Mark 'Spanky' Gutierrez's Blog

It's Me.. Honest Its Me!!

Why all the Frets?

There are at least twelve frets on your ukulele but most people only use the first three or four! My good friend Byron Yasui says “you paid for all those frets you might as well use them!”, and who could disagree with logic like that.

This topic quickly gets us into the discussion of chord inversions or different chord shapes. Let’s take the C chord for example you could play it:

In the first position as 0003C-At-0

or the second position as 3345 C-At-3

or the third position as 9787C-At-7

But why, why would I play those chords up the neck? Well… If I was trying to match the melody the other chords might give me the melody note as the highest note in the chord. Any time that you bring out the melody line in your chord playing the song starts to peek through the chords. People will say your playing “Silent Night” not just a set of chords.

Lets examine the notes of the C major chord. The notes for the C chord are C E G.

In the first position as 0003 = G C E C

or the second position as 3345 = C E G C

or the third position as 9787 = E G C E

So there would be to opportunities to play the C chord with either a C as the highest note or the C chord with the E has the highest note in the chord. I am sure that we if worked at it hard enough we could even come up with a C chord with G as the highest note.

If the melody of the song calls for then notes C and then E but the chord doesn’t change, you could follow the melody by choosing either the first position C or second position and then when the melody gets to E play the C chord  in the third position.

The only trick here is we are following the melody with chord shapes that have the melody note as the highest note.

But there are times when you just can’t… Say a song has a range that just won’t fit. Well then transposing the song to another key is a good idea but there are songs that have more than an octave range. In which case it’s time for you to make some creative decisions. Maybe move in the direction of the melody. Meaning that if the melody goes down in pitch then we can go pick a lower pitched C chord.

This is the basis to creating chord melody transcriptions. I hope that this helps you to understand why all those shapes for the same chord are important and I really encourage you to try making your own arrangements.

Now let’s just make one technical music theory correction. I called these inversions and technically that is not right, just ask Dr, Bales. C E G is the first inversion, the second would be E G C, and the third G C E. Notice on the ukulele we are just taking the next set of C E G notes and calling it the next inversion. It’s actually just the next position in which C E G pops up as a playable form. It’s Just That Easy!

Good luck my friends!!


Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez


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