‘Ukulele Lesson – A Major Traveling Root & Third

A deceptive blessing and curse when playing a strummed stringed instrument are the

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Low G

use of open strings in chords. The ‘ukulele is no stranger to such devices in both re-entrant and low-g tuning. While your G major chord utilizes an opening ringing G note on both tunings well, chords such as this voice of Em change tonality as the bass moves from the root in re-entrant tuning to the minor 3rd on a low-g

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‘ukulele. This can often muddy up chord progressions such as this common chord change of C major to Em. Since there is no movement in the bass, the tonality of the chord is not as strongly defined and therefore has less of an impact of a “change.”


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C – Em Low-G


That being said it is good to remember what your open strings are doing in the chords you are playing. They also have a tendency to sustain longer than fretted notes and often will drone if left unattended to such as the example above. Though open strings can be a blessing if used in the right fashion. Those long sustaining strings turn into the wash of a watercolor painting; tinting your sunrise with the glow of golden yellow.

I love this simple and lush sounding set of chords and love to use it as a jumping off point for writing new songs. While both a re-entrant and a low-g ‘ukulele work well for these chords, I personally prefer the low-g in this setting. I have set the notation to be in low-g tuning for that purpose as well. It visually better defines the motion the example but sounds great either way!

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These voices utilize the A major diatonic triad chord (I, III, V) family with a traveling root (I) and third (III) and a sustaining root (I) and fifth (V) of the one (I) chord. Our traveling I & III will be on the G(4th) and C(3rd) strings with the I on the G(4th) string and the III on the C(3rd) string. When doing double stops like these your fingers will be in one of two positions. In this case, your fingers will either be right next to each other or a fret apart. Set a fingering that works for you and slowly work your way up the neck. Don’t worry about your right hand at this point, just practice the fingering first and I recommend to assign fingers to each respective shape. It makes it a little bit easier as it eliminates an excess factor to the concept at hand.

Here is an example of A and two different fingerings for Bm. Your hands will probably be in one of these shapes for every voice.


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While that itself already sounds nice we are going to begin our wet wash of our root (I) and fifth (V) of the one (I) chord. Coincidentally your open A(1st) and E(2nd) perfectly fit the bill so let those bottom two strings ring! The I and perfect V reinforce the tonality of the key of A major . Play with various right-hand techniques to add depth and texture, match it to a song you already know and see how it changes the tone of your song, or even play around with the order and write your own song!

I left the microphone on and did some noodling as an example on adding variations. I kept the order to ascending then descending and didn’t add anything beyond the voices. I used a mixture of finger picking, varying strumming techniques, and dynamic changes to create this fun sweet little diddy. Please enjoy and we will see you guys next time!

-Neal Chin


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