How to take the next step?

JazVM

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Hello everyone,


I am a quiet reader of the forums and I think this is my first post. So hello to everyone :)


I have started playing the Uke almost two years ago. My girlfriend brought my attention to this amazing instrument and since I played my first chords I never laid the Uke down. Even though I didn't have any musical education as a kid (I am 32 now) I really got into it and put in a LOT of time practicing. For the last two years I pretty much played every day for half an hour to an hour and Naturally I learned a lot and consequently I wouldn’t call myself a beginner anymore.

Let me explain what I like to play and what I know:
Since my voice is really horrible (it really is…!) I almost exclusively play fingerstyle chord melody style and I almost never just strum along. I also play some classical pieces. All of my Ukes are Tenors which I feel suit that style the most.

I know all the notes of the first 12 frets of the fingerboard and can play them up and down the fretboard at a speed of 15-30bpm. I know chord shapes for major, minor and 7th chords and I can slowly (!) play them up and down the fretboard. I like to look online for songs/pieces and I try tofind some advanced tabs/sheets for them and then practice the hell out of them.

What I don’t know, is how to take the next step. To be completely honest, I don’t even know what the next step is.

I think what I would like to learn is improvisation. But I don’t know how to tackle the subject. I have a book of hundreds of scales for the Uke but I don’t know what to make of it or how to use the knowledge to begin to learn improvisation.

How do I learn to improvise and to be creative? I just don’t get it. And while it’s easy to find tutorials for beginners it’s hard to find some guidance that that on youtube.

I don’t know, if you understand what I am trying to say. I don’t just want to practice to play someone else’s music, I want to play my own.

What would a guitar beginner be told after he really learned to play his favorite and even a bit more complex songs really well?

I hope you understand my misery.


Kind regards and an advance thank you for all your replies.

Jan
 

merlin666

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Welcome Jan. I started out playing guitar, and as a self taught player for me the next step was playing with others. And that was the step when improvisation becomes interesting. Essentially it works like this that players play chords or accompanying bass lines and then take turns playing lead solo, which means improvising around a melodic theme. Learning for this includes left hand techniques like hammering, pull off, slide, and bend; as well as theory of scales.

So maybe you are at a level now when it is time to search for people in your community who have like playing similar music like you do and also are interested in getting together to play. Can be ukulele or any other instrument. It is a lot more fun than playing alone.
 

rainbow21

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In most ways I am behind where you are, but have started understanding a little bit of what you describe and maybe seek.

One piece of the puzzle is to match your scales with the key that the song is being played in. So perhaps have a backing track (or just someone playing the song), say in the key of C, while you use the C pentatonic scale to "noodle" around on. Then separate out which notes are better choices depending on which chord is being played for that measure (and perhaps using all the notes of the C scale). So if an F chord, choose the three notes that make up that chord, the F, A, and C. I would seek out internet resources, like the Chee and Maisel Artist Works course and see if that fulfills your needs.

Good luck!
 

Joyful Uke

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Welcome to UU.
I think I understand what you're wanting to be your next step. Maybe not? But it sounds to me like you're wanting to create your own versions of songs/music, rather than play someone else's version. Is that correct?

I was trying to work out my own arrangements a while back, but real life had other demands, so I haven't gotten as far with that as I would have liked yet. But, my approach, (possibly not a good approach, LOL, but it's the path I'm on), has been:
Pick a song to try to arrange. Listen to other people's version of that song. What do I like? What don't I like? That kind of gives me some direction.

Since this is a hobby for me, and many other things need to take priority, sometimes I'll go with the shortcut of finding tab for a song and then modifying it to suit me. But sometimes I'll have the time to try working something out completely on my own - with varying degrees of success, LOL.

Starting small, like with someone else's version, and then modifying just a small part of it initially to be my own, made it less intimidating for me to get started.

And, I have found that once I learn someone else's version, over time it morphs into my own version. Sometimes I'll go back to a tab that I thought I had memorized and be surprised at how different my version has become over time.

I would guess that borrowing the slogan "Just Do It" might not be a bad idea at times. Give it a try and see what happens. Don't be concerned about making mistakes or doing something "wrong", because it's all just part of the learning process and getting you going along your path.

Then again, maybe this isn't what you were asking about at all. :)

Have fun!
 

taro

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This doesn't answer your question directly, but have you considered becoming a UU+ member?

I joined UU+ recently, after about a year of playing the uke and learning various songs from sheet music. There's a lot of great material for all levels, and you can ask questions, get song feedback, and even book 15 minute lessons directly with Aldrine twice a month. The lessons alone make it an incredible deal!
 

Brad Bordessa

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Since my voice is really horrible (it really is…!)

I think you answered your own question. Start there. Adding your voice to your toolbox will exponentially expand your musical options over any kind of more advanced picking or improv stuff you could learn.

It's pretty hard to hold something (an improv) in your mind and figure it out on the uke. If you can sing it, it's a much more solid connection from your mind to the notes. This will be very helpful as you learn improvising.

Even if you have the worst voice in the world, it can be improved. Take some voice lessons. Practice. Then start writing songs or solos. The music will tell you what you're missing, musically, and what you should practice.
 

Joyful Uke

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My voice is best heard in my mind only. LOL. I have doubt that it could be improved, but for me, it wouldn't be something that I'd like to spend time and money on right now. But OP might find that to be a good path to follow and great advice, which is why it's so great that we have different ideas presented here.

My own thought is that if I can hear it clearly in my head, then having my ukulele be the voice that "sings" it is my goal. But that might not be true for OP, so it will be fun to hear how things go for OP.
 

ripock

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The next step is to groove with others. In your case "others" equals a metronome or a backing track on youtube.

1. pick a backing track
2. the backing track is going to be a chord progression. Find out what the chords are. Google what to play over <blank> chords. Google will give you a scale. Practice the scale and know where the 7 notes of the scale occur on your fret board.
3. Play the backing track. Get into the beat, the rhythm, the chord changes...and add a note from your scale to the musical bar. Don't do more than that. Otherwise you'll screw up the groove. Remember you're trying to contribute and not take over/overwhelm the groove (leave that to the sophmoric guitarist). Anyway, saying nothing is saying something. So use silence and when you think it is a good time add one of the 7 notes of your scale to the groove. Of course, on a tenor, you'll have 5 or 6 different voicings of the note. Experiment with them. Experiment with vibrato, bending the note, repeating the note quickly.
4. Once you feel like it, add two notes from your scale and again just play around with it and with silence.

That's the beginning of being creative. It sounds simplistic (and it is) but it will take you months to do it correctly.
 
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bunnyf

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I think of learning improv as a 2 step process.
1- Learn your pentatonic scale (google “ukulele for geeks“, it has free clear diagrams). You’ll see some simple patterns that can be moved all over the neck for any key. Now try to pick out a simple familiar tune that you have in your head (not something you’ve memorized). What you will notice is that the melody notes are mostly right under your fingers in that pentatonic scale. Spend time doing this with lots of songs. Soon, you’ll get to the point where if you can sing it (or hear it in your head), you can play it. Then you can put on a recording of a song (youtube video) and try playing along. It may take you a minute to find the key (but that’s good practice too). When you can do this, and it won’t take very long, you are well on your way. Playing a simple melody while others are strumming the chords is a respectable beginning solo.

2- Next, you’re gonna want to start adding appropriate embellishment. Think of how singers sometimes do/overdo little runs with their voice w/i the basic melody. Basically adding arpeggios around parts of the tune. This is actually pretty easy and you may find that you unknowingly do this when you accidentally hit a note that’s in the scale but not part of the stripped down melody. This “wrong“ note becomes a passing tone or embellishment (like a walkup or walk down between chords). Now here’s the harder part (this is where I’m at)...adding partial chords (double stops), like in chord melody arrangements. But doing this spontaneously means you need to remember which chord of the progression is that you’re playing over and knowing where those nearby chord notes are. Understanding a little theory helps you here but by this point, you are well on your way to spontaneous improv.

When I first started, I memorized arrangements and that can be very helpful in seeing and hearing where you might want to go with a tune but now I play more organically and just incorporate those ideas into my improv. Hope this helps.
 

kkimura

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Sing more. Plenty of people with "horrible" voices are famous artists. David Van Ronk and Kris Kristofferson come to mind.
 

Bluesy

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Playing with others and learning the pentatonic scales are great next steps. To assist you, you may want to check out some of Stu Fuch's Ukulele Zen's YouTube vids on Pentatonic Scales and improvisation. He provides easy introduction to how to approach improvisation.

Playing with a metronome can also enhance this kind of practice. Stu is a fan of incorporating a pedal board, and that could be another enjoyable road to explore. There are loads of these videos. He's also got a helpful website. Hope this gives you some ideas of where to start. Bluesy.

Blues Scale Improv

Improvisation Game

How to Solo

How to Solo With Pentatonic Scale
 

acmespaceship

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The advice about pentatonic scales, backing tracks, and playing with other people is good. Classic 12-bar blues is a good place to start, even if it's not your favorite kind of music. Blues is all about improv. The chord progressions are simple and the scales are limited (not necessarily pentatonic but you can start there). The whole idea is to simplify the mechanics so you can concentrate on improvising.

You don't have to become a vocalist, but many people are more comfortable improvising while singing or humming. That's because they aren't worried about finding the "right" notes on an instrument. In the privacy of your own home when nobody is around, get a kazoo, play a blues recording, and hum along. I bet you will have no trouble improvising.

If you do have trouble coming up with ideas for improv, you need to listen to more recordings. When our son was touring colleges, the jazz studies professors always asked him the same first question: Who are you transcribing? It seems counter-intuitive, but the first step in learning improv is to listen to other people improvising. Try to copy them, just like aspiring painters copy the Mona Lisa. You'll get the hang of it.

Once you realize the music has been inside you all along, the rest is mere technique, and that requires only practice. Good luck and enjoy the journey.
 

clear

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Let me explain what I like to play and what I know:
Since my voice is really horrible (it really is…!) I almost exclusively play fingerstyle chord melody style and I almost never just strum along. I also play some classical pieces.

The next step is to get a classical guitar. Based on what you've posted, you'll love it.
 

ukudancer

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I will credit a lot of my growth this past few months on two things, being able to record myself (and play on top of that) and have a drum pedal (to keep my timing honest).

Being able to play on top of my own recordings have helped a lot in terms of hearing what notes sound good with certain chords. You will know when you hit a sour note vs if I were just playing the parts independently.

I still need to improve on playing over chord changes, but at least I'm soloing in the correct keys.
 

rainbow21

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Just released today. I consider a tremendous session on soloing/improvising. (Note: lesson by Tyler at Ten Thumbs, not by Jake)

 

hendulele

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I think you answered your own question. Start there. Adding your voice to your toolbox will exponentially expand your musical options over any kind of more advanced picking or improv stuff you could learn.

It's pretty hard to hold something (an improv) in your mind and figure it out on the uke. If you can sing it, it's a much more solid connection from your mind to the notes. This will be very helpful as you learn improvising.

Even if you have the worst voice in the world, it can be improved. Take some voice lessons. Practice. Then start writing songs or solos. The music will tell you what you're missing, musically, and what you should practice.
Yes. I have very good pitch but didn’t know how to breathe or project until I took voice lessons. The pandemic interrupted them and I’ve regressed. But when I was doing those once- weekly lessons, my playing and confidence improved dramatically.