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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: https://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 you can see the images (chord shapes) in this e-mail. If not please adjust your settings.

Bar Chords: There is some barring in this lesson. Some people find that quite challenging. Go easy on yourself. Read the lesson through a few times and watch the video and work away at it. Little bits at a time.

The goal of this game is to play every possible major chord (12 of them) using only three shapes.

We can use our knowledge of the CHROMATIC SCALE to help us. Here’s the CHROMATIC SCALE:

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C

We will build a chord off each one of these notes.

(More on the chromatic scale here:

Okay let’s get going…

Start with C:

move that shape up one fret to get…

You have to bar the first fret and use your pinky on the 4th fret to play the C# chord.

Okay let’s shift the chord shape up one more fret. That gives us…

Maybe not the D you are familiar with but still a D trust me!

If we move the same shape up to the 3rd fret we get a D# chord. Up one more fret it becomes an E chord. Cool, Eh?

(Note: In the above chord diagrams the numbers to the left of the bar tell you which fret you are barring.)

Nice work!
We’ve played 5 chords with one chord shape.

If we move the same shape up one more fret that will give us an F chord.

But we’ve decided to use the open F shape so let’s jump back to open position and play this:

Move that shape up one fret you get F#, one more fret up you get G, one more fret up you get G#:

(NOTE: The diagrams above show the index finger barring three strings. Feel free to bar across all four strings with your index finger. Many people find that more comfy.)

OKAY! If we move the same chord shape up one more fret we get an A chord.

Instead of doing that we can jump to the open A chord. Which we can move up one fret to give us an A# chord (More familiar to most as a Bb chord).

Up one more fret gives us B. Then up one more fret gives us C.

Hey! We completed the cycle! We can jump to the open C chord and start the whole cycle again.

I find it helps my students to run through this series frequently.

It can also be helpful to say the chord names to yourself as you go.

Sharp (#) and Flat (b) notes have two names. This is also true for chords. So a C# chord may also be called a Db chord. An A# chord may also be referred to as a Bb chord. We learned about this in https://ukuleleinthedark.com/ud-13-ukulele-music-theory-abacus-ii/

Here’s a little video. I show you how to do all major chords with three shapes and also the same exercise for minor chords and 7th chords. Also, I offer some tips on fingering. I’ve written the chord sequence out below to help in your practice. Enjoy the video:


Chord Sequences (OPEN CHORDS IN RED)

Major Chords:
C    C#    D      D#      E
F     F#    G     G#
    A#    B      C

Seventh Chords:
   C#7    D7      D#7
E7    F7     F#7      G7     G#7
A7     A#7    B7      C7

Minor Chords:
Am     A#m    Bm      Cm  C#m
Dm    D#m    Em      Fm     F#m
Gm     G#m  

You can create your own variation on this exercise depending on which open shapes you choose to use.

Major Chords:
C    C#
D      D#      E
F     F#   G     G#
A     A#    B      C

In this example we choose jump to the open D shape instead of continuing with moving the C shape up the neck. See if you can come up with your own variations!

Hope you enjoyed this week’s lesson!



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