Chord Voicing Workshop Review
Coady Brule – 29 October 2021
From Geoff Dancer.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I was slow in appreciating how good a uke player Coady is, but that says more about me than it does about Coady. He has grown and grown on me. These days I really look forward to hearing him play and sing.
Coady delivered a great workshop, and I loved the way Coady said things like: “So you made a mistake….who CARES!” with a big grin. There’s a cheeky freshness about this dude.
He suggested we find a song that we love. Listen to it – well. And then see if you can work out how to play it to capture the feeling in the song. How are going to play the song on your instrument to capture the feeling that you love? Yep, you can download the sheet music and then religiously play it, but why not play around with the song yourself? How are YOU going to capture the emotion of the song? How are you going to play it on YOUR ukulele? I hope Coady agrees with me, because that’s probably the main thing I got out of the workshop!!
Making a chord shape
Coady explained that chords are made up of independent notes. Chord voicing is the process of arranging the notes of a chord to vary its sound and feel. A particular chord shape, even though it may have the same chord by name, may have a different sound quality. That’s because the individual notes are played in a different sequence and/or are slightly different.
Take the C major chord. It comprises the root note C and the third (E) and fifth (G) notes in the scale plus a fourth note of C, E or G. Beginners know it as 0003 which means you are playing GCEC.
Get your uke out and try these next chords. You could play the C chord as 0403 which is GEEC – it’s still C but sounds different because it has the E note twice. Or you could play it as 0433 which is GEGC – again it’s still C but has the G note twice.
One other alternative is to play it as 5433 which is the chord shape for the Bb chord moved up two frets. It’s still the chord of C playing the notes CEGC.
It’s not a finger, it’s a nut
Coady showed us different chord shapes up and down the fretboard. He went on to discuss barre chords, and I loved the way he held up his index finger and said: “this is not a finger…..it’s a nut!’ What he meant was when you are using the index finger to barre a fret, you are moving the ‘nut’ of the ukulele closer to the body of the ukulele.
On not playing all the strings
He demonstrated the importance of choosing strings to play up the fretboard. For example, you can form a shape up the fretboard WITHOUT barring by not playing all the strings. For instance, you may want to play the top 2 or 3 strings only, the bottom 2 or 3 strings only, or even non-adjacent strings.
On knowing the root note in your chord
It’s important to know where the root note of your chord is. He showed us how you can determine the root note of shapes by checking certain strings.
For instance, the note sounded on the G-string with the ‘A’ shape (2100) is A and will tell you what the chord is. If you barre the third fret and make the ‘A’ shape (5433) you are playing a C chord. Your middle finger will be on the 5th fret of the G string. This note is C which is the root note of the ‘C Major’ chord.
Slide up the fretboard two more frets and it must be the D chord.
On choosing a chord shape
You might choose a chord shape because it has a particular tonal quality or because it suits the song. Or because it makes the song more easily playable.
For instance, if you have to move your hand up the fretboard to the 7th fret position to play a particular chord/s or note/s you may be able to stay in that position to play the next chord.
It’s also important when you incorporate chord melody, notes, or riffs into the song. You need to assess whether you are using the right fingers to move smoothly to different chord shapes. Simple hand movements are important.
Making it practical
Like all good workshop presenters, Coady led us in a song which illustrated the forming of different chord shapes, and where we could all join in and have a go! Yeah!
He chose “Colors” by Black Pumas, a song that he obviously loves, and which had chord shapes which are not commonly used in ukulele jams. You’ll have to take my word for it (Dodgy I know, I know). I loved learning how you could change from playing an E chord to an Fdim chord by leaving your hand and fingers in the same place except with the added use of your little pinkie. I also loved the way we incorporated runs on the G-string which ended in F#m or A chords up the fretboard. I guess you had to be there. Hope you get some idea of what I’m talking about.
At the end, Coady returned to different tools you can use to express emotion and add interest in the song, for example hammer-ons, pull-offs, muting and different types of strums. We also discussed other external tools you can use as a crutch to help you work out a song, such as ‘Ultimate Guitar’ and ‘The Ukulele’ apps.
I really enjoyed the workshop, and judging by the applause at the end, I think most people there did so, too. Coady was obviously well-prepared for the workshop, and the notes he handed out were great, too.
He was well-aware that people vary in their learning approach – some need to see it, some to hear it, some to do it. He used a few different ways to get his message across, which I liked.
If I have one suggestion, it is to slow down a bit. I had some trouble keeping up when we got to play the song, and I have been using barre chords quite a bit. It’s tough trying to play a new song (new to me anyway) with different rhythms and chords you are new to. And when there are alternative chord shapes to consider on the fly, it can fry the brain a little.
But then again, I come back to the thing I like about Coady. The challenge. I came home and had a go at the chords used in the song again and found I had learnt several useful tips. Isn’t that the point of a workshop? Well done, Coady.