my ukulele progress

ripock

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Evening time. I made black beans with curry, roasted daikon, rice, and collard greens with yellow peppers and olives.

Musically, I was feeling lazy. Previously I was working on imbricating 9 chords with 9 chord arpeggios in a blues progression context. But I didn't want to think, so I just fell back on a twelve bar jazz progression:

01: E13
02. A9
03. E13
04. E13
05. A9
06. A9
07. E13 + D#13
08. D13 + C#13
09. F#m11
10. B9
11. E13 +D#13
12. F#m11 + B9

This is a nice progression, but there's room for improvement. For example, the 3rd and 4th bars, as well as the 5th and 6th, could use some movement. Too much time spent on one chord. On the other hand, one chord can do so much, as long as you commit to it aggressively and squeeze the emphasis out of it. And obviously I changed the quality of the II chord. It should be a 13 chord as well, but a 13 chord rooted on the E string is a finger twister. A m11 is so much easier.
 
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ripock

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something else I forgot to mention: bar 9--F#, secondary dominant! Remember those from a few posts ago? It is used here to create a stutter toward resolution by means of the II V I cadence that is so ubiquitous. In this progression it goes II V I but then veers of to a bI which is a bit de-stabilizing only to do the true ii V and the turnaround to the I. So it is a bit of a tease.
 

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I saw an old acquaintance browsing the threads. I wonder how closely my dinner would suit his tastes.

I pressure cooked some rice and set it in the freezer to chill.

I stir fried 3 eggs, which is an art unto itself in a wok.

In ghee and coconut oil, I briefly cooked half a bulb of garlic and then I added cabbage and carrots. I topped that with Chinese 5-spice, umami, and ginger.

Once that had cooked down, I added the eggs and black beans.

For flavoring I added some soy sauce, sesame oil, and raw leeks.

The eggs and ghee may be objectionable to a vegan, but I did rather well. And I didn't have wine. I opt for scotch which is less calorically dense.

And for my post-prandial entertainment, I worked on my Em9 arpeggio. I read that most guitar or piano players frequently omit the flat third or the fifth when playing this arpeggio. I just played it in full: E G B D F#. My plan is to throw this arpeggio into that progression I was playing a few posts ago. The first four bars are too boring. It would be better to go: E13, A9 for a quick change, Em9 arpeggio, E13. The 5th and 6th bars are again too static. I like some movement in my 5th and 6th bars. I think I'll change to Am and Am add9. That will add some movement before we get to the descending chromaticism of the next section.
 

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More food for my suppositious guest. I had some pressure cooked sweet potatoes mixed with some ghee, black strap molasses, cinnamon, brown sugar. I had some kale eaten with infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar, black beans and basmati rice cooked with some New Mexican staples: oregano, garlic, lime, cumin, green chilis.

I felt like playing high on the fretboard so I played around with B Phrygian Dominant on the 16th fret and the D# Super Lokrian bb7 on the 15th fret. I connected some of the ideas I had with apreggios like the m9 and the A dim7.
 

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Sheesh, there is a seven-page thread about the tone-rite accessory. I have to speculate. What if everyone spent as much time learning to read music or learn some rudimentary theory? It would be a much better world and they'd be much better musicians.

As for me I have been playing the high frets once again. This time I am using my pentatonic shapes.

In reference to my custom baritone that I am bespeaking, I have sent the luthier some wood choices as well as my philosophy on instrument necks.

At this point, I think I have had one too many scotch & bitter drinks. I am slightly loopy. Time to call it a night and strum first position chords.
 

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Today I wanted a bit of a change. I went to random.org and randomized a number for which interval for me to try out. I obtained the second interval.

Playing in E as I do, that means F#. In many ways I find F# rather awkward. In the past I could not decide on whether to call it F# or Gb when playing in that key. In communication, the goal is communication and not obfuscation, so you always go the easier path when communicating in general or musically. For example you don’t call a key G# because that has 8 sharps whereas Ab the enharmonic equivalent only has 4 flats—much easier. F# on the other hand has 6 sharps and Gb has 6 flats. I read somewhere that most people refer to it as Gb when they compose. However, I am heavily drawn to F#. I think I just like the look of a sharp sign rather than a flat sign.

F# also occurs awkwardly on the fretboard. The E string is the only place where the F# occurs conveniently low and high on the fretboard.

First of all, the most obvious thing to do with a second interval is a II-V-I progression. I played around with the major II-V-I and became comfortable with the different voicings for F#m7. I have always disliked the F#m7 rooted on the E string, but it is such a prevalent shape and the E string offers the 2nd or 14rh frets as starting points.

Of course, the most natural thing is to play the minor II-V-I since that progression is based on the harmonization of the harmonic minor scale...the scale I am currently obsessing on. I’ll do that later. I have always had an issue with the tonic in this progression. It is supposed to be ii(m7b5)-V(7b9)-i(m maj7). I’ve never quite warmed up to the minor major 7 although I love the name. Accordingly I will experiment with other chord qualities to see something that resonates with me. Perhaps if used a tone-rite on myself I could resonate more felicitously with the minor major 7.

My M.O. is standard, I will play the obvious scale the F# Lokrian 13 and then I will merely be very cognizant of the F# when playing other modes and make it a point to use the F# as a springboard to other modes, so that I create new shapes.
 

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I tend to pair my culinary and musical ratiocinations. Here's the culinary:

1. I am sold on leeks. I've always steered clear of leeks, anise root, taro root. However there is no reason to fear the leek. It has become my onion of choice. It is so convenient. With regular onions/shallots, you have to convert the bulbs to diced onions. With leeks you just slice them because that are large and cylindrical.

2. Sauces: I bought some Worchestershire Sauce. I grew up with that sauce but haven't really used it in 20, 30 years. I find it is similar to tamari in a stir fry but it adds a little something with the vinegar and anchovies. Speaking of sauces I needed to buy two of the three sauces that are essential to New Mexican cooking. FYI those are green chili sauce, red chili sauce, and a tomatillo salsa. I know what you're thinking: where's the tomato-based salsa? The answer is that it just isn't essential to our region. If you go to a gentrified "Mexican" restaurant you will find some salsa casera or pico de gallo served with her corn chips as an appetizer. There's nothing wrong with salsa casera, it is just so ubiquitous. It is like a spruce/rosewood instrument: it is functional, it is effective, and it is everywhere. Boooooring. Same thing with salsa casera. You want to deviate from the commonplace in your cooking. But I have to admit there is a bit of a stigma involved here. Salsa Casera is what white colonials expect, so there is some pushback with frustrating Santa Fe Karens.

3. Aside from the politics of sauces, I have been beleaguered lately with finding a pub. I have been blessed in the pandemic. I worked almost continuously through it. However I had to find a new pub and it hasn't gone well. I am very traditional. I like to go to my pub have some ale on the patio, smoke my pipe, and study ancient poetry or work on ukulele stuff. Now we cannot smoke at my pub. I would understand if it were a health food store. But it is a pub. We go there to inculcate diabetes mellitus by drinking the fermented sugar water. So developing oral cancer simultaneously with diabetes is natural. I've been trying other pubs and they are either way too seedy or full of post-millennial housecats. I just cannot find a place that has my vibe. It is sad but I'll probably just have to give it up as a lost cause and just drink at home.

4. I did buy some tzatziki sauce for some additional variety, but I am finding it way too rich and full of dairy for my lifestyle. A little bit is good at a restaurant. But to have it small bucket of it at home is excessive.
 

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I just played around with some different things with F#.

I played Rhythm Changes but in the key of F#. I used that as a backbone of the session and for picking I would play a two-octave arpeggio pattern I made up. By hook or crook, I would end up on the F# on the 9th fret. From there it is easy to play the mode or pentatonic shape.

I forgot that the re-entrant F# Lokrian 13 is the one shape that doesn't have a corresponding Linear shape. Granted the C and the D# aren't so far away on the G string, but it isn't like playing a re-entrant B Phrygian Dominant which becomes the Linear F# Lokrian 13 as you move horizontally without altering the position.

I have been playing the bottom of the fretboard, I think I will move to the top and then try to connect the entire fret board.
 

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I saw a beginners' thread about how does one know that one has learnt a song. I didn't look at it because I didn't imagine the respondents and I would have any affinity. I suppose they would say learning a song means slavishingly aping the way its been done before. And I have to say that that definition is what 99% of players would cotten to. However, being the educator that I am...if someone churned out a perfect mimicry of a song I would gladly give that person a grade of a C. Average. Nothing special. Nothing that hasn't already been done. To earn above average grades a person would have to do something that isn't prescribed on their little hand-held computer device. So...improvise with the rudiments of the song, make a solo from the melody, make a new song based on the principles of the original.

For example, today I took one of the kernels of Rhythm Changes, the V-I (with, of course, the V of the V added for good measure). Then I would just play the ii-V-I in different voicings all over fretboard and interlard three measures of soloing between the chords. I restricted the solos to frets 12-19 and tried to focus on the F# as much as possible. Am I a genius? No. Am I even proficient? No. But I would give myself a grade of a B or maybe an A because at least I'm trying to do something original and something I can take some pride in because I didn't crib it off a PDF file.

And speaking of originality, another week, another $100 in my Baritone fund to pay for my bespoke Baritone. I hope it will be as unique as my Yorkie.
 

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Speaking of my baritone, I wanted to write a little about the art of bespeaking a ukulele. In my opinion, the central principle must be to realize that you're a schmuck and you don't really know what makes a good ukulele. Therefore it is imperative to interfere as little as possible with the luthier. It is similar to being a helicopter mom who hovers over the child trying to make the perfect child whereas in reality the child becomes a spoilt, molly-coddled shell of a person. So it is best to interfere as little as possible with the process.

There are a few things i care about, but there are many more that I don't care a F# about. So I tell the luthier what my deal breakers are: must have a cutaway, must have 19 frets with no fret markers, must have a flattened neck profile, and in the case of this baritone, it must have a stauffer headstock.

Then, you have to have the courage to just walk away. Just walk away and let the artist do his magic. And it is magic. If you envisioned something to the most minute detail and then received it, where's the fun in that? But if you let the luthier do his job, there's a synergy between your ideas and his, and when you receive your uke there are some shocks and some things you never would have thought of. But then you accept the uke and its personality. And then you meld yourself to it. That's what makes the process special. The fact that you have created something for yourself that is unique unto you...that's why you pay for a custom uke.
 

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I attended my wife as she met her school friends from 20-30 years ago. I won't detail the trials and tribulations I experienced. I will restrict my account to the end of the night. People were separating. I in fact had to go to bed; some people have to work--don't you know. So some people were portioning out the watermelon, or the pies, or even the pasta. I had only eyes for one thing: the chicken carcasses. Yes, most of the time I eat vegan-esque...but I am not bound to that. My favorite quote is "never let philosophy stand in the way of results." So, although I am very isomorphic to a vegan, I do know the value of carcasses.

I sntached up all those skeletons, added carrots, celery, and leeks (mirepoix for me) and pressure cooked it for a few hours. Now I have a nice white stock with which I can aerate my beans or even make some potatoes fondant.
 

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potatoes fondant

You see a lot of potato recipes but they are never worth the effort. Most leave me indifferent or they take so much effort that the expenditure of time does not off-set the result.

Consequently, I only have a few ways of making potatoes that are worth it to me.

1. hash browns--squeeze the moisture out and fry those shreds
2. roasted potatoes--drizzle with some oil and herbs and salts
3. fried potatoes--drizzle with oil and onion and other stuff
4. fondant: fry the ends of potato cylinders, then parboil them in stock
5. if grandma is coming, boil or mash the potatoes.

Everything else is derived from one of the aforementioned categories, but mystified with extra details.
 

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I decided to mess around with traditional blues progression that has some nice chord qualities. It features the m6 which is one of my favorites because of its somberness. Here are the measures

01. Em6
02. F#dim7 + B7+: sometimes that augmented chord sounded a bit harsh and I softened it to a Bsus4 7+
03. Em6
04. E7
05. Am6
06. Am6b5
07. Picking E Aiolian #7, stressing the E and F# notes
08. Picking E Aiolian #7, stressing the C and the E notes
09. F#dim7
10. B7+
11. Em6
12. F#m7 + B7

Bars 7 and 8 are both supposed to be Em6, but that was too boring. So I inserted some picking to vary. Bars 11 and 12 likewise are meant to be Em6 as well. I changed to a traditional turnaround Emaj7 Fdim7 F#m7 B7. And I inserted an Em6 into bar 11 because the timbre of this progression is dark and the maj7 chord is anything but dark.
 

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Where was I? Oh yeah I was playing that blues progression before I had to do some work. Speaking of work, I have two full-time jobs and someone called me privileged today. So I am privileged because I work two full-time jobs, and I have made excellent lifestyle choices (viz., no TV or cell phone--which saves hundreds per month). I use those privileges to save money from every paycheck so that I can buy my elitist ukuleles over time. I guess it is rude to flaunt my work ethic and sense of household economics. I don't understand.

But what I do understand is that I am still not happy with bar 11 of that progression. My problem is that I don't like going to the tonic because it sounds like we're back at the top. I think it is confusing. Here's how I think it should be:
1. the II chord which anticipates
2. the V chord, which anticipates the tonic
3. but instead of the tonic, we throw a curve ball
4. after that misdirection, the II chord
5. then the V chord, but this time we go back to the top with the tonic.

Therefore instead of resolving in the 11th bar, we need a detour. I tried a few things. First of all, I tried Bb, the tritone of E. Of course I realize that tritone substitution is supposed to happen with dominant chords but it sounded pretty good here. I also tried C#, the relative minor of the tonic. Both sounded good but they had a different feel. For C#m6 I used a lower voicing, so it a different lilt to it...as opposed to the Bbm6 which was higher and formed a descended cadence with the two chords of bar 12.
 

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here's a quick tip for those who want the privileged lifestyle: Beans. For 5 dollars you can get a big bag of beans and that's enough protein for a week. Compare that with porterhouse steaks, the only steak worth mentioning. It would cost in excess of $75 to get enough steaks to last the week. With beans you're saving $70, which can be put in your ukulele fund.

I don't have much to report on the ukulele front today. Today I was just using different voicings to mix things up. After all, what's the point in having 19 frets if you only use the lower five. It does create some interesting dynamics. When you just play the first position chords, the only sense of movement exists in the variations in the chords, but when you start moving the voicings around there are almost two songs in one because the chords shift pitches in strange ways so that at any juncture your song can ascend or descend.
 

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as a follow up to my culinary tip on leading the privileged lifestyle I thought I would share two more of my favorite tricks that I use to save money in the kitchen--which I can then dispose of on custom ukes. The first one is not to drink your calories. Soda, fruit juice, caffeine drinks cost so much money. Water is free and you can save many tens of dollars this way. The second is not to buy foods with ingredients. If you look at stuff like eggs, meat, produce--they don't have labels and ingredients. So instead of dining out, make your own food from primary ingredients. That saves a lot of money. My wife and I typically will spend $30 if we dine out. Do you realize for the same cost, you could buy 50 pounds of potatoes.

That's how you can get a custom uke--if you save for a few years. But what to do with a custom uke? I've been focusing on that F# on the 18th fret and seeing what I could do with it. I'll have to report later as I am still in the experimental stages and I think I am going to be distracted for a few days. I have to re-construct some online classes I'm going to teach because of a software change that effaced some resources.
 

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keeping it simple, a by-word of the privileged kitchen: roast turnips and carrots, some salmon for my wife and soup that was inspired by something I read about the conductor Toscanini (stock, millet, celery and leeks). I usually eat a supper of four things: roots, greens, grains, and beans. I am foregoing the beans tonight although I have a mixture of black-eyed peas and anasazi beans.

For music I was making melodies with arpeggios. The A dim7 arpeggio coupled with the D# Super Lokrian bb7. Why the Super Lokrian? No reason except D# is in the A dim7 and because that modal shape existed in a place on the fret board that I felt like playing. I also used the melody for a little poem I made about two dead cockroaches lying near the cats' water bowl. The song is really about why the cockroaches are there and about my wife. She is fairly sick and if she weren't in so much long-term pain, those cockroaches never would have been allowed to lie there. Death and suffering--great blues lyrics.

Lastly it was a great sunset because of some clouds which aren't typical for a New Mexican horizon. And the beauty reminded me of my favorite uke, my Yorkie. It is funny but someone mentioned how custom ukes don't play so much better. That person is missing the point of a custom uke. Let's face it: ukes are ukes. The reason to commission a custom is the beauty, the uniqueness, the aesthetics. Does its Bm7b5 sound better? No. But it sure has some mojo.
 
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ripock

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My ukulele is getting a bit moist. The hygrometer is a 62%. That is impressive for living in a dessert but a good 10% higher than I like. That Oasis humidifer is too efficacious. I am going to take it out for a week.

Today I was working on moving between chords and single notes. I somewhat abritrarily chose the chord E7b5. There are seven E’s on the fretboard around which to form the chord. In practical terms there are actually only six because the E on the 19th fret is too squishy to reliably form a chord although I can pick it fine. And I didn’t get cute and use rootless chords or partial chords or implied chords. So I had six voicings.

My basic groove was to strum a voicing of E7b5 for two measures and then either move to a different voicing for two measures or to pick notes from a nearby shape for two measures. I restricted myself to minor harmonic mode shapes but I could have easily use minor pentatonic shapes as well since all the notes of the E7b5 are in the E minor pentatonic (if you include the b5, the blue note)

This activity is rather mesmerizing. I can easily let time slip away and play this for an hour
 
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ripock

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I watched a guitar video and it offered some very sage advice. It recommended not to use arpeggio shapes because that precludes thought. Concomitantly, it also requires you to memorize countless shapes for all the chord qualities. The preferred method is to use your theory and then use a two-note-per-string format (similar to pentatonic scales). In this way there is nothing to learn (assuming, of course, that you've practiced your scales like musicians do).

It is very easy. In my case I was playing E7b5, whose formula is I bIII bV bVII, or E G Bb D. So regardless of whether you start on the G, C, or E string, you just find your E and then your G, then you move to the next string and find the Bb and D. Of course, if you have room repeat at the next octave. It is a very good exercise for the fret board because you're always thinking about where's my flat third, where's my natural fifth, where's my etc. It is stimulating.

It is odd that I never thought of it myself. It is right up my alley with my focus frequently being on scales.

Of course patterns, or shapes, do emerge, but in this way the emphasis is on the notes and letting the pattern shape itself--as opposed to the other way around.

I immediately applied this knowledge to the groove I had going on. Now, instead of scale-based riffs in-between the chords, I could make arpeggios.

The only trick with using arpeggios is to gussy them up with rhythm, phrasing, and ornamentations, lest they sound too linear and not musical. And the only physical hurdle to overcome is that sometimes there is a four-fret jump. A three-fret jump is no problem at all and rather customary, but a four-fret jump is a bit of a stretch...depending on where it is on the fretboard.
 

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I see that bamboo ukes are again amongst the current threads. I have a problem with bamboo. I don't have an issue with bamboo as a material. I don't really care what a uke is made of. My problem is the marketing. It is extremely misleading. To call something solid bamboo is a lie. If you know anything about bamboo you know that it is highly industrialized, using chemicals, resins, hydraulic presses, etc. to achieve the bamboo product. It is not natural and not solid. Again, I just have a beef with there being no truth in their advertising.

However, ukuleles first and last in my thoughts: I took the humidifers out of my cases and now the readings are in the 50's as opposed to the 60's. Part of the problem, I think, is my evaporative cooler. Here in the dessert we use swamp coolers that use moist air. I don't usually turn it on when things are tepid, but since it has been hot I have used the swamp cooler during the day. Maybe that contributed to my high relative humidity.

Someday we should talk about relative humidity as it is perceived in different cultures.

But that isn't today. Today I wanted to say that I'm feeling like some of my foundational playing is slipping from me. For me, that is the pentatonic, the cornerstone of western music. I feel like I'm losing touch with it. So I am going to start imbricating my pentatonics with my minor harmonic stuff. After all, they are both Aiolian. But I just want to get re-acquainted with the basics.