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Rllink
06-18-2017, 08:12 AM
The last year or so I have been trying to hear chord progressions in music and then playing the songs by ear. I've recognized a couple of things that seem to help with that and I feel like I'm starting to get a handle on it, maybe. So a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by an organization that is teaching a summer reading program for underprivileged kids. Because their first day was going to be stories with songs, someone suggested me to them as someone who could accompany the kids. So I said I would, and they sent me a list of songs. I looked them up and they were all pretty easy songs to play and I committed them to memory. But when I got there they had a somewhat different song list, and some of the songs I had not even heard before. So I panicked at first, but then I just faked it by starting the songs off in a C or a G, and then went with whatever came to me. It went quite well actually, and even though I had only volunteered for the first day, it went well enough that they decided to include some stories with songs every time, so they invited me back, and I said that I would.

So I've gone twice now, and each time they throw songs at me that were not on the list, and each time I have to figure it out on the fly. None of the songs are particularly complicated, but they are songs that have to be played none the less. I can get through a lot of them with nothing more than a C and a G7. Some I start throwing in other chords when I feel them come up, usually on the second verse, as I realize that I missed a chord change of some kind the first time around. There's twenty or so little kids, some college age kids helping out, and two adults who run it.

My point is, that this has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I feel like it is really helping, in more ways than one. I got a song list for this week, but actually I'm looking forward to hitting those curve balls that they throw at me that aren't on the list. It has turned into a game. I'm starting to get this "give it your best shot" attitude. Maybe if anyone is interested in going down that road, they might consider volunteering for something like this. There is nothing like getting put on the spot to push one out of their comfort zone and stimulating some growth. And seriously, it would be pretty hard to do such a bad job that they fire you, so there is nothing to lose.

Ziret
06-19-2017, 08:13 AM
Good advice. Similar experience here. A friend asked me to accompany her piano playing at a senior home, with no uke music. I do all right bashing them out, and the audience is generous. Probably a great place to test and improve those skills, so we took on another home. I'm not ready for a gig downtown, and may never be, but I'm glad to do this. Your group sounds similarly kind.

SailingUke
06-19-2017, 09:33 AM
I used to go to a blue grass jam. A ukulele can hardly be heard and most of the songs are three chords.
I would stand in and play what I heard and it was not to long before I was able to play almost every song.
Studying chord progressions in my opinion really helps. When you learn what the I to IV change sounds like and then the V7.
You will be able to jam on any I,IV,V7 3 chord song in just about all keys.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
06-19-2017, 09:53 AM
Yes, someone mentioned that for most uke players, it's a visual exercise - seeing the chord names above the
lyrics, then doing the changes per what they SEE.

The other component, which you have found, is playing by EAR, or the auditory component. and once you get
the hang of that... wow, you can create your own songbooks with the chord progressions you have figured out,
and begin playing without having to have printed music in front of you. Yes, there are some tricky chord progressions,
but after a while you can make 'educated' guesses. it's all part of the game. :)

keep uke'in',

Kimosabe
06-19-2017, 11:17 AM
I know exactly where you're coming from and think you're doing exactly the right thing.

Here's a little advice:

In the key of C, keep these chords as possibilities: C Dm Em F G or G7 Am

In the key of G, keep these chords as possibilities: G Am Bm C D or D7 Em

Now you're really covered

Good luck.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
06-19-2017, 11:36 AM
Mahalo Kimosabe,

that reminds me.

the Practice Sheets in the Ukulele Boot Camp (link in signature below)
may give appropriate suggestions for chords in specific keys.

I hope it helps :)

igorthebarbarian
06-19-2017, 11:37 AM
Uncle Rod's Bootcamp and the Howlin' Hobbit (I think) have some helpful materials which cover these common chord changes/ chord families.
I always find it amazing how relatively few common chords there are. Really you only need to know about 10-15 chords, and then you can cover 4 or 5 "Keys". And with that, you're set for 95% of song sheets that you'll probably come across.
Also, one of the best things too is that some of those chords also overlap between keys. So knowing an Am chord helps you out both in the key of C and G, as Kimosabe shows above.
Knowing all of this and realizing that you don't really need to know thaaaat much actually made it less intimidating for me.

cohenja
06-19-2017, 02:07 PM
What do you guys suggest is the best way to train yourself to play the chord progression by ear? Listen to a song slowed down and then play it out on the uke I guess. Any handy tips or tricks apart from that? I guess I'm looking for the nonexistent magic pill ha ha.

Rllink
06-19-2017, 02:20 PM
What do you guys suggest is the best way to train yourself to play the chord progression by ear? Listen to a song slowed down and then play it out on the uke I guess. Any handy tips or tricks apart from that? I guess I'm looking for the nonexistent magic pill ha ha.

All the information that people have suggested above, but for me the most successful has been memorizing lots of songs. There are lots of rules how progressions are supposed to work, but lots of songs don't follow them, and if you have to stop to think about the rules you are lost anyway. A lot of songs share progressions. Twelve bar blues progression, do whop, sensitive woman, salty dog, there are lots of them. The more songs I memorize the more I hear them in other songs. That works for me anyway.

cohenja
06-19-2017, 03:12 PM
All the information that people have suggested above, but for me the most successful has been memorizing lots of songs. There are lots of rules how progressions are supposed to work, but lots of songs don't follow them, and if you have to stop to think about the rules you are lost anyway. A lot of songs share progressions. Twelve bar blues progression, do whop, sensitive woman, salty dog, there are lots of them. The more songs I memorize the more I hear them in other songs. That works for me anyway.

Thank you. Meomorising songs is fun anyway so no reason not to learn as you have fun.

Rllink
07-30-2017, 08:02 AM
I got an e-mail that we are not having Raising Readers the 10th. Evidently the first week in August is when the families find out if they are going to continue to get subsidized housing or not, and if not, they have to move before the end of the month. It sounds like lots of families are going to be moving, or are unsure, so they cancelled the first one for the month. I'm headed down to San Juan then, and won't be back until after the kids are back in school. Anyway, it was a great experience. When I started this a six weeks or so ago, it was supposed to be for one time, for books with songs. But they kept asking me back and they kept working music into it each time we met, and I just kept coming back. I usually stayed for the first hour, then left when they started activities, which usually were connected to the stories that they read. One day they made ukuleles out of cereal boxes and rubber bands. I had other plans and couldn't stay to see the cereal box ukes, and sadly, I think that they were making ukuleles for my sake. One little girl told me the next time that they weren't very good ukuleles. That made me laugh. Anyway, I thought that I would update everyone on what happened with this. I really learned a lot. I got as much back as I gave. They never did give me much advance notice about what we would be playing, and often times they would ask me to play a song or two to keep the kids occupied while they went looking for something or got set up for something else. So I was pulling stuff out of the hat all the time. It was a challenge. I think that I'm a bit of a better ukulele player as a result. I'm already looking forward to next summer.

I also added a bunch of kid's songs to my repertoire, which has already come in pretty handy.

maki66
07-30-2017, 08:26 AM
I've got a somewhat different approach.
I bought a very nice Circle of 5th wheel which lists all the majors and associated minors.
What I like to practice is starting on a major and doing I, IV, V progressions. Depending on the major, I'll also do associated minors.
It helps train my poor ear and helps me to learn the cords.
https://www.amazon.com/Chord-Wheel-Ultimate-Tool-Musicians/dp/0634021427/ref=pd_sim_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=7WGYDK2DHG0ZBTFPG5KQ

Rllink
07-30-2017, 11:00 AM
I've got a somewhat different approach.
I bought a very nice Circle of 5th wheel which lists all the majors and associated minors.
What I like to practice is starting on a major and doing I, IV, V progressions. Depending on the major, I'll also do associated minors.
It helps train my poor ear and helps me to learn the cords.
https://www.amazon.com/Chord-Wheel-Ultimate-Tool-Musicians/dp/0634021427/ref=pd_sim_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=7WGYDK2DHG0ZBTFPG5KQ
Your approach is the same as mine, in that there was a time when I was focused very hard on that particular progression. There is nothing wrong with getting familiar with the circle of fifth or the I,IV,V progression. But bear in mind that the circle of fifths is limited in its use. It is great for the thousands of songs that follow that formula, but there are thousands more that do not. Those are the ones that I am trying to recognize and play.

JoeJazz2000
08-09-2017, 07:11 AM
I've got a somewhat different approach.
I bought a very nice Circle of 5th wheel which lists all the majors and associated minors.
What I like to practice is starting on a major and doing I, IV, V progressions. Depending on the major, I'll also do associated minors.
It helps train my poor ear and helps me to learn the cords.
https://www.amazon.com/Chord-Wheel-Ultimate-Tool-Musicians/dp/0634021427/ref=pd_sim_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=7WGYDK2DHG0ZBTFPG5KQ

This a great way to do it, maki66. Chords in most popular music move in fourths. Pick your key on the circle move out from that One chord in fourths. I use the Circle of Fourths because I like to see the fourths move clockwise, and the concept of backcycling visually makes sense that way. From C at 12 o'clock, move out to F (clockwise for me). Move counterclockwise (for me) back to C. Then move counterclockwise ( for me) to G, the root of the V chord. Then move clockwise to resolve back at C. Suppose there's another chord in the song, say D7. Where is it on the wheel? next to G, right along the wheel. How about the I-VI-II-V progression we see everywhere, in rags (Keep on Truckin' Salty Dog, Jada, Alice's Restaurant, blues turnarounds), etc. In C Start at 12 o'clock then jump to A (the VI) then follow along the wheel playing each chord D,G until you're back at C. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain put up a video on YouTube demonstrating each player's part on the Robert Johnson's "Hot Tamales." It's a rag, Johnson's only recorded non-blues song. I had fiddled with it on guitar years ago and knew I was missing a chord, but I didn't chase it down The UOGB showed the missing chord as E7. So the progression was III-VI-II-V. And where is the E7 chord in this framework? Right next to A, along the wheel. The wheel shows these. Learn its principles and progressions jump out at you. This tool is indispensable, not just for ear players. John Coltrane developed a whole "new" set of changes from backcycling; jumping out from the one and resolving in fourths back to I.

kerneltime
04-01-2018, 04:11 AM
This is a very useful thread. I am at the stage, where, how clear the song is in my head, makes a lot of difference to how quickly my hands learn the song. So, I am guessing, improving my listening is next. Any other pointers?

Rllink
04-01-2018, 04:49 AM
Coming up on a year later, I still feel that a lot of songs share chord progressions, and learning more songs just engrains those progressions in your head. You have to learn to do it on the fly though. If you have to stop and think about it, you're lost. Memorizing songs has been the most beneficial for me. Like several have said, you have to get away from playing visually and start hearing the chord changes coming up, instead of watching them go by. I've tried lots of different things, but learning to play a lot of songs from memory has been the most productive for me.

rubykey
04-01-2018, 06:56 AM
Can you give a list of examples of story songs you were referring to? I'm curious to know what songs kids were interested in singing, and teacher's choice. Were they songs that were new to them, or familiar songs?

For sing-along Folk, Blues, Doo Wop, Country, and children's songs they were designed for Simplicity. So usually three (or four chords) are more than ample to tell the story. I like playing in F. It's a very natural position for the ukulele. The chords just fall right under your fingers. Key of A has most chords landing on the first two frets from the nut.

As for ear training and muscle memory, I have taken to transposing songs and learning them in different keys. I keep a practice notebook. I note the chord progression of the songs I work on and play them in three, four or five different keys. I also write down the chords for each key. I started doing that because I wanted to pitch songs in keys that work for my voice. I keep up the practice for the learning benefit. This has yielded great results. Now I feel like a speed reader when I want to learn a new song. It comes more naturally. Recently a friend asked me to join her in a folk sing along gig. With very little prep I was able to play on the Fly.

Rllink
04-01-2018, 07:56 AM
Can you give a list of examples of story songs you were referring to? I'm curious to know what songs kids were interested in singing, and teacher's choice. Were they songs that were new to them, or familiar songs?

For sing-along Folk, Blues, Doo Wop, Country, and children's songs they were designed for Simplicity. So usually three (or four chords) are more than ample to tell the story. I like playing in F. It's a very natural position for the ukulele. The chords just fall right under your fingers. Key of A has most chords landing on the first two frets from the nut.

There were tons of fun songs that came from SongsforTeaching.com: Broccoli; Hula Mula; The Pirate Song and Boom Chocolaca, which is more of a rap, but was fun. The first time they pulled Boom Chocolaca on me I had no idea what I was going to do. No one had told me that we were going to do it, I had never heard it, and I had no idea how to accompany it. So I just muted and played a sort of rap rhythm. The second verse I did a muted chunk. It went real well, and it became a favorite. I just did a chunk chunka chunka chunka, chunk chunka chunka chunka. We did it a lot and I even played random muted chunked chords to see what I could do with it. It ended up being the easiest of anything we did and the kids loved it. There are also books that go with more traditional songs. Itsy Bitsy Spider had a book to go with it. There was one about baseball that ended with Take Me Out To the Ballgame. Down by the Bay was another. We did a lot of Wheels on the Bus for the littler kids. There was a Wheels on the Bus book. Also, sometimes they would read a book that wasn't a song related book, but I would give musical emphasis at different points in the book. That was fun. If there was any tension or apprehension, I would give them a minor tremolo to build on it a little. If there was some excitement building I would give them a major tremolo. If I wanted to build a lot of excitement I might throw in a 7th tremolo toward the end of it. I also did Ain't No Bugs on Me, Old McDonald, just any of those kids songs to keep them occupied between readings when there was a break in the action. Sometimes, just for kicks, if the adults were busy and it was my job to keep them entertained for a while, I would throw in some Dwight Yokum and play Guitars Cadillacs, or something along those lines, as long as it wasn't R rated. The little kids didn't know. It was a song. There's just something about six and seven year olds sitting there listening to you play some Dwight Yokum that makes you laugh a little while you sing it. Don't worry be happy is one they liked. If You're Happy and you Know it Clap Your Hands. Anything that has happy in it is good. The program also has an introductory song that they sing every time to get things started. I can't remember the song, but they had a recorded accompaniment. It wasn't that hard to pick up, so after the first time we didn't play the recorded accompaniment and just went live with it. That was more fun.

I did a lot of songs in the key of C, but any key will do. I was surprised how many kids songs could be pulled off with a C and a G7. You kind of have to go high for the kids. I tried some in G, and a lot of times it was too low for them. But they don't really care. It was my feeling that it was too low, not the kids. They will sing with any key you want.

Steedy
04-01-2018, 10:53 AM
Ukulele instructor Jim D'ville has a good approach for playing ukulele by ear. There's a lot of free stuff at his web site www.playukulelebyear.com (http://www.playukulelebyear.com).

Here's a good article & video called The Emotional Value of Chords (http://www.ukulelemag.com/uke-basics/the-emotional-value-of-chords), where he talks about learning to hear the chords built on each scale tone. I found the link on his web site under the 'Feature Articles' tab.

By the way, I love Dwight Yoakam's songs! Sometimes I'll play along on my ukulele with every Dwight Yoakam song I can find on Youtube! :music:

Rllink
04-01-2018, 11:13 AM
Ukulele instructor Jim D'ville has a good approach for playing ukulele by ear. There's a lot of free stuff at his web site www.playukulelebyear.com (http://www.playukulelebyear.com).

Here's a good article & video called The Emotional Value of Chords (http://www.ukulelemag.com/uke-basics/the-emotional-value-of-chords), where he talks about learning to hear the chords built on each scale tone. I found the link on his web site under the 'Feature Articles' tab.

By the way, I love Dwight Yoakam's songs! Sometimes I'll play along on my ukulele with every Dwight Yoakam song I can find on Youtube! :music:
I attended a workshop by Jim D'Ville at a ukulele festival in Minneapolis.

Steedy
04-01-2018, 12:11 PM
I attended a workshop by Jim D'Ville at a ukulele festival in Minneapolis.

He's doing a workshop here in Nashville this weekend, which is what brought him to mind.