UD #57 Unidentified Flying Chords!

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Unidentified Flying Chords! (UD#57)
from Ukulele in the Dark
w/ Guido Heistek
Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.24.35 AMScreen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.24.35 AM
Today, I want to take a look at two songs: Creep by Radiohead and Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. Both songs are in the key of G and have very interesting variations in the chords.

As we learned in UD#17 the usual chords in the key of G are as follows:

These are called the diatonic chords in the key of G. They are the basic building blocks for creating chord progressions in that key. While many songs use exclusively diatonic chords, both of today’s songs have a unique character because of how their chords vary from the standard.

Let’s look at how this is done…

Let’s start by looking at a simple progression using diatonic chords. Please play this little example:

Interestingly, this is what Creep would sound like if the song only used the diatonic chords in the key of G. If you know the tune you’ll recognize that it doesn’t really sound much like the song!

What if we change the iii chord to a major chord? In other words, let’s change the Bm to a B chord. What does that sound like? Chord diagram on the right if you need.

Play this example:

Interesting change! I sense there is a kind of lift to the progression now.  Can you hear it?

Okay, let’s change one more thing.

The final touch is changing the IV chord into a minor chord for the last two bars. In other words changing the C to a Cm in bars 7 and 8. (You might recall we talked about this in UD #44.)

Play this example:

Now it sounds like Creep! Interesting isn’t it? How small variations can have a huge emotional effect on the progression. Have a listen to Radiohead performing the song. Play along if you like:

Let’s look at another tune, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. Here is what it would sound like if we only used diatonic chords in the key of G. Give this example a strum:

Actually, the song has been performed this way! Here is Playing for Change performing  a version Sitting on the Dock of the Bay using only diatonic chords:


Now, what would it sound like if we changed all the minor chords into major chords?

Try this progression:

Hmmmm…getting funkier!

Let’s go one step further. What if we changed some of the major chords into 7th chords?
Play this progression:

Now the chords are starting to sound really funky! And this is the progression that Otis Redding used in the original version of the tune.

Here it is:

If you compare the Otis Redding version to the Playing for Change version can you hear the difference in the chord progression? Give it a listen. See if you can hear or feel the difference.


Why not try and create a chord progression of your own? Create a chord progression using the diatonic chords in the key of G. Then start messing around with it. You can switch out some of the minor chords for major chords. You can change some of the major chords into minor chords. Or you can add funky 7th chords. Listen for the changes in colour and emotional tension that these alterations create. It’s a beautiful miraculous world to play in.

Each of the alterations that we’ve encountered in today’s lesson has a unique character, be it the lift that is created by the major III chord or the sinking sad sensation of the minor iv chord. You may find that you start to notice and recognize these unidentified flying chords in the songs you encounter along the way.

All for now,


p.s. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe below to receive the lessons by e-mail. Be sure not to miss a thing…

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