I realized shortly after my second post on this tune that we talked about chords and the chord progression, but I didn’t talk through what chord shapes I thought would work best. So, we are going to tackle a second look at chords before we go onto melody.
As a refresher, here is the chord sheet from the previous post. Now let’s look at chord shapes.
It’s a common practice of mine to scan the sheet music or chord chart before I start playing and look to see if there are any weird or unknown chords that I need to know before I get there. For our purposes, I’m going to list out any non-standard chords that I think you may be unfamiliar with (if you are a more seasoned player, then you may see a lot that you already know).
Odd/New Chords in the Tune:
Gmaj7 C9 D6 F#7 F#m7 B7 D6/F# E9
Gmaj7 is a very useful chord and you will find the shape rather easy to learn. Major 7 chords will have the root note lowered by one fret (one half step). Interestingly, we can substitute a Major or a 6 chord for Major 7 chords at anytime. I don’t really do it in this tune, but sometimes over a two bar phrase of a Major 7 I will play Major-Major 7-6-Major 7 to give movement. The shape I have indicated, I didn’t connect the fingers. You can play this either as a barre chord with one finger or you can use any combination of two or three fingers.
The C9 chord is another cool chord to learn and you will find it useful in a lot of applications. Especially when chord soloing. 9 chords are created from dominate 7 chords. (Dominate 7 chords are not Major 7 chords. Think C7, not Cmaj7.) There are only 7 notes in a scale, but jazzers like to count the scale up another octave. So if you consider the root at the top of the first octave the 8 and start over, 2 becomes 9. The result is a C9 with the notes C-E-G-Bb-D. It’s important to note that 9 chords have to have a dominate 7 (the same with 11 and 13). If it doesn’t have the dominate 7, it is called a 2 chord. (So C-E-G-D would be C2.) You may notice in our shape, we don’t have a C. That’s okay, because for this particular chord, the root is not as important for the sound we are going for.
6 chords are very similar to the Major 7 chords in that they are interchangeable with Major 7 and Major chords. The D6 chord is particularly simple for us as it is basically a barre chord that we can use one finger on to barre the 2nd fret. Interestingly, the D6 chord and the Bm7 chord are very similar. But we don’t need to get too into that here.
F#7 is a useful chord built on a moveable chord shape. If you already know the E7 shape “1202”, then this will be a rather easy shape for you to pick up.
F#m7 is a curious little chord with some options. If you aren’t aware already, minors are created by lowering the 3rd of a major chord. On our previous shape, the note on string 4 (the G string) is the third. So, theoretically, we could create the chord by using that shape. I find this shape a little difficult for most people (even myself) and I tend to avoid it. Instead, I use the generic F#m shape to the right. It doesn’t have the dominate 7 (b7 or E), but the sound still works and the shape is very easy to grab at any sort of speed.
I’m mentioning the B7 mostly for those who may not be familiar with barre chords. Barre chords are chord shapes that use the index finger to fret all the strings (or most) on a particular fret leaving the middle, ring, and pinky free to fret extra notes. Above we used D6 in a barre chord but without any extra notes. The B7 is similar in that we will barre the 2nd fret. But we need to use our ring finger to fret the 3rd fret of the 3rd string (C string). If we left our pinky out and just barre the 2nd fret we are creating either a D6 (as above) or a Bm7 (since the 3rd string is where the 3rd of the chord is in this shape).
I’m not going to show a new shape for the D6/F# chord. Chords that have a slash with another note indicated are doing so to indicate note should be in the bass. My thought on this in general is that it isn’t always necessary to follow that instruction (it’s more of a guideline). The F# in the D6 shape above is on the 3rd string (C string). If you are playing a reentrant tuned uke, you are already playing the correct chord. If you have a low G, we could do a new shape for it, but we would need to be way up on the 4th string (G string) at the 11th fret to get the F# in the bass. Alternatively, we could just play the D6 above and pretend we didn’t see the F# bass note.
Similar to the C9, we will create the E9 by adding the 2 to a dominate 7 chord. The shape it creates doesn’t have a root note in it (like the C9 didn’t above), but again that is okay since the root is less important than the 9. We could use the regular E7 shape here should we want to. In fact, any dominate chord can be subbed for another dominate of the same root. Meaning, we could see an E7 and sub an E9 or E11, or we could see an E9 and sub E7 or and E15, etc. This can be useful as we can move notes around with the 9, 7, 11, etc and help create interesting comping or soloing tones.
Before we finish, let’s take a quick look at the song, once through, with just the chords and chord shapes.
Hopefully, that can help you learn the changes quickly. Remember that you want to have this memorized for the most part. It’s good practice to memorize music and will do wonders for your brain power.
I should point out that the chord shapes I have lined out here are suggestions. You can use whatever chord shapes and substitutions you want to make things sound the way you want. The rule is, if it sounds good, then it is right. As you learn more and more about chord construction, you will find yourself using alternative chords to the ones listed in any particular lesson or tune.