Learning chords is quite possibly one of the easiest ways to become a better ukulele player and learn more songs.
While some beginners and students find chords easy to pick up, it can take a little longer for. There’s no right or wrong – practice is par for the course, no matter how developed your instinct may be.
In this guide, we’ll be looking specifically at the D minor chord and how to play it. You should have it mastered by the end of this guide if you put in the work.
How To Play The Dm Chord
The Dm chord is an open chord, so it’s not too hard to play (there is a barred version of the chord too). But it does require three fingers – index, middle, and ring (and that can mean a bit of cramming – getting all your fingers arranged in a tight space).
Let’s start with your index finger. Place it on the first fret of the second string. Next, place your middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string. Finally, place your ring finger on the second fret of the third string.
It may seem odd arranging your fingers in this way, but this approach should be considered conventional.
Since you are using three fingers at once, the main thing to watch out for are muted notes. Besides the fourth string, all other strings are at risk of being muted by another finger. For instance, if your ring finger so much as comes slightly in contact with the second string, it will come out sounding muted.
If you do find that your fourth string is deadened or muted, it probably means you’re not applying enough pressure with your middle finger.
Either way, the main way to avoid muting is to arch / curl your fingers. Utilize your finger joints to create a greater “curve” over the individual strings, and this should minimize muted / dead notes. Play each string independently so you can hear whether any notes are muted and not coming through clearly.
Finally, be sure to make the chord, break the chord, and repeat. This is the best way to learn new chords. Also, once you get the hang of it, try transitioning from the Dm chord in and out of other chords.
What Is The Dm (D Minor) Chord?
The Dm chord is considered an open chord. It doesn’t require any barring (barre chords are where you lay one of your fingers flat across multiple strings to fret all of them). As well, with Dm, the first string can be left “open,” which is why it’s called an open chord.
The three notes in a Dm chord are D, F, and A.
Besides being an open chord, Dm is also a minor chord. Minor chords are characterized by a dark, sad, or incomplete sound.
Still, songs in major keys tend to sound happy even if they contain minor chords, and songs in minor keys tend to sound sad, even if they contain major chords. So, how a chord sounds depends a lot on the context in which it is used.
You will see the Dm chord appearing most commonly in the keys of Dm, and the relative major key, F. But you will see Dm show up in other keys too.
We’re going to be looking at several songs that utilize the chord below so you can get some practice with it!
What Songs Use The Dm Chord?
With the keys of Dm and F being especially popular across pop and rock genres, there are no shortage of famous, well-known, popular songs utilizing the Dm chord – especially classics.
Here are several you can try for yourself. These are well worth picking up.
“Layla (Unplugged)” by Eric Clapton
Stemming from the electrified original Derek and the Dominos version, Eric Clapton reprises “Layla,” this time with an acoustic guitar. From the opening notes of the Unplugged concert, it was clear Clapton was going for a pure acoustic vibe, in contrast to his peers who used MTV Unplugged as an opportunity to play the same songs the same way, except with acoustic instruments.
All that to say – “Layla (Unplugged)” lives on in legendary status. When you think of songs that utilize the Dm chord, it’s hard not to think of this one.
The version shown in the video, believe it or not, is the simplified, strummed version (but boy are there a lot of chords in this song, thanks to key changes!). If you aspire to more complex versions that follow the movement of Clapton’s playing a little more closely, they’re out there too!
“Sultans Of Swing” by Dire Straits
Speaking of Clapton’s peers, Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler is another inevitable reference point – especially when it comes to this classic tune – “Sultans Of Swing.”
Most of the song can be played with just two chords. But as with most songs, it has both easier and harder versions. Knopfler is known for his intricate fingerpicking style, and in a tune like “Sultans Of Swing,” he rarely plays the same fill twice!
The version below is decidedly intermediate and will require you to play the barred versions of some chords. If you want to practice up with open chords first, though, there’s no harm in that. Both simpler and harder versions are out there.
“Careless Whisper” by George Michael
One of George Michael’s most remembered ballads is surely this – “Careless Whisper.” The “key of Dm is the saddest key” might be nothing more than an invention of parody band Spinal Tap, but “Careless Whisper” seems to give some credence to this notion.
This song is covered and emulated frequently – either in a more serious capacity, or to comedic effect. Either way, it only speaks to its overall greatness.
The ukulele version you see in the video is awesome, as it duplicates the melodic hook of the song, which was originally played on the alto sax. But this version is for intermediate players and above. Try strumming along before you attempt the fingerpicking if you’re not comfortable with it.
“White Room” by Cream
We seem to be having a hard time getting away from Eric Clapton, but it Dm is one of his go-to keys – it could be because it was a good key for him and Cream bassist Jack Bruce to sing in. Either way, it’s hard to argue with a timeless classic like “White Room.”
The version seen in the video is quite creative in its delivery, but it’s simple enough that most ukulele players – even beginners – should be able to figure it out. The hardest part is probably the sheer number of chords required to play the song.
“Another Brick In The Wall” by Pink Floyd
Speaking of bands that had a lot of songs in the key of Dm or D, Pink Floyd’s conceptual approach to writing and recording music led them to create tracks that segued and flowed effortlessly into each other, and that means the tracks spanning an entire album could be the same, or in similar key signatures.
But there’s nothing obscure about the approach, because even The Beatles, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Green Day wrote concept albums and still had hits.
“Another Brick In The Wall” is easy, and it may well be the best song for beginners to start with. It only requires four open chords to be able to play.
How To Play D Minor Chord On Ukulele, Final Thoughts
Once you’ve figured out Dm, be sure to learn all other chords in the key – Edim, F, Gm, Am, Bb, and C. Diminished chords can be weird, mind you, so you can always leave Edim for later.
This will allow you to play more freely in the keys of Dm and F, since F is the relative major of Dm, Dm is the relative minor of F. So, play lots, be patient, and have fun. Chords can take time, but they are worth it!