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Thread: Not getting uke theory: help

  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ubulele View Post
    What I observe is that, if you don't learn theory, you never know how much you're missing out on by not knowing it, so you have a false illusion that you "don't need it" and instead slog along trying to figure out things that others pick up more quickly with the assistance of theory. You don't see the ways it would benefit you, because you have to be an insider to see the bigger picture. Really, whatever you learn is some aspect of theory; some just pick it up scattershot, in random order and slowly; others study it from fundamentals, simpler concepts building up simply to greater levels of "complexity", with fewer gaps left along the way.

    It's much easier to make sense of things when you see them following generic patterns than when you're confronted only with a plethora of rote-learned special cases that seem unrelated, combined at random.
    That's what I was thinking. Figured it was like learning the alphabet before trying to put together words and sentences.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by captain-janeway View Post
    My guess is that the total of 7 is because you go from Major to 7th notes but even that I'm not sure about.
    Can anyone explain it that doesn't get too crazy technical because I'm a beginner, or know a place to look?
    It IS confusing.

    While we were talking about half steps, the numbering bit (with digits appearing behind chords) actually refers to the position in a scale (interval), not the amount of half steps taken from the root note upwards. A 7th chord is the major chord, with an added note which is in fact the seventh in the scale, and usually 10 or 11 semitones up from the root note. Take power chords, which are 5th chords - they are chords which emphasize the 5th note (7 semitones up from the root) and delete the 3rd note (3 or 4 semitones up, depending on minor or major chords). So we're talking about two counting mechanisms here: semitones ('frets') and intervals ('position within the scale').

    Music theory isn't all math. It's interesting to know that these 'questioning chords' (a 7 looks like a question mark, doesn't it?) only became generally accepted in Western music in the 1930s. Before that time and elsewhere they were used, but were also considered to be quite dissonant and off-key and well... strange. A lot of early jazz music seemed to prefer 6th chords, or 9th chords to 7th ones.

  3. #13
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    In my first post in this thread, I gave a link to a site that does give the major scale harmonized in triads. Many times triads sound best on simple songs, except maybe V degree is more often better with V7 chord.

    Now to a more jazzy chords in a key, I searched this link:
    https://www.musilosophy.com/chord-charts.htm

    You will notice that the worked out chords knowing the chord theory, will be:
    Imaj7 iim7 iiim7 IVmaj7 V7 vim7 viim7b5

    Subsitute the proper note degree names of a scale. Well there they are even given for every key too, (I did not check if there are not any errors).
    Bill1 does quite a job above, but we can choose the easier way and also depend on the existing learnt knowledge and yes chord intervals.

    In the link we are given also harmonic and melodic minor scales harmonized.

    Then as have been maybe mentioned in some post, our songs etc. musical stuff often have other chords that may consist of some notes not seemingly belonging to the key of the melody part. They have their own rules to what they are based and are not exactly braking any theory, but adding spice etc

    And accidentals like in minor songs further make things a quite interesting. They sort of explain to a self learned hobby musician in me the chords like I+ , V#dim7 and viim7 and the few m7b5 chords in songs. The superdominant theory maybe explains VII7 in minor songs.
    Notice those degrees are based on the major scale like some studio notation they use in USA, and are NOT minor scale degrees! That is the way how I analyse my songs too. What works instead pure theory, because I don't need to pass any theory examination for a degree
    Last edited by Jarmo_S; 03-21-2018 at 03:12 AM.

  4. #14
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    When I first started playing I was definitely a "just put your fingers here, here and there" kinda gal. Really I was just memorizing shapes. But the longer I play, the more music theory has crept in and has proven to be more understandable and useful. Once you know your fretboard, what makes a scale in any key, the basics of what makes each type of chord, and understand the logic of the "circle of fifths", the world is your oyster.

    This basic knowledge of music theory is immensely helpful if you alter tunings or move to a different instrument. I found it helpful with guitar and invaluable for mandolin (love that fifth tuning). Anyway, my point is that music theory is your friend.

  5. #15
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    What you need to do to make theory easy is only look at the theory that explicates what you're currently interested in. If you try to read about theory in general, it won't have any personal significance to you and you will not retain it. So, have a specific musical question and get specific music theory. Over time, as your interests grow, so will your knowledge.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    What you need to do to make theory easy is only look at the theory that explicates what you're currently interested in. If you try to read about theory in general, it won't have any personal significance to you and you will not retain it. So, have a specific musical question and get specific music theory. Over time, as your interests grow, so will your knowledge.
    Good point, Otherwise you have no understanding of the application, just the abstract information.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by EDW View Post
    Good point, Otherwise you have no understanding of the application, just the abstract information.
    Probably the biggest stumbling block in theory and jazz (another current thread) is that there is no app for it. Our world is currently set up for immediacy and convenience, but you cannot get access to these things except by old-school methodology: take 20 years, listen to what you enjoy, think about why you enjoyed it, and amass tid-bits of information as you go along. That is not very palatable but it is the way it is...at least it was for me.

  8. #18
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    Music theory is nothing more than understanding the intervals between notes, and the patterns of intervals that make up the music we play. You can make it very complicated or keep it relatively simple. I have to keep it simple! For me, the light bulb came on when I looked at the piano keyboard and realized:

    piano keys.JPG

    ALL of the notes are included in this picture. They merely repeat themselves in the same pattern as they go higher or lower.

    The white keys are called the natural notes. There are seven natural notes. The black keys are called sharps and/or flats. There are five of them inserted between some of the natural notes. That gives a total of twelve notes in half-step intervals.

    The white keys are in whole-step intervals, except for the E & F, and the B & C. There are no black keys between E & F, and B & C, so those notes are always only a half-step apart.

    What are half-steps and whole-steps? The distance, or interval, between two adjacent notes. NOTE: On the ukulele, one fret equals a half-step and two frets equal a whole step.

    Music is based on scales, and on chords constructed from those scales. A scale is simply a specific pattern of notes, played one note at a time, starting on any note and ending on the same note an octave higher or lower. There are usually seven notes in each scale, eight if you count the ending note, which is why it's called an octave. Scales that use half-steps and whole-steps are known as Diatonic Scales. Scales that use only half-steps are known as Chromatic Scales.

    Going back to the piano diagram, if we play each white key, starting with 'C' on the left and ending with 'C' on the right, that's a C Major scale. It's a C scale, because it starts and ends on 'C', and it's a Major scale, because of the specific pattern of intervals it uses. It's also a diatonic scale, because it uses half-steps and whole-steps.

    Now, pay attention. Every Major scale has the same pattern of intervals, which are: whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step.

    I like to remember the Major scale as a phone number, which would be 221-2221, with the twos being whole steps and the ones being half steps. This is easy to see in the key of 'C', because the C Major scale uses only the white keys, with no sharps or flats.

    It gets a little trickier for Major scales (or playing in different keys) other than 'C', because those use sharps and flats (the black keys) to make up the same 221-2221 pattern of intervals, and you have to remember how many, and which sharps or flats, are needed depending on what key you're in, or what note the Major scale starts on. You can see this on the piano keyboard by working out the 'whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step' (221-2221) pattern, starting on each different note. Then you can play the same scales on the ukulele. Of course, you need to know the names of all the notes on your ukulele fingerboard in order to find them.

    The notes of a scale can be numbered from '1' to '8', and the chords we play on the ukulele are built from the notes of the scale. A chord is simply three or more notes from the same scale, played together at the same time. A basic three-note chord is called a Triad, and is built using the first, third, and fifth notes of a scale, also known as the 1, 3, & 5 scale tones. If the notes are from a Major scale, then it's called a Major chord. (If the third note is lowered a half-step, it becomes a minor chord, but I'm sticking to Major scales and chords for simplicity's sake.)

    Again, it's easy to see with a 'C' chord using the 1, 3, & 5 notes, which are C, E, & G, because the key of 'C' and the C Major scale uses only natural notes (i.e. white keys) with no sharps or flats. Again, it gets a little trickier to build other chords because you have to use sharps or flats to create the same 1, 3, & 5 intervals. But a triad is always the 1, 3, & 5 notes of a scale.

    Now, the songs we play are made up of chords which are built on the scale of the underlying key they are in. If we think of the chords in a certain key the same way we think of notes in a scale, we can number the chords from one to seven. Chord numbers are usually written with Roman numerals to indicate they are chords rather than notes in a scale. The I chord corresponds to the root or first note of the key a song is in. In the key of C, the I is a C chord.

    Most popular three-chord songs are based on the I, IV, and V chords. In the key of C, that's the C, F, & G chords. In D, it's the D, G, and A chords. In E, it's the E, A, & B chords. You can count on your fingers to find the I, IV, and V chords in each key, or you can look at the Circle of Fifths which is simply a diagram of the those chords in each key, and usually shows the sharps or flats in each key, as well. Very handy!

    The I, IV, and V chords are almost always Major chords. The chords in between, the ii, iii, and vi chords are usually minor chords, as indicated by the lower-case Roman numerals. The vii chord is a diminished chord, which is a whole 'nother animal I don't even want to talk about. The reason some chords are major and others are minor is due to the 1, 3, & 5 intervals depending on which note of the scale that each chord is built on, which we won't go into.

    Just keep in mind the I, IV, and V chords are very strong obvious changes, while the ii, iii, and vi chords are weaker, more subtle changes. If you're trying to figure out the chords in a song, try the I, IV, and V chords first, then try filling in the others. The vi chord is closely related to the I chord and is called the Relative Minor chord. It gets thrown into a lot of songs that use the I, IV, and V.

    All the different minor scales and modes, and complicated music theory stuff is merely based on variations of the good old Major scale, so that's all there is to it!

    Anyway, that's all I've got, and that's as simple as I can make it. Hopefully, I haven't confused anyone too badly. I'm gonna stop now before I confuse myself any further!
    Last edited by Steedy; 03-22-2018 at 09:42 AM. Reason: minor corrections
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  9. #19
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    Here are some Major scale exercises for a bit of applied music theory on the ukulele.

    Try playing a Major scale on each string of your ukulele. This is assuming your uke is tuned to g, c, e, a.


    Start with the open 3rd string, which is the C string, and play the following notes at the frets indicated:

    3rd string: ----0----2----4----5----7----9----11----12----

    That's a C Major scale, and the notes are C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C. The reason we started with the C Major scale is because it uses only the seven natural notes (i.e. white keys on the piano), with no sharps or flats. Easy-peasy, right?

    Also, notice the pattern of two frets, two frets, one fret, two frets, two frets, two frets, one fret, going up the string. That's THE Major scale pattern of whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step (or 221-2221 in my "phone number" shorthand).

    Since we know that a three-note chord, or triad, is made up of the 1, 3, & 5 notes of the scale, we know that the notes C, E, & G should make a C chord. Sure enough, when we play a C chord as 0003, the notes are G, C, E, & C. (Since we're playing a three-note chord on a four-string instrument, the chord has two C notes an octave apart on the 1st and 3rd strings.)


    Next, move to the 4th string, which is the G string, and play the following notes at the same frets:

    4th string: ----0----2----4----5----7----9----11----12----

    Same pattern, but because we started with G on the 4th string, it's a G Major scale, and the notes are G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G. Uh-oh, we've thrown a black key into the mix. Why is that an F sharp (F#) instead of an F natural? Because, following the major scale pattern up the neck, the next-to-last note at the 11th fret is an F#, a half-step below the G at the 12th fret. Again, we know the 1, 3, & 5 notes which are G, B, and D, make up a G chord, and sure enough, when we play a G chord as 0232, those notes are G, D, G, B.


    Now move to the 1st string, which is the A string, and play the following notes at the same frets:

    1st string: ----0----2----4----5----7----9----11----12----

    Again, it's the same pattern, but because we started with an A on the 1st string, that's an A Major scale, and the notes are A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A. Oh crap, we had to use three black keys for that scale! Why does the A Major scale have three sharps? Because, with the major scale pattern starting on the open A string, the notes at the 4th, 9th, and 11th frets are C#, F#, and G#.

    But even with all those pesky sharps, we know an A chord is built from the 1, 3, & 5 notes of the scale which are the A, C#, and E. Sure enough, when we play an A chord as 2100, those notes are A, C#, E, A.


    Finally, go to the 2nd string, which is the E string, and repeat the exercise at the same frets:

    2nd string: ----0----2----4----5----7----9----11----12----

    As before, it's the same pattern, but because we started with an E on the 2nd string, it's an E Major scale, and the notes are E - F# - G# - A - B - C# - D# - E. Yikes, even more black keys this time! Why does the E Major scale have four sharps? Because, following the major scale pattern up the neck, the notes at the 2nd, 4th, 9th, and 11th frets are F#, G#, C#, and D#. And once again, we can use the 1, 3, & 5 scale tones to make an E chord, and those are E, G#, and B. So, when we play an E chord as 4442, the notes we're using are B, E, G#, and B. If we play it as 4447, the notes are B, E, G#, and E. Either way, the triad is E, G#, and B.

    Now, this is not the best way to practice playing scales. Normally, we wouldn't play a scale all the way up the neck on a single string. But, this is a good way to learn the pattern of major scale intervals and the names of the notes on the fingerboard. You could also do these exercises with an electronic tuner on your headstock and it will tell you the name of each note as you go.

    You can also practice the chromatic scale on each string, with a tuner on your headstock. Start with the open string and move up one fret (half-step) at a time, letting the tuner tell you the names of the notes.

    All of these scales use the exact same notes as the white and black keys on a piano, which is the basis of all music theory. Learn where the natural notes (white keys) are on the ukulele fingerboard and then fill in the sharps and flats (black keys) between them. Then use the 1, 3, & 5 notes of each scale to help you find new chords.

    And that's music theory, in practice!
    Last edited by Steedy; 03-22-2018 at 09:03 AM.
    If music be the food of love, play on! -Bill Shakespeare

  10. #20
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    I have a question about a chord like Dm6?

    It is or can be also named as Bm7b5 and that will of course to me explain the chordings regarding harmonizating the scales. And as ukulele players we are more lucky than guitarists of being able to strum all such stuff because of only 4 strings and that superior invention of top 4 strings. Well, they have it too of course, but not without bother of E and A bass strings.

    And we have no power on the voicings, so to us both chords are pretty much the same. And re-entrance helps in that too so all chords with a limited selection available sound good, if not perfect.

    But regarding my great songbook, about 400 great songs to play, I just wonder. I see some times a m6 chord, but never m7b5, or at least I don't remember now.

    Now I know all the major and minor chords and their dominant 7ths in every key. When it comes to play a song that has something like augmented chords, m6ths (well 6ths too as it is not as automated) and well even a diminished 7th chord that I know the 3 chords needed, my play comes to a stop and I can't sort of sight read the play.

    But the real guestion is about m6 chord. Even while we can't play it as a bottom root, it might have some reason for marking it as that instead m7b5? Or has been just a common way to make chords appear not as dreadful to us? They both are anyways to us of course
    Last edited by Jarmo_S; 03-22-2018 at 03:24 AM.

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