Constructing Ukulele Chords

The only way to learn how an ‘ukulele chord works is to examine how it is spelled – or constructed. The notes of the chord make up the spelling. The notes come from the root scale and are specified using the roman numeral system. It’s not always roman numerals that are shown, standard numbers serve the same purpose. Starting with the first note of the scale the number system counts up to 8 (or 1) – the root.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8(1)


Now, just say that you know a major chord is made up of a root note (1), a 3rd (3), and a 5th (5). You would take those numbers (1, 3, 5) out of the scale – C E G.

1 3 5


Now if you play a C chord you will notice that C E G are the notes you are playing. The key to learning about how chords are spelled is learning the notes that you need to pick out of the scale (C E G). So here are the spellings of the main chords:

Major: 1 3 5

Minor: 1 b3 5

7th: 1 3 5 b7

The b3 and b7 means just that: take the 3rd or 7th note from the scale and make it flat (move it towards the nut one fret). The 3rd note is important in a chord because it gives ether a happy (major) or sad (minor) sound. A normal 3rd signifies a major chord and a b3rd indicates a minor.

Now I’ll show you how to work in reverse. Say you need to know a Gm6 chord for the song you are playing and the only minor 6th chord you know is Cm6. You can take that Cm6 and use it to figure out the Gm6. The notes of Cm6 are: C Eb G and A. Write out the root scale and circle those notes.

(C) D (E) F (G) (A) B (C)

All of the notes are right except for the Eb. To show the Eb just flat the number when you add it to the scale.

1 b3 5 6


So now that you have the numbers of the notes, you can add them to a G scale and figure out Gm6

1 b3 5 6

G A B C D E F# G

Same numbers, different scale.

So take the notes under the numbers (G Bb D E) and locate them in a playable fashion on the fretboard. You would end up with something like: 0201.

Some chord spellings are going to have too many notes to fit on the ‘ukulele, so you have to do some selective omitting. Note that some notes are more vital to the sound of the chord than others.

Other chord spellings are:

Major 6th: 1 3 5 6

Major 7th: 1 3 5 7

Add 9th: 1 3 5 9

Major 9th: 1 3 5 7 9 (omit root)

6th/9th: 1 3 5 6 9 (omit root)

9th: 1 3 5 b7 9 (omit root) [Extended chord are chords that add notes to a 7th shape.

Being as the ‘ukulele is already maxed out note wise with a 7th chord, these are not

very practical to figure out. Each extension does add a different sound, but for

every new sound you must omit a note. Extended chords include 11th and 13th chords.]

Minor 6th: 1 b3 5 6

Minor 7th: 1 b3 5 b7 [Again, minor 7ths have extensions – see above.]

Diminished: 1 b3 b5 6

Augmented: 1 3 #5

Jun 29th, 2017 | Posted in Music
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