Learn ukulele with me // this key thing

This is the first in a series of exploratory articles about the things I do outside of writing including hiking, playing music, visual arts and web/graphic design. My aim is to offer other writers an easy portal into hobbies that I feel compliment my habits as a writer as well as give myself the opportunity to try my hand at expository writing outside of my normal creative writing routines.

Without further ado, let’s move onto the basics of concert ukulele!

There are four types of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. While I have designs on getting my hands on all of them eventually, the instrument we’re going to work with is the concert ukulele.

A concert ukulele is tuned to GCEA. I highly recommend spending a little extra to purchase a digital tuner. These are reasonably cheap and you can pick them up on websites like Musician’s Friend or Amazon or, if you’re feeling more socially responsible, at almost any local music store.

Once you have your concert ukulele in hand and you have it tuned to GCEA, there are a million places you can go. However, let me offer you what I feel is an easy initial path to gaining reasonable competence with the aim of getting you strumming and singing along to something you can recognize. So let’s jump right in and learn a key.

The key of E minor includes E min (i), Fmin7b5 (ii dim — I happened to pick this chord up instead of F#dim which works here too and is easier), G (III), A min (iv), B min (v), C (VI), and D (VII). The Roman numerals after the chords indicate the chord’s position on the scale.

Let’s take a moment and look over these chords in ukulele tablature notation:

# |  i    |  ii dim |  III  |   iv   |    v    |   VI    |  VII

1 |–2–| |–2–| |–2–| |–0–| |–2–| |–3–| |–0–|

2 |–3–| |–1–| |–3–| |–0–| |–2–| |–0–| |–2–|

3 |–4–| |–3–| |–2–| |–0–| |–2–| |–0–| |–2–|

4 |–0–| |–1–| |–0–| |–2–| |–4–| |–0–| |–2–|

I kept coming across these same chords as I was jumping through tabs of songs I wanted to learn and realized that most of these songs were simply written in the same key.

I will go through some of those songs in the next few weeks, but for now learn these chords, get used to jumping between them, and let me know if you have any questions.

If you’re looking for a more visual way of finding the chords, a great resource is ukebuddy.com.

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