More Theory Questions

Teddy

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Hey everyone,

I know there are a number of music theory posts here. But there is so much it can be a bit overwhelming. I consider myself to be an advanced beginner. I can play and cover most songs I try (as long as I have tabs) and am currently finishing up james hills duets for one. I can't claim to understand the theory but can copycat play easily.

I'm also going through Ukulele from Scratch that covers a lot of theory which is my first time seriously trying to learn. I just got through the circle of fifths write up which is interesting but I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do with all the info. There are some basic songs to play which is nice and all but its kind of boring just to strum through with basic chords.

My goals are to be able to learn to play some songs in the way that hill does in duets for one, but where there are not detailed tabs (ie just the basic chords can be found with not melody overlay). Other examples would be the RockClass101 style arrangements such as Spanish nights and in my life.

I'd also like to play some more jazzy and blues songs but itd be nice to improvise a little bit and not rely only on whether there are tabs or not.

So for theory are you sitting down and writing put all the basic I IV V progressions in different keys to memorize them? Major scales too?

I guess I'm trying to find whats worked for other self taught players, to learn theory without just strumming through amazing grace 10,000 times in different keys.
 

rainbow21

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Theory is tough if you try to learn it as a theory for what you want. For example, you cite the circle of fifths, which takes a lot of work to understand and then, "Now what do I do with it?" For what you describe, you might want to focus on melody lines. Open your "Duets for One" and play the standard notation melody line (the top set of single notes where there is one note on each word that is sung). Do this without using the tabs so you can read the actual music. Once you can do this, look at the letter chord and add it as a single chord or arpeggio to start some harmony to your playing. If stuck, look at the tabs and see how James Hill does it.

Once you do this, take any music (like the Daily Ukulele with 365 songs with melody lines and chords) and play them the way you want.
 

Teddy

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Thanks that is a really good idea regarding the melody lines.

I would like to learn some actual theory too i just don't know how to go about. Like the circle of fifths was presented in the book, covering an overview of the concept but i do not truly understand it or know how to apply it. Up until then the book really just covers chord construction and the basic I IV V/V7 progression which makes sense and I can play the same songs in different keys which is cool. But I guess I'm trying to figure out what next in terms of learning theory, what else to learn, how to apply it, etc. Not sure if that makes sense?
 

ripock

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The problem, as I see it, is that there is no problem. As you say, you're a copycat and copycats don't need theory. You're trying to synthesize a need for theory when none exists in your heart. My recommendation is to keep on doing what you do. If there ever comes a day when you want to branch out and do something different (like, for example, make your own music), then the sincere desire will point a way to what part of music theory you will need to understand to achieve whatever goal you have in front of you.
 

ripock

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I realized that I wasn't very helpful above. You wanted some examples of what we did in your position. Here's what I did.

1. I started with 12 bar blues progression. I learned to play it in all keys. That took a while since it requires learning all major and dominant chords.
2. I use a $10 tool called the "Chord Wheel" which is essentially a spinning circle of fifths. You spin an arrow to the key you want and it tells you all the info on that key.
3. I moved to making my own chord progressions. I experimented and did some reading on what other musicians do to make their own progressions.
4. I moved to wanting to play individual notes. That requires knowing the fret board. I used modes to play all the notes of a certain key from the top to the bottom of the fret board

I could go on, but I think it would get really specific to me and not be a good template for other people. However, you can get the point that I wanted to express something musically and then I just researched what I need to affect that goal.
 

kypfer

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FWIW, I never learned any theory until I took up playing melody on a whistle (and then on from there, but that's another story). For the first 40+ years of my "musical existence" I strummed and finger-picked the chords of songs I wanted to sing/play as printed in various source books, just very occasionally needing to transpose the printed key.
After a couple of years "patterns" started to emerge, C-F-G7 E-A-B7 D-G-A7 etc., with the odd minor thrown in as required, and it all became perfectly "normal".
I've probably never needed to play in Bb or G# (or many other odd keys) so never bothered to learn them. Why clutter up the brain with information I don't need? That's what capos were invented for!

YMMV - :music:
 

Teddy

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I realized that I wasn't very helpful above. You wanted some examples of what we did in your position. Here's what I did.

1. I started with 12 bar blues progression. I learned to play it in all keys. That took a while since it requires learning all major and dominant chords.
2. I use a $10 tool called the "Chord Wheel" which is essentially a spinning circle of fifths. You spin an arrow to the key you want and it tells you all the info on that key.
3. I moved to making my own chord progressions. I experimented and did some reading on what other musicians do to make their own progressions.
4. I moved to wanting to play individual notes. That requires knowing the fret board. I used modes to play all the notes of a certain key from the top to the bottom of the fret board

I could go on, but I think it would get really specific to me and not be a good template for other people. However, you can get the point that I wanted to express something musically and then I just researched what I need to affect that goal.

To your first point its totally a fair one and makes sense. I don't want to learn a bunch of theory just for the sake of it
But it'd be nice to play some songs i like that don't have the tab and cut down on the time it takes to learn/figure out.

This is a good template. The book I have focuses on five keys for basic progessions in particular so I'll start there.

I think i saw someone make that fifth wheel out of a tuna can :)
 

Jan D

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. ..But it'd be nice to play some songs i like that don't have the tab and cut down on the time it takes to learn/figure out.

You don’t need to learn a ton of miscellaneous music theory to play songs without tabs. You just need to learn how to read music notation (i.e. the black dots on the page). First you need to know the names of all the notes on the treble clef (that’s where the melody mostly resides). A diagram like this will do:

http://musichowtoread.weebly.com/notes-names-in-treble-clef.html

Then you need to know where those note names are located on your ukulele fingerboard. A chart like this:

http://kauairainbow.com/Ukulele/Fretboard/fretboard.html

There are lots of other versions of the above information on the internet, but these two links will give you an idea of what you need. There is no quick way to learn how to read music notation. You have to learn it one note at a time. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. I promise. :) Good luck!
 

Teddy

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Did someone post a longer reply regarding three keys for blues.. Eb and I think A and G. The post suggested learning the twelve bar in these keys followed by those major scales for each chord and then some other ideas...?

This sounds kinda crazy but I swore I saw this here last night before I fell asleep and now its gone? Maybe from user Bill1 I think?
 

anthonyg

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The circle of fifths is totally overrated as an important music theory tool. I learn't it, I understand it, and then I went, so what?
I mean I can add. I can decide that I'm starting with a C maj chord and then figure out that F maj and G maj will be the IV and V chords. It's not a major hassle to work out.

There is a great saying regarding chords that goes, "With 3 chords you can play 75% of the songs in the World. With 4 chords you can RULE the World".
Basic theory?
There are only 7 notes in all of Western music. Blues bands get by with just 5.
Along with those 7 notes there are also only 7 chords.
All the rest of the notes are just notes from a different Key.
There is, I major, II minor, III minor IV major, V major, VI minor, VII diminished. If you never play a VII diminished chord in your life you will probably get along fine yet when the time comes to play one you'll do just fine.
Just learn and play songs you like and as you go you will start to pick stuff up. The Beatles started out being famous with just 3 chords, they progressed to four and then one day Paul wrote Blackbird.
You just pick things up as you go.
 
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Rllink

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I guess I'm trying to find whats worked for other self taught players, to learn theory without just strumming through amazing grace 10,000 times in different keys.

As far as keys, I'm probably not on the same road as you in my ukulele journey so this is just me, but I don't learn things in keys that I'm not singing in. I have a few keys on the ukulele that are comfortable in my range and I work on them. I can play in more obscure keys to some extent, but I don't waste a lot of time learning what I'm not using.

But I'm into singing and playing with and for other people, and my whole experience centers around that. I suppose if my goal was to become a dazzling instrumental virtuoso it would be different.
 

Teddy

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You don’t need to learn a ton of miscellaneous music theory to play songs without tabs. You just need to learn how to read music notation (i.e. the black dots on the page). First you need to know the names of all the notes on the treble clef (that’s where the melody mostly resides). A diagram like this will do:

http://musichowtoread.weebly.com/notes-names-in-treble-clef.html

Then you need to know where those note names are located on your ukulele fingerboard. A chart like this:

http://kauairainbow.com/Ukulele/Fretboard/fretboard.html

There are lots of other versions of the above information on the internet, but these two links will give you an idea of what you need. There is no quick way to learn how to read music notation. You have to learn it one note at a time. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. I promise. :) Good luck!

Thanks for the resources I will for sure check it out!
 

Teddy

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thanks! Not sure why this disappeared last night. Really nice road map.
 

Teddy

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As far as keys, I'm probably not on the same road as you in my ukulele journey so this is just me, but I don't learn things in keys that I'm not singing in. I have a few keys on the ukulele that are comfortable in my range and I work on them. I can play in more obscure keys to some extent, but I don't waste a lot of time learning what I'm not using.

But I'm into singing and playing with and for other people, and my whole experience centers around that. I suppose if my goal was to become a dazzling instrumental virtuoso it would be different.

Yeah that totally make sense. I was trying to pick up different keys in case I play with someone else in a jam or something. I want to be able to recognize what key they're in and hopefully that'll make some improv easier just knowing the major scales the progression covers.
 

Rllink

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Yeah that totally make sense. I was trying to pick up different keys in case I play with someone else in a jam or something. I want to be able to recognize what key they're in and hopefully that'll make some improv easier just knowing the major scales the progression covers.

If you have the yellow book and the blue book, Daily Ukulele books, a lot of groups play out of those books and the keys in those songs are the keys most played.