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Thread: playing from songsheets

  1. #1
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    Default playing from songsheets

    I have a confession to make, in two years of playing the uke, I've been making steady progress on fingerpicking & strumming solos, but the thing I still pretty much suck at is playing accompaniments from songsheets.
    I have no problem practising from an actual music sheet or tab mainly because the note durations are written down, but with only chord notations slapped over a bunch of lyrics it's another matter entirely. I usually find it difficult to connect the beat to the lyrics, and very quickly lose track of what I'm playing.
    Do you have any tips to work on this?

  2. #2

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    Try listening to a song a few times, possibly by different artists, so you can really internalize the song. That makes it easier to play from a songsheet. Songsheets are really only meant to be memory aids, not accurate musical representations of the song, which means that a person playing from a songsheet has to already have a good idea of how the song should go.

  3. #3
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    I've been playing using them for years as my memory isn't what it used to be. I continually "Get lost" and have a heck of a time catching up. I think not having and chords and the lyrics memorized put's one at a disadvantage.

  4. #4
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    you may also want to try 'reverse engineering' the song sheet.

    What I mean by that is, try to get a clean lyric sheet with no chords, then try placing the
    chords where you think they should go. You can use the sheet music or a chorded song sheet,
    but if you will work with a lyrics-only page to begin with, it may help you figure out both the
    timing and the flow of the melody and the accompanying chords that are to help you sing/play
    the song.

    it would almost be like creating a song sheet from scratch, except that you would have access
    to the correct key and chord, just on another piece of paper.

    anyway, by working it out for yourself, it may help you to 'make sense' of a chorded song sheet

    keep uke'in',
    Uncle Rod Higuchi
    ( rohiguchi@gmail.com )

    MP3s: http://www.mediafire.com/?50db7nls4o6m6
    Ukulele Boot Camp, FREE Songbook, Holiday Songbook & More: http://ukulelebootcamp.weebly.com

  5. #5
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Rod Higuchi View Post
    you may also want to try 'reverse engineering' the song sheet.

    What I mean by that is, try to get a clean lyric sheet with no chords, then try placing the
    chords where you think they should go. You can use the sheet music or a chorded song sheet,
    but if you will work with a lyrics-only page to begin with, it may help you figure out both the
    timing and the flow of the melody and the accompanying chords that are to help you sing/play
    the song.
    I'll try that out. Lately I've been listening to songs and putting marks on the lyrics sheet where the beat is. It helps me keep track a bit, when the song isn't too complicated.

    Imho I doesn't really help that most "lessons" aimed at beginners on youtube and such dumb down the whole thing to the point that the rhythm and beat of the song very rarely mentioned. Because who needs the beat anyway?

  6. #6
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    As others have said, familiarity with the song is key when you are using just chord sheets. I listen to the song many times to get a feel for the song timing. This is especially necessary when grabbing a song sheet off the internet, where formatting issues may move a chord name over the wrong lyric. After a bit, you get a feel for the basic structure of the song. Starting out (or if you are playing in a group), it is certainly helpful to have the actual sheet music for actual timing, like in The Daily Ukulele. Or have it written out like Justin Guitar (and uke) does. He writes the song out like
    Am /// F / C C7 / G //. The slashes indicating how many measures to stay on a chord and you can see if there is a Chord change within a measure too. When I'm first learning a song, I'll sometimes take a lyric sheet and mark it up with slashes as I'm listening to it and break it down into measures.

  7. #7
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    Sounds like playing an unfamiliar song in a jam session. After a while, you get the feel and can follow the others pretty well. Thanks for the insight Uncle Rod.

  8. #8
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    When I hear a song that I like but I am not real familiar with it, I'll find the song sheet as you call it and a recording of it, then play and sing along with the recording. It is good practice, and it might help you. Also I do a little jamming with other musicians. I'm not talking about big group strum-a-longs, but two or three or four people getting together and playing. That helps a lot too. I might add, I get lost sometimes. It just comes with the territory. If you think about it too much, it just makes it harder to get into the groove, and that is where you want to be.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.
    Check out the G&B Detective Series by yours truly.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978485476...ords=r.l.+link

  9. #9
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    This tip won't help you figure out the timing initially, but it may help you with playing thereafter: use periods to reflect each beat with no chord change, and draw in bar lines. So you could put a line like this above a line of lyrics to show timing:
    C . . . | Am . F . | G7 . . . | . . . . | C . . Dm7 |
    You can space it out to align with the lyrics (or vice versa, as the situation demands).

    I prefer to keep my chords separated from the lyrics—I have to memorize lyrics, since I frequently get lost trying to read from typical lead sheets. So here's something else I've seen people do:

    Make a separate sheet with a grid of large boxes, typically four boxes per row. Each box represents a measure (or with quick songs, possibly two measures). Then you can put your chords in the boxes, spaced to reflect when you play them, or with one chord in a central position if you play it for the whole measure.

    I do something like this with my lead sheets, but just in a section below the lyrics, and with no actual grid (since I use plain text files). When the same chord continues into the next "box", I put a period instead of duplicating the chord name—except at the start of a row. I use some non-standard conventions to show timings within measures, so that my boxing remains apparent even without grid lines. One problem with color chord names is that they can get a bit lengthy, so I've taken to using more abbreviated forms, like for half-diminished (m7b5), s for sus4, &9 for add9 and 7- for 7b5.

    In the Nashville Number System, there's a special symbol (>) for a chord "push": playing the chord before the normal beat. (I use < instead, since it's more intuitive to me for the symbol to point in the direction of the shift.)
    Last edited by ubulele; 05-17-2017 at 08:43 AM.

  10. #10
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    Whenever I find a song sheet online, I copy it into good old windows notepad so I can add vertical measure bars between chords. Remember to use the courier or courier new font. Then all characters have the same width, which is handy - especially if you want to add tabs for the intro or something like that.

    I might have to listen to the song a few times tapping my feet and counting on my fingers to count measures. Or pick it up from a sheet music preview online.

    On a hard copy I add them with a pen, but that doesn't allow me to space out the lyrics as I want to.
    Ohana SK30M mahogany super-soprano, Cort UKEBWCOP Blackwood concert, Fluke Koa Tenor, Hora M1176 spruce Tenor

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