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

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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 shapes 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 shapes can easily be used on guitar (or bari), all you need is a capo in 5th fret. if you use gcea shapes on a bari without capo your chords are different, namely 5 semitones higher (a gcea “c” shape will produce an “f” chord on baritone). as long as you play on your own this is no problem at all, but what if all you have is gcea knowledge and only 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#Bd

d#

eb

eff#

gb

g

g#

ab

aa#

bb

bc
c pattern in adf#b
c#

db

GCEAc
c pattern in gcea
c#
db
dd#
eb
ef

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

(chord diagrams kindly provided by ukulele-chords.com)

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