my ukulele progress

ripock

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ripock, you are an interesting person. I enjoy following you. If and when I’m able to understand what the heck you’re writin’ about, that is. Write on!
Thanks. I was thinking of you. I was messing around in my harmonica case and briefly played my two favorite harmonicas. My MeisterKlasse in C and my Golden Melody in D. I know you're playing yours as well.
 

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I made two things for dinner: a stir fry with corn, collard greens and shrimp with a bit of curry. I also made some barley and mushrooms. Then for ukulele at first I just thought about ukes. I have some decisions to make with my bespoke baritone. Right now I am leaning towards blackwood top. Obviously being a hard wood, that might chop off some of the top end notes, but it is a baritone. It is supposed to be darker and deeper. That's the only problem I have. I know all the other specs: bubinga body, flattened neck, stauffer head stock. I could, on the other hand, go with some redwood or a sunburst finish.

I played my cigar box just because I was too lazy to get my ukes out of their cases. Nowadays I have it tuned GCEA. Normally it is in open Dm7. I was playing around with a lot of my racist scales as well as other pentatonic scales like the Ritusen and the Scriabin. Those steel strings and a liberal application of vibrato really mimics eastern instruments. I bet I could do something with those sounds if I plugged in the cigar box and augmented the sound with some fuzz or a wah wah. The possibilities are finite but still rather large.
 

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I was just thinking while drinking at the pub. I had some Laguvulin which is universally acclaimed the best whisky. However I was all shrugs. I found that it was everything I cherish about Laphroaig, but less of it. Maybe I'm supposed to value its smoothness or subtleness, but I don't. Laphroaig had tainted and skewed my palate.

And I think the same thing has happened to me musically. I tend toward the aiolian and diminished chords and dominant chords. And I find the typical major chords rather boring. However 99% of the world plays them. I'm not going to say everyone else is wrong. I just don't have the palate for that music much anymore.

I did make one musical/conceptual discovery. I had avoided 7#9 chords because I found the stretch to be too much. The 7b9 is much easier--if you can remember where the darned root is! No the reason why the 7#9 was so difficult was that I was playing 7 add10 chords. Instead of moving the 9 up a fret, I was trying to move it up two frets. Don't ask why. I don't know. Maybe I got it in my head that I had to move up a whole step versus a whole fret. The 7#9 is still a bit stretchy but a lot more attainable if you don't add the 10.
 

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I decided it is high time that I face a shape that is very common but which I avoid. It has come to a point where I am taking effort not to use the shape and that's just asinine. If I put as much energy into playing the shape as I do avoiding it, it wouldn't be a problem. And it is the dominant chord rooted on the E string. You know the F7 that is played 2313. Obviously not the most difficult chord; I just never cultivated the muscle memory for it.

Nowadays I am basically playing minor harmonic modes and racist scales over a minor 7-3-6-2-5-1 progression. In E that gives me two opportunities for a dominant chord: G#7 and B7. That gives me possibly three chances with this shape: the B7 at the 7th fret, the G#7 at the 4th fret and maybe the G#7 at the 16th fret. I can play scales and arpeggios at that level or the fretboard, but I usually cannot squish my fingers small enough to play chords. However this chord is rather spread-y; there is a very real chance that I might be able to manage G#7.
 

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And I am not understanding all the attention 6-stringers are getting recently. If you want a guitar, get a guitar. The charm of the ukulele for me is the fact that it is an incomplete instrument. Anyone can play Rhythm Changes on a 88-key piano; that's just par for the course. However doing it, or attempting to do it, on a ukulele is more of an accomplishment.
 

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One thing that I forgot about is a very early cadence that I favored. It is dom7-dom7#5-dom7-minor root. Using the dom shape rooted on the E string makes this very easy and very audible because the fifth interval is on the A string and therefore it is what the ear hears.
 

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It has turned chilly. To combat the windy cold, I made turnip greens, chicken thighs fried in garbanzo flour (I don't usually keep wheat flour on hand lest I binge on bread or other pastries), and a mixture. I had a risotto-esque barley and mushroom melange to which I added a blend of mung beans and lentils.
 

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Correction/clarification on my last entry. I didn't actually make turnip greens. Only the sweet Lord can make turnip greens. However I did boil some and served it with a little bit of homemade mustard, some coconut oil, and lemon juice.

Practicing my E-rooted dom7 chord went predictably well. I can form it somewhat quickly, but I am still sequencing the fingers instead of them landing all at once. I did have a little bit of trouble with selecting voicings. Going from the G# on the 4th fret to the C# on the 4th fret didn't sound right. Well...it was right because switching chords is an amoral practice; there is no right or wrong. But it wasn't the sound I was shooting for.

I did enjoy the E Hirajoshi scale with two octaves, ranging from the E on the 9th to the E on 19th. Since the intervals are a bit weird, as long as you put in some purposeful pauses as you play, it doesn't sound like a scale. I would get up to the 19th fret, fall back to the 18th fret which is the D#, or the leading tone of the key, and from there descend the fretboard using a D#dim7 arpeggio and then piggy back on the F# Lokrian 13 until I was back on the E of the 9th fret. I was a great little circuit.
 

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I have to do a lot of work this week on my second job, my career as a professor. It is really dragging me down and filching some of my leisure from my fitness routine and my ukulele time. But that baritone isn't going to pay for itself.

During my lunchtime reading today I ran across a striking sentence today: sincerum est nisi vas, quodcumque infundis acescit. It says something like if your vessel isn't clean then whatever you pour into it will turn to vinegar. I have to make sure my vessel is clean because I do not want my ukulele playing to turn sour.

Regardless of the condition of my vessel, I was trying to focus on high frets and interior strings. I was focusing on interior strings first of all because they get overlooked by me quite frequently. I do play them but they are usually anchored to something which emanates from the G and A strings. Also, I was working on the interior strings because I was playing my Kamaka which is unfortunately hamstrung with a high G string so that I thought I would focus on the interior strings since the exterior ones were jacked up.
 

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It has taken all evening but I was able to upload two of my three classes. But more importantly I put my Kamaka away and played my Yorkie for a while. Although no longer acting under compulsion I still focused on the D# on the 15th fret. The obvious choice was to play the D# super lokrian bb7 and the D# dim7 arpeggio. I found that the D# ø was playable even at those high frets. I did mix in some E-rooted dom7 chords. Not a bad way to spend the latter part of the night before bed.
 

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Making a rather reductive stir fry tonight--just cabbage and egg-coated millet. Right now I'm letting the millet cool off because you cannot make a stir fry with warm, moist millet. That would be more of a stir boil.

While the millet is cooling, I thought I'd get my thoughts arrayed. I had a weird experience. There was a thread about asking luthiers for sound samples. I briefly made a comment in between uploading the content of my classes for next semester. I find the entire idea strange. I don't know if I can articulate why. I'm not saying asking for sample is gauche or committing a solecism; I think it is just really out of synch. The thought never crossed my mind. I guess intonation is just a foregone conclusion with a custom uke. You should be worrying about other things. In the end I think that's what struck me as odd. Asking for sound samples is just something from another world. If you're asking for sound samples, you're not quite getting it. And there's no reason why you should. But if you cannot enter into the spirit of the process, then it probably isn't for you. You probably should find another outlet. For example, I don't smoke expensive cigars because I just don't get it. I simply shrug and devote my energy on other things that I can appreciate.

Right now I am struggling with finding a sound that's in my head. It is very much like the Moody Blues searching for the lost chord. I start off with a dom7 chord and it is the dominant degree of a scale. The natural place for a dominant chord to go is to the tonic. That's the V-I that is the kernel of jazz. But I delay the resolution by going to a dom7#5 which very much has the feel of a secondary dominant. Then I go back to the dom7 and create that modicum of resolution. But now the question is where to go from there. Obviously we're going to go to an E chord. But which one? Which chord quality? Nothing is sounding like the sound in my head. After dinner I will resume my quest.
 

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I played around with my V-V#5-I a bit more. I think the sound I had in my head is a resolution to a minor triad. It was so basic, that it was hidden to me. I was trying a bunch of other things but forgot about the fundamental. I think it is a case of the minor triad is so normal that it sounds abnormal in the context of all abnormal chords. I've talked about this before. I like to drop a DΔ into the mix because it sounds so strange (therefore fitting) in a context where everything else is trying to be strange. Again, I've said it before, but I am the only one standing out in a crowd. The crowd is trying so hard with their tattoos and piercings. Taken as a whole, they are homogenized. When I, with a waistcoat and jacket, am juxtaposed, I am the one that is egregious.

The reason I've been concerned with my V-V#5-I sound is because I have been practicing my dom7 rooted on the E string and playing the ubiquitous 736251 progression in which the dom7 plays a role. And I randomly move from chords to fingerpicking, since I play the minor version of this progression which is harmonized from the harmonic minor, my scale of choice.

Before I leave I want to grouse about fingerpicking. It is such an imprecise term. It seems like when I look at a fingerpicking resource, it is almost always about picking patterns. Those are great, but I feel what I'm doing is substantively different. I am not forming a chord and playing a pattern robotically. I am actually picking notes for a melody which exists outside of any discernible pattern. I wish there was a separate term so that I could more accurately describe what I do.
 

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I forgot to mention one thing in my V-V#5-I rant: I did try some things that didn't work for the I chord. I tried sus2 and 7sus4, for example. They didn't work because they almost sounded like a modulation. They were different enough that they sounded like they were moving to something entirely different. However the augmented chord worked for me. The Em or Em7 has a resolution that sounds very final to me. It is the resting place. Or, as I read a blues player once say, it is being reunited with god. So that's an end unto itself. The augmented chord sounds very similar to the minor triad, but it has an extra sound--a sound like it is kind of resolving but also it is looking forward to something else as well.
 

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I don't know if I'll be able to describe what I did. If only I had a Choirilos such as Alexander had to chronicle my activities. It started off with the D# on the 15th fret. The notes up there sound so rich to me. Maybe it is my tuning or my builds. Once my baritone arrives perhaps I can test the theory out.

I primarily played between the 15th and 18th frets. Sometimes I would descend to the 14th fret with a D# dim7 arpeggio and from the A note on that fret, I would transition to chords playing an Am11 and then go to my E progrression based around the 12th fret. And sometimes from the E on the 12th fret, I would launch into some pentatonics going down to the 10th fret.

Obviously just some typical Roots music with some harmonic minor thrown in. I don't know if the harmonic minor can be put under the rubric of Roots. There is a strong case for it. Harmonic minor is one of the central scales of jazz, and jazz and blues are the backbone of Americana. However there is something wrong with associating the harmonic minor with Roots music. I think it is because it is too refined. There can be something a tad exotic and Roots music is rudimentary and fundamental. Obviously minor scales are very Roots. And a harmonic minor scale is just one note away but it still seems weird to include it with Roots.
 

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As I was sitting outside at lunch doing a sudoku I suddenly looked up and said There's not a f#cking cloud in the sky. That was true but later in the day I listened to the way I said the phrase and it mapped out rather naturally to the E minor pentatonic leading tone shape.

In the leading tone shape, there's the sequence of G A B. For variety I would descend the E string using the G A B and then use the B Phryigian dominant to get me to the E on the 4th fret.

from there I would descend in Δ6 dyad triplets until I got to C#. From the C# I started chords again in E. That's just a quick sample of how I take the cadence of a phrase and turn it into a song for an hour or so
 

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I am currently on vacation and no, I didn't take my uke with me. I personally find that extremely annoying when people bring an instrument to a camp site or vacation spot. I also highly resent buskers. I believe in neutrality in shared space. I believe in focusing on what's going on and living in the moment. So when I'm driving, I'm driving. And when I am seeing all those haunting cacti in the Sonoran desert, I focus on them. I can absorb my experience and make it last as a memory forever, and I can play my uke when I get home.

My desire is to play a lot more augmented chords when I get back home next Friday. This is because I had one of those moments when reading a thread last week. It wasn't new information to me, but somehow it just clicked. I knew the augmented chord like the dim7 chord was rootless and could be moved around. The augmented chord is easy. I just make a diagonal maj7 chord and then pull the ring finger and the pinky down a fret. Once you have the shape down all you need to do is make sure the shape covers the note you want. It is really simple. And I hope to play them a lot more next week.
 

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I see there's a thread on the Billy Eilish ukulele. I would have to google Billy Eilish before I could give a damn, so nix on that!

I drove 12 hours today. So when I got home I just unwound with some whisky and with augmented chords. Nothing very recondite; I was just juxtaposing augmented chords with dim7's and sus4's and sus2's and half-diminished. I was just trying to get used to the sound so that I would know when to insert the augmented chord.

The main song for the day was centered on sliding from the B on the 4th fret to the F# on the 11th fret. Obviously I want to circle back to the E on the 10th fret and play the E Aiolian #7 but that was too basic. It did sound awesome as a 3 or 4 note riff but I wanted a little more.

So, before resolving into the E Aiolian #7, I dithered around on the F# Lokrian 13 which, by the way, sounds totally awesome. I basically worked my way up to the D# on the 18th fret. Then I descended in the D# dim7 arpeggio until I landed on the A on the G string. And that A is part of the F# Lokrian 13, and that F# is part of the E Aiolian #7.

So it is all connected and sounds pretty cool.
 

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I continued working on some stuff with the augmented chord. To be honest I don't really like it as a passing chord. Now I am not going to sit here and talk shit about passing chords and leading tones. The entire musical industry uses them; they are unassailable. All I'm going to say is that the passing tone isn't what my mind hears. When you're composing you translate what's in your head to your fingers. I just don't have a passing tone in my head. Maybe it is too refined for me. Maybe I will develop one in the future.

So here's the kernel of what I was playing today:
F#m7b5 \ B+ \ E7sus4 \ Em6

Just a minor 2/5/1, right? I added the sus chord because there was something I didn't like about going from the augmented to the m6. The m6 was too chirpy, too upbeat. It just didn't match. So I needed to throw something between in order to buffer the relationship.

Since I was playing that progression with voicings from the lower 5 frets, I had to do a little research because I do not play that low usually. The obvious candidates are the G Ionian #5 and the C Lydian #2, but I cannot use those. They make boring music. Or rather I make boring music with them...the modes themselves do not have characteristics. So it is totally my fault but nothing interesting happens when I use those modes. These modes have the same notes as other modes, so that my inability to use them is all about my pre-conceived notions and my inability to use them.

But it is what it is. So I picked some neighboring modes the D# super lokrian bb7 and the A Dorian #11. These modes have the same notes as the ones I just mentioned but there is something about the lay-out or something that makes these modes usable for me.
 

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I decided to approach the augmented chords geometrically where instead of thinking about notes I just think of the shape juxtaposed over other shapes. I played this little progression for a while:

1. started with Em rooted on the 7th fret.
2. assuming the root is on the A string, I then descended with augmented chords: D#, D, and C#+
3. then I moved to Am11
4. ascended with A-rooted C#+, D+, and D#+
5. that D#+ is also B+ which is how I used it
6. Then I descended using E chords: EΔ7, E7, Em6
7. Ended on B7+

That was a nice, somber progression that had a bit of vertical movement up and down the fret board.

Now I have to make supper. I just pressure cooked a cup of basmati rice that will cool in the window sill while I cut up some bok choy that I've had for over a week. I'm just making some egg fried rice
 

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I forgot to mention I also made my favorite snack, hummus scooped with bell peppers--especially with a few kalamata olives thrown in for a little more flavor.

And I see that the "opening up" thread is still going on. My ultimate take on it is I acknowledge that wood changes over time, but is it a change that is audible? That's the whole crux of the discussion. My knee-jerk reaction is no, any perceived difference over time is more in your head than not. However I have no horses in this race. And if somehow someone can argue solid wood instruments will pay off in the end through the mythical opening up, then it benefits me and my custom ukes as it will justify paying so much for them versus the particle wood masterpieces coming off the chinese assembly lines.