Two-Chord Christmas Songbook by M Ryan Taylor | Play Ukulele Now : an online course by Dan Scanlan

Review: Chord Melody Method for Uke

I really love the time and attention to detail that went into creating Chord Melody Method for Uke, a book for advancing players. There are a few outright errors and some glaring typos (hence 4 stars), but on the whole, this book is full of good information.

Jerry Moore aims in this book to teach you how to make your own chord melody solos without teaching you much music theory or relying on traditional notation. As a player with a master’s degree in music composition, I personally don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to read music (the system we have has had hundreds of years to develop and is the simplest/quickest way to transmit the musical information of pitch and rhythm), but I know there are those out there that don’t want to touch it, and this book is for them.

Moore notates all the songs in this book with chord diagrams. I personally find a chord diagram for every note to be a little cumbersome, but for teaching the concept of a chord melody solo I can see the advantages – primarily that of designating fingerings on chords with added melody notes. The biggest drawback of the system is that you must know the timing for the songs in this book, as there is no mention of rhythm or attempt to notate it.

So, why four stars if I’m so put out by a ‘chord diagram’ method? Well, because this book will get you past the 5th fret, playing the higher inversions of all the common ukulele chords. Moore begins the book with a series of charts that are simply wonderful, charting all the common chords with inversions up to the 12th fret. Having it laid out so simply before you makes it easy to practice these inversions.

I’ve seen a chart of all the individual notes that can be found on the ukulele fretboard before (which can frankly be a bit overwhelming), but Moore gives you a seperate chart for each note, which is really cool (there is a mistake on the Bb/A# chart that leads you to believe it is notated traditionally where Ab/G# is, oh well). Yes, it takes up a few pages, but it makes it very clear and gives you something to practice rather than just a reference source.

The next set of charts help you transpose music from one instrument to another, offering common chord progressions side by side with charts for guitar, c ukulele, d ukulele and g ukulele (baritone). Useful.

Another set of charts shows clearly the concept of 8 moveable chord formations (4 major chord formations & 4 dominant 7th formations). Another useful reference.

Now that you know all the chord inversions and the various places to find all twelve notes on the fretboard, you’re ready to start the process of making chord melody solos. I’ve often complained that certain author’s ‘methods’ are not methodical at all, but Moore is ultra-methodical; he outlines every step of the process, really more than I needed (as a composer), but I can see the value for someone who does not have my background. Sometimes I feel things could be expedited/quickened up with the use of some traditional notation, but the chord diagramming is Moore’s method and it does work to illustrate this type of soloing.

At the end, there is a nod to tablature, which I think is a less cumbersome way of notating a song without using a staff, but as I said before, you’re then left without fingerings, unless you use the two together.

Anyway, I feel I got a keeper just for the awesome charts and reference materials.

M Ryan Taylor


  1. I have looked at MANY books teaching chord melody and I find they all seem to jump to the end product or show what chords could be used. What i don’t find is the thinking that went into the picking of a chord. It’s the ” why ” of any process that is required to understand and be able to apply it. Can you suggest a book that deals primarily the that part of chord melody ?
    Thank you

    1. I have also seen many chord melody books and this is the only one I’ve seen that attempts to teach you how to make your own from scratch. It may not be perfect (as I point out in the review), but it is sort of one-of-a-kind.

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