IX14.42 X00.01 X00.31 X03.01 X03.31 X30.01 X30.31 X33.01 X33.31

Variation through Voicings

By using different voicings the sound of a piece can be varied.

The ending of Makin’ Love, Ukulele Style played with three different voicings of chord D7 and two voicings each of chords G and C.


For the single notes of a chord, the following rules of thumb regarding omissions apply:1)

  • 1 (tonic): Accentuates the chord. Can be omitted.
  • 3 (third): Should never be omitted.
  • 5 (fifth): Can be omitted.
  • 7 (seventh): Should never be omitted.

Doubling and Parallel Motion

Doubling occurs when the melody tone appears twice in the chord. If it is offset by one octave, this is called consecutive octave. If the melody notes appear several times in succession in the chords of the same interval, this is called parallel motion. Consecutive octaves are considered critical, consecutive fifths should be avoided.

Drop and Open Voicing

A drop occurs when one or more of the notes in the chord are shifted (“dropped”) by one octave. The result is called an open voicing. (In contrast, with closed voicing, all notes remain in the same octave.) Due to the small range of an ukulele, however, the possibilities are limited and almost only in feasible in linear tuning tuning.


  • Haerle, Dan: The Jazz Language: A Theory Text for Jazz Composition and Improvisation: A Theory Text for Jazz Composition and Improvisation. Alfred Music 1980 (ISBN 9781457494086)
  • Willmott, Bret: Complete Book of Harmony, Theory and Voicing. Mel Bay Publications 2011 (ISBN 9781610650397)

1) Willmott 2011, S. 19.