In my specific case, I have a baritone ukulele which I tuned to all-fourths (personal preference), making its strings match the lower 4 strings of the standard guitar tuning (G4-D4-A3-E3). It also matches the strings of the standard bass tuning, just 2 octaves higher.

I would like to find out how to play chords on it. I know some music theory, and could definitely build all the chords I want on this tuning myself, using some laborious and exhaustive fret-searching. But I don't want to do that.

Is there a simple, theoretical method to write down chords for strings using a specific tuning? Some pen-and-paper method, based on the circle of fifths?

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    Could you clarify: do you already know guitar/bass chords? Or ukulele chords? As your tuning is the same as a bass then: ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91fbPrKhMpL._SL1500_.jpg Or are you asking if there is a generalised system where given any tuning you can work out chords on the fly? Given that there are a limited number of 'standard' tunings (all fourths, all fifths) and that these are already 'mapped', I think that if you just search for 'chord charts' you should be able to find what you need. – ChristopheLynch Jun 9 '16 at 12:02
  • I was asking about a generic method to build chords for any arbitrary tuning, yes. But the link you gave solves my specific case indeed, since I've tuned the ukulele exactly as the bass. I don't know guitar chords, and I never thought to play chords on the bass (nor search on the Internet). Thank you. – CamilB Jun 9 '16 at 12:13
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    I see, firstly I'm glad the chord chart helps, there are many (free!) resources on the internet. Secondly, consider looking at what intervals are present in a chord and what intervals are easy to play on your instrument, then it's a case of matching playable intervals to chords. E.g. you can play a major chord with the intervals 1-3-5-8ve, and when tuned in 4ths you can fret the tonic, fifth, 8ve and 10th (compound 3rd), each on a different string. This can be translated to any fret, but you should try other voicings too for variety. Experiment with different intervals and open strings. – ChristopheLynch Jun 9 '16 at 14:15

Sounds like you need to check any guitar chord charts, and only consider the bottom 4 strings shown. For some it won't be too satisfactory, as often with open chords, the 6th and sometimes 5th strings are not played (usually because that's where the root should be). The voicings may or may not be to your satisfaction, but the chords are playable straight from the charts.

  • Hmmm. I was expecting some transformations to be required. Glad to hear it's that easy. – CamilB Jun 9 '16 at 12:23
  • But is there any methodical way to generate chords if I would instead tune the instrument to some arbitrary tuning? Like 3rd-4th-5th, for example (maybe impractical). – CamilB Jun 9 '16 at 12:26
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    With only 4 strings to finger, you may well be able to find fitting notes when the bottom two strings are 'disallowed'. E.g. use lowest string, 2nd fret with Dmaj. – Tim Jun 9 '16 at 12:26

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