Christopher Davis-Shannon, aka the Tinman, has a website with playalongs of old-time tunes as well as various tutorials and Uke Minutes with different tips and techniques, including singing whilst playing, practice exercises, strumming methods, picking patterns, chord melody, using a metronome and showboating tricks:.
His latest YouTube series 12 Keys In 12 Weeks (#12Keys12weeks) gets you playing a different scale each week. He provides a number of exercises, including a little melody up the scale for each one using broken – arpeggiated – chords that ‘fit’ within that key by containing just notes from that specific scale (known as a chord family).
In the first video, below, he is demonstrating C major – check the original YouTube page for links in the description for his free worksheets (and more detailed lessons on scales and chords within them). As he progresses, he’s starting to add in different chord voicings to get you to follow the melody notes and play further up the neck. By the end of the series you should be more confident at playing in any key.
Should you want to understand a little more how he arrives at the chords for each scale, have a quick look at a Circle of Fifths.
If you’re playing in the key of C major, take all the chords nearest C on the wheel in a little ‘L’ shape. These chords are made up from the same notes that you’ll find in that specific scale. Go through the letters alphabetically from C right round to C again to get the whole scale.
When playing chords in this key, the letters on the outside are major chords, the ones on the inside are minor ones and the one out on the leg of the ‘L’ is a diminished chord (dim7 or sometimes written as °):
C major – D minor – E minor – F major – G major – A minor – B dim – C major
For G major, you’ll get: G major – A minor – B minor – C major – D major – E minor – F# dim – G major
For D major, you’ll get: D major – E minor – F# minor – G major – A major – B minor – C# dim – D major
And so on, round the wheel in the same way for each different key.
See more of our posts covering improving your chord playing; musical keys, the PLUC Transposing Tool and other PLUC Weekend Workouts. Original Circle of Fifths diagram from Wikipedia’s public domain images.
Here’s Christopher, with the first video in the series – C major: