So, you’ve mastered the ukulele chords and you’re already comfortable moving your fingers from one chord to another.
You have to learn how to play the Chord Inversions.
What is a chord inversion? It may sound a bit complicated but the truth is, chord inversion is simply the method of playing a chord in different ways. You can actually play any song using just 5 ukulele chord shapes. This adds more character to the song especially if you are playing with other ukuleles.
So why do you need to find an alternative way to play a chord?
There are several reasons why you need to learn chord inversions. One thing for sure is that when you become a more experienced ukulele player, you don’t want to play the chords right at the nut all the time. It can be quite boring for you to do that.
Another reason is that it can be very helpful when you shift from one fret to another. Let’s say, for example, you were playing a melody up on the 8th fret and the next step is to follow up with a chord, then it makes more sense to play a chord pattern that is closer instead of going back to the nut.
Chord inversions are also very useful when you’re playing funk rhythms. You can do this by taking an open chord and playing it up the neck. It will allow you to easily mute your chord by releasing the pressure on the strings. This is called fret hand muting.
As you progress and gain more experience, you will soon want to join a group and will enjoy playing along with other ukulele players. Having many individuals play different chord inversions will make the sound interesting and it will provide more texture to the music. That’s the cool part about learning this!
So how do you do it?
When you want to learn different chord inversions, you actually only need to remember 5 different chord shapes for each of the main chord groups - Major chord, Minor chord, and Dominant 7th chord.
And there’s a pattern that you can implement for you to easily learn how to play the chords in different ways.
They call this CAGFD system. As the letters imply, these are five chords that you can use to make an inversion of any chord that you would like to play. Using this system, you’ll learn how to play different chord shapes in various positions up and down the neck.
How to Use Movable Chord Shapes
Alright. Let’s get started.
When you began playing the ukulele, most likely, the first few chords that you learned to play are the following:
C, A, G, F, and D.
These simple chords are usually played near the nut.
Following those basic chords I mentioned, you can actually change them into movable chord shapes. That means you can use them for any chord where there are no open strings. You just simply replace the nut with your index finger and you can move up and down the fret board.
While doing this, you’ll notice that even though you are using different chord shapes, the sound would still be the same.
Let’s take the C-chord as an example.
Now that we have the movable chord shapes, we can now play the C using the CAGFD system.
Let me show you how…
A - chord shape.
When you play the A-chord, your fingers are positioned on the 2nd fret of the G string and first fret of the C string. Now, we are going to use this pattern to play the C-chord. You will use your index finger as your imaginary nut to make the A-chord a movable chord.
Take a look at the image above. Do you see where your number 3 and 2 fingers are located? They have the same position as the A chord down from the nut. To play the C chord, we will move the nut up on the 3rd fret using your index finger in a barre position(finger #1).
If you listen closely, you’ll notice that even though you are playing the chord in another position, they both sound the same (the A-chord shape having some high pitch tones).
G - chord shape.
This is how the G chord looks. Your index finger is positioned on the 2nd fret of the C string, ring finger on the 3rd fret of the E string, and your middle finger is at the 2nd fret of the A string.
Now, following the same shape when you play the C-chord, you’ll need to move your fingers a few frets higher up the neck with the same position as you do from the nut.
The image above shows how you play the C-chord using the G-chord shape. You have two options to do this. You can either play it with your index finger on the 5th fret or you can just mute it with your thumb if you are having difficulty in pressing the string.
You can actually skip the G string and prefer not to strum it if you want.
F - chord shape.
When you play the F chord, your middle finger is positioned on the 2nd fret on the G string while your index finger is pressing the first fret of the E string.
Let’s go ahead and play the C chord using the F shape. Simply move a few frets up the neck and use your index finger as the imaginary nut.
With that said, we’ll put the nut on the 7th fret with your index finger doing a barre chord together with your middle and ring finger on the G and E strings.
The image above shows where you will position your fingers to play the F-Shape. Lay down your index finger across the 7th fret, pressing all strings. And then put your ring finger on the 9th fret of the G-string while your middle finger stays on the 8th fret of the E-string.
D - chord shape.
When you play the D chord, you just need to press G,C, and E strings on the 2nd fret. Using the D-Shape is ideal when you play a melody right up the neck. Let’s say, for example. You are doing some finger picking near the 10th fret and you need to follow up with a C chord, instead of going back down to the nut to play the C, it makes more sense to play it on the D Shape.
The image below is the C chord played in the D-Shape up on the neck.
The lesson I mentioned here is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll get into more details in our future blog posts. Hopefully this has given you a different perspective on how to play the ukulele.
Don’t stop experimenting with how you play music. Sooner or later, you’ll develop your own style and it will give you more satisfaction with this wonderful instrument. Now have a go and try some chord inversions on your favorite songs.
What to try next...
Learn how to tune your ukulele strings by reading How to tune the ukulele using different tuning methods.