my ukulele progress

ripock

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I am going to be taking Yorkie into a Luthier because there's something amiss with the 14th fret. That means I will be stuck with my re-entrant Kamaka for a spell. Concomitantly, that means I will be focusing on my re-entrant shapes. Of course, it won't affect any chords. I'll just play the same chords I always do, but they will be a different inversion with that high G.

Fortunately I ran across a Stu Fuchs video talking about the B.B. box. I had of course know of the box--or, rather, I had heard of it but I didn't exactly know what it was. It is just these intervals: I II bIII IV V VI. Arranged on the second and first strings, those intervals are clumped together in a little box. The patterns are immediately recognizable to anyone who plays scales. I cannot be arsed to make a chart right now, but in E here are the frets: On the E string it is frets 12, 14, 15; and on the A string it is frets 12, 14, 16. You could extend the box to the C string and use frets 11 and 13 for the V and VI intervals.

This box works with either major or minor blues since the I II and VI intervals belong to the major pentatonic and the I bIII IV and V belong to the minor.

With this tool it will be easy to improvise and it makes it possible to mix the major and minor pentatonics which sometimes work and sometimes don't. At least it will give me something to work with.
 
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ripock

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Oh my goodness. i took Yorkie to the luthiery and it is going to be two weeks. I am already missing it. In certain ways Kamaka is better in certain regards but not having a usable 4th string really hurts. It really screws up my dim7 broken chord runs. In ascending, it is very disorienting to have to start on the C string. However it isn't so bad descending since in that case you only have to truncate the end of the run off.

The shapes are rather boring since I cannot really get very fancy with imbricating shapes. However I am going to try to re-focus and emphasize perfecting the little that I do have. It will definitely lend itself to the glissandi as transitional devices since I don't have a lot of notes for fluidity.

Since chords are chords (pace to the unnamed source I referenced a few posts ago who is bothered by non-re-entrant voicings) I took solace in playing me some rhythm changes. It is funny how Rhythm Changes changes over time. Right now, my emphasis is the V of the II in the first bar.. You can play that C#7b9 in a lot of places with some different pitches to attain some rather different vibes. Obviously you either moving up or down from the Em6 before you embrace that mini-resolution in the II of the F#m7. So the issue is: do you lilt up or do you lilt down?

I was just using the Rhythm Changes as a vehicle to practice some Harmonic Minor modes. Here's the sort of thing I am taking about. When you get to that II chord, you can play F# Lokrian 13 instead of the more tradition Dorian or when you get to the end of the A section and hit that V chord, you could always do an E Aiolian #7 instead of a mixolydian--although that would seriously clash since the whole point is the b7. I suppose a straight-up Aiolian would work. Or taking my cue from the BB King box, which avoids the b7 altogether, I could avoid the problem.


It turned rather cold outside. I think it is a good day for soup. I have been hoarding some ham bones from the Christmas ham. I think I will do something rather atypical, a brown stock with ham. I have some mirepoix and I have some nasty balsamic vinegar to use in lieu of wine for the de-glazing. It should be interesting. I also made some chocolate chip cookies for my wife using garbanzo bean flour. I know it sounds gross, but it is actually very good. Wheat flour is so ubiquitous that it doesn't really have a flavor as it is the default flavor. The garbanzo beans have a flavor that contributes to the cookie.
 
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Hey riprock, I've come to really enjoy your uke journal entries here. I love how everyone brings their own insight and style into playing music, and more so on the ukulele than any other instrument. Keep up the good work!
 

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Hey riprock, I've come to really enjoy your uke journal entries here. I love how everyone brings their own insight and style into playing music, and more so on the ukulele than any other instrument. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for dropping by. It is kind of sobering to know that others are watching what we do. It makes me sensitive to the fact that I have an audience and therefore should do something good and not say anything stupid. I hope 2021 is treating you well.
 

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In the kitchen, everything worked out well. My brown stock has to cool down before I can say how well it turned out. However the cookies I made for my wife were great. I used baking powder today, which I omitted yesterday. Also, in a cost-cutting effort I only used topical chocolate chips because who cares about anything if the cookie is loaded with chips on top?

At this point I am literary enough to know that I am supposed to draw a parallel between the superficial festooning of cookies with something paper-thin about my music. But I don't have anything really.

I've been working on integrating the tradition of Rhythm Changes with what I've been doing modal-wise.

I focused on the B section of the Rhythm Changes. Traditionally this section is just a progression of dominant chords. Channeling the spirit of Jazz, I felt that I would be permitted to interlard some tastier extenstions into this sequence. So I alternate between dominant chords and 13 chords. And I also alternate between voicings low on the fret board with voicings higher up. I use Phrygian Dominant shapes over my 13 chords which is in concord with my current project. But for the dominant chords, I use the Overtone Scale, which is also known as the Lydian Dominant. The Lydian Dominant is a fancy name but the notes should be familiar. All it merely the Ionian mode except the pattern you play on the E string, you play on the A string...and the pattern you play A string's patterns are the E string's. Of course, in the Harmonic Minor system which I am currently working, I have a Lydian #2, which works as well.
 

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I was feeling lonely for my Yorkie today. I made some Yorkshire pudding and had a double shot of Cairdeas. Then I remembered that sitting next to my chair in a soft case I had a baritone that I hadn't so much as moved for about a year and a half. It was a bit grungy; even though I am not overly fastidious, i felt I had to run a damp rag over it. If I remember correctly it has a set of those composite Southcoast strings and they seemed to have stayed in tune. It was in D# G# C F. Either all the strings sharped up a half step from Chicago tuning or I did it purposely a year and a half ago. After all, that D# tuning is what I keep Yorkie in. In any event, I returned the baritone to Chicago tuning. It was similar to playing Yorkie except everything was a bit more spacious and echoing.

I didn't really do anything worth annotating. I was just glad to have four strings again, so I just did some rather robotic things like playing through all nine shapes from nut to bridge and sailing through my D# broken chords. I like playing scales and I gussied it up a little bit by pausing strategically or stuttering certain intervals in order to create some phrases.
 

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It was a bit too chilly up here in the mountains to read outside, so I went to the rocking chair by the furnace and finished my book and had a few beers. Then I decided on firming up some Lokrian knowledge. For some reason those shapes seemed hazy to my mind. I mean, I know the basic index, middle, pinky pattern but the details weren't coming to me.

So I threw together a little progression: E add9, Am add9, Bm

to create a groove and then every so often I would launch into an F# Lokrian 13. What's nice about this shape is the proximity of the tonic. It is never far away--making it easy to resolve a phrase very conveniently. My main strategy was to play the re-entrant F# Lokrian 13 up to the fourth interval and instead of playing the fifth inside of the shape, I jumped up to the fifth interval which starts the B Phrygian Dominant on the 11th fret. From there, there are so many options: play the Phrygian, play the A Dorian #11, play the linear F# Lokrian 13, or even the dominant shape of the E minor pentatonic.

I didn't do much of anything with the D# Lokrian bb7. I'm not comfortable with it and with some of the spread of the notes. For that reason, I'll probably try to mess around with it tomorrow. I don't even know what shapes are connected to it. Oh well, there is always tomorrow...unless, of course I die.


I made of bowl soup with that brown stock I made from ham and it was really good. I heated it up in a cast iron sauce pan that had who knows what kind of goodness cooked into it.

After that I played around with the D# super lokrian bb7 with its awkward bIII IV V five-fret stretch. I did some transitioning to other shapes but it was very inartistic--just moving without rhyme or reason. It all works because all the modes use the same notes. However since it was somewhat random, I cannot remember what I did nor can I repeat it. So I will have to play more thoughtfully tomorrow
 
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ripock

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I have to make myself scarce for 90 minutes because my wife is going to have a zoom conference and we have an open floorplan. Luckily I just received some slow-burning flake tobacco. That and a book should do me fine despite the weather.

Since my time is limited, I'll just throw out what I was doing and expand on it later on this evening.

Progression: E add9, Am Add9, E add9, Bm, Bbm, Am, D, D#dim7, Edim7, Fdim7, F#dim7, E add9.

I was trying to play around with the Ionian #5 and the Lydian #2 which aren't my favorites, but which I have partially playing by accident. I will explain later.


I suppose I have a few prejudices against the Ionian #5 and the Lydian #2. The first is philosophical. I am pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool Aiolian player. So I have an attitude against the Ionian #5 because it is Ionian and against the Lydian #2 because the Lydian is more Ionian than the Ionian. Secondly I don't like those modes because they are at the bottom of the fretboard and utilize open frets and I don't like open frets because I cannot control them. I have been introducing them into my playing and I do admit I can run through them faster because of the open frets.

As of right now, I basically use those modes as transitional. There are modes that I play more frequently such as the A Dorian #11 or the E Aiolian #7 and I'll back into the Ionian and Lydian and then move across the fretboard so that I am on the treble strings. However I almost never use them for their own sakes. And I never play them up around the 12th fret. That will probably change because the more I play, the more I see my blindspots.

I do use the Lydian and Ionian without knowing it because the re-entrant Aiolian #7 is embedded within the linear Lydian #2 and the re-entrant Ionian #5 is embedded within the linear super lokrian bb7.

I think I need to focus on using the Lydian and Ionian for themselves. It would give me a different focus and give me a segment of the fretboard that I now avoid subconsciously.
 
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ripock

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I have been watching a few videos concerning Thelonious Monk. He is essentially my spirit-animal. However I am not quite like other Monk fans. I don't want to learn to play Monk. I know that for 99% of people, the goal is to perfectly mimic their favorite artist. That's why everyone is trying to learn songs. I am not in that 99%. If I want to hear something like "Blue Monk" or "Epistrophy" I have the Riverside box set, the Prestige box set, the Blue Note box set. I will listen to Monk playing Monk when I want to hear Monk. What I am after is his methodology. Just as Monk admired Bud Powell, for example, but made his own music, I want to listen to Monk but make my own music.
 

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I was idly watching a video online which purportedly was going to introduce us to five essential scales for ukulele. Being scale-minded myself I was eager to learn. Much to my chagrin. It wasn't five scales; it was two. It was the major scale (in three keys) and the minor scale (in two keys). It seemed to me to be an opportunity lost. Instead of teaching three separate scales, the person could have taught one shape that would yield 32 scales (at least on my fret boards).

Then I asked myself what scales I would include in the video. I think I would use

1. Ionian
2. Aiolian
3. one of the pentatonic scales, probably the tonic or dominant shape
4. harmonic and melodic minor variations
5. one of the modes that people have heard of such as Dorian or mixolydian

Didactically speaking I would just teach those five shapes and then people would have 160 scales to work with.
 

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It is a good day. I will be getting Yorkie back this afternoon. The luthier said that the problem was some wear and tear that occurs over time. He also said Yorkie is very dry. That may have been a contributor. I feel bad. I know that I live in an arid climate, I have humidifiers, but I became lazy and Yorkie paid the price. I will definitely will be keeping Yorkie in its case when not playing it for now on.

The weather is actually rather inclement with a very strident wind and a twenty degree wind chill. I'm just going to make some eggs and potatoes with tomatillo sauce, wash it down with a few demi tasses of mocha java (de-caf of course) and bide my time.

What I plan to do tonight is further my plan to obliterate the wall betwixt my harmonic minor modes. That is my usual methodology. I latch onto a system (whether it is the system of modes of the major, of the blues, or of the harmonic minor), then I conceptualize the chunks. The chunks are played in and of themselves. Eventually the walls that define the chunks become less definite and emigration between chunks is allowed. The ultimate goal is to erode all the walls so that the entire fret board becomes a single shape that I can traverse like a "noir" detective walking the streets of his metropolis knowingly traipsing when I need to go to get what I want.

The greatest impediments to my progress right now are the Lokrian modes. I was playing them a week ago and already they are fading into the mist. The one exception is the F# Lokrian 13 on the 11th fret. I always remember it because it contains the re-entrant B Phrygian Dominant, my favorite. Other than that, I have to think hard about where the other Lokrians are even located let alone what their shapes are.

I think I am going to try to combine some of these troublesome modes so that movement between them will be more fluid.

1. There are the G Ionian #5 and the C Lydian #2 at the 0 fret, and the D# Super Lokrian bb7 at the third fret. That will be a nice group to get organized because right above them are the B Phrygian Dominant and the E Aiolian #7
2. There is the C Lydian #2 at the fifth fret and the F# Lokrian 13 at the sixth
3. There is the G Ionian #5 at the 7th and the D# Super Lokrian bb7 at the 8th.
4. There is F# Lokrian 13 at the 11, and both G Ionian #5 and C Lydian #2 at the 12th.
5. There is the D# Super Lokrian bb7 at the 15th.

The interesting thing in this list is the patch of haze. In the middle of the fret board there is a spate of these shapes. Everything below it is crystal clear as is everything above it. Once I take care of this, I should be a lot closer to my goals.
 

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My stupid cat, Lykophron, was rolling around the ground playing with a pipe cleaner. He knocked over my music stand and broke a ceramic slide. You know life is rough when it even takes away your means of playing the blues. I took the opportunity to upgrade my music stand. I've had the same music stand for a little over 30 years. It is a rickety, collapsable music stand which is meant to be a vade mecum for the itinerant musician. So it is with some sadness I abandon my old music stand and get a very solid manhasset metal music stand.
 

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I have had some success incorporating the F# Lokrian 13 with its surrounding shapes. I only consider the F# on the 6th fret and the 11th fret. I suppose one could use the F# on the E or A string and excessively move vertically, but I don't.

My strategy was to start in the F# Lokrian 13 on the 6th fret. At various points of departure, I moved up to the G Ionian #5 and then back down to the F# Lokrian 13. Since F# on the 6th and 11th are the same pitch, it is easy to sneak up there and then there are quite a few options with the B Phrygian minor, the A Dorian #11, and the E Aiolian #7. With a low G there are a lot of possibilities since there are the re-entrant and the linear shapes.

I move as the fancy takes me from one shape to the adjacent one, and descend the fretboard 'til I get back to the F#. By that time that F# is just begging for resolution, so I just descend another two frets and hit that final E.
 

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Odd threads lately. A person seeking a 0.01% improvement in sound, but eschewing a 10% gain. Oh well, we were all young and stupid at some point. None of my business.

Taking care of my business I bought some lamb legs. I saw someone mention a song with lamb blood in the title. It was probably some religious thing. So it prompted me to buy some lamb legs. I am going to use them to make some stock. Hopefully I can get a lot of marrow out of them.

Musically I had a set-back. I suppose it isn't a set-back actually. It is just one of those things. You cannot make linear progress at all times. After having had some success with erasing the walls between my modes, I returned to the task and it didn't seem to stick. My head and fingers were a muddle. Things weren't flowing. Patently it just takes a bit of time to encode these things onto the brain and this wasn't the time. I did find it helpful to be conscious of the individual notes that were the pivotal points. For example knowing that the A at the top of A Dorian #11 shape and that it is at the bottom of the B Phrygian Dominant shape. When you know what the note is, it is easier to plan ways to exploit it. It is another case of over-learning something before you unlearn it. Obviously, you can't be thinking about notes and make music. There isn't enough time in the crossroads of a moment to do both. So you over-learn and make clunky but conscious music. Eventually by usage and repetition, you gravitate away from being so cerebral and tend to be more intuitive. Then the music can flow. I'm not quite there yet, but I know which shapes are occluding my progress and I have a plan.

To accompany my modal picking, I have been playing a progression that serves as a backing track/springboard. Previously I had been discontented with it because the last change of the progression only worked with a certain rhythm. Otherwise it sounded awkwardly abrupt. I found something that made it work for my ears. Here's where it is at right now:

E add9
Am add9
Bm
Bbm
Am
D
Cm7b5
C#7



I've also been wondering if I should change Yorkie's strings. Obviously it has been a while and right now I have Fremont strings with a Worth string for the A. Ha! I talked of odd threads above. Another one pertained to a rococo re-arrangement of strings because one couldn't mix string sets. Whatever. Anyway, I put the new string on to see if my wonky 16th fret was the fret or the string. It was the fret. So I don't actually need to change the strings, but I want to. I'll see if I do.
 
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ripock

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My Manhasset stand arrived. It seemed lighter than both my wife and I remember them from childhood. Maybe that's because when we were kids they seemed heavier or maybe it is because they are making them thinner nowadays to save money on production. I went cheap and bought the orchestra stand instead of the stand with the telescopic neck. If I were still playing flute, I would be bothered because looking down affects the aperture and the sound. But with the ukulele I can be standing and look down on the stand without harming my tone. I was a bit disappointed because I had hoped the stand was made of steel so that I could use magnets to pin up stuff, but it is okay. I can easily use clip binders in lieu of magnets. Most importantly, it has a heavy base so that my cat probably won't be able to topple it.

Today I was focusing on my re-entrant G Ionian #5 which is embedded within the linear F# Lokrian 13. This is the problem area of the fret board for me. The bottom is no problem because the bottom is the bottom. 95% of players almost never stray out of the bottom. And I have a weird affinity with the top of the fret board for some reason. So I need to really cultivate the middle so that I can connect the bottom and top. I guess I could just use big glissandi but that's not really a solution; that is avoiding the problem. So I'm just going to keep working on these shapes and when they become boringly familiar, I will start to think about what notes they share with the shapes above and below them.
 

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I availed myself to an old tool I haven't used in a while, random.org. I wanted to randomly pick a point of departure between my modes. The random number was 5 which for me is B. So now to plan some improvisational paths.

In the G Ionian #5, the B is at the top of the shape and it also is part of the A Dorian #11 right above it. So I will play around in the Ionian and when I get to the B, jump up to the Dorian

In the C Lydian #2, it isn't so practical. The B is in the middle of the shape. I have to do a double jump from the B to the C and then I'm in D# Super Lokrian bb7

Speaking of which, in the Super Lokrian the B is at the top of the shape and it also part of the E Aiolian #7

In the F# Lokrian 13, B is at the bottom and it transitions to the E Aiolian #7 below it.

That should do it. I am going to use the B to move between shapes, in effect making a new shape. Once I follow this procedure with a few different notes, the walls between the shapes will be blurred. The reason this is important is that the shapes to an extent dictate the music. That's fine if you want to play within a shape and make music therefrom (e.g. using the Aiolian to play "the riff"). However I am at the point when I want to make something that doesn't sound so Aiolian or Lokrian. I want to make something new. And I will with this method.
 

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Slight change of plan. I nipped my fretting hand with a chef's knife and I won't be playing for a few days.

Since that is a fact, I thought I would do a little bit of thinking. I had been thinking of sus chords lately because I heard that the sus2 is the key to the Zappa-sound. A while ago, I had purchased a ukulele jazz book by Abe Lagrimas jr. and he listed at one point the chords you need and the sus4 was in there. Therefore in my music book I have 4 shapes for each sus variety (one accounting for a root for every string). However it seemed wasteful to me to have four strings but only three pitches and I didn't want to duplicate any pitches (that seemed as pointless as open tuning in re-entrant). So I just eye-balled what notes I could add to the idle string to extend the sus chords.

With the sus2 I found that I could include an add3, 4, and 6 as well as a b7 (depending on which root we're talking about)
With the sus4, there were the add2, 3, 4, 6, and the b7.

Of course, not all of these extensions are going to work. When some notes get too close to each other, the sound is too dissonant; I'll have to experiment when my finger heals. Others, however, will fit the bill. For example, those 7sus2 chords will be nice since they are really close to a 9 chord (since the 2 is a 9). This is potentially exciting because I almost never make use of sus chords. This might turn into a brand new thing for me.
 

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I was watching a nice jazz video and its message resonated with me. It was a typical trope: the whole theory or not theory thing. Here's the message I got from it: one needs every tool in the tool box to master the instrument. So practice the scales, the modes, the arpeggios. However all of that is pointless if one doesn't put into practice what one practiced. In practical terms that means a melody. What I usually do to create a melody is to take some lyrics (like a Hellenistic epigram or some couplets from a Theokritean idyll) and give them a dramatic reading in my mind. Then I just play the notes that match the pitch and lilt of my recitation. Maybe I should look over a rather recent manuscript of Posidippos of Pella that I have. I can see the result now in my mind. A nice album of music entitled Posidippos and me.

I did suss out the sus chords. The main problem is getting acquainted with the sound so that you know when to use it. At this point in time I don't remember which chord qualities I liked but I do know that only certain shapes are practical to me. I am not going to recall one of those stretchy shapes. Here are the ones I liked.

Root on the G
E7 sus 2 (9 11 10 9)
E sus 2 add 6 (9 11 9 9)

Root on the C
E sus 4 add 6 (4454)
E7 sus4 (4455)

Root on the E
E sus2 add 3 (11 11 12 11)
E sus2 add 4 (11 11 12 12)
E sus4 add 9 (11 11 12 12)

Root on the A
E sus2 add 6 (6677)
E7 sus2 (7677)
E7 sus4 (7977)

Lastly, I did work on my little progression. Notably, I was playing around with the Bm I have. I was experimenting with the tritone substituion as well as the substitution of the primary and secondary relative minor.


Foodwise, I made a white stock from frozen lamb legs. Quite a bit of meat came off the pressure cooked bones. So much so that I think I am going to thaw out the lamb legs, char and deglaze them for a brown stock.

I also bought the ingredients for my Socorro fried rice which is going to be my fusion of Chinese and southwestern cuisine. I won't go into detail yet except for the chicken. I am preparing some chicken to be soaking a very heavy-handed Lime-garlic marinade with, of course, cumin and oregano.
 

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I really like Abe's Jazz Ukulele book. He lays it all out in a way that I can understand.

oh yeah, it is a good book. It just wasn't up my alley. I'm not really interested in playing standards or Abe's own compositions. I am more avid about making my own stuff. So I used the introductory chapters and only eye-balled the musical examples to see about progressions and chord qualities.