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 a ukulele fretboard. The notes in white at the top are the open notes. The notes in green are fretted notes. This chart only shows the first 6 frets of the uke.

Let’s use the fretboard chart to find the notes in some of the simple chords that we know. Let’s take a C chord (C major chord). Below you’ll find a diagram for the C chord with the notes in the chord in red. We play the open G string, the open C, the open E and finally a C note at the third fret of the A string. So that makes G, C, E, C.  The C note is doubled so there are really only three notes involved: C, E, and G.

C chord notes in red


Let’s try another chord. An A minor.

Am chord notes in red


An Am (A minor) chord has an A (2nd fret on the G string) a C (open), and an E (open), the open A string just doubles the A note.

So an A minor chord has three notes: A, C, and E. Here’s a diagram.

Please figure out the notes in these chords. Answers are below. Don’t worry which order you write the notes in. If you don’t know how to finger the chords please find the chord diagrams at the top of the page.

Which notes are in:
1. a G chord?
2. an F chord?
3. An E minor chord?
4. A D minor chord?

answers (1. G,B,D  2. F,A,C 3. E, G, B  4. D, F, A)

You’ll notice that in the answers I put the notes of the chords in a certain order. The reason for this will be explained in next week’s news letter. Also we’ll talk about sharps and flats and how knowing the notes in chords can help you with moving chords up the neck, using moveable chord shapes and improvising.

All for now,

P.S. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe to my mailing list below to receive every lesson right when it comes out. Be sure not to miss a thing!


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