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haertig
05-31-2014, 05:13 PM
Hi! Newbie first post here.

I have a question on Ukulele theory. I am new to ukulele, but have considerable experience on piano, and theory is not a foreign concept to me (although admittedly not my favorite topic!)

I downloaded the Adroid "Ukulele Fretboard" app after seeing it recommented here. It does seem pretty handy. But I noticed things like the D chord is shown as D-Gb-A in that app. That immediately struck me since the key of D has two sharps. Of course, I know that the same physical key on a piano or the same fret on a ukulele may be called F# or Gb depending on the key you are playing in. But if you are playing in D, that 1/3 up is an F#, not a Gb. Is it typical in ukulele land to ignore details like this, or is the Ukulele Fretboard app a bit off the mark?

Also, for a different example, I see that what I would call "the second inversion of the F chord" on piano is called "the basic F chord" on the ukulele. So what does "basic" mean in ukulele land? Is it the easiest inversion to play? The lowest pitched inversion? Or do you not even think like this (chord inversions) in ukulele?

I was hoping that learning ukulele might reinforce my piano theory. Despite being fairly advanced in piano, I readily admit that theory is my weakness. My main goal is to play ukulele for fun, and complementing piano theory is just a side-line I was hoping for. I figured ukulele would be good in chord theory since ukulele songs are more chord based than melody based (at least at the beginner level). Piano is just the opposite (in classical piano that is, other genres can be pretty much nothing BUT chords).

Any pointers to (Android) apps that teach theory consistanty across ukulele and piano?

Thanks!

Brad Bordessa
05-31-2014, 05:43 PM
The app certainly isn't perfect if that is the case! I think the bottom line is that 'ukulele people tend not to get hung up on perfect theory terminology. It would bug the crap out of me, but to each his own.

Inversions are kind of funny on the 'ukulele so I think again, nobody really cares (or cares enough to address the variables). Depending on your tuning, the lowest note may be on the g string or the c string. If it's on the c string - that's confusing. Either way, you're trying to make two different camps happy. I've never really seen a correct explanation of inversions on the 'ukulele, unfortunately.

Onwards! Theory is the same on both. The difference is the amount of energy people are willing to put in. You said it yourself - your goal is to playing for FUN. I don't think many people in the 'ukulele camp would consider theory "fun." Therefore, you take what you can get from a group of people who aren't too concerned about it.

haertig
05-31-2014, 05:56 PM
Thanks. I'm definitely wanting to learn ukulele for fun, not professional performance. I'll easily spend 3 of 4 months of hard practice working up a Chopin Nocturne or a Brahms Intermezzo to performance-ready. I was hoping for a quicker turnaround in learning some fun ukulele pieces just to mess around with! Problem is, I can't sing a note. So I will have to learn how to incorporate melody and chords so that I won't have to sing and risk starting a stampede of anyone within earshot of me.

OldePhart
06-01-2014, 08:44 AM
On any fretted stringed instruments most people learn the open chords (first position) first and think of those as "normal." Very often those chords are actually inversions; this is true for guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, etc. With the ukulele you add the additional factor that if you're using a linear tuning the chords will be different inversions than if you're playing on a uke with traditional reentrant tuning.

Actually, it is this fact that different instruments "naturally" play different inversions that make an ensemble of different instruments so much more rich, musically. Compare the sound of a typical beginner uke jam where everyone is sawing along on the open chords together to a jam with more advanced players, and especially with players on a mix of instruments, where the blend is much richer even though there may be far fewer people playing.

John

Ukejenny
06-02-2014, 07:58 AM
Because is a re-entrant instrument, meaning the strings are not in order from lowest pitch to highest, the theory is a bit different. What you see as an inversion for F is the easiest way to play an F chord on the ukulele.

The ukulele has four strings and two octaves to play with, so much unlike an 88 keyed piano, you have to work within those constraints.

As far as enharmonics - I have often seen the Bb chord marked as A# for some reason. So, there are little blips in the ukulele world that we aren't used to in classical music theory.

Welcome to Ukulele Underground, by the way! Glad you found us. Lots of great information here. I learn something new every day.

Catulele
06-02-2014, 12:43 PM
Why do you say you are playing in D when you play a D chord? You can play a D chord and be in(almost) any Key. I think that on a C tuned Uke the D chord could be described as D-Gb-A if you want.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
06-02-2014, 01:45 PM
Good questions.

Ukulele theory and piano theory are both the same music theory. Your experience with piano should give you a great head start learning to play ukulele.

The "Fretboard" app is wrong about the notes in a D chord; you are correct. The music theoretic difference between F# and Gb isn't important to a player that is only interested in knowing which pitches to play---they're the same pitch. It's playing the correct pitches together that makes uke chords sound good; maybe the "Fretboard" app writer was only worried about correct pitches, not correct notes.

"Basic" chords can be thought of as chord shapes played as near the nut as possible; many have one or more open strings, so they're also called "open" chords; classical guitarists call them chords in "first position". It's confusing to say the least. Your understanding of chord inversions also applies to ukulele chords. The cool thing about uke chords is that most chord shapes (so most inversions) can be played up and down the fretboard. Whee.

I don't know of any apps that teach theory consistently; I know that James Hill and Chalmers Doane's Ukulele in the Classroom series of books focuses on developing both uke playing and music theory together. Some arrangements from these books can be found in the online archive of the (on-hiatus) online magazine Ukulele Yes! (http://www.ukuleleyes.com/index.htm)

Have fun!

Nickie
06-02-2014, 02:38 PM
I hear ya! I'm only a novice at the piano, just beggining to understand theory....too much damn math for me....theory is theory, no matter what the instrument is....
my advice, having played uke longer than piano, is forget the darn theory with the uke, just play it....I learn much easier watching other people, and listetning.....and duplicating....no disgrace in that! now I can make up my own stuff, it's very elementary, but it's origianl, and I have a ball....and now I can hum a familiar song and teach it to myself....

dkame
06-03-2014, 09:36 AM
There are some general practical conventions for ukulele chords that I have seen... and I think convention tends to override theory or correctness:

C# rather than Db - maybe because it is easier to find the chording by stepping a C up a half step.
Eb rather than D# - contradicting the rule above, usually just turn the page to the next song if you see Eb (or D#).
Always F# not Gb - usually we only worry about F#m.
Ab maybe rather than G# - again, turn the page.
Always Bb, never A#.

;)

OldePhart
06-03-2014, 11:59 AM
There are some general practical conventions for ukulele chords that I have seen... and I think convention tends to override theory or correctness:

C# rather than Db - maybe because it is easier to find the chording by stepping a C up a half step.
Eb rather than D# - contradicting the rule above, usually just turn the page to the next song if you see Eb (or D#).
Always F# not Gb - usually we only worry about F#m.
Ab maybe rather than G# - again, turn the page.
Always Bb, never A#.

;)
Actually, the reasons for all of the above are because of basic chord theory...actually, more rightly, basic scale theory which is the basis on which chord theory is built.

For historical reasons some of the most common keys in western music, especially folk music, are Bb, C, D, Eb, E, F, G, Ab, and A. And that's how those chords/notes are going to be "properly" named in those keys. For example the F# is the iii of the key of D, the Eb is the IV of the key of Bb, and so on.

Put another way, in the key of F the Bb is the IV and we call it a Bb instead of an A sharp because the "A" note has already been used for the iii. I.e. the F major scale is F G A Bb... - music theorists poop little bricks if you use the same named note twice in the major scale so they would line up to throw those bricks at you if you wrote the F major scale as F G A A#... ;)


Don't be afraid of the Eb, Ab, etc. The Eb is just a barre E played at the third fret instead of the fourth. Ditto the Ab, it's just a barre-G played at the third fret instead of the second. Learn your barre chords - they are easy and it opens new worlds. If you learn the "box" method you can learn two sets of barre chords and play in any key without a second thought.

John

Pundabaya
06-03-2014, 01:52 PM
The whole 'sharp vs flat' thing is dumb anyway. If I was in charge we'd be playing H major and K minor. :p

Ukejenny
06-03-2014, 04:23 PM
There are some general practical conventions for ukulele chords that I have seen... and I think convention tends to override theory or correctness:

C# rather than Db - maybe because it is easier to find the chording by stepping a C up a half step.
Eb rather than D# - contradicting the rule above, usually just turn the page to the next song if you see Eb (or D#).
Always F# not Gb - usually we only worry about F#m.
Ab maybe rather than G# - again, turn the page.
Always Bb, never A#.

;)

Yes, this is true for ukulele and guitar, but wind band, orchestral, and classical vocal stuff uses all of these.

stevepetergal
06-03-2014, 04:38 PM
The whole 'sharp vs flat' thing is dumb anyway. If I was in charge we'd be playing H major and K minor. :p

I usually play in the key of L. Sounds like L when I play.

Ukejenny
06-03-2014, 04:43 PM
The whole 'sharp vs flat' thing is dumb anyway. If I was in charge we'd be playing H major and K minor. :p

You can thank the Gregorian Monks for all the fun we have with scales, modes and just about everything we think of as Western music.

Another interesting thing when you are thinking of all the flats, sharps and enharmonics is that a note's "identity" is also determined by the notes preceding it and following it. All those notes together determine what degree of a scale any particular note is, and how that note, with the notes surrounding it, feels/sounds/communicates to our ear/brain.

1931jim
06-04-2014, 02:09 AM
On that note Amen. Old Gregorian Monk.

Shastastan
06-04-2014, 12:32 PM
I usually play in the key of L. Sounds like L when I play.

Ah. A post that makes perfect sense.

haertig
06-06-2014, 09:13 PM
I want to thank everyone who has replied and offered all this help in response to my questions. Sorry for the delay in me getting back, but I was out of town on a trip for the last several days and just got back home tonight and saw all these replies!

Looks like I've stumbled onto an extremely helpful, knowledgeble, and fun group of folks here. I'm glad I started Google-ing and found this site. I'm really looking forward to learning to play the ukulele. Mine is scheduled to arrive Monday (from "The Ukulele Site", a.k.a. "Hawaii Music Supply"), and I am excited! It's a low-end ukulele by any measure, a Kala KA-T, but that's what the store recommended to me to learn on so I took their advice. We discussed the super-arid Colorado climate I live in and agreed that a laminated uke might be best to start with given our extremely low humidity and my not being able to appreciate the difference in sound anyway, being a rank beginner. But none-the-less, cheap ukulele or not, I am excited!

Ukejenny
06-07-2014, 12:02 PM
You will love it! Ukulele is music therapy. You'll be addicted. So glad you found UU! You can pick up a lot of tips here. And Aldrine's videos are wonderful.

CeeJay
06-07-2014, 12:19 PM
You can thank the Gregorian Monks for all the fun we have with scales, modes and just about everything we think of as Western music.

Another interesting thing when you are thinking of all the flats, sharps and enharmonics is that a note's "identity" is also determined by the notes preceding it and following it. All those notes together determine what degree of a scale any particular note is, and how that note, with the notes surrounding it, feels/sounds/communicates to our ear/brain.

Damn those Monk brothers (oh another pun as well...),now which one was to blame, Greg or Ian ?

1931jim
06-07-2014, 12:33 PM
Damn those Monk brothers (oh another pun as well...),now which one was to blame, Greg or Ian ?
You are my kind of brother.

CeeJay
06-07-2014, 12:49 PM
You are my kind of brother.

I try .... I am very trying .....
cheers

Chris