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  UKULELE TIPS No. 1 - The CAGFD System

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  CAGFD - A brief explanation and WORKSHOP information

Online video versions of this one-hour workshop and our "Hot Strumming" Workshop are now available as a Reward for pledging to the crowdfunding campaign for our new album, "The Universe Will Provide".
Visit for all the details!

Here's a Video of Bosko talking about the CAGFD System for Ukulele, from Jim D'Ville's fantastic interview series "3 Questions", where he asks ukers, famous or not, about their approach to the uke...


Bosko & Honey offer a 50 minute workshop on the CAGFD System. Here is a description of the workshop:

The C-A-G-F-D System for Ukulele (Intermediate)

Bosko will take you through this very useful and logical system for understanding the ukulele fretboard.

Discover how knowledge of 15 basic chord shapes will enable you to work out every Major, Minor and Dominant 7 chord in existence.

You will then be able to play each of these chords in 5 different positions along the ukulele neck!
That's a bargain 180 chord positions for the price of 15!

All without recourse to a chord book....

CAGFD Workshop
Please email us with any workshop queries
  Part 1 - Chord shapes you need to know
Firstly, there are only 5 chord shapes you will need to know in order to be able to play ANY Major chord that exists! The same goes for minor and Dominant 7 chords
This means you only have to memorise 15 chord shapes to play any chord in these groups... Really.

Let's start with the table below.

The 1st row of "chord boxes" represents the Major chords:
C Major, A Major, G Major, F Major and D Major.

The 2nd row are the minor chords you need to know:
C minor, A minor, G minor, F minor and D minor.

Similarly, the 3rd row represents the Dominant 7 chords (sometimes called "seven" chords):
C7, A7, G7, F7 and D7.

You will note the order I've laid these out is the same for each row, : CAGFD, and it is important to remember this order.
I remember it by saying "Cag-fud"

Now let's move on to the "CAGFD" system proper...
1#Part 1 - Chord shapes you need to know
  The CAGFD system for ukulele
In the diagram below you see 3 rows, each representing the fretboard of your ukulele.
Let's look at the first fretboard, labeled "MAJOR"...

This is actually a map of the C Major chord in all 5 positions on your ukulele fretboard.
(The circles with a dot in the middle also represents the "root". In this case the root is C...)
Above this fretboard you can see the same major chord-diagrams we just went through - in the same order: C, A, G, F and D.
The difference here is the chords have been turned into "closed" shapes (except for C, which happens to be in open 1st position).
"Closed shape" means: what were open strings in 1st position have been "fingered" in order to play the same shape in a higher position (the lowest fret in the chord is where the "nut" would be in an "open" chord).

The other important difference to note is that these are SHAPES, not chord NAMES... as you will see:

Let's start with the "C shape".
Play C as indicated by both the "C Shape" diagram and the fretboard map (3000).
This is a C Major chord, played using a "C Shape".

Next move up to the "A Shape" (as indicated by the "A Shape" diagram), in the position as indicated on the fretboard map (3345).
This is a C Major chord, played using an "A Shape"

Next comes the "G Shape". Look at the chord diagram and finger that shape in the corresponding position indicated by the fretboard map (7875)
This is a C Major chord, played using a "G Shape".

Do the same for the "F Shape" - ie, barre the 7th fret and finger as indicated (7879).
This is a C Major chord, played using an "F Shape".

Next is the "D shape" (10 12 12 12).
This is a C Major chord, played using a "D shape".

As we've reached the 12th fret, everything begins again.
Therefore if we wanted to start with the "C Shape" again, we would have to use a closed C shape:
(15 12 12 12).

So, to summarise: you have just played the C Major chord in 5 positions using 5 different shapes.
As you ascend the neck, the order those shapes fall is ALWAYS: C, A, G, F, D. Or if you don't start with C, it could be: G, F, D, C, A etc...

Try applying the same principles to the Minor Chord map, and the Dominant 7 map.
You will discover the same applies:
5 shapes for the C minor chord, and 5 shapes for the C7 chord...

We'll continue with Part 2 of the explanation below...
2#The CAGFD system for ukulele
  CAGFD system Part 2
So, hopefully you've now worked out how to play C Major, C minor and C7 - each in 5 positions using 5 different shapes.

The groovy bit is that this process applies to any open chord you already know - not just C...

So, Try playing A major in open position (0012)
You are actually playing A Major, using an "A shape"
In our CAGFD system, this chord should be repeated up the fretboard 4 more times using the same order of shapes.
According to CAGFD, after A comes... G.
Thus, referring to the fretboard map, you will find the next A major chord can be found using a "G Shape" (4542), the next an "F shape" (4546), the next a "D Shape" (7999), then a "C Shape" (12 9 9 9), then the "A Shape" again (12 12 13 14)...

The same process applies to working out the 5 shapes for G, F and D Major...
Just start with the open chord, and follow the CAGFD fretboard map!

Take your time getting comfortable with this concept, and learn where the shapes join, so they begin to fall under your fingers, and you can play them in order up the neck; for C, A, G, F and D... in Major, minor and Dominant 7 forms....

The next step is to discover how to find and play ANY Major, minor and Dominant 7 chord (not just C,A,G,F and D) in 5 different positions without ever referring to a chord book again!

Consider the following diagram (Part 3)
3#CAGFD system Part 2
  CAGFD Part 3
The diagram above represents the notes of the western chromatic scale.

To play a C Major scale on the 3rd string (C string) of your uke, you would play:
C, D, E, F, G, A and B before returning to C.
This translates as fingering the following frets on the C string:
0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11 before returning to C (fret 12).

The interval between a fret and the next one up is called a SEMI-TONE.
The interval between a fret and the second fret up is called a TONE.

If you imagine the vertical lines on the diagram are like frets, you can see the following intervals:
C to D = tone, D to E = tone, E to F = semitone, F to G = tone, G to A = tone, A to B = tone, B to C = semitone.

So, the intervals of any major scale are:
tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone...

You will notice that for the C Major scale, the ONLY semitone intervals are E to F, and B to C.
This makes it easy to remember: BC and EF - all the other intervals are tones (2 frets).

So, how does this help us?

Well, say you need to play C#Major (or Db)...
You already know how to play C Major in 5 different positions using the CAGFD system, and from the diagram above you can see that C# is one fret above C (a semitone).
So all you have to do is take any of the five C chords (using the C, A, G, F and D Shapes) and move them up one fret, and you have 5 different ways of playing C#Major (note, you'll have to "barre" the open C Shape - 4111).

If you move these C#Major chords up another semitone (fret), you will have 5 different ways (shapes) of playing a D Major chord.
To play E Major, move the D Major chords up 2 frets...
To play F Major, you move the E Major chords up only 1 fret (remember there is only a semitone between E and F).

Of course you can also calculate in the other direction, by stepping "down" instead of "up".
Try it with the assistance of the two diagrams above...

Thus, from this process you can extrapolate ANY Major chord, and apply the same principles to the minor and Dominant 7 chords.
It may take a while to get your head around, but once you do, not only will you have access to all the main chords, you will be able to play them in multiple voicings... giving you a much greater choice of expression.

If you "get" this, you can try figuring out the fretboard map to extended chords like Major 7 and minor 7 etc... the system will be the same (except you will find there are only 4 useable shapes for these - but more on that some other time!)
I've included fretboard chart below with only the root (C) marked if you'd like to make a start...

Hope this has been helpful!
If you have any questions (or feedback/corrections etc) please email me and I'll get back to you.

More tips to come, maybe not such heavy ones next time!

4#CAGFD Part 3