my ukulele progress

ripock

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I have a few things to report on "Under the Rainbow" which is the name of the song blueprint I am currently working on. The name was inspired by the recent thread devoted to good ukulele songs. Of course "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was brought up and I think my song is the obverse of that. It isn't otherworldly; it is earthy, lugubrious, and exotic.

First of all those unused B minor chords. They both sound the same to me, so I use my preferred shape, X675. It sounds a little out of place with the previous two open chords, but that's a good thing. It shows that a transition is under way. I am going from jangly open chords to a tighter triad to single notes. Another thing that is nice is that when I slide from the Am add9 to the Bm on the A string, there is no slide sound.

This is obviously going to work. I focused on the B at the 7th fret and consciously made decisions to either go down to the B on the fourth fret (and the E on the fourth fret to resolve it all) or up the B of the 11th (and the E on the 10th).

The key to it all is actually the C on the 8th fret. If, on one hand, you don't hit that C you're playing the pentatonics (although I still am under-utilizing the major pentatonic). Obviously that all sounds great. But if you float back to the B and then hit the C, then--bam--you're suddenly in flavor country. That C is very pronounced since it is in neither of the pentatonic systems. Maybe I'll try to map out some of the paths I took tomorrow. Right now it seems a bit daunting to remember all that stuff.
 

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I recently commented on a thread that my ukulele routine hasn't altered with the pandemic, and that's true. But I have modified my behavior in another way. I adhere to a morning grooming routine. This is something that I learnt when I was a PhD student: you need a routine or you tend to just walk around the house in your pajamas doing nothing 'til dinner time.

Anyway, to give my day some structure and to get going in the morning, I get up and hone my razor while I soak my shaving brush in some hot water. Then I load my brush with some shaving soap...

[shaving soap excursus: I used to only use hard soap because I wanted to shave historically. I like being able to read about people breathing on the steel of their razors and watch the fog form and dissipate like so many youthful dreams. And I like being able to do that myself. I am branching out a bit. I bought some new shaving cream with tallow. I really like the tallow and if that means I have to use a cream, then so be it. I recently read a fussy account of how to use blossoming to achieve a very thick lather. I appreciate the author's youthful enthusiasm but it is misspent ingenuity. The last thing I want is a thick whipped lather obscuring the lineaments of my face when using a straight razor. Tallow-based shaving cream offers a little bit of lather with no fuss and that's all I want. I just ordered from Scotland a hard soap made with lanolin. I am hoping it will be like the tallow soaps.]

... after I shave, I apply some beard oil to my mustaches. I make my own with jojoba, cedar, sandalwood, and lavander oils. The ingredients probably cost $100, but it must surely save me many hundreds of dollars. Lastly, I apply some soft wax to the inner parts of my mustaches and some hard wax to the tips.

That's my little routine that motivates to get up and going. Then, smelling of sandalwood soap, oil, and cologne, I can proceed to my other tasks.

The snow is going to hinder my reading schedule, but with boots and gloves I will manage.

The ukulele agenda will not be affected by anything. Right now my mind is centered on the major pentatonic shapes because they are not natural to me. Let me re-phrase that. The major pentatonic is merely the minor pentatonic done in the key of the relative major. So the shapes are the same; they just have different names.

For example, I am focusing on the dominant and leading tone shapes (for the sake of convenience, I am using the names of the linear shapes. There are re-entrant shapes within the linear shapes, but I am ignoring them right now. To clarify it in my mind, then, the dominant shape of the E major pentatonic is the same shape as the leading tone shape of the minor pentatonic. And the leading tone shape of the E major pentatonic is the same as tonic shape of the minor pentatonic. That much is clear but what am I going to do with them. With the dominant shape, not too much because the B is at the top of the shape. So it would be a struggle to transition to other shapes from it. It is a struggle that I will undertake eventually and it might actually be the best thing to do as it would completely obscure the walls between the shapes. However right now the leading tone shape seems a bit easier to deal with.

For example, in the leading tone shape, the notes on the E string are B and C#. All I need to do is hit the C instead of the C# and I would be instantly transported into the land of the harmonic minor. Then the nearby E and F# of the A string would either be notes belonging to the major pentatonic shape or the F# Lokrian 13. So I have a lot of lattitude there. I'll see where that takes me.
 

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I thought I would take advantage of the unwonted, although not unwanted, presence of both flour and gravy in my home. They just don't fit into my lifestyle. I am normally a protein and vegetables kind of guy. So I made Toad in the Hole. It was really simple. You just make yorkies, but add sausage. I used two andouilles which I criss-crossed in a square pan. It was okay. I mean, what's not to like. But I don't really feel a need to repeat it. However, if I had to do it over again, I think I would cut up the sausage. I get the impression that traditionalists would shudder at this, but I think it would be a lot more convenient than having to cut the sausages when they are ensconced in yorkshire pudding.

I unfortunately overslept my window for ukulele playing. I took a nap at four in the afternoon and didn't wake up until nearly midnight. So I only had time to practice those major pentatonics for a bit and try to connect them to the harmonic minor modes that occupy the same area on the fret board. I only had time to do the most rudimentary schemes like ascending with the pentatonic and descending with the Lokrian 13. When I have more leisure, I'll try to mix it up a bit more to make it more musical.
 

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I watched a really insightful video on the circle of fifths. Most of the time, people are trying to dumb down or make less intimidating the circle of fifths. But I saw one that actually, as the title says, takes a deeper dive. Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEq14C60wDI

It was novel by tetrasecting the circle into the tonic, tritone, relative major, relative minor and each of their respective perfect fours and fifths.
 

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I've had to do a lot of stuff relating to my work and couldn't put in the time necessary to make any musical progress.

I'm still fiddling around with pentatonic and minor harmonic shapes that surround the B on the 7th fret. The strings are settling down finally. I didn't have to re-tune today but that's because all the strings had stretched into a D# tuning instead of an E and I just let them remain where they were.

The one novel thing that struck my ear was the movement from E minor to G# augmented. For some reason I really like the sound. And speaking of sound, why do guitar players, and hence ukulele players, speak of tone instead of sound. It always sounds a bit cultish and buzz-wordy to me. Is it because electric guitars have tone knobs and not timbre knobs?
 

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I haven't been doing much of note lately. Just plodding along. Perhaps the one innovation to my playing has been using arpeggios to link my shapes.

Let me map out one instance.

I was just grooving with the F# Lokrian 13, especially the B and C notes. At the top of the Lokrian 13 shape is obviously a F#. Once I attain that F#, then I can use the D# dim7 arpeggio to descend to the A on the second fret. Or I could take only as far as the D# on the 3rd fret.

My goal at this point is to get back up to the B on the seventh fret. There are a few melodic ways of getting there. I could use my harmonic minor modes to get there, or my pentatonics. I suppose I could even use the D# dim7 arpeggio to go up to the C on the 8th fret and then slide back to the B.

Anyway, these are just some potentialities which sometimes I take, and sometimes I don't.
 

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There seems to be a bit of a common feeling running around the ukulele world. I haven't been very productive lately and the threads around here have been a bit frivolous. There was one about the weight and balance of a soprano. Really? Are we going to fuss about something that weighs less than a tin of tobacco? Another thread was assigning moral judgments to chord inversions.

These topics are silly and I assume my progress appears equally nugatory when viewed from someone else's vantage point. So I am motivated not to seem absurd.

So I am moving forward. I went to random.org and randomized a number and received 3. So I am going to work on my third interval as a pivot point betwixt my shapes. The third interval in the harmonic minor is the flatted third, or the G in my case. Okay, so let's plan out our attack. Where are my G's at: G0, G12, C7, C19, E3, E15, A10. That is interesting. The G's are all on marked frets. Obviously it is just a coincidence based on my key, but it is noteworthy.

As with my B, my G is obscure in the middle of the fret board. I'll be focusing on the 7th fret. I'm going to have to sit down and figure some things out.


Okay. I was just looking at my music book and a few things popped out to me. I'll be using the same pentatonic shapes (the dominant and the leading tone) for the G. The G at the 7th fret is at the bottom of the linear Super Lokrian/re-entrant Ionian #5, so the easy transitions are the Lydian #2/Lokrian 13 in which the G is at the top. At first, I was thinking this was going to suck with the ionian and lydian vibes. However, upon further reflection. it seems that there is a lot of room for hybridization of the most boring modes and the most dissonant modes.

And the G on the 10th fret will bring me back to old friends such as the Dorian #11 and Phrygian Dominant. Yet it will be different because I'll be focusing on the G whereas in the past I usually just flew past it.

The thing I'm finding about the G is that starts of the G A B sequence that is found throughout the fret board. That grouping is in many of the shapes. It is kind of like the straight-man. It is a big five-fret spread with its notes at whole tone intervals. It sounds rather stolid, especially when juxtaposed with the rest of the shape that has a lot more half-step intervals. So, becoming cognizant of the GAB is firming up my knowledge quite a bit.

This evening I will pursue this as well as a brown stock made with lamb shanks. I have them thawed and I will char the heck out of them. I guess I'll have to de-glaze with vinegar or lemon juice; I don't have anything else right now.
 
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ripock

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I'm still working on getting acquainted with the G and the GAB sequence. I'm still trying to latch on to its liabilities and advantages. I'm also getting able to recognize it visually. I kind of know where it is shape-wise. For example I know it is the third string in a phrygian dominant scale, but I don't really know where it is. And that is important because I need to know it so I can jump from shape to shape. It will come in time. Right now I can just glance at my fretboard and I can see the B's. The G's will come.

I've hit the big time in my wok skills. I can now fry eggs without them sticking. That's actually harder than it sounds. So I used the eggs in my stir fry.

1. fry the eggs and prepare all the ingredients.
2. In ghee and olive oil, saute garlic, shallot, and ginger (ginger is my secret ingredient)
3. add carbs (rice and slices of corn tortilla)
4. add protein (eggs and curried chicken)
5. add vegetable mix (napa cabbage, portabella mushrooms, and fiesta corn)
6. add garnishes (green onions, green chilis, red chilis)
 

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I received some replacement crystals for my humidifer. I need to dry out the humidifer and get the crystals out of there so that I can replace them. I am talking about my Kamaka's humidifier.

Since I had my Kamaka out, I decided to play with it a little bit. I did notice that some patterns (viz., the Cotten picking pattern) sound better in re-entrant tuning. However, not having a usable G string is rather crippling to my style.

I did what I could with the re-entrant G Ionian #5 and moving higher up to the A Dorian #11 and the B Phrygian Dominant. For some reason I just wasn't in the mood to go lower on the fret board.

To end up the session I played a little progression: Em, G#+, B7, D, Cm7b5, ?

I put the question mark because I wasn't consistently finding a sound I wanted. D#dim7 sounds too much like Cm7b5. F#m7 didn't seem to work (the pitch was too high). So I was just musically floundering.

And I made it all a little more interesting by playing it all ponticello. That added thump was something to hear.

As short as that description is, it actually takes a while to complete. Mostly because I can get lost and entranced in a progression and play it.

And when I am grooving with a progression, I often do some thinking. And I was thinking about today about the intervallic relationships of notes and how it affects matters. Specifically how it impacts the musical spectrum of light. I obviously like the darker end of the spectrum, as evidenced by my progression that is patently in Aiolian (except for that chromatic D). I like the Aiolian because it is sufficiently dark and yet it is possible to go a little darker with the Phrygian or the Lokrian when the need arises.
 
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ripock

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Apparently I am not on the same page as other people. I want a unique ukulele as evidenced by Yorkie's London plane tone wood and laburnum fret board. Others don't agree. They want something tried and true. So I left them to their staid choices. No need communing with folks like that. I came over here to do my thing.

Today I was connecting the re-entrant G Ionian #5, located at the 7th fret, with the linear G Ionian #5, located at the open fret.

The main tool for this was the D# dim7 arpeggio.

Here's the road map to what I was doing:

1. play around with the G Ionian #5
2. at some point, land on the F# on the 9th fret of the A string.
3. from there, I was descend the fret board using the D# dim7 arpeggio 'til I ended on the A @ the 2nd fret.
4. that A is the second note in the linear G Ionian #5
5. ascend the fretboard using that G @ the 3rd fret as part of the B Phrygian Dominant.
6. When I get to the F# at the top of that shape, then it is only a half step to the G and I'm back where I started.

So I grooved on that for quite a while as I awaited my supper. I pressure cooked some corned beef in brown lamb stock for a little over an hour. I don't especially like corned beef but it was ubiquitous at the market because of the proximity of St. Patrick's Day. So it was a wise pecuniary decision to grab four pounds of it.
 

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Some weeks are better than others in provisioning my provender. I just ran out of everything at once. All the essentials are depleted: red chili sauce, green chilis, tomatillo sauce. I do have some pepper sauce, but that's not really food. That's more for pranks or machoism. Or you can just put a drop in a bowl of something to make it uncomfortably spicy. And I don't use tomato-based products like salsa casera or pico de gallo because they are way too gentrified and I don't like how the acidity of these foods affects the polymerization of my skillets.

I'm still working on what I mentioned in the previous entry. It may look like I am merely sluffing or shilly-shallying, but I do spend my daily time with the ukulele. And whether we're talking exercise, diet, music, or any regimen, daily interactions and consistency are what win the race. So I usually take what I'm doing and get lost in it for about an hour.

I usually follow my nose in these sessions, Today I did find that after I was walking down the fret board by means of the dim7 arpeggio and reaching that A on the 2nd fret, I was mutating into the pentatonic. Then the bottom of the subdominant shape was a maj9 chord or a an altered sus2 or sus4 chord (depending on which note was the root). Then I either walked back up the fretboard using this shape or sometimes just being sneaky since the G on the 3rd fret is the same as the one on the 7th fret. So it is easy to pick through the G maj9 at the second fret and then jump up to the 7th fret and start playing the G Ionian #5 again.

Now you might be able to see how someone can get lost in this. Each time you play through it, you can phrase the notes differently. Sometimes the variation sucks, sometimes it is a keeper. And of course aside from phrasing and note adornment, there are also different paths to follow. For example I mentioned getting detoured into the A subdominant pentatonic shape. However it would be equally viable to start the A Dorian #11. And the two aren't mutually exclusive. I could ascend through the pentatonic and descend with the Dorian #11.
 

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I watched a video that I liked for a few reasons. It was a breakdown of some of the techniques that Jimi Hendrix inherited from his R&B mentors. I liked it first of all because it acknowledged Jimi Hendrix learned from someone. It drives me up the wall when people are anti-intellectual about music and use Jimi Hendrix as an instantiation of a self-taught musician and an excuse for why they don't have to read music or know their scales.

Secondly, I did like the content. As far as I could tell it was combining chord shapes and scales to get those particular Hendrix sounds. In short you play double-stops from the chord and then hammer onto some of the notes of the scale that occur higher on those strings.
 

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Been doing some more reading--this time on Zappa who is one of those people whose genius cannot be gainsaid even if you wanted to. And, incidentally, I don't want to; I've always been an admirer.

One thing that was interesting was his modal choices. Often his music seems avant-garde and accordingly dark. However his modes are some of the brightest: Lydian, mixolydian, and dorian. I am assuming he does that because it allows him the full spectrum. He can always play Lydian and then get darker. Perhaps if you start dark it is difficult to lighten up. Also the lighter modes does seem to fit in with his more clownish and puerile moments. Or perhaps there is some other technical reason which is way above my head.

The more accessible piece of information gleaned is the rhythm. It was said that Zappa's rhythm is that of spoken speech. His phrases emulates the jerkiness of human speech. And that is something that I have been working on. I speak sentences naturally and listen to the rhythm of my words and then I try to play my improvisation with the same clustering and spacing of notes. Just as an example I would say to myself "That's it. I'm done. I never want to hear from you again." And then I try to space out my notes and follow the pitch of that sentence in what I'm playing. That sentence is obviously negative. I wonder if the negativity is heard by another person when I play it. And if someone else could pick up the vibe, is it because of the rhythm and pitches of the notes or is it because I tend to play darker modes. These are the questions to be answered over a life time of playing. It'll be fun to eventually learn the answers if anger or happiness has a discernible rhythm.
 

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Someone mentioned today that she wasn't able enough to write her own music. I think she's mystifying the process. However I didn't say anything because I think it would come across as less than positive and I don't want to go there.

So, on an abstract level what does a person need to write a song? Just melody, harmony, and rhythm. Here's what I would do.

1. for melody, just write out your thoughts on anything. For example, how unfair property tax is.
2. for harmony, all you need is a tonic chord and a dominant chord. You would just move back and forth between these two as you sang the melody. Of course, if you wanted something fancier you could add a subdominant chord or a subtonic chord if you wanted to be jazzy
3. for rhythm, you'd just make that up.

That's it. Maybe it wouldn't be the best song, but it would be a song. That's how easy it could be. It is obviously only one of many ways to go about it. I'm just saying it can be that simple; it doesn't have to be the end result of vigorous training.
 

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It is funny but I am often mistaken for things which I am not. For example, people sometimes comment that I am a vegan or a keto- person. The fact of the matter is that all people who eat healthy resemble one another. All healthy diets are about 85% identical despite. Nonetheless the different sects passionately argue about that %15 instead of embracing the 85%.

So I am not a vegan but my diet is very isomorphic to veganism merely because I eat well. If I have any principles--dietary principles, that is--it would be to eat roots, grains, beans, and leaves. That's the core. Other things aren't forbidden, just kind of unheimlich. So I do eat meat or pastries as a bonus, but they don't usually have a place in my diet after I eat the core foods. The reason this is on my brain is that I have gained some weight while abiding in the pandemic. I need to get back to my basics food-wise and exercise-wise. I need to get up at 4 a.m. before and skip some rope and at night I need to hit some weights. Then my clothes will return to fitting comfortably.
 

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It has been a day of ups and downs.

I went to the market to get some parsnips. There were no parsnips. How does a market run out of parsnips? Never have I seen a clearer case of gross negligence. I bought some beets instead. At least with beets you can cook the greens as well as the root.

Since that plan had been thwarted, I thought I would upset my musical world to match. I had been working on G and I had not squeezed everything I could from it, but I thought I should move on. After all, I can always go back to the G. I randomized some numbers and received as my result 6. The sixth interval in my E harmonic minor is C.

I was disappointed at first. After all, it is C. I like to think that I'm a big boy now and have moved on from C. But there's something to be said about re-visiting the rudimentary stuff but with an eye that is more mature.

So, we all know our C's: G5 & G17, C0 & C12, E8, A3 & 15.

I am most interested in the c @ E8

The mode that will be my starting point is the C Lydian #2. In linear, that is at the 5th fret (the 17th fret isn't practical as I run out of fret board). In re-entrant the mode is at the open position and the 12th fret.

So what am I going to be doing? Start off in the C Lydian #2. From that C on the 8th fret I can move to darker shapes: viz., the D# super lokrian bb7 and the F# lokrian 13.

One cool thing about the C is that it is part of my D# dim7 arpeggio, so that I will be using it to transition.

I wanted to play around with the Hendrix mixing of scales and chords that I mentioned earlier. But C isn't part of the E pentatonic, so what can I do? It would be very easy to overlap the Lydian #2 shape at the 12th fret with the C maj7 or C13 chords
 

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It seems like such a waste! I finally received $2700 in back pay and will be receiving slightly more than that from the feds. That would be enough for my custom Beau Hannam baritone with a Florentine cutaway and stauffer headstock. But my wife wants a new car. Such an injustice!

But I must move on.

For dinner I'm roasting some turnips and beets. I'll add some mixed greens, amaranth porridge, and some red beans for good measure.

While that's cooking I played around with my C note.

I started out with the C Lydian #2 and ended up on the C at the 8th fret. Then I played around. Using that C as the root I made a Cm6 and picked through it, hammering onto notes above the chord from the D# Super Lokrian bb7 shape.

Then I descended via the D# dim7 arpeggio 'til I reached the A at the 2nd fret.

I played with the Am (2003) and from the C of that shape, I moved up to the D# on the 6th fret

That D# is part of the C Lydian #2/E Aiolian #7 shape

That was the playful circle I want digging today.
 

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My pepper mill died. It was sad. You tend to think that those things will outlast you. It is difficult to think that another one will sit in the former's place.

Aside from that, I've been doing more of the same.

I've been cooking roots (sweet potato), bean (mung), grain (rice), and greens (beet greens). The beet greens were especially nice in my dressing, I suppose you'd call it. I just combine some fat, lime, and mustard. Of course I make my own mustard.

I've also been playing the same stuff, except with a metronome. For me, the metronome slows everything down. I personally don't understand why people don't like metronomes and call them boring. Maybe it is because they are just re-hashing old tunes that have been done before and done better, so that everyone knows the beat already. With me and my improvisation, the metronome is my partner. So I get an idea in my head and then I have to let my partner catch up to me and lay down the notes and then, when I get ahead, repeat some notes or insert some pregnant pauses. It is that dialectic that makes it more musical. Otherwise I am just playing notes, which is important as a prelude but you need to put the notes you've practiced into a structure. That's where the metronome comes in for me.
 

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Well since I am a disaffected educator I received my first Covid vaccination. As far as I can tell I am not infertile, the Elders of Zion haven't taken control, and whatever other Republican fantasy hasn't come to pass. My left shoulder is a little sore. It feels like an acromion impingement although not as deep.

I was looking at youtube to see if there were any interesting rutabaga recipes (there weren't) and I got linked to all these vegetarian videos. Man, those people are freaky. Although I am mostly a vegetarian, I never really made it my identity; it is just something I do to save money and to sidestep Food Inc. as much as possible. The funniest thing were all these videos on how to become a vegetarian. It isn't rocket science. On Monday, you eat steak and vegetables. On Tuesday, you eat beans and vegetables and voila you're a vegetarian. It isn't hard.

Something that actually is a little harder is moving down the fret board. Here's what I've been doing.

I took as my inspiration the ii-V movement that is the kernel to so much jazz (for instance, Rhythm changes) and I used the concept to descend from the 18th fret to the 2nd fret. I think I have tortured the concept to the point that it isn't a progression any longer in any practical sense of the word but I still used the concept to organize my meanderings. Here is basically what I did:

1. F# arpeggio (starting on the D# @ A18 and ending on the A @ G14.
2. That A is part of B7.
3. From the B on the 14th fret I play the B phrygian dominant, which turns into the F# Lokrian 13. That ends at the F# @ G11.
4. Then I just moved across the fretboard hammering from the 11th to the 12th frets (all those notes are in my key), until I get to the A @ A12
5. From there I went into a F# arpeggio from the A @ A12 to the C @ G5
6. From that C I just went up to A @ G3, which is part of B7. And that's it (unless you want to go to the E @ C4 for resolution)

That's the melody, I suppose you'd call it. The rhythm consists of my metronome. Here's where the creativity and the music is born: You have all these notes but where do you put them? You have to decide to cram a bunch of them into a measure, or play one note and wait for the next measure, or repeat some notes, or play nothing and let the sound of silence do its job. That's what I am doing.
 

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My shoulder is back to normal. So much for side-effects. I was getting back to my roots.

For dinner I roasted these roots: carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and a golden beet. I'm also making some millet. And black beans. I have this package of kale that I picked up impromptu at a downtown market because I forgot to get greens when I went shopping.

Musically I never far from my roots because I am a Roots musician. I was persisting in what I had started yesterday with the F# dim7 arpeggio and the B chord. In keeping with the theme of the day I was trying to incorporate that arpeggio with dominant shapes of the minor pentatonic.since the pentatonic is the root of all Americana. The dominant is one of my favorite shapes. The re-entrant shape especially works well with the B7 chord rooted on the C string. The linear shape has some nice possibilities as well. The top of the shape is DGBE. So you can barre that and then hammer onto notes on the Leading Tone shape that are just above it.