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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #121
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    I've been practicing the problematic strums: clawhammer and travis.

    I made a bit of a discovery. I can now play D minor in the regular fashion. I had always played it by playing an F but flattening my ring finger so that it spread over the G and C strings. The problem with this technique is that it is very tempermental. Depending on factors which I am not quite aware of, somedays it works and somedays it doesn't. Because of gaining competency in other areas, I now have, unbeknownst to me, the ability to play it with three fingers, which is an improvement because by playing it that way no string is ever muted. I never would have guessed at this kind of cross-over. Oh well. I wonder when the m7#5 chords will magically appear in my repetoire.

    There have been some fussy threads around here lately. Fussy sounds bad. Let's call it exacting. I haven't taken part in them because I don't really feel I have anything to add. They don't seem important to me. To wit, they are which A to tune to and at which fret do you tune. These topics do nothing for me but cause me to shrug. I can't even say that I am overly fastidious in my tuning. On my tuner, the pointer points straight up at 12 o'clock when it is pitch perfect. But to be honest I don't even fuss with the pegs as long as the pointer is somewhere between 11 o'clock and one o'clock. As for the 432 A...I think it is mainly psychological. If it floats your boat, go for it. We all do things that are negligible or even untrue because it makes us happy. I have some idiosyncratic views on strings that someone could probably scientifically disprove, but they organize my outlook and make me happy to follow them as precepts. Live and let live.

  2. #122
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    In an old steno notebook I found some investment notes and chord progressions.

    There are two versions of what appears to be 12-bar blues in Bb. It also contains what I recognize as a Be-Bop version of the same. I scratched that out because it is too busy for my tastes.

    What follows is somewhat puzzling. The first thing, at least, appears to be a turnaround. It is an 8-chord progression which could be used in the final two bars of the blues if you gave each chord one beat. Here it is:

    I /\
    vi -7
    ii -7
    V 7
    iii -7
    VI 7
    ii -7
    V 7

    That seems a bit rococo, but I played a blues in C that I know and inserted that progression into the final bars and it works, especially since it has the ii-V-I built into it. It is a bit desultory but it does work.

    Don't ask me what's on the rest of the page because I couldn't say for sure. It is all nice in a listless jazzy kind of way but I don't know if they're turnarounds, intros, free-standing songs, or what. For example, at the bottom of the page there is a 10 chord progression:

    C/\, C7, F/\, F-7, E-7, A7, D-9, G13, C6/9, C/\

    Play it. It is nice. Admittedly I dislike the finger-spread of the F-7 and I actually had to consult my binder to refresh my memory regarding a D-9. Aside from that it is a pretty little progression. I don't know why I wrote it down but it was fun to find it and play it.

    Tomorrow I think I should have a right-hand day. I am feeling like pulling out the re-entrant Kamaka and practicing some clawhammer as well as some arpeggios.

  3. #123
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    I've been getting lazy. I have just been sitting down and playing without a strap. For me that isn't too good because when I do that I tend to tilt the fretboard up so that I can see it. That, in turn, is bad because it then prevents me from playing by touch. There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, except that it is one of my goals not to do that. Therefore, for me it is bad. Plus, playing while standing is better. We sit down way too much--so much so, that our hip flexors and back muscles get contracted and cramped. And if you ever play in public, it will probably be whilst standing, so it is better just to get used to it. In fact, the custom ukulele I commissioned doesn't even have fret markers because I shouldn't be looking at them anyways. I could go on for an extended period of time about what I like about straps, but I will just end with saying that I also like the rhythm of moving and playing.

    Life derailed this, the penultimate day of my holiday weekend. Instead of practicing as I had hoped, I just squeezed in some wanking around with augmented chords and in narrowing down a list of turnarounds I found. Some of them were impractical, or too blase, or not to my taste. I kept four of them.

    1. iii7 VI7 ii7 V7 that's a good, solid turnaround
    2. I/\ bIII7 II7 bII7 this one is a bit goofy with that descending chromatic sound
    3. I/\ bII0 ii7 V7 this one's the same as #1 except the 11th bar has that nice diminished chord
    4. I/\ bII/\

  4. #124
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    I just bought a brand new Blackstar amplifier and it is completely awesome! It is 75 watts and totally solid state. You pick from six tubes to get the head-room, sag, and bias of that tube. Of course, I stuck to the EL84 and 6L6 because they are so traditional to the blues. To be honest, there isn't a lot of difference in those settings. It is more of a tonal nuance. It also has built in distortion, overdrive, reverb, phase, flang, delays, and chorus. In fact, the only things I could possibly want that isn't in the amp is some fuzz and maybe some boost. For my purpose, being a bedroom-practicer--although I never play in the bedroom--this thing is excellent. Maybe if I were allowed to turn the volume above 2, to play a gig or something, then I would hear some flaws...but as it is, it is perfect.

    I played around with the amp for a spell, playing stuff I normally play but with obscene levels of gain, overdrive, and flange. I tuned my uke to an open C and practiced a ton of slide.

    That was the fun stuff, then I had to get back to basics: I did an hour of re-calibrating practice with standing practice. I need to re-train my muscles because the angles are different. So I just played four fret blocks trying to actually hit the strings. Once I nailed that, I practiced the phrygian mode. This is going to take a while.


    Now that I have an awesome amp, I need a totally electric instrument. I am about to order a 4 string cigar box guitar, tuned like a baritone ukulele. I have to special order the fret markers because this luthier is a guitar maker and they have that inexplicable perversity of putting a dot on the ninth fret! Have they no sense of history?

    The sequence of open, 3, 5, 7, 10 is the most essentially American sound that exists. It is the minor pentatonic. The sound the Africans brought with them and which captivated their captors. It is the backbone of the blues, jazz, R & B, and rock and roll. It is the sound that skiffle bands such as the beatles, rolling stones, and Jimmy Page all sought and which they used to invade the airwaves of the United States.

    And it is American, or at least something outside of the European experience. I remember many years ago reading a R.L. Stevenson novel--I think it was Black Arrow--and in it a character was described as a generally good person although when he whistled it was a bit too negroid. And what is negroid? It is having that good old flatted third and seventh that is so much a part of the pentatonic. I had a similar personal experience when I visited a friend for a PhD study group, he had a harpsichord. I sat down and improvised a bit and shocked my friend. Apparently, I use a lot more black keys than he does in his lessons, which undoubtably were along European lines.

    So we need to stand up for the ten-spot! Just play the dots using the 10 (flatted 7th) and then the 9 (sixth). That 9 is so meh. So mayonnaise.

  5. #125
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    Feb 2017
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    I kind of fell off the grid for a while. I have been playing, just not annotating.

    On Monday I expect the arrival of my new "baritone." It is an electric cigar box guitar with a humbucker pickup and the strings tuned like a baritone, DGBE. However, the last communication I had with the builder indicated that he couldn't tune it that way. I don't know what that means. Does that mean with the strings he had on hand that the Chicago-tuning wouldn't work? Surely one can get DGBE, or any other tuning for that matter. We'll see. I am fussy with my instruments voice. I don't like it to change once it is established. I bought some Martin strings, MLJ13 (Retro medium/light). I hope they'll work. They are apparently acoustic guitar strings, but they are nickel and steel and I assume they will work with the magnetic coils. If not, I'll get some bona fide electric strings.

    I have been occupying this space for almost a year now and I looked back at my goals. I am making progress on most of them. Every day there seems to be a new ukulele distraction, but I have been relatively faithful to my goals. The exception to that is my mastery of the fretboard. In my conception of what a musician should be, knowing the instrument is essential. And I don't really know my instrument despite how much time I have spent with it. For example, if someone said play the Lokrian mode in C...I know that I need to do the Lokrian pattern starting on the fifth fret (in linear tuning). However if halfway someone said "Stop! what was that note?" I wouldn't know. I could probably use the pentatonic markers on the fretboard to figure out the note, but I don't actually know it. To address this shortcoming I have been playing the blues modes in Ab, my favorite key. To do all five modes requires the entire fretboard, frets 1-14. And I am being hyper-aware of the note I am playing, so that when I am done doing this I will then know those notes. Combining these notes with those of the marked frets, I will then know the majority of the places on the fretboard for the first 15 frets. I suppose if I wanted to...after I am done with Ab, I could just go up a fret and do the A minor pentatonic from frets 2-15. That would give me a different set of notes to memorize throughout the fretboard. That being said, I just love Ab. It is a scale of all black keys: Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb. I like it because it is the lowest key that doesn't use open strings. I hate open strings. You cannot bend open strings or mute them. Open strings screw up the patterns. Plus, the chords in an Ab blues progression are easy, as long as you mute the 4th string on the Ab.

  6. #126
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    I have Arpeggio Meditations For Ukulele and it got me meditating about arpeggios. I was thinking why can't I arpeggiate extended chords? In this fashion I can play things that I cannot usually play because of having four strings. It is actually an awesome idea (I am sure--absolutely sure--it has already been done but I came up with it as I sat in my library).

    So I took a crazy chord: dom7b5#9, and mapped it out. What's nice is that it is, of course, moveable so that you can play progressions with it. It is also great for improv because you can bust that little five note shape out anywhere. You can also compose with it, as if it were a little scale by using those notes with repetitions and phrasings.

    It is pretty fun and I was about to map out some more variations when I thought: shit, I can't flawlessly play all my first position chords without looking and I don't know my fretboard. I have to get back to some basics.

  7. #127
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    Upon waking up I followed up on my observations of yesterday. I practiced some "fly aways," an exercise I remember from the late Ukulele Mike in which you practice chording by making the chord and then send the hand away from the neck and kind of shake out the muscle memory and repeat. I focused on the white-key chords. The E isn't quite there and there's no need to even talk about the B. Ignoring that praeteritio I think I will note that if I practiced making the A with the middle and ring fingers, then I could slide it down and have my B and Bb. I could do that but it is kind of cheating. It is like using a capo: it is fine if it is an artistic choice, but if it is a necessity, then you suck and need to practice more.

    I then played around with m7b5 arpeggios. I think I've found my sound. I really like these, and by 'these' I mean these non-central chords in arpeggio form. I guess it is kind of jazzy. I like the way the notes almost sound random but with an ever so slight peppering of intentionality. I also like how it doesn't really sound like anyone else (perhaps for a good reason). The challenge, to my ear, of the ukulele is that everything sounds the same. It is as if Nickelback invented the ukulele. Maybe it is because of the timbre of the ukulele or maybe there is an accepted circle of chords and shapes that most arrangers use. I don't know. All I know is that when I hear regular ukulele music I immediately think I am in an elevator. That's one of the motivations for why I do what I do. I fingerpick and focus on techniques borrowed from blues guitar just to exorcise the ghosts of George Formby and Tiny Tim.

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