quickstart for guitar players (dgbe tuning) on ukulele (gcea tuning)

quickstart for guitar players (dgbe tuning) on ukulele (gcea tuning)

i would assume it is commonly known that guitar and ukulele have some things in common – apart from the 8-shape. i am referring to the tuning intervals of the strings.
standard guitar tuning is eadgbe, standard ukulele tuning is gcea – and believe it or not: the string intervals are the same :-). ukulele is just tuned a bit higher than the top 4 strings of a guitar; baritone ukulele is the exception from the rule and tuned to guitar pitch completely.

quick excursion regarding vocabulary:
a chord is a group of notes in certain intervals. it contains the same notes on any instrument – in other words: this is what you hear.
a pattern (or shape) is the group of finger positions on the fretboard which creates a certain chord – in other words: this is what you do.

this similarity has some fretting advantages especially for people switching back and forth between guitar and ukulele:

  • guitar and baritone uke patterns are identical. whatever you do on the top 4 guitar strings to fret e.g. a c chord is exactly what you need on the bari for a c chord.
  • gcea chord patterns can easily be used on guitar (or bari), all you need is a capo in 5th fret. this doesn’t work the other way round unfortunately. if you use gcea patterns on a bari without capo your chords are different, namely 5 semitones lower (a c pattern will produce a g chord). as long as you play on your own this is no problem at all, but what if all you have is a bari or guitar in a group of guitar players?

so what could you gcea player do when trying out a bari? sure, you could force the different names for the known patterns into your head. but that’s probably a rather tedious task. the other option is pretty simple (somehow cheating – but who cares? as long as it sounds ok…): assuming you are familiar with gcea patterns and your mind has no problems translating a “c” on the chord sheet to the 0003 pattern you could use the transposition table below to rewrite the chords on your chord sheet.

the correct pattern for the c chord in dgbe tuning is 2010 – this pattern should be known to your brain as “f” pattern. grab your chord sheet and change all c’s in chords to f, change all d to g, etc.
an experienced bari player will now sound way off when using your chord sheet – but you gcea guy can now easily get along on the bari.

best of all: this works both ways. if you want to play along with a guitar/bari transpose the chord letters on your chord sheet (f to c, g to d, etc.) and you’re done.

ADF#Bdd#

eb

eff#

gb

gg#

ab

aa#

bb

bc
c pattern in adf#b
c#

db

GCEAc
c pattern in gcea
c#
db
dd#
eb
eff#
gb
gg#
ab
aa#
bb
b
DGBEgg#
ab
aa#
bb
bc
c pattern in dgbe
c#
db
dd#
eb
eff#
gb

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