Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ukulele Dm7 chord - tips and alternatives

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That pesky Dm7 chord shows up in a lot of ukulele tunes.  It's especially prevalent in songs in the key of C.  It can be hard to transition to this chord due to the crowded space.

From everything I've seen, the suggested fingering method for the Dm7 is to place your middle finger on the G string (2nd fret), your ring finger on the C string (2nd fret), your index finger on the E string (1st fret), and your pinky on the A string (3rd fret).

However, a lot of people (myself included) have learned to play this troublesome chord with that same structure, only with the placement of the middle and ring fingers reversed (so that the ring finger takes the lead on the G string 2nd fret).  Really, it all comes down to how you've learned to finger the Dm chord, which is the same placement minus the pinky finger (the A string is open - 2210).  Coming
from a guitar playing background, I always looked at the ukulele Dm as being very similar to an Am chord on the guitar, which is probably why I started to play it this way.

Another fretting option for the Dm7, which can really only be accomplished if you have bigger fingers, is to fret both the G and the C string (2nd fret) with the same finger (preference seems to be the middle finger).  If you fall into this category, I envy you!  But for the rest of us with small and/or slender fingers, what can we do?  Here's some ideas to help you out....

Practice makes perfect!

Yep.  The age old adage rings true here.  Muscle memory is pretty amazing stuff.  The more you practice fretting this chord (or any chord for that matter), the better you'll get at playing it.  Whichever way you decide is best for you to play this chord, just keep on keepin' on.

Ok, I'm lazy....what about an alternative?

For those that don't have a well of patience (or time) to draw from, you can try your hand at playing a higher Dm7 chord on your ukulele.  Just move up to the 5th fret and bar that fret with your index finger (5555).  You can access a straight Dm chord from this position with ease by placing your ring finger on the G string at the 7th fret (7555).  The F chord isn't too far away from this position either (5558).  The Fmaj7 chord is right there too (5557), as is the F7 (5556).  You get the idea.

Eh, I don't like playing it higher.  I'll keep practicing.  Any other ideas?

Ok, a little theory for ya.  The notes you are playing on a Dm7 are A, D, F, C.  The D is the root, the minor 3rd is the F (the third of D would be an essentially you are flatting the third), A is the fifth of the chord, and C is the seventh.  Why does this matter?  Well, depending on what you're playing, you might be able to get away with leaving one of those notes out of the chord.  Read on.....

Sometimes you can get away with not adding that 7th to the chord and just playing a Dm (2210). By doing this, you are dropping that seventh (in this case, C) down to an A. 

If that doesn't sound right and you really REALLY need that C (seventh) in the chord, you can try playing an F chord with that high C added (2013).  With this, you have taken away the "D" (C string 2nd fret) and dropped it a full step to a C.

One last idea for you - using one of the two "variations" listed above, you can utilize a hammer on technique commonly referred to in the guitar world as "pedaling".  Here's what I mean....

Let's say you are transitioning from a C chord (0003) to a Dm7 chord (2213).  When going to the Dm7, you would form a Dm (2210) with your initial strum and then hammer on the 3rd fret (which would complete your Dm7 chord).  Then you'd just continue to strum that Dm7 until the next chord change.  This same thing can be done with the F chord with the high would hammer on the 2nd fret.

This technique allows you to still practice forming the chord and can give a really cool effect.

I sure hope that all this is making sense and that you continue on your quest to conquer that Dm7.  If you have questions, comments, or other ideas, just leave them in the comments below.  Happy Uke'n!

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