Category Archives: Music Theory

UD#52 Trimming Away: How to Simplify Song Sheets

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Trimming Away: How to Simplify Song Sheets  (UD#52) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Today I want to talk about simplifying song sheets and chord charts. Sometimes it can be handy to know how to “trim down” or simplify chords on the fly. This is particularly true when you sit down to play with others. Sometimes there’s no time to look up chords you don’t know. It can help to know what your options are. I thought I would put together a few words on this subject today. CHORD CHART SURVIVAL: I often find myself saying something like   …Continue Reading


UD#51 Play 12 CHORDS with THREE SHAPES

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12 CHORDS with THREE SHAPES: Around the Clock (UD#51) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek   Today I want to share an little activity that I use with my students. I find it helps for remembering the names of chords. Also, it creates a framework to see how chords are related to each other. And it’s a good introduction to chords “up the neck”. More on moving chords “up the neck” here: http://ukuleleinthedark.com/704/ We use three familiar open chord shapes for this activity: C, F and A. Images: If you are using a mobile device please make sure   …Continue Reading


UD#47: Wine Tasting for the Ears (Ear Training Made Easy)

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UD#47  Wine Tasting for the Ears (Ear Training Made Easy) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek This week’s photo is from Drinks of the World by James Mew and John Ashton, 1892 SOURCE: openclipart.org “I don’t understand how musicians can hear a song and then be able to play it. How do you do that?” It’s really tough for me to answer a question like this. When I was young and learning to play guitar I was lucky enough to discover that the notes I heard on recordings were “findable” somewhere on my guitar. I loved to work away   …Continue Reading


UD#45 What do the Sevens Mean? (The Numbers in Chord Names)

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UD#45: What do the SEVENS mean? (The Numbers in Chord Names) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek EVER WONDER what the numbers in chord names mean? C7, F6, A7… A student asked me an interesting question in class the other day: “What makes jazz different from other types of music?” This is a very tough question to answer but one potential answer did pop into mind: “Jazz music tends to use 7th chords (ex. Cm7, C7, Fmaj7) as opposed to triads or three note chords (ex.  Cm, F, Bbm).” What’s a seventh chord? A seventh chord is a   …Continue Reading


UD#40 Chromatic Walk in the Park (A Foundation in Music Theory)

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UD #40 Chromatic Walk in the Park (A Foundation in Music Theory) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek   Today I want to talk about something that is incredibly useful when building a mental model for music. It’s called the chromatic scale. And in many ways it is the basis for all theory in music. Knowing the chromatic scale forwards and backwards really helps with learning scales, transposing, using moveable chords and more. THE SPACING OF THE NOTES IN MUSIC: A few lessons ago we talked about the C major scale up one string. If you take a   …Continue Reading


UD#36 Chameleon Chord: Diminished 7th Chords part II

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  UD#36  Chameleon Chord: Diminished Chords Part II (The coolest thing you can do with dim7 chords) 
from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek The coolest thing you can do with diminished chords…in my opinion… NOTE: For simplicity I will refer to diminished 7th chords as DIMINISHED CHORDS in this lesson. ALSO NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading there is a video at the bottom of the page. Try this experiment Take a diminished chord like this one: Lower one of the notes in the chord by one fret. Let’s lower the note on the G string. What   …Continue Reading


UD#35 Anglular Symmetry: Diminished 7th Chords

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UD#35 Anglular Symmetry: Diminished 7th Chords from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Diminished seventh chords can be found in lots of different kinds of music. There are a few different ways to write them. Here are three different ways you might see a C diminished 7th chord written down: Cdim, Co, or Cdim7. For this lesson I will use this format: Cdim7 or Fdim7 throughout. Or I will write out the full name C diminished 7th or F diminished 7th. Most chord charts use the shortened form Cdim or Fdim.   Now for some cool facts…   4   …Continue Reading


UD#33 Mr. G7 Goes West: Low-Rider! (G7 in 4 positions)

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UD#33 Mr. G7 Goes West: Low-Rider (Play a G7 in four different places on the neck) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek THE INVERSIONS OF G7: First things first. Let me introduce you to my favorite one chord song. Lowrider by War. You can strum along with this song with one chord: G7. Give it a go and come on back and we’ll look at some different funky ways of playing G7.   Please find a fretboard chart on the right which you can use for reference as you go along through the lesson (click for printable version).   …Continue Reading


UD#24 The Secret Life of Roots (Naming Moveable Chord Shapes)

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UD #24 The Secret Life of Roots (Naming Moveable Chord Shapes) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek   Last newsletter we talked about how to move chord shapes up the neck. We took the C, F and G7 chord shapes and learned how to move them up the neck to play a chord progression in different keys. http://ukuleleinthedark.com/704/ QUESTION: “What do we call the chords once we have moved them up the neck?” I’ll do my best to answer this question in this newsletter. Here goes… THE ROOT NOTE! Identifying the position of the ROOT NOTE in the   …Continue Reading


UD#19 What Key is it in?

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UD #19 What Key is It in? from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek I love this video of Bobby Mcferrin: What he demonstrates in this video is that on hearing a few notes of a pentatonic scale (5 note scale) people intuitively know where the rest of the notes are. This is because scales are all about the relationships between the notes. Once we’ve intuitively clued in to what scale we are listening to, we can guess the rest of it without hearing all the notes.  It’s a kind of musical extrapolation.The same effect can be demonstrated with   …Continue Reading


UD#17 The Building Blocks of Songs

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  UD#17 The Building Blocks of Songs (Where to start in song-writing) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek “I’d like to write a song. I want to start with a chord progression but I don’t know which chords to pick from…“   Diatonic chords are a great place to start when you are trying to create a chord progression for a song. What are diatonic chords?Diatonic chords are the chords created from one scale. Every scale has it’s corresponding diatonic chords.If we create a simple three note chord starting on each note of a C major scale we   …Continue Reading


UD#13 Ukulele: Music Theory Abacus II

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UD#13 UKULELE: Music Theory Abacus II from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Last week we looked at how to use a fretboard chart and the shapes we know on the ukulele to explore the rules of music theory. This week we will look at:   •how to deal with sharps and flats. •how chords are created and why the notes are laid out in the way they are. •7th chords.   How to Deal with Sharps (#)  and Flats (b)   You’ll notice in the fretboard diagram to the right that there are some white spaces on the ukulele   …Continue Reading


UD#12 Ukulele: Music Theory Abacus

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UD#12 Ukulele: Music Theory Abacus from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Chords in this newsletter: I once heard James Hill call a ukulele fret board chart “The Great Music Theory Abacus”. I think this is a brilliant way of describing the fact that we can use the fretboard chart to explore the rules of music theory. There are many elements of music theory that can be learned by looking for patterns in the simple chords and scales that we already know. It’s not rocket science. It really isn’t. Here is a fretboard chart. It shows the notes on   …Continue Reading