How Do I Define My Own Chords?

(Note: since this was originally posted we’ve added a nifty Visual Chord Builder to the Song Editor, watch a video on how to use this tool or play with the Visual Chord Builder demo

The program already “knows” the most common ukulele chords, but inevitably you’ll encounter ones that aren’t included in Scriptasaurus built-in chord dictionary, or you might prefer your own chord voicing (finger), or you might need two different versions of the same chord (say the first position “standard” A as well as the second position higher A). No problem.

The ChordPro “define” Tag to the Rescue!

Fortunately the Chord Pro Markup already has a tag that allows us to “extend” pre-defined chords, it’s the “define” tag (as in “define a chord”). So doing an alternate fingering is as easy as saying which fret is held for each string, going in order of G-C-E-A strings:

{define: G# frets 1 3 4 3}

G# - frets only

We can improve on this a bit more by including which fingers to use on which fret. Your index finger is 1, your pinky 4. Typically there’s two others between those.

{define: G# frets 1343 fingers 1 2 4 3}

G# with fingerings

You may have noticed that the spaces between the numbers are optional — provided you’re below the 10th fret. If you say frets 1091112 you must use spaces! Say frets 10 9 11 12.

My Song Requires Two Versions of the Same Chord?!

Again, not a problem.

Scriptasaurus is ignorant of chord names so you’re free to name your chords anything you’d like. For example:

[high-G] If we can't beat em [G] we'll have to join 'em
[high-C] Let's stay alive [C] and disappoint 'em

Scriptasaurus “knows” the G and C, but has no clue what a “high-G” or “high-C” is, you need to add them using the define tag.

{define: high-G frets 0 7 7 5 fingers 0 3 2 1}
{define: high-C frets 5 7 0 7 fingers 1 2 0 3}

The resulting output from the above definitions is shown below in figure 4.

sample output for mulitple variant chord definitions
{figure 4} Here’s the output that’s generated for a single song that has multiple fingering diagrams for the same chord, that is, “alternate” fingersings used at different places within a single song.

You can name these anything you’d like — “Painful-G” or “Jake-G” or “Bopsy” — but making the names meaningful facilitates reading your music.

If you include a definition for, say, “A”, then whatever you supply redefines the default “A” chord. You might do this if you prefer a simpler or even more exotic version be used throughout the piece.

How Can I Make a Barre Chord?

Frequently playing a chord is far easier if you just lay a finger across more than one string, in fact, many “impoosible” chords are actually the easiest when played this way. For example: D7. Played with two fingers it’s a cinch!

Barre Chord D7

This is called a “barre” chord (or barr chords). To do this we define the chord this way (for space reasons this is shown on two lines here — you should do it all on a single line):

{define: D7 frets 2 2 2 3 fingers 1 1 1 2 
add: string 4 fret 2 finger 1}

The only “trick” is that the 4th string (the “A”) we show two finger dots, which we’ve done by the “add” portion of the definition. We’ve “added” a dot by indicating its string, the fret, and which finger should be used.

How Can I Indicate Muted Strings?

sample muted strings or power chords from Bad Company
{figure 5} And here’s output (with “inline” option turned on to show the mini-chord diagrams above lyrics). You can see that muted strings have X’s on top fret bar (source: Electric Ukulele Land).

Sometimes a chord only reuires two or three notes. These often appear in rock songs (at least all the really good ones 😀) and are called “Power Chords“. So we need a notation that’ll allow us to show which strings should not be played (or are “muted”). We can do this!

{define: D5 frets 2 2 X X fingers 1 1 2 2}
{define: F5 frets 5 5 X X fingers 1 1 2 2}

C5 - power chord - showing muted strings

Rock songs aren’t, in fact, the only places you’ll need to exclude a string or two, of course. And there are those occasions when it’s necssitated due to the ukulele’s short note range — it simply can’t play all the notes as a piano or guitar would. Muted strings to the rescue.

How you actually “mute” a string — well, you’re on your own there as I’ve tried and so far I’ve been able to “muddy” a note, but never entirely “mute” it.

Which Chords Are Already Defined?

Right now there are about 170 chords pre-defined. I’m working on an easy way to add more, but if you want to see all the chords defined — here ya go!

New chords are added frequently (read: as I encounter them and remember to add them to the master file), so follow UkeGeeks on Twitter, we’ll tweet when new updates are available.