my ukulele progress

Choirguy

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Please keep posting...but you should also start a blog with these thoughts, as they might also help other players (and easier to follow in one place or to subscribe to a blog with an RSS reader). Try Blogspot, Wordpress, or Weebly...and for your first posts, just cut and paste from here!
 

ripock

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Today was a mixed bag for me.

I thought I had a revelation on dim7 moveable chords but the shape I concocted wasn't very conducive to chord changes. In retrospect it looked like some stupid Robert Schumann crap. I've done this before. I couldn't get A-shaped moveable chords to work, so I panicked and invented my own work-around. Then subsequently I just practiced, and the normal chord shape came around. I also did something similar with E major. When will I learn? Instead of some funky junk, if I would take fifteen minutes and do 100 reps of a chord, it will work.

Aside from that I just did some speed work in the key of C. I like to go to random.org and generate 12 random sequences of [1...7]. Then I try to play those sequences. I suppose my goal would be to be able to play a new chord every metronome beat. Right now it is set at about larghetto pace and it rings every three quarter notes. I am doing that fine, but it is time to up the ante. Some of these random chord transitions are ludicrous, but it is better to be over-prepared than not. Another good thing about this practice technique is that it accustoms the ear to intervals. You play them so often that you learn what a IV to a ii sounds like.

Still having some awkward interactions with my kamaka. It is like buying an exquisitely beautiful Russian mail-order bride: you bought her, she's yours, you can do what you want, she's ridiculously beautiful...but what do you do with her, what do you say to her at the dinner table? I have heard some of the elite ukulele players say that the ukulele has to get used to you and to learn what you want from it. I am very much in that camp and right now I am suffering through the awkward blind-date period with the kamaka. I am looking forward to the day that the two of us meld.

I'm sure it'll happen. It happened with my 30T Cordoba. I absolutely adore that instrument. Even though it only cost 1/3 of the kamaka at 700 dollars it is my favorite. I wonder how I'll feel about having two instruments melded to my soul. I wonder if it is conflicting. I will always want to play them both. I suppose I will just have to give them turns. The cordoba is linear while the kamaka is re-entrant. So taking turns and devoting days to things fitted to that particular tuning makes sense. What doesn't make sense is getting other ukuleles. I mean, I understand being acquisitive, but I don't understand having ukuleles I wouldn't play. And if I got more tenor ukuleles I wouldn't play them because, as I said, I am highly chauvinistic and cling to my favorites.
 

ripock

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start of a new week and I have some new random study topics. This week I'll be focusing on the key of G, the voicing of the maj7, and the dominant diminished scale (half-whole). The maj7 isn't as bad as I thought it was. I knew (or needed just a little reminding) most of the maj7's already except for Ab. Of course I'm not going to play that crazy ass F# chord around the second fret. I'm playing the barre on the sixth. I once saw a James Hill video in which he called the F maj7 the most difficult. I agree and the F# is the same thing just a fret lower.

The chords in the key of G are not so hard. There's some I don't use too often--viz, B and E minor. It will be good to practice.

However, when I saw G was my key of the week, I groaned. Another week of scales with open strings, my pet peeve. To make matters worse, I am going to have to play an altered pattern of the dominant diminished scale because it requires a B, one semi-tone beyond the C string. So instead of the pattern that I use for every other fret (index, middle, pinky; index, ring, pinky; index, middle, pinky), I am going to need to do (open, index, ring, pinky; index, middle; open, index, ring).
 

ripock

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Today was a light and fluffy day. Today was carb day, so I had some huevos rancheros and then sat around the table and played, to the best of my memory, some travis picking in F, practiced my maj7 chords and progressed between them with a blues progression. Then I played around with a blues shuffle in A. That morphed into blues in Ab, but I substituted Ab maj7 for Ab which is genius because that chord shape is very similar to the IV and V chords: the Eb and C# dom7s. Then I did some practicing with the dominant diminished scale and for some reason that turned into harmonic aeolian scale improvisation. I finished with some renditions of my wife's least favorite, the eponymous track from the Scorpion's 1974 masterpiece, Fly to the Rainbow.
 

ripock

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my Lanakai baritone arrived today. It was laminate koa, as I expected from the low price. I definitely do not like the wound strings. I had already ordered some Worth baritone strings and they should be here any day now. As I understand it, those strings are wound. I have never played metal strings and I don't prefer it. They don't bend and when they do they scratch the fretboard like nails on a chalkboard. I cannot say that I am a big fan of the tuna uke system either. I would be rather indifferent to it except that it messes with the action of the strings. I don't have precise measurement tools but on the first fret the action is imperceptibly above the fret. However, on the 12th fret the action is 1/8 of an inch due to the high profile of the bridge. Although I did play around with it during the day I will reserve any judgment until I get new strings on it.
 

Ukecaster

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Thanks for dropping by. I know what you mean about notes over chord changes. The biggest frustration since I've joined the ukulele community is the fact that relatively few people use standard notation and notes. It seems like there is a lot of "put your finger here" or "put your finger on the third fret," but I am the freak for wanting to know what I'm playing. It almost seems like people are saying "don't worry your little head about that; just put your finger here and shut up." And it isn't just ukuleles. Guitar videos do the same thing. Sometimes I watch a guitar video because I like the music and would like to learn to play it. If the video would say play an A, then play a F#, then go to G....I could do that. Our ukes have those things. But the video invariably says put your finger here, but I don't have a "here"; my uke's "here" isn't the same as a guitar's. I just wish people would go back to standardization and go away from specialized tabs. Then it wouldn't matter if the instrument was a tuba, a guitar, or a ukulele; I could play anything...with a little transposing, of course. Alright. Enough grousing.

The videos with 20 minutes of endless down up down up drive me nuts, I can't click out fast enough!
 

ripock

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The videos with 20 minutes of endless down up down up drive me nuts, I can't click out fast enough!

Speaking of down up down up, what's the deal with people watching a video and then asking for strum patterns? Don't they have monitors? Just do what you've just seen. Alright. Enough negativity. I'm going to go play some maj7 chords. They always sound like a harp to me and that's kind of soothing in a kumbaya sort of way
 

Rrgramps

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Speaking of down up down up, what's the deal with people watching a video and then asking for strum patterns? Don't they have monitors? Just do what you've just seen.

Gotcha on that. I'm not sure who they are teaching to, and if that audience actually needs to be slowed down that much. My preference for learning new songs is in real time, with a clear shot to the whole ukulele, so I can see what both hands are doing. Like this video...
https://youtu.be/-wrcC2q_vLc
 

ripock

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Gotcha on that. I'm not sure who they are teaching to, and if that audience actually needs to be slowed down that much. My preference for learning new songs is in real time, with a clear shot to the whole ukulele, so I can see what both hands are doing. Like this video...
https://youtu.be/-wrcC2q_vLc

Did you see the top comment for this? It was

A tab for this would be awesome!! Great job and God bless! :)

A bit funny. But I agree with you. It would be so much fun to watch that video closely and emulate, adjust, write little notes, research any chord you weren't familiar with. It is such a sense of accomplishment when it is done. Compare that with just receiving a pdf file from someone who has already done the work. The art of doing things is very much under fire nowadays. One of the things I am doing intermittently right now is playing by ear the second movement from Beethoven's second symphony. It is a fun exercise.

Thanks for dropping by. I need to go and re-string my baritone with some brown Worths. Hey, that reminds me: now that I have a baritone I wonder if it would be easy to play Bach's 147th cantata on it.
 

Rrgramps

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Did you see the top comment for this? It was

A tab for this would be awesome!! Great job and God bless! :)

A bit funny. But I agree with you. It would be so much fun to watch that video closely and emulate, adjust, write little notes, research any chord you weren't familiar with. It is such a sense of accomplishment when it is done. Compare that with just receiving a pdf file from someone who has already done the work.
Nice song. "All of Me" was made popular by Willy Nelson, and written by Seymore Simons and Gerald Marks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1ZSZUSrXc8

I've got the PDF for the chord progressions. Carlos is adding tasteful fill-in to those chords. It's not that hard to catch his riffs, (harder to memorize it) since his lead notes are finger picked around the chords. If you want, I can send you the lead sheet. It's on Page 83 of Jim's Ukulele Songbook 2016-V3 in "C." There are also two other keys in the preceding pages. I know, takes the fun out of transposing it. LOL. Willie plays it "G."
 
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ripock

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Nice song. "All of Me" was made popular by Willy Nelson, and written by Seymore Simons and Gerald Marks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1ZSZUSrXc8

I've got the PDF for the chord progressions. Carlos is adding tasteful fill-in to those chords. It's not that hard to catch his riffs, (harder to memorize it) since his lead notes are finger picked around the chords. If you want, I can send you the lead sheet. It's on Page 83 of Jim's Ukulele Songbook 2016-V3 in "C." There are also two other keys in the preceding pages. I know, takes the fun out of transposing it. LOL. Willie plays it "G."

Thanks for the offer, but as it is I am feeling that I'm overextending myself, doing a lot of nothing, and not making much progress. Maybe in the future.
 

ripock

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I've been messing around with the Lanikai baritone. It would be premature to offer any opinions at this point since the strings are still stretching out, but the one thing I can definitely discuss is the fretboard. It has some friction to it. To the touch it is smooth as silk but when you bend a string, you can feel a slight scratchiness and it makes a sawing sound.

I don't think it is a quality issue; it seems to be more of a choice. My Cordoba is smooth as glass with no sound. My Kamaka has the friction but no sound.

At first, I wonder why the hell would anyone make a fretboard other than glassy smooth. However I am intelligent and realize I don't know more than the guild of luthiers and their millennium of collected expertise. They must have their reasons. If nothing else it could be just an aesthetic choice or a choice that gives acknowledgement to the ideology of "naturalness."

Other than that, the baritone seems to play well...except it doesn't know me yet and is a little intolerant of mistakes. I seem to get a buzz if I don't fret a note with authority.

I have to make an admission. At this point I do not intend to learn the baritone and make use of its abilities; I plan on just playing it like a tenor and playing in keys other than I think I am playing.
 

ripock

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This is an update because when you commit thoughts to writing it becomes more real.

I am fairly happy with my progress, but that also means that I am fairly unhappy as well.

Of course, this doesn't really apply to the right hand. I'm not adept at travis picking or clawhammer, and my rhythm is highly questionable. However, those lifetime goals which aren't even on the horizon of possibilities.

My main beef is with some deficits in more everyday playing. I still don't like my speed at changing chords. I think a reasonable goal is being able to change chords at a quarter note speed. Obviously not all quarter notes are the same given different tempos, but you know what I mean. I would like to be able to change chords on a given beat.

I am also not satisfied with my knowledge of the fretboard. I have been playing instruments since the 80's. With a flute, for example, if I was just wanking around and someone yelled, "Stop! what was that note you just played?" I could answer 100% of the time. Not so with the ukulele. I mean, I know my shapes and I can, for instance, play a Dorian mode. Chances are I don't know what key I'm in. I kind of just play where I want on the fretboard. Even if I make a deliberate decision to start on the 4th fret and know that I am therefore in B, if someone stopped me somewhere in the midst of the mode and asked what note I just fretted...I wouldn't know. I could ascertain that information by counting up from the nut or by looking at a dotted fret...but I don't know.

If I don't change, I will get to my goals over time, but who wants that. Who wants to be an octogenarian who has it all? I need to get more focused to get results sooner.

For the chords, it is easy. I just need to practice more, especially with the metronome. That will have the added benefit of helping my timing, which is holding me back in other areas like improvising and phrasing.

For the fretboard I suppose I need to be more mindful of what I am doing. Perhaps even saying aloud what I'm playing to reinforce it. Maybe playing a different mode everyday to change things up. For example, aside from the modes I also have a collection of scales that I copied from the website of a Swedish heavy metal band. They have a lot of ethnic names like Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian, Gypsy. I don't know if they are actually music from these ethnicities or just some kind of vague stereotype of what Chinese music sounds like. They do have odd intervals and that could add some variety.

I think the key concept here will be focusing and consistency. But that was two key concepts; I am already losing focus.
 

Rrgramps

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Have you tried memorizing the keyboard? As a newbie to ukuleles, that is my future task. I can't see how it would be possible to read sheet music in standard notation, without first, memorizing the fretboard. Ditto with playing scales; memorize note locations so they're routine. Practice till playing can be done with eyes closed, never looking at the fretboard. Work by feel, then feel from the soul. I always knew if I fingered my bass's E string slightly up from middle, that I had an A note (5th fret). Usually without looking. I knew where my D note was, because it's adjacent from the A, at the 5th fret.

Wish I knew the ukulele notes like that. I should've done it first.

I'm going to work on learning the first three frets (all four strings), memorizing all the notes, then move on to commit the first five; eventually all notes on all strings. Maybe YMV, but it's an approach I'm considering.

Those are basic tasks.

But I've instead, learned a multitude of chord progressions, and rote memorized common song riffs (aka scales); just so I can singalong and play the lead during the break in middle of the song.
 
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ripock

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I have tried that and the results were mixed. I made flashcards for the frets and I could and still can tell you what the four notes of every fret are. However I didn't find that that knowledge transferred to musicality. My mind was stuck on the fret and it was hard to think of the individual notes. I am going to try some different approaches and find something that really works for me.
 

Rrgramps

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Do you normally play by ear, or are you more formal? Like TAB and notation.

I agree that knowing the notes doesn't always transfer into musicality. Music comes from inside. Modes, scales, and written notes only present a guide of sorts, and are somewhat robotic if a connection to the music inside is not made. Most popular, rock, blues, and country musicians play without sheet music or music stands and barely have notes beyond the key for the songs in the song list. They have either memorized or play by ear. The Beatles couldn't read a note of music when they started. They played by ear. Other folks went on to write the scores for their songs and put them in sheet music and books. Yet...

...orchestral and formal musicians must play by written notation, and follow the the notes laid out on the sheet music. Sometimes the two never meet, and a formal musician can't play without sheet music -- and the musician who plays by ear can't read music. It's two approaches to being a musician, and sometimes they are at odds. Of course, a mix is probably best.

My personal technique is song-driven. If a simple barred E-chord sounds ok, I might use it. If not, I may have to look up an E chord derivative because it may not be in my memory banks; yet. Maybe I'm using a cheat sheet (aka lead sheet) and the correct chord is above the word I'm singing -- if so, then I'm done, and can continue playing and singing the song. That's true for all the many blues/rock/country/bluegrass bands I've been blessed to have been a member of. Some times, a band mate would simply call out, "'Walkin' the Dog' guys, key of C," and just maybe, a progression. But quickly, because we were on stage.
My old band with an impromptu song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAMHPSW6lSc

My apologies for straying from your first goals and telling you about mine.
 
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ripock

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Even though I like to improvise and noodle around, I do tend towards the more formal side. Although I had been playing, primarily on flute, classical music for years, I had never played an instrument with chords. I had problems. I actually paced the floor and brooded on the things I was encountering. The E major chord in particular caused in me a crisis because it sounded different depending on which E chord you strummed. How can several things be called the same thing and not be the same, I thought. It bothered me a lot. I have come to terms with a lot of it.

Anyway, that has little bearing on my plans. I still am going to keep on practicing (except with a little more attention to what I'm doing). It is really weird, but I like practice and modes in and of themselves. It adds value to my life...but I am preaching to the choir here.
 

ripock

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Last two days I have been busy at work and just noodled around with ukulele when I get home and my dinner's cooking.

But now it is a new week and I have some new topics to focus on. The key of the week is Bb. This is very needed. Somehow this key has flown under my radar. I couldn't even think of what the I IV V progression was in this key. The mode of the week is the melodic version of the Aeolian. I usually play the harmonic version. This will be nice. The major add9 is my voicing to focus on.
 

ripock

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It is 3:30 a.m. I checked on kamaka and its humidity. I had to play it for a while. Its notes are so crisp. Quite a contrast to my baritone's buzziness. I put on the strap and played. I know straps are controversial but I adore mine.

s600887995387111176_p40_i2_w640.jpg

I prefer straps for several reasons. First of all, it is another accessorizing opportunity. You can see from the picture I like my Julius Medina straps because they are very understated with a little bit of decoration. Nothing garish about them--timeless. Secondly, I like straps because they promote looseness. When you watch the virtuosi they are loose whilst we are tight (in our grip and barre chords, e.g.). Straps promote looseness. How can you be loose when you're squeezing the ukulele with your forearm and supporting its neck with your other arm?

Straps also promote proper form, at least for me. I normally play standing up because when I sit down I end up tilting the ukulele up to see it or hunching over it. With the ukulele hanging off the strap, I cannot see it and I am forced to learn to play by touch. There is an art to wearing straps. You have to learn what to do with the strumming arm now that it doesn't need to squish the ukulele into your intercostal region. I like to rest mine on the lower bout of the ukulele. The biggest adjustment for me was the angle. When I first started using straps, it screwed with my muscle memory because the angles were funky.

Anyway...I put a strap on my kamaka and played for a bit. The first thing I noticed is the lack of fret markers on the side of the neck. Makes sense. You shouldn't even be looking down there in the first place. I won't go into detail yet. I'm not even supposed to be playing my kamaka and I shouldn't be rewarded for availing myself of this contraband pleasure by writing about it.
 
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ripock

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I overslept and didn't have much time before work. I worked on playing blues progressions in Bb. I tried substituting in some maj7's and add9's. It was meh. I have an intuition that getting add6 chords under my belt will make things work better. I played blues scale in Bb as well as the melodic Aeolian. I started memorizing the notes as I played them but I didn't get a lot of repetitions. Memorizing the notes will make my phrasing a lot better as I can then be sure to land on my root note for resolution. I'm sure that it is just a matter of inventing riffs/fills, and then unremembering the notes as the pattern gets ingrained.