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Thread: Chord Shape Names

  1. #1
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    Default Chord Shape Names

    Just like string naming conventions, chord shapes have been given different names by books. For example, the basic F major chord (2010), where the nut might be considered the barre, is sometimes called the F shape by some as it is moved up and down the fretboard. Another book calls it the G shape, perhaps because G major is a common chord. Brad Bordessa in his very nice "Ukulele Chord Shape" book doesn't give it a name but shows it as a G#.

    I realize the name is irrelevant to using the concept of moveable shapes, but am curious if one style of a chord shape name is used more than another. How would you tell a ukulele friend over the phone that you're moving the "XXX Shape" up or down a fret or two?

  2. #2

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    The chord shape names are different depending on the tuning. 2010 is only a F in GCEA and is only a G in ADF#B.
    Last edited by dgame; 11-14-2020 at 12:48 PM.

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    I had a minor revelation some time ago that G was the F shape, but the cognitive dissonance of thinking about a three finger chord being the extension of a two finger chord just blew my mind.

    The G shape itself isn't very movable, although I'm sure some people can do it. I try to practice with a barre, playing the C, F, G, and Am shapes (sometimes Dm). But the barre makes it tricky. It is easier to move the F shape up two frets instead.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ubulele View Post
    The most common convention which is consistent is to name movable shapes according to the chord they play when moved all the way down to the nut. Some variances exist when the chord root is not a common one in the most common keys; instead, some people will use the next higher root. So rather than call the movable n:1014 minor shape C#m, some will call it Dm instead. I myself think of it as a "Cm" shape, since it's just like C but with the 3rd dropped a fret--making it not playable at the nut, but thinking in generic patterns is more important to me. Actually, I think of it as a 3rd string [root] shape, which avoids all the other "what do you call it" differences, though you can also play a 3rd string minor triad using the shapes n:2210 and n:0432, if you're high enough on the neck. Admittedly, the naming of movable shapes is a tricky referential problem.

    Then there's the problem that some players think mainly in D or G tuning. The movable shapes are all the same, but these people would give them different fixed-position names. Because of this, referring to the shapes by root string is the clearest method--it works the same whichever fleas tuning you're using--but of course you'd have had to learn the root position in all your chord shapes. As you should have: it's the best preparation for applying generic patterns, visualizing "skeleton" paths to help recall chord progressions, moving up the neck, deriving other chord shapes, transposing, and adapting to other fleas tunings.

    Yes, I that is about the same the way I think about it. The root is most important and a great first step, but I've found that knowing the 3rd and 5th (especially on the 1st and 2nd strings) for three note chords is almost as important for each shape. It makes some chord/melodies a little easier for me to understand and also helps me to work toward creating my own chords around a melody.

    For practice, I sometimes play the three shapes (major and minor) using the roots of the most common keys for positioning, and then the same thing using the 3rd, and then the 5th.

    This is getting a little far from my op question. I was only thinking about GCEA when I asked the question. As usual, simple questions may need complicated answers.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ubulele View Post
    I use the movable G shape (n:0232) a lot, though mainly when I'm using a linear tuning, where the sound of the movable G and F shapes is very different. But I play it as a four-finger chord, not as a barre or partial-barre shape. The shape is a little awkward, but I find it indispensable. First master it in the middle of the fretboard, where the index stretch is less, then move it down as you get more comfortable with it.
    I'll have to give that a try, as I've never thought of using a movable G. But I DO find the G7 shape to be very useful as a movable chord, especially when you want a closed form of A7 and it's easier to reach the G7 form at 2434 then the E7 form up at 6757.
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    I’ve always thought of it this way: first, one has to settle on a tuning, for example GCEA. Then one considers the Nut to be the same as one’s finger(s). That means, for example, that the open strings playing a C6 (or Am7 depending on context) is the “Shape” of a Full Barre chord as one goes up the fretboard; C#6, D6, D#6, etc. Likewise, a Nut plus one finger Chord, such as Am, A7, or C7 takes the Chord Shape name of that chord, as it is moved up the fretboard with the aid of a Barre above, becoming successively higher chords. And from there, always starting at the Nut, one identifies two, or three, finger chords, and gives each the “Shape” name of that chord closest to the Nut. Note, the Nut alway plays a role defining one or more notes. In such manner, every Chord Shape, i.e. every Chord, can be identified. For example, the four finger F#7 is seen as an E7 shape, where the Nut accounts for E in the chord. Once the “Shape” of each chord is understood, it is only a matter of moving that shape up the fretboard to play successively higher chords.
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    These are the 4 moveable Major chord shapes that I use.

    I'd call the shape #1 "Root on the 4th (1st)".
    Shape #2 is "Root on the 3rd".
    Shape #3 is "Root on the 3rd (1st)".
    Shape # 4 is "Root on the 2nd".

    chord shapes.jpg

  8. #8
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    In my guitar class, the "shape" referred to the open chords. So, I would call chords based on 2010 F chord (as in the OP), F chord shape.

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    Maybe I'm dense, but I think I am missing something here. I would call 2010 F, of course. But if I moved it up a fret I would call it F#. And if I moved it another fret I would call it G. Am I missing something?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    Maybe I'm dense, but I think I am missing something here. I would call 2010 F, of course. But if I moved it up a fret I would call it F#. And if I moved it another fret I would call it G. Am I missing something?
    The G you describe can be referred to the F shape on the second fret. So someone might say play the F shape on the fourth fret to get an A chord. Or play an A shape (2100) on the third fret to get a C chord. So the OP is asking how the naming convention on the original chord is named. Some might say play the A shape on the third fret while others might say play a Bb shape on the third fret. Same result but why do some call it an A shape and some a Bb shape?

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