Attempting More Complex Chords on the Ukulele

By Alistair Wood

Once you have a basic knowledge and proficiency on the ukulele, you will probably want to attempt more complex chords. Generally speaking, major, minor and seven chords each have their own distinct characteristics:

  • Major chords are upbeat and confident.

  • Minor chords are deep and sad.

  • Seventh chords are jazzy and expectant.

But you can create more complex sounds by mixing these elements together. This introduces a few new types of chord that add an even richer dimension to your sound.

Making melancholy minor 7 chords

Minor 7 chords have the sad sound of a minor chord but mixed with a jazzy tingle that makes the chord more melancholy. In the chord families you can use minor 7 chords as an alternative to the minor chords.

Look at the three main minor 7 shapes. The first is Am7, which is dead easy – you play all the strings open. The Gm7 shape is just like a Bb chord with your ring finger removed. The Dm7 shape is a Dm chord with the addition of the little finger fretting the A-string at the third fret.

Am7, Gm7 and Dm7 chord diagrams.

Am7, Gm7 and Dm7 chord diagrams.

Relaxing with major 7 chords

Major 7 (maj7 for short) chords sound less strident than straight major chords and have a more laid-back and jazzy sound.

A major 7 chord differs from a usual 7 chord by just one fret. You move that seventh note up by one fret (i.e. the note that was changed to go from a major chord to a seventh chord).

For example, the standard A7 chord has the g-string played open. For Amaj7 you play the g-string at the first fret.

Similarly, for Gmaj7 you play the E-string at the second fret rather than the first. And for Cmaj7 you play the A-string at the second fret rather than the first.

Amaj7, Gmaj7 and Cmaj7 chord diagrams.

Amaj7, Gmaj7 and Cmaj7 chord diagrams.