Free Slack Key Ukulele Chord Charts and Diagrams (GCEG & Baritone DGBD)
A couple of weeks ago, I released my very own set of standard GCEA and baritone DGBE ukulele chord sheets. I did so partially to make a set of charts that fit my own requirements, but also as a trial run for the software I’d written to generate arbitrary chord diagrams.
To be honest though, my real goal wasn’t to create yet another set of standard charts- what I really wanted was a set of charts for slack-key, or open tuned, ukulele. See, I’ve wanted to try my hand at slack-key ukulele for some time now, but search as I might, I haven’t been able to find a single chord chart online for GCEG, or taropatch tuning. I figured somebody must have done it by now, but all anyone says is “look at slack-key guitar, ignore two strings and transpose” or “just move your 1st string fingering up two frets”.
I turned to books, and bought Mark Kailana Nelson’s “The Uke Buke… Learn to Play Slack Key Style ‘Ukulele”. Not a bad book, but it didn’t even have any chord charts! I bought David Heaukulani’s “Ukulele Slack Key”, which had quite a set of chords in the back, but unfortunately they’re really hard to read- they look like they were photocopied, resized and run through the washing machine. I bought Ondrej Sarek’s “Open Tunings for Ukulele”, which finally had legible GCEG diagrams, but so very few of them.
So I bit the bullet and using the books along with the wonderful ChordFind, I created a new set of diagrams for both ukes tuned GCEG (GCEA with the A string slacked) and DGBD (DGBE with the E string slacked):
Like my previous charts, the first two are each a single letter-sized page (8.5″ x 11″) and contain 120 chords each. The third has both sets of chords, each tuning on half of a single letter-sized page, designed to be folded or cut in half.
And again, like my earlier charts, these are all under licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Of course, the package wouldn’t be complete without giving away the individual chord images I generated, for you to do with as you will:
Enjoy and happy (slack) strumming!
P.S. The hardest part of making these charts was my lack of slack-key experience- all I had to work with was chord theory, my own ear and some online tools. I’m sure there are many playing style factors like common shortcuts and chord substitutions that I didn’t take into consideration. (Part of the problem I had with David’s book was that he went ahead and made a lot of the substitutions for you without telling- many of the chords were inaccurate or incomplete flavors of what they’d been labeled as.)
So in making these charts, I altered my previous design rules slightly. First, I went for accuracy over keeping close to the nut, which means more barres and working higher up the fret board. Also, since the outer strings are both the same note, you can swap the fingerings for each and still have the same chord. For these charts I chose the chord shape that was easiest for me to play strumming. However, in slack-key style, which is fingerpicking heavy, the two strings are usually an octave apart, which is something to keep in mind if the music isn’t sounding right.
Finally, like I said before, there are a bunch of substitutions that I don’t know, especially as they relate to fingerpicking patterns, so when looking at tabs or sheet music for actual slack-key arrangements, don’t be surprised if the chords don’t match up exactly. Trust the arrangement, and if you’re a stickler for accuracy (like me), use my charts to look up the actual chord you were playing.