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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #161
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    Work has been getting in the way of my ukulele practice lately. I hate when that happens. So I've just been goofing off before I go to bed. Today I was just strumming a meditative G Phrygian progression (except I substituted F major for F minor as well as used a C m7). It was nice but it got me thinking if I could break up the progression with some improv, or at least a lick,

  2. #162
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    Even though it is snowing in April I was in the spirit of Spring cleaning. The victim was my ukulele notebook. Most people's notebooks have pop songs that they want to keep as part of their repertoire. Mine is more elemental. It contains elements of songs that I think are essential--stuff like scales, modes, chords, etc. However, the notebook had some things that I don't think are essential. To wit, some chords that are against my philosophy. If you check the first entry in this thread, I mentioned that I wanted to create a personal, ukulele-based sound. For me that entails not asking the ukulele to be anything other than a ukulele. When you ask a four-string ukulele to be an eighty-eight key piano, you are just setting yourself up for failure and frustration.

    I'm talking about dom9 chords. They are a five-note chord and the ukulele only has four strings. The ukulele compromises by omitting a note. I don't really like the sound of the chord without its I or V. It sounds etiolated. Plus, I just don't play them. They are a waste of my grey matter.

    So I returned to my basic philosophy and tore out my dom9 page as well as a page containing add9 chords and a page devoted to 7sus4 and 7+ chords. The latter three were excised because they were non-essential. I had added them just for the sake of completeness, but I don't use them. If there ever comes a day when I need one, that's what chord books are for. However they do not belong in a notebook devoted to essentials.

    I am validated by Abe Lagrimas. He's a professional musician and I have one of his books. He only uses add6 chords and 7 chords (7 m7 maj7 dim7 m7b5) to make songs. If he doesn't need extended chords, why would I? My burden will be to solidify my knowledge and squeeze more out of what I acknowledge to be essential elements instead of looking for other chords. In particular I think I need to cultivate the add6 chord. It never quite seems to fit what I'm doing. It seems like it should fit with what I'm doing, but its special sound always feels like a bad clarinet note--very cringy. My best bet is to study Lagrimas' progressions and see how he off-sets the sound so that the add6 works. I also have some some 12-bar blues progressions that use the add6 voicing for the I chord. I should give them a try and see if I can develop an ear for it.

    A good thing about the add6 chord is that the shapes are familiar. Several add6 shapes, for example, are the same on m7 chords. That goes for the major add6's; the minor ones are a bit more eccentric, but at least they don't have crazy finger-spreads like the rootless dom9 chords.

    I also need to take a closer look at the diminished and half-diminished chords and figure out how to use their de-stabilizing sound to emphasize my resolutions. I love them and I have played them in some blues progressions that I learnt, but whenever I try to use them on my own, they sound a bit like a goose honking amid some robins.

    It sounds like I'm re-tooling, but it actually, no. These are the same goals I've always had and these are the things I do on a daily basis. I've only trimmed down some accrescences. My onus will be to stay on track with this, as well as with my finger-picking goals.

  3. #163
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    here's something I wrote in my diet log:

    Okay,

    I’ve been re-habbing a shoulder that seemingly froze up and it lost its range of motion. It tolerable now, so there’s my dealio. I lift kettlebells competitively and I am a diesel: big body with a big engine. However we all know that cannot last long. I am, I estimate, 30 lbs overfat @ 195. I have commissioned a custom tenor ukulele to be made from London plane wood


    and here it is sawn


    Obviously, like any wood the patterns and colors (this can even come in pink) will vary from instance to instance, and it will be up to my luthier’s discretion.



    Nonetheless, when the ukulele arrives in mid to late summer I want it to be greeted and received by a master in fighting trim. So I have some work to do.

    The feedings aren’t an issue; I am basically a protein and vegetables kind of guy (with a few pints at the pub on Friday and Saturday). I merely have to consciously cut back on the portions so that I am at a deficit instead at maintenence.

    The bigger issue is some training to contribute to the deficit. I work 10-14 hours a day and committing to training has thus far just met with failure. Obviously I am over-committing and resultingly doing nothing. So I am going to commit to just 20 minutes a day. That will consist of two things. 1) twenty minutes of jump rope with a 30 seconds on/10 seconds off interval. 2) 300 kettlebell swings with a 24kg. It will be one set consisting of the pyramid: 10 left, 10 right, 11 left, 11 right….up to 15 left and 15 right…and then descend from 15′s back down to 10′s.That will result in 300 and it should take approximately twenty minutes. Obviously after that or the jump rope I will be sweating and if I decide, **** it; I’m already sweaty, I may as well do shoulders to squats…then so be it. But at least I will get my 20 minutes in. That’s the minimalistic plan and I’ll keep up the logging and see if I cannot publicly shame myself into getting down to 165 for my new ukulele.

    That's an indirect goal pertaining to my in-coming ukulele. I'm going to keep up with it, as you'll see


    For practice I did a few things.

    1. a bouncy country blues progression with a dim7 in it:

    I | VI7 | II7 V7 | I
    I | VI7 | II7 | V7
    I | I7 | IV | VI dim7
    I |VI7 | II7 V7 | I

    2. I experimented with incorporating a C min6 into an Aiolian progression. It was okay to start with it, but resolving onto it was less than satisfying. The C minor was a better ending chord.

    3. I also did a roll in D. What I'm calling a roll isn't a banjo roll or the finger-picking technique. It is just what I call taking a set of notes and rolling through the modes with those notes. I do this to approach memorizing the fretboard. A D roll starts on the D of the 2nd fret and rolls to the finish at the 17th fret
    Last edited by ripock; 04-08-2018 at 11:07 AM.

  4. #164
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    I have been focusing on the key of E. Its central chords are amazingly easy, however more nuanced stuff like a major third or sixth is a challenge. I've been rolling down the modes in E starting at the 4th fret and going up to the 19th fret. From there I improvise my way back down to the 2nd fret using my minor pentatonic shapes. Since the key has 4 sharps I am still not very comfortable with knowing all the notes, but I am getting there. G# is giving me special trouble, since I have always called that note Ab whether or not it was correct to do so.

  5. #165
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    My study of E is advancing. I have been playing around with progressions in the modes that are rooted in E minor. It all sounds so buttery. The Phyrgian mode is really easy since the four sharps are flatted. What isn't easy is E minor. I am really bad at it which is weird since it is such a simple shape. And I have heard that from guitar players that it is a very central chord. I have always played it like a G chord with an added pinky, which is cumbersome.

  6. #166
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    well, I'm back from the pub and I see that the Hawaiian D7 thread is still staggering forward. I'll just say I wish if they're going to play a F#dim, then they call it a F#dim instead of a D7 (or a Bm7 w/o a root and its third double-flatted). However, what they do affects me not at all...so, party on, people!

    For me, I practiced The Em. I formed the chord hundreds of times. I know that sounds horrible, but it really only takes a few minutes. If people took those few minutes and practiced, there'd be a lot less whining and pining for apps.

    I ended thinking of how great a year 1974 was. It had Fly to the Rainbow as well as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. I was dismayed that Sad Wings of Destiny wasn't from that year. It came out two years later. That started me thinking of a riff from the latter album, and I thought I could hear the kernel of the tune. I was right. The Aiolian mode fit the bill. I would have liked to turn on the amp, but it was too late for that kind of monkey business.

  7. #167
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    Hi there,

    FYI E minor is the first chord one learns in standard tuning on the guitar. It is the easiest to finger, much like C Major or A minor on the uke. Indeed it is formed just like the uke A minor but with a fifth string also fretted at the second fret directly below the fretted fourth string.

    It is well worth persevering with as many fingerings of all chords including E minor as you can. Developing as much finger dexterity and independence as possible is very important. That E minor fingering needs to become second nature as does the extension of it with the fourth string also fretted (D minor shape but no first finger barre except on the first string).

    I tried to explain the Hawaiian D7 but the guy seems less interested in the origin of the D7 bit (which is the part of actual musical interest) rather than the origin of the term “Hawaiian” which seems self evident to me.

    Your observation that a Dominant 7th without the root is a diminished triad shows that you are getting more and more comfortable with stacking intervals to form chords. Massively important not just for chords but also for unlocking the patterns in the fretboard. Getting to know where the thirds, fourths, fifths and sevenths are on the fretboard with respect to a given root on a given string .... slowly but surely the fretboard starts to make sense.

    Ernie
    Hudson HUK-MC Concert

  8. #168
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    thanks for the encouragement! I've been a bit crestfallen lately. As I have been making progress in some categories, I've failed in others. I have a horrible propensity to tilt my instrument up so that i can see what I'm doing. This is obviously bad ergonomically but it also retards learning things. This tragedy is easily avoidable. All I have to do is take the extra few seconds and put the strap on. That takes care of everything. With the strap on I cannot see my hands--let alone the fretboard. All I can see are the markers on the side of neck. It quickly becomes a sink-or-swim proposition. Plus, those of us in the 21st century sit far too much and it is ruining our posture. Standing more is always a good thing. Anyway, I'm rambling. I promised to clean the kitchen and bathroom floors before sunrise. If I have any hope of playing my music, I have to scrub some floors first. So, let's get started

    There. I'm back after some cleaning. I was talking about the strapped ukulele. I think the big difference is the angle. Without a strap I tend to hold the ukulele or even a tenor guitar all squishy against my body. The instrument runs parallel to my shoulders. With a strap, the instrument points outward at about a 45 degree angle. Those are really different angles for the wrist and hand to get used to. I really should pick one--although I am finding that I am getting good enough where I can adapt pretty easily. In the beginning, this kind of variation was a deal-breaker.

    Standing is also good because I find there is a rhythm to movement, and I don't mean dancing or anything a twee as that. I just mean standing has a rhythm--subtle swaying or shifting of weight. Or walking has a cadence. It is nice to strum while pacing about my library because you can easily reinforce the downbeats of your music with the footfalls. That, after all, is the etymology of the term, ictus. It is the footfall that accompanies the rhythm of dancing.

    And standing is rather useful in that you can move to the music stand and look at the material there, walk away, and walk back or walk to my fretboard chart on the wall or even to some different resources around the room.


    Enough with trying to getted stoked about using the straps. I've practicing my modes for fretboard mastery and I really like the symmetry of E. I don't know why I've never played around with E. I suspect it has some technical basis. I don't remember specifically, but I can imagine it being the 80's and me looking at a key signature that had four accidents and saying **** that. You see with flutes and saxes, you have to consciously play the note you want. It isn't like the ukulele. With the ukulele, you could be playing the Ionic shape up at the 11th fret and if you want to play in E...all you need to do is play the same pattern at the 4th fret. Things aren't so easy on other instruments. On the flute, for example, you have to play each note with pre-meditation and you need to know the c,d, f, and g notes are sharp and play them as such.

    Anyway, because of that, I probably have been avoiding E all these years. But, as I said, I like the symmetry: natural note, two sharps, two naturals, two sharps, natural note.


    One thing I have noticed when rolling through my modes is that with the strap I can barely get through the Aiolian and cannot do my Lokrian without some extreme manipulation. In this posture, things above the 12th fret are very difficult. Hopefully the cutaway on my new custom tenor will fix that. More likely, I will just have to learn to use some body English to get those frets.
    Last edited by ripock; 04-21-2018 at 10:23 PM.

  9. #169
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    My studies in E have been progressing although my annotations haven't. I have recently been infatuated with progressions in the Phrygian and Aiolian modes. More recently the Aiolian mode has eclipsed the other in importance to me. Here's what I've been trying with it

    1. working on incorporating the dim ii chord. I like to include the dim right before resolving back to the i chord. However some chords are more satisfyingly placed before the dim chord.
    2. I am much more enthusiastic about the less central chords than the regular ones. Perhaps my attitude about the iv and v chords are based in over-exposure. I have always played them due to my propensity for blues-based music. Regardless, the fact remains that I find myself going to the VIb or VIIb chords more and more.
    3. I have been experimenting with some voicings other than the triads. For the i chord, a m6 works as the 1st chord of the progression (although reverting back to the minor seems better as the progression resolves); I tried substituting a min maj7 for the i chord and it was too much. I am just starting to substitute some 6 chords and m7b5 chords in there, but I haven't done it enough to form an impression. I think the only thing I remember liking was the sequence: D6 to F#dim to Em.

  10. #170
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    There has been some conversation about the diminished and half-diminished chord lately, and I thought I would remind myself how I feel about them.

    First, I never play a true diminished chord; I, like many others, always play the diminished 7 chord. I do this most obviously because the latter has one unique shape whereas the former has different shapes for all the different chords. Also, these two varieties of the diminished chord only have a nuance betwixt them. I tested this out on my wife. I asked her if she liked "this chord." In reality, I was alternating between the dim and the dim7. She didn't notice. So I felt that the two dims were close enough for interchanging. I acknowledge that the two are actually different objectively. However it doesn't matter musically because they serve the same purpose of creating in passing an augmented need to return to the I chord. I tend to think of it like cinnamon. If I ate a pinch of Ceylonian cinnamon and a pinch of vietnamese cinnamon I could taste the difference. I could note one is hotter than the other. However, when they are used in context--i.e., a cinnamon roll, they both do the same thing; they both make cinnamon rolls. I wouldn't be distracted by one or the other. I would just eat it.

    I imagine there could be a context in which the primary sound of the dim was the goal and that the dim7 wouldn't work. However, I have only used the dim as a passing chord and the dim or the dim7 work equally well in that context.

    I put the half-diminished chord in the same category as the dim7. There is just a nuance between it and the dim. To be honest, I have only rarely used the m7b5 and I don't have the chords memorized--primarily because I have my dim7's memorized and they fit the bill. But the m7b5 tantalizes me greatly. I like to say I'm playing a m7b5; it makes me sound so much more musical than I am. It sounds complicated because of its long name. Less superficially the m7b5 is part of my essential chords list. Early on I decided that I wasn't going to ask my ukulele to be a piano or a guitar and play things like a 9 chord which has five notes. That is just setting the ukulele up for failure. Trying to make the 4 string ukulele be an 88 key piano isn't fair. It is like when people put four doors on a jeep to make it a sedan or put a large engine in it to make it a sportscar. Ultimately it doesn't work. A jeep is a jeep. Once you accept that, everyone is happy. So I don't make my ukulele a poor example of a guitar; I ask it to play four notes and appreciate and love it for its restriction. To that end, to exploit its four-stringedness, I restrict myself to playing triads, 6's, 7's, dims, maj7's, etc. To fulfill this philosophy I really need to work on my augmented chords and my m7b5.

    The m7b5 is tantalizing for me also because of historical reasons. It plays a substantial role in jazz standards and I want to tap into that tradition. I don't mean that I want to play standards, but I want to be part of the tradition that uses that chord. This isn't so unprecedented in my life. I only take baths, never showers, and I use a straight razor just to make a connection to the past.

    I could use the m7b5 in lieu of the dim7 in contexts where I need a passing chord, but I also think I could use its unique variation as a modulation in the same way as people move from a standard triad to a sus4. I could also use it in combination with the dim7 to create an escalating effect. I could start the pass with the m7b5, then move to the dim7 to create a greater and greater need for resolution.

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