View Full Version : Six Magic Chords

11-10-2010, 12:37 PM
Bought a copy of Six MAgic Chords for Ukulele on eBay. It's a 1965 work that offers basic lessons in playing the uke, tuning, and a couple of dozen songs using no more than six chords (the songs only have two to four in neach).

These are G, D7, G7, C, F and A7 (for ADF#B tuning - would be F, G7, F7, Bb, Eb and A7 for those in C tuning). No minor chords.

Not a great songbook, but it's an interesting idea - to compile a book with songs using only a very few chords. Anyone know of any others like this?

So if you were to write such a book, how many chords would you choose? And what would they be?

What is the minimal number of chords you think a uke player needs to learn to get started playing?

11-10-2010, 01:58 PM
To get started I teach C, F, G7 and work with the movement, strums, and plucking. Mary had a little lamb is C - F and you can play the melody on the first two strings within the first three frets.

Let's see. . . C, Cm, F, Fm, G7, Am, D, D7 G, Gm, A, A7, G, Bm, Em would cover I, IV, and V in C, G, and D as well as having IV minor available. Later you could introduce ii minor for those keys, useful harmonic movement.

This would open up some lessons about theory that would make sense in the context as well as give a relative minor for each key. Additionally, since you'd have more than 3 keys all the 2 and 3 chord songs wouldn't all sound the same.

Hippie Dribble
11-10-2010, 03:38 PM
g'day Ian...I'm pretty sure Aaron Keim put out a book a year or two back full of 2 chord songs..

For me though, I think you need at least 3...the ones you mentioned...plus C7, A7 and D7 to make 6...this would give you are fair bit more elbow room

Also though, I think it necessary to learn Bb, F7 and C7, as well as G major and E7...then it opens up lots of tin pan alley and show tunes, and some blues

Thing is though, you can never know too many chords...every player needs, in my opinion, the ability to play all the majors, minors, 7th and and diminished chords at least, to really give some dynamic and light and shade to their playing

...not sure I'd even be interested in a songbook with only 5 chords...

If I were to recommend a songbook to any new player, it'd be any one of Pete Seeger's: simple but just enough to stretch a learning player, and now, with "The Daily Ukulele" just published, that'd be the next I'd recommend!!

cheers mate!

11-12-2010, 02:16 AM
...with "The Daily Ukulele" just published, that'd be the next I'd recommend!!

cheers mate!
I've seen the ads for it. Have to look into it and see what it has.

11-12-2010, 04:00 AM
Sounds cool. By the way, a cool two-chord song for teaching purposes, one that gets beyond the Mary Had a Little Lamb, is Eleanor Rigby, which is C and Em - there are actually a couple of other C variations in it, but close enough for a beginning player and easy chords to boot. Mike

11-12-2010, 05:35 AM
Hi Ian

If I may pick 8 chords, I would go with

C D F G (4 major chords) and Am, Dm, Em, and Bm (4 minor chords). That would cover almost any folk songs in key of C and G. The 1-6-2-5 will be C - Am - Dm - G and G - Em - Am - D. Throw in the "4" chord of F and C. In this set, I'm advocating to play 7th chord with a plain chord, ie, instead of G7, play G.

In the above set, if you want to narrow down to 6, I'd drop Em and Bm since these require barring.


11-12-2010, 10:15 AM
I had this idea, see, of putting together a group book, organized by the number of chords in each song. There would be a section for two-chord songs, one for three-chords songs, four, etc. With a page in front of each showing the chords, alternatives to the base chords, transposed versions and so on. But I didn't want to go above six (or possibly eight) chords in any one song. To simplify things, it would be nice if all the songs progressed from the first two. For example, if the first two chords as C and F, then the next three might be C F G, then C Am F G and so on.

11-13-2010, 02:59 AM
What a good idea!

02-22-2011, 11:27 AM
Ive heard a number of old timey blues songs they played in one chord!

02-22-2011, 11:54 AM
I like to start my students with 2 chord songs.
The problem is with young folks, they seem to want to learn songs from the radio.
My adult students are comfortable with "Everybody Loves Saturday Night" and "Buffalo Gals"
I try and get students to hear chord changes, 2 chord songs are the easiest because whatever chord you are on when you hear a change go to the other.
With a 3 chord song song they have a 50/50 chance of going to the right chord.

After we have a few 2 chord songs down I then add a third chord. I try and stick with key of C. (C,F & G(7))
As we move on I add a few more chords and we begin to play the same songs in different keys.

The most chords I teach in a song is "Five Foot Two", I like to expose them to the circle of 5ths.
I usually do this in at least 2 keys in the beginning class.

Ukulele JJ
02-22-2011, 01:43 PM
You could easily do a book of nothing but I-IV-V7 songs. In fact, you could just write them that way on the chart. Or better yet, go with the Nashville technique of using Arabic numbers: 1, 4, and 5(7).

In the front of the book, you'd put the chords that correspond with the numbers in various keys. Beginners could start out with C, F, and G7... the first three chords you probably ever learn. That's all you'd need to play the whole book!

After you've had your fill of the key of C, the next step would be the key of G (G, C, D7). You'd use the same charts and play the same songs. Only you'd use a different team of three chords. Best of all, you'd be thinking of them in terms of their function in the scale. That's training the old earbones.

Then move to the keys of F, A, etc.


Paul Cote
02-22-2011, 03:52 PM
I had been playing Hot Tamales and they're red hot http://ukulelehunt.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/redhot.pdf as I think the chord progression in that is great and then moved to Sunny Afternoon but sunny afternoon's progressions sort of includes chords that go with the actual melody which are omitted in some versions so there are 14 chords in this one but this one sounds great: http://www.alligatorboogaloo.com/uke/tabs/030705-1.html .

IDK bout six magic chords. I think learning songs is more important than learning chords. also I am finding that in a lot of songs, I like to find alternate voicings of the chord because a song that looks hard, because of the hard changes ... even with published chord figures in it ... , if you do a little research, you can find that instead of having hard transitions, a lot of chords that come in order can be played with the same or real similar shape with easier transitions! ... so I am tending to do some research and not necessarily just using the printed chords shapes for a song instead of relying on the charts provided.

Paul Cote
02-22-2011, 04:08 PM
The daily ukulele is such a book with minimal chords in the songs. Sunny afternoon is in daily ukulele but instead of 14 chords as in ukulele boogaloo instead it has your six, Am, G7, C E7, A7, D7

02-22-2011, 09:00 PM
Glen Rose wrote a thin book for Jazz ukulele and he reckoned you only need about a half dozen chords to play anything. there is a you tube lesson just search glenrosejazz.

to play jazz guitr you only need ten moveable chords, so i would guess the same is true of uke

02-23-2011, 01:30 AM
There was another book in the series called "Four Magic Chords" and I've seen more recent books with a mere three chords. Me, I can't do without a dozen to cover the majority of the songs I play.

02-23-2011, 03:22 AM
There's a great comedy bit that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks used to do when they did the 2000 Year old Man series. Reiner is visiting a coffee house and encounters a Folk Guitarist by the name of "Charlie Grape" (Mel Brooks) When asked to play, Brooks plays a bunch on songs using his very limited ability. He can only play an "A." LOL I guess that's a place to start...