A while back I got a comment by Michael asked me for suggestions of songs in a minor key. Which struck me as an excellent idea of a post because I’m always looking for an excuse to stick it to the ‘it’s impossible to play the ukulele without smiling’ brigade.
If you’ve got a favourite minor key song to play leave it in the comments.
So here are lists of tabs and chords in a minor key (or at least minor enough to be glum):
When I’m analysing a chord progression I like to think of it in terms of a story. With each chord being a new mood and scene and pushing the story forward.
For example, play a simple chord progression like C – F – G7 – C.
The C chord is the family at home all safe and settled. The F chord moves somewhere unfamiliar with the kids wandering off into the woods and finding a gingerbread house.
Then the G7 chord is pivotal. It’s the part that has you on the edge of your seat waiting for what comes next. If you stop a progression on the G7 it’s ending the story, “Then the witch grabbed the annoying kid and marched him towards the oven. The End.” There’s a tension that you need to resolve.
That propels the progression back to C. Taking you back home where you can feel safe and settled.
A good chord is one that tells its part of the story. You can read a whole lot more about this in the book I wrote about chords. But here are my favourites. Let me know yours in the comments.
The saddest of all the chords. I don’t know why but it makes people weep instantly.
Fmaj7 gets overlooked a lot. Probably because it’s usually rendered in chord books as 2413 (presumably by either people who’ve never played the chord or shadow puppet masters). The vastly easier way of playing it is 5500.
I find Fmaj7 a very hard chord to pin down. It’s relaxed but it has a melancholy edge to it. It has the sweetness of a standard F chord. But it also has the tension between E and F notes. Hold down the chord and play the C and E strings together and you’ll hear how dissonant it is.
My favourite property of diminished chords is that all the chord inversions up the neck have the same shape. For example the Cdim7 (or Co7) has these inversions:
So all these chords have the same notes. Just in a different order. The notes on the first chord (going from the g-string to the A-string) are: A – Eb – F# – C. On the second chord it’s: C – F# – A – Eb. On the third: Eb – A – C – F#. And finally: F# – C – Eb – A.
Same notes, different order. Try this with any other chord shape and you’ll get completely different notes.
I regard it as the ‘girl tied to the train tracks’ chord. It’s a nervous chord. Full of peril.
In a Progression
Here I’m just playing the inversions of Cdim7 going up the neck in sequence.
This is what I went with for my favourite chord. It’s just C7 with the G moved up one fret. You can also play it like this.
It has a double dose of tension with the 7th note and the raised fifth. If I play it I can’t get on with my day until I play an F chord afterwards. That makes it a great chord to add to the end of a progression to propel you back to the home chord.
In a Progression
Here’s an 8 bar blues with the Caug7 at the end moving you back to the start of the progression.
I like to keep a list of songs that use just the most common ukulele chords. Arranged by the order people usually learn them in. That way you can find some songs to play no matter how few chords you know.
And here’s the updated list including some notable new additions like:
Alaska in Winter – Close Your Eyes, We Are Blind (Chords)
It’s been far too long since I had some Zach Condon on the blog. And the tune he did with Alaska in Winter is packed with Beirutisms (the Bbadd9 chord, hammering on the g-string, 2nd fret in the F chord, switching the song half-way through).
In the first half of the song use:
d – d u – u d u
Once each for Bbadd9 and C7.
For the F chord do the same strum twice but on the first strum only hold down the E-string, 1st fret of the F chord and hammer-on the g-string 2nd fret. He does vary the strum in the second bar often. You could also use:
d u d u d u d u
With your finger off the g-string (so you’re playing 0010) for the second half.
There’s not much uke for the second half of the song, so feel free to make up your own strum. Once it picks up, you could use:
Stereogum were, unusually for them, very musically astute to mention Beirut in that post. The song contains a lot of Beirut like touches: it’s in waltz time, the C chord is played up the neck, there are Fadd9 chords all over the place.
I’ve written the chords up in a slightly simplified way (just make sure you pay attention to the C chord – the A string is played at the 7th fret rather than the 3rd). The do occasionally add in passing chords. This sort of thing:
The album version of Meet Me in the Garden has the uke turned down and guitar and Gainsbourg-ness turned up compared to the demo version but with the 6th and major 7 chords it still keeps a very island theme.
Suggested Strumming Pattern
For the Eb6 and B7M chords:
d – x u d – x u x u x u d u d u
The x’s are chnks (bring the underside of your strumming hand down on the strings to mute them).