Just another weblog

Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

Ukulele Power Chords

Posted by Ian on April 5, 2008

Power Chords on the Ukulele

Something that most every rock guitarist has an understanding of is Power Chords. Power chords are merely a root note with a

second note that is a 5th above it…. they are not really chords in the traditional sense (a chord is a combination of three or

more notes).

Power chords can have various uses on the uke… whether it be playing a song that has them in it or substituting a major chord

for one to achieve a different sound.

There are many ways to finger a power chord on the uke, and I shall explain a couple.

For starters, here are two basic ways of fingering a simple two note power chord….


A common variation on power chords is the adding of a note an octave above the root….


Another common variation comes from inverting the notes in the power chord….


And there are other variations and ways of fingering the chords that you will be able to figure out with a little bit of experimentation… so have fun!

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

I’m Back (Pentatonic Scales)

Posted by Ian on March 31, 2008

Well… it turns out a colony of ants decided that it was to their benefit to eat our phone line and make a nest in its space… stupid things.

However, the problem has been taken care of, and I am back in action.

Sadly, I don’t have anything ready for posting today and I have a long day ahead tomorrow so I’m going to get to bed early, so I can’t throw anything together, really.

So, in the meantime…well… what the heck is a couple minutes less sleep.

Intro to Pentatonic Scales (thrown together in about 4 minutes..)

Pentatonic scales are scales in music that contain only 5 notes, as opposed to the typical 8 used in most music. These scales can be found in many ethnic types of music, such as Indonesian Gamelan music. Some of them are, however, commonly used in various western styles of music, including classical, jazz, blues, and a lot of rock.

To find the most basic type of pentatonic scale, all you have to do is right out a normal scale…


and remove the fourth and 7th tones from it…


Pentatonic scales may sound somewhat odd to your ears when you play them… rather incomplete… but there are various uses for them.

Firstly, when you stick to a key and only use one pentatonic scale, accompanying chords are very easy to write in, as the choices are limited. Secondly, it is very easy to improvise over a chord progression if you understand pentatonic scales. You can play any of the notes of a chord’s root’s pentatonic scale over the chord, and it will sound fine (almost always… chords with extensions can make things sound a tad strange).

And that is all that I have time for… I will most likely expand on Pentatonic Scales further within the next few days, but I plan on getting more tabs out, as I haven’t had many of those lately.

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Alternate Tunings

Posted by Ian on March 25, 2008

There are many alternate tunings for the ukulele.

The most common tunings are the modern standard ‘GCEA’, and the more traditional ‘ADF#B’, which is merely a step higher than the more modern tuning, meaning all notes and chords on it are merely a whole step above what they are in an ADF#B tuning (G chord becomes A chord, F# becomes G#, etc.)

Alternate tunings have multiple purposes: they can make chords less complicated to play, which can make playing with a slide significantly easier, they can make one note easier to play, which on the ukulele usually means retuning the re-entrant string to another note, and they can serve other purposes as well.

Firstly, we shall retune your ukulele to an alternate ‘open tuning’ which will produce a major chord (C, in this case) when all open strings are strummed.

Drop your A string down to a G, the same note as your re-entrant.


Now strum the strings. You are playing a C chord. Put one of your fingers across all strings at the first fret and strum. You have just played a C# chord. If you place your finger across the 2nd fret, you will get a D chord, 3rd, Eb, 4th E, etc. etc.

This tuning, however, alters the way other non major triads are played, causing you to re-learn your chord shapes if you wish to use this tuning for much.

Now we will tune your ukulele to ADF#B if you have never done so before. Don’t worry, your strings won’t break as long as they are in good condition (and if they are in bad condition, they still shouldn’t break). Do this by tuning each string up one whole step (two frets) from what it is tuned to in GCEA tuning. The easiest way to do this from GCEA tuning is tuning the re-entrant G up to the A using your A string as a reference, and then tuning all of your other strings off of the Re-entrant A that you have just tuned.

This tuning is said to often produce a brighter sound in some ukuleles, especially smaller ones, such as sopranos and some concerts, as it supposedly is more fit to a ukulele’s body’s optimal tonal range of amplification.

I personally find that an ADF#B tuning may be somewhat brighter sounding, but that it is not a significant difference, and therefore I generally stick to the tuning that I am most familiar with, GCEA.

Have some fun strumming around in this tuning: you can use the same chord shapes as you do in GCEA, and they will just be transposed up a step.

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Theory 101 – Minor Scales

Posted by Ian on March 24, 2008

To explain minor scales, I will begin by giving you some more musical terminology that will help out a lot later on.

In any particular scale, there are 7 notes. These notes all have specific names.

1st note: Tonic
2nd: Supertonic
3rd: Mediant
4th: Subdominant
5th: Dominant
6th: Submediant
7th: Leading tone

Now, back to key signatures:

As you have learned, all major scales have a corresponding key signature. All minor scales also have a

corresponding key signature, which they share with a corresponding major key.

An example of this is F major and D minor, which correspond or are ‘related’.

In F major, the notes are…


To find its relative minor, take the submediant note (6th in the scale), and write out the notes that fall in the key of F major for an octave.


You have just constructed the relative minor of F major, D minor.

Now, the next step is to construct a Harmonic Minor of a Major key. To do this, you simply raise the leading tone (7th note in the relative, or natural, minor) by a half step, so you get…


And lastly, we come to the construction of a melodic minor, which can be a tad confusing…

Take the natural minor…


And raise both the 6th and 7th notes (submediant and leading).


Seems pretty straight forward, correct? Well… look at this next part.

When you are playing a melodic minor scale going up (ascending) you play it with the notes we just created.

However, when you descend in the scale, it becomes this.


When descending a Melodic minor scale, you use the notes that correspond with a natural minor.

Transposing parts written for major scales to minor scales is a great way to practice with minor scales, and can be rather interesting, too… songs played in minor keys have a completely different, often sadder or darker, colour.

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Positional Chords 2

Posted by Ian on March 20, 2008

I don’t have much time for this today, so all I’ll have time for is a few more useful positional chords.

Positional 7th (demonstration chord: Bb7)


Using this pattern, the 7th chord is always the chord that corresponds with the fret on the A string.  

Positional Minor Chord (demonstration is Bb Minor)


Again, the chord corresponds with the fret on the A string: if using this pattern and placing your finger in the 5th fret (D) of the A string, you will be fingering a D Minor chord.

Positional  Minor 7th


Simply place one finger across all strings: the fret on the A string indicates the chord’s name.

And that’s all for now… I probably won’t be able to get much up tomorrow, but I’m hoping to get something on minor keys up on Saturday or Sunday at the latest.

Take Care! 

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Positional Chords

Posted by Ian on March 19, 2008

Positional chords…. that’s what I’ll call them until someone gives me a better name for them (if there is an official name, let me know)


All I have time for today is a quick mini-lesson on chord structure that is ukulele specific.

First off, I want you to pick up your ukulele and finger an ‘A’ chord. (A C# E)

A|-0 (A)
E|-0 (E)
C|-1 (C#)
G|-2 (A)

Now play a Bb chord. (Bb D F)

A|-1 (Bb)
E|-1 (F)
C|-2 (D)
G|-3 (Bb)

Now play a B chord. (B Eb F#)

A|-2 (B)
E|-2 (F#)
C|-3 (Eb)
G|-4 (B)

Do you see what I’m getting at?

If you take the pattern that you place our fingers in for the Bb and B chords and simply move up a fret (half step), you move the chord up by a half step. It works every time.

This, if you didn’t know about it already, opens up possibilities for different ways of playing other chords, such as this C chord:

A|-3 (C)
E|-3 (G)
C|-4 (E)
G|-5 (C)

The same applies to other chords: if you raise every note by a fret, the chord is raised by a half step.

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Theory 101 – Key Signatures 2

Posted by Ian on March 18, 2008

Today’s lesson is a continuation of the previous lesson over key signatures.

In the previous lesson, you learned how to figure out and construct each key signature’s basic triads. Today, I

shall continue with an explination of 7th Chords , and how they fit into key signatures. With this knowledge, you

should also be able to figure out other ‘Extended’ Chords.

Before I get into explaining where 7th chords fit into key signatures, it will benifit you to have a basic

understanding of the structure of 7th chords:

A major 7th consists of a 1st, a 3rd, a 5th, and a 7th.
A minor 7th consists of a 1st, a minor 3rd, a 5th, and a minor 7th.
A dominant 7th consists of a 1st, 3rd, 5th, and a minor 7th.

Now, back to the key of C

In the previous lesson, we decided that the chords for the key of C were…

Bdim the notes were C D E F G A B

Let us construct the Cmaj7 chord.

We know that it consists of C, E, G… but what note is the 7th?

Since it is a major chord, the 7th will be a major 7th.


The major 7th in the Cmaj7 chord is B, giving us the notes CEGB to make a C7 chord.

Let’s make the Dmin7 chord….

We already know that the notes in Dmin are D F and A.

Let’s find the 7th….

D E F# G A B C#

(note… a 7th is always one note below the root on a scale)

However, as noted before, the c# is not in the key of Cmajor. You must lower it a half step to make it a C,

allowing it to fit in the key of C, giving us a minor 7th.

You now have the notes DFAC to make a Dmin7 chord.

Now, things become a little confusing when constructing the 7th chord in a key.

Let’s take a look at the construction of a Bdim7 chord (which is actually called Bmin7(b5))

A B chord consists of B D# F#. Both the D# and the F# must be lowered a half step to D and F to fit in the key of

C, yeilding a Bdim chord.

The 7th of B in its own key (the key of B) is an A#. This note is not in the key of C, so it must be lowered to an

A to fit.

You therefore have a Bmin7(b5) chord which consists of BDFA.

When the 3rd, 5th, and 7th of a chord are all forced to be lowered by a half step, it is called a min7(b5) chord

(as it has a minor 3rd and 7th, the components of a minor7th, but also has a minor 5th in it, hence the (b5) in the

chord’s name)

Like the triad construction in a key, 7th chords follow a pattern…

1- maj7
2- min7
3- min7
4- maj7
5- dom7
6- min7
7- min7(b5)

So all 7th chords in the key of C major are…


Hopefully this lesson has given you a better understanding of extended chords (specifically 7ths) and where they

fit in key signatures.

I plan on tackling minor keys in upcoming lessons, so stay tuned!

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Theory 101 – Key Signatures 1

Posted by Ian on March 16, 2008

I’m about to be gone to San Diego for a few days with my family, and am likely to not be able to update this blog.

So, before I go, I think I’ll give you all a good sized theory lesson to chew on a bit…

Today’s theory lesson will try to give you a basic understanding of major key signatures and the chords and scales

associated with them. I will go into minor key signatures at a later date, but for now will stick to the

straightforward major keys.

Each key has a corresponding set of seven notes, and seven basic triads (which I have discussed earlier): one for

each note.

First let’s take a look at the key of C. The notes in the key of C are as follows:


There are no flats or sharps: every note is natural.

The 7 basic triads are:


The pattern of chords applies to all all major keys: the first chord will be major, second and third will be minor,

fourth and fifth major, sixth minor, and seventh diminished.

To show why this happens, I will construct a C major chord and a D minor chord in the key of C

Root: C

The third and fifth scale degrees of the key of C (since the root note is C) are…


Leaving you with the root of C, Third of E, and Fifth of G… making a Cmaj chord.

Things become trickier with the D chord in the key of C.

Root: D

The third and fifth scale degrees in the key of D (we use the key of D because D is the root note) are

D E F# G A B C#

Leaving us with the triad of D, F#, and A, or the D Major Chord

However, this chord is not in the key of c, as it has a note that is not in the key of C in it, F#.

To fix this, we need to lower the F# one half step to make it an ‘F’.

This leaves us with D, F, and A, which form a D Minor chord.

You see, the chords that are in a key are always modified in this same pattern to fit the specific key.

Therefore, you should be able to figure out all chords in any given key, assuming you know the notes in the key.

Let’s take the key of Eb major.

The notes in the key are:

Eb F G Ab Bb C D

The basic triad chords in the key will be

Eb Major
F Minor
G Minor
Ab Major
Bb Major
C Minor
D Diminished

It is as simple as plugging the notes of the key into the pattern.

An understanding of the basics of key signatures is a great advantage when coming up with chord progressions.

A basic chord progression that can be derived from any key is the key’s ‘Cadence’

It consists of the 1st (tonic), 4th (subdominant), and 5th (dominant) chords of each key.

Let’s construct the Cadence for the key of A

The notes in the key of A are

A B C# D E F# G#

The basic triads are:

A Major (1st, and Tonic)
B Minor
C# Minor
D Major (4th, and Subdominant)
E Major  (5th and Dominant)
F# Minor
G# Diminished

The tonic chord is A, the subdominant chord is D, and the dominant chord is E.

The Chords A, D, and E form the key of A’s Cadence.

Looking back, the key of Eb Major’s Cadence is Eb, Ab, Bb.

You can use your understanding of key signatures and their chords to write music the flows, or merely understand

why the songs you’re playing have certain chords in them.

I am going to try to put out a followup to this lesson within the next few days that will explain 7th chords and

how they fit into different keys, however, for now, I believe I have given you enough information for one day.

Happy ukein’!

Posted in Lessons | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Theory 101 – The Basics (reading music)

Posted by Ian on March 7, 2008

To continue my music theory series, I’m going to go back to basics to catch people who have little formal music background. If you already know how to read the treble clef, this lesson will be nothing by review for you, most likely.

Anyhow. Let’s take things from the top.

Most any uke player can read a tab and understand chord names, but not all can read a piece of music if put in front of them.

The basic parts of a piece of sheet music are the clef (in this case, treble), the key signature (I will get into this later), the staff (the five lines adn four spaces where all of this, and the notes, are placed), and the notes themselves.

I apologize if things seem a tad thrown together from this point: I”m rushing finishing this post, sacrificing some quality… sorry ’bout that.

Here is an example of the treble clef on a staff:

Notes are placed on the lines or in the spaces in between the lines on the staff. The bottom line corresponds with the note ‘E’, the space above that with ‘F’, then a line for ‘G’, then a space for ‘A’, a line for ‘B’, space for ‘C’, line for ‘D’, space for ‘E’ and a line for ‘F’.

To remember this, you can use the mnemonic devices such as ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’ for the lines, and ‘FACE’ for the spaces. The first letter of each of these words correspond with the note name of the corresponding line or space from bottom to top.

Things called ‘ledger lines’ can be added above or below the staff to show notes that do not fit in the staff’s normal range. I do not have time to describe them, but, if you would like, you can look them up… simply google ‘ledger lines’ and you will most likely get an answer to your questions.

And I have run out of time to work on this. I guess it will be a two parter…. sorry that I didn’t get too far on this. Hope it helped someone….

Posted in 'Literature', Lessons | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Music Theory – Basic Triads (Chords)

Posted by Ian on March 4, 2008

One thing I have discovered about us Uke players is that, as a whole, we know very little about music

theory. Sure, we can play all sorts of fancy chords and whatnot right and left, but when asked why

something is a chord, many of us have no clue what the answer is. Over the next few days I am planning on

making a music theory 101 course so you all will understand enough basic music theory to not have to rely

on chord charts and the like to figure out chords when playing a song.

Today’s lesson will be covering the basic triad chords: Major Chords, Minor Chords, Augmented Chords, and

Diminished Chords.

I guess the easiest way to explain the basic major triad chord is this:

Pick a note, any note.

Let’s pick ‘G’

Now, you count up four half steps, or a major third, from this note.

G…. G#…. A… Bb… B

Then, you take three half steps up from the new note, which makes as a major fifth from the first note.
B…. C…. C#…. D (which is the same as G… G#… A… Bb… B… C… C#… D)

The resulting ‘G Major’ triad is GBD. Whenever you play these three notes, you are playing a G Major


Things become a little more fun when you start on a sharp.

Let’s start with a C#.

You get the major third….

C#…. D…. Eb…. E…. F

And the Major fifth…..

F…. F#…. G…. G#…

And you now have a C# major triad: C# F G#

For a Minor chord, you take the following….

The Root Note, a Minor 3rd, and a 5th

You already know how to get a 5th above the root, so let’s work with the Minor 3rd.

A minor third is simply the note three half steps above the root note.

To demonstrate, let’s construct an A Minor chord.

A is our root note.

To find the minor 3rd…..

A… Bb…. B…. C

And then we must be careful that when constructing the fifth, we base it off of the root note, not the

minor third, as that wold yield a minor 5th.

A…. Bb…. B…. C… C#… D….. D#… E

So an A minor chord is A C E

Now take a breath, because things are about to get a bit more interesting.

To take things a step further, We’ll construct an Augmented Chord (Aug.)

An augmented chord consists of the Root, a Major 3rd, and an Augmented 5th, which is the same as a Major

fifth except you go one half step higher (8 half steps from the root note, as opposed to 7)

An F Aug. chord would be constructed as follows…

F is our root note

The major third…

F… F#… G… G#… A

and an Augmented 5th

F… F#… G… G#… A… Bb… B… C… C#

The resulting triad of an Augmented F chord is F A C#

Now, to wrap things up, I’ll explain how to construct a diminished (Dim.) chord.

A diminished chord is constructed by taking the root note, its minor third, and a diminished 5th, which

is a major 5th lowered by one half step (6 half steps above the root note, as opposed to 7).

Let’s make a D diminished chord.

D is our root note.

We construct the minor third for the root.

D… Eb… E… F

And we construct the diminished 5th

D… Eb… E… F… F#… G… G#

The resulting triad is D F G#, D Diminished.

And that pretty much sums up the basics of chord construction.

With a little practice, you will no longer need to reference a chord chart every time you come across a

chord that you don’t know by heart. You will also be able to figure out different ways to play common

chords higher up on the fret board, using alternate fingerings, or duplicating different notes to put

emphasis on different parts of the chord.

Posted in 'Literature', Lessons | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »