my ukulele progress

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
There's a thread about the best sounding uke. That just sounds like a fight waiting to happen; I'm not even going to look at it.

I've been thinking of the impact of training. I saw in the news that Europe is in big trouble with 40C heat. Here in the desert we have such days as well. We call them weekdays except for Saturday and Sunday, which we call weekends. Yesterday was a 40C day for me and what I did was sit under a sycamore tree with a shirt and tie on and did some sudoku puzzles. I don't have air-conditioning. Never have. I grew up in Las Vegas and would go outside and play when it was 115 which is roughly 46C. The only thing I've ever had is a swamp cooler which is a fan blowing humidified air. It can drop the temperature 20 degrees. For example if it is 100 outside it is 80 in the house. So I am just trained for this weather whereas people in Great Britain are not.

And this applies to music obviously. We are only good at what we practice. I have never trained myself to be a strummer. I cannot really play accompaniment very well. I lack some serious motivation and to me it is just so boring...basically because I don't sing.

I do practice melodizing quite a bit. So I can't really strum which most would consider an entry-level skill. But I can pick all over the neck to make melodic lines and support that with some interlarded chord play.

Today I trained in improvising around the middle of the neck which is a blind spot for me. Anything above the 11th fret is very familiar to me. So I was playing the 7th fret and lower.

I have been having a lot of success by starting on the G lydian #5 and transitioning to other modes. I have been transitioning vertically and horizontally. The one thing I have yet to do is to do something positive with the G Lydian #5.

To alter my thinking about the G lydian #5 is practicing sequences. sequences span more than one string, so that you start to think outside the box and not get stuck with the notes on one string.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I just heard mention of a fret board with a radius being easier for barre chords. I never would have figured. I assume a flat surface would be a better match for a flat finger.

I went to the barbershop and had my head straight razored for the summer. During the procedure one's head receives micro cuts and abrasions. There is of course no blood but when the barber slathered on isopropyl alcohol it really burned. I didn't even flinch but it did hurt. Later in the day the fine patina of sweat on my scalp stung a little bit.

For dinner I fried some chicken thighs, baked some kale, and pressure cooked some quinoa (with butter, black salt, bouquet garni, and black strap molasses.

I played for about an hour non-stop but I cannot reproduce what I was doing in words. Essentially I was just exploring the G Lydian #5 and its neighboring shapes and finding intervals I liked and focusing on them. I also practiced some arpeggios going from the 18th to the 2nd fret.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I was thinking why people are so adverse to musical theory. Part of the answer, at least in the United States is the anti-intellectualism following in the wake of Trump politics. What can doctors with their years of training and decades of experience tell a mouth-breather that he or she couldn't ascertain on Google? Similarly you can erect the narrative where music theory is constructed by elite professors whereas the real musician needs only his heart to play music.

Probably it has more to do with the misapprehension that music theory is a set of rules. It is more of a set of observations of what is done in western music and it is a vocabulary to criticize and discuss music.

Have you ever tried to get a child to tell you why he doesn't like some food and they just say "I don't like it." Then the child gets older he can say because it has too much cinnamon or not enough tarragon or it is undercooked or it is too spicy. Theory gives that power to musicians so they can think about and discuss what they hear.

Music theory and its observations should be respected because when music theory demonstrates that most people use a dom7 in a situation, it is because it works. However it isn't a rule. Someone in this situation can use a 7sus4#5 and music theory lets you annotate that choice so that you can analyze why it works or doesn't work.

In the end, that's how I regard it: it is a powerful suggestion based on centuries of observations. Instead of hunting and pecking, and trying random things to find what sounds right, I can just do a little reading and learn what is normal. Then I can choose: do I want to embrace normalcy, do I want to tweak it (and if so, how), or do I want to be eccentric?

I have to admit that music theory has the added bonus for me of having all these terms. Being trained in ancient poetry I am obsessed with the taxonomy. I like to know the little terms and know that every phenomenon does have a term that those in the know know.

for example instead of being paraphrastic and saying "do you all know that thing when there is a beat or a syllable that in front of a line of poetry or measure of music that isn't part of the structure" I prefer to say "anakrusis"
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
A few posts ago, I mentioned training and how I am trained for heat. On the flip-side of that I want to add how this environment is not equipped for other things, like rain. It is monsoon season in the desert. When it gets really hot here, it pulls moisture up from the gulf of Mexico and we receive rain which accounts for half of our annual water. However it isn't really much rain at all. It is more of a lot of drizzling and isolated downpours. Be that as it may, three people just died in the "flooding." Our rain wouldn't even be acknowledged as significant in England but people here are still dying because they haven't been trained in the most rudimentary aspects of dealing with rain: don't stand in a culvert or dried out aqueduct during a storm.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
One last errant ukulele thought before I have to buckle down and get to work. My baritone is paid for and I'm just waiting for my build slot. The baritone will be my last uke but I chose it with the same methodology as my others.

I try to take the instrument out of the equation. Instead of buying a $200 uke, then a $300, then a $400 et c. and always wonder if there is something better or something I am missing, I just determine what's an excellent uke, then I save up and get it. I do not have a means by which I determine what is excellent; I just arbitrarily pick one of the top shelf builders and bespeak a uke to my specifications. Excellence is excellence. James Hill can play anything Jake can play and vice versa. There is no technical impediments. It is all just a matter of choice. Same thing with ukes. All the excellent ukes are excellent in their own way, so you cannot really go wrong.

So I have, or will have, an excellent baritone and I will not need to worry if there's something wrong with the uke or if there is something better around the corner. I have all I need with this instrument except competency. UAS is no concern because whatever comes out on the market, it would be a downgrade from what I have. I actually think it is a perfect way to attain an instrument, but of course I am a bit biased.
 

Patty

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Feb 2, 2022
Messages
800
Points
93
I was thinking why people are so adverse to musical theory. Part of the answer, at least in the United States is the anti-intellectualism following in the wake of Trump politics.
Anti-intellectualism (anti-education is a better term) is very deep-seated in the US, and goes back further than the Donald—he just exploited it.

I’d trace aversion to music theory to the fact that public schools don’t teach music anymore, largely because there’s a general disdain for arts education, which of course would mean spending THE TAXPAYERS‘ MONEY— which is verboten unless it’s for the football team.

I started school in Iowa in the late 50’s (yes, I’m old) when all kids learned to read music, and it wasn’t hard: F-A-C-E (“face”) for the spaces and E-G-B-D-F (“every good boy does fine”) for the lines of the upper staff, and other mnemonics for the lower staff.

And there were instruments to lend to kids, as well as instruction, for those who wanted to learn to play, and perhaps to join the school band or orchestra. For kids who have these opportunities, “music theory” naturally falls into place. It’s simply a set of observations about what’s there in front of you, the key signatures and all the rest. No big deal really, but if it’s totally new, or foreign to your experience, it’s intimidating, naturally.

We’ve been failing schools, teachers, and kids for two generations now, and not just in music.
 
Last edited:

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I came in just under the wire. I remember music class with plastic flutes soaked in alcohol and reading standard notation. But I think no one after me had music class.
 

Patty

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Feb 2, 2022
Messages
800
Points
93
I came in just under the wire. I remember music class with plastic flutes soaked in alcohol and reading standard notation. But I think no one after me had music class.
I remember those plastic flutes. As I recall the thing was called a “Tonette.”
 

Down Up Dick

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
4,103
Points
63
I started music in the 4th grade (1945 or 6). The music teacher, Mr. Parrott, played tunes on his violin while we clacked little blocks of wood together in time (?). Then he gave out letters to our parents, saying that we (all) had signs of musical talent. My mother bought it and liked Harry James, so I began my music career playing the trumpet. I did show some talent so I kept on with it, and here I am in a ukulele group.
 

Patty

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Feb 2, 2022
Messages
800
Points
93
Wikipedia entry for Tonette has pix of both the Tonette and the Flutophone.
I started music in the 4th grade (1945 or 6). The music teacher, Mr. Parrott, played tunes on his violin while we clacked little blocks of wood together in time (?). Then he gave out letters to our parents, saying that we (all) had signs of musical talent. My mother bought it and liked Harry James, so I began my music career playing the trumpet. I did show some talent so I kept on with it, and here I am in a ukulele group.
Who knows? Maybe the entire class DID have talent.
 

Down Up Dick

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
4,103
Points
63
Naw, my mother was so very proud that Mr Parrott had recognized my talent, and he was, after all, the music teacher. He could tell!
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I'm truly sorry to have missed these reminiscences. The school year is approaching and I needed to get some things in ship shape.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I started playing with the G Lydian #5, but for some reason I gravitated down a half-step to the F# Dorian b2 which shares frets with the C# Aiolian b5. That become my base for playing today. And I don't have a reason. I just go where my fingers go.

I really enjoyed the C# on the bass string. I drove off that a lot whether I was playing melodic minor stuff or switching it up with the mediant/submediant shapes of the E major pentatonic.

So I am playing the G Lydian #5 but I just don't make it the centerpiece. I dip into it for supplemental notes or to use it as a spring board for things above it.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I'm starting to build an ever-widening swath of the fret board. I am connecting the G Lydian #5 and the two modes below it and above it.

I was also using my D# dim7 arpeggio to go from the 18th to the 2nd fret.

The interesting thing was that whether I descended using the arpeggio or I ended on a high note near the topmost edge of the fret board, the note that sounded good and full of resolution was the D. And the D is a chromatic rather than diatonic note--i.e., it doesn't belong in these scales.

But it sounds good.

And that illustrates the point I was making last week. Music theory isn't a set of inexorable rules erected by a cadre of eggheads which must be resisted by all free-thinking musicians. Music theory is just a system of observations and a language to discuss music. I play the D note because it sounds good and music theory just lets me know that the D isn't part of the key in which I'm playing. It is just information. You can do whatever you want with the information. You can either use the info to change what you've done or you can use the info to underscore that you're trailblazing.

So, do whatever you want, but don't be an ignorant ninny about it. Make informed decisions instead of taking shots in the dark.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I just saw a thread about easy-strumming ukes and in my heart of hearts I don't understand what's being queried. Aren't all ukes easy to strum. I find ukes that are difficult to hold (flukes, pineapples, balalaika-style) more difficult and less comfortable to strum...but other than that all my ukes strum the same--even my pseudo-ukes such as the steel-stringed tenor guitar and cigar box.

I had some interesting experiences at the pub (even though I've given up drinking at home, my wife endorsed me going out one night every fortnight to read poetry and have a whisky or two). The pub plays old movies without sound as part of its ambiance. I saw Mysterious Island playing and something clicked--a repressed memory. It was the pants that one of the characters was wearing. It jogged my mind and I remembered how pivotal this movies were in my formative years. I suppose these movies formed my idea of what masculinity is. And it is very different from modern takes on it. In these movies, 175 pound men with 15-inch arms are given what amounts to a sharpened broomstick, and they fight elephant-sized crabs or tarantulas as large as the hood of a car. It is the lack of physical development combined with a sense of bravery that I observed as the qualities worth emulating. I know it sounds weird but it is how I was struck by the memories of seeing this.

The other impression I had was less profound. I saw the version of Tarzan with Bo Derek. I remember at the time it was panned as one of the worst movies of all time...and maybe it was at the time. However in this modern era dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the standards for movies have plummeted to such an extent that Bo Derek's opus is extremely inconspicuous in its mediocrity and it is even superior in its cinematography.

Oops, I can smell my asparagus are burning. I will return with music updates.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I didn't know one could burn asparagus. In retrospect it seems obvious but at the time it was shocking. I salvaged most of them.

Today I just played a 7-3-6 with the melodic minor. I settled on D#ø, G7b9, C#m11.

I interlarded the progression with melodies derived from the D# Super Lokrian and C# Aiolian b5. I found myself jumping to different voicings of the same note to extend the melody into new shapes.

For example, I'd be in the D# Super Lokrian and when I hit the A on the 5th fret, then I'd jump up to the A on the 9th fret and play that A which is the same A but a different voicing and of course the A on the 9th fret is part of the a Lydian Dominant so that new associations popped up for me to play with.

Speaking of voicings, that term has a bit of a fluidity in its meaning. I use it to mean a certain place on the fretboard. Since I play by design 19-fretted instruments, I have 80 voices on my uke. Some of the voices, such as the open E string and the E on the 4th fret, are the same note but different voices. Even though the notes are the same, they are different voices with subtle nuances.

However I watched a video where the person was using the term voicing as I use the term chord quality, to denote something is a minor versus a major chord. I guess it is technically correct since when you play an A major versus an A13, you are using different voices. Yet something seems wrong about it.

And yet again I see some people freely interchange inversion with voicing. I see what they're doing. When one plays a different inversion of a chord, it is also a different voicing. But I think an inversion is a voicing where the order of the notes is important. So to use the word inversion globally as a substitute for voicing seems to be misguided.

I suppose this only matters in the realm of music theory where you are trying to communicate music in words. It is difficult to communicate when everyone doesn't agree on the meaning of a term. However on the level of musicality it doesn't matter since an E add9 is an E add9 regardless of whether you call it a voicing, an inversion, or an E with the chord quality of the add9.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
I haven't been up to much in the kitchen. I made some trout with mango chutney--and no, I didn't make it myself. I usually make everything from scratch but chutney takes too long to boil down; I just bought some from the store. I also made mashed potatoes with raw leeks. I almost never make mashed potatoes but I had some old potatoes that I wanted to get rid of. Lastly I made some swiss chard, my wife's favorite green.

Musically I made a simple progression as a backbone. I played D#ø, B7b9, E13--obviously just a mixture of the 7-3-6 and the 2-5-1. From there I would slide up to the high frets. I focused primarily on the D# on the 15th because the D# is very easy to see since the 15th fret has a side marker. It is easy to make music up there because the strings are so bendable and responsive. Another benefit is that if I run the gamut all the way to the D# on the 18th fret, then I can divebomb back down the fret board with some arpeggios.

The arpeggio made me think of something, shredding. I have always disliked shredding--have always found it boring because the speed and technicality of shredding precludes any feel. I like it in moderation but if you utilize it in moderation, it isn't really shredding. To me, shredding is like whipped cream: a little bit is nice on some sweet potato pie. However if a pie was all whipped cream, it wouldn't be much of a pie.

I suppose I do owe shredding some thanks. I distinctly remember in the mid 80's when Metallica became the paradigm that I started to look back to the 70's and 60's for melody and music with less fluff. I found a lot of good music that I never would have sought if I hadn't been left so bereft by shredding's fluff.

So I don't want to seem completely dismissive of such festooning ornamentation as shredding or tremolo. I just object to its overuse. It makes music seem really amateurish. It is like when I began playing harmonica. I bent all my notes. It wasn't until later that I learned discretion and learned to make the fluff accent the music instead of being the music.
 

ripock

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,667
Points
113
Practiced some rasgueado strumming over E add9, Am add9, B7. Man, that technique is very precise. You have to nail the timing or it falls apart.

After that I felt in the mood for some resolution. Many nights I resist resolution and try to erect modal structures that substitute their own tonal center for the tonic of the key. But today I was phrasing and punctuating with the E. The basic strategy, or lack thereof, was to not resist the magnetic pull toward the E.

Again, there was no planning involved. My fingers just went where they would and follow their own whimsy. However I did notice a pattern of sorts which emerged. I seemed to play and then move down to a lower E for the resolution. I suppose that was just the sound I was going for tonight.

For example, I found myself in the C# Aiolian b5 and F# Dorian b2, jumping up a bit to the G Lydian #5 but eventually I would start to gravitate to the lower leading tone of D# and end on the E.

The same thing applied to the E on the 9th and 16th frets.

The exception was the E on the 7th fret of the A string. I wasn't attracted to it at all. When I played it at all, it was just a stepping stone as I wayfared my way to the lower frets.

All in all, today was a bit of a struggle. The melody just wasn't flowing as it does some days. And the struggle extended into the kitchen and some bad choices there. I made some stir fry with shrimp. The shrimp was moist and I should have drained the wok halfway through but I didn't and it was difficult to fry the rice and bok choy in the presence of so much liquid.

Yet I still had a good evening. There is a thread in the main forum about creating signature instruments. I didn't contribute because I didn't want to talk about myself again. However in this space I can admit that I already play signature models. My custom ukes all have my signature elements: florentine cutaway, all hard wood, and no fret markers.

So I am leading quite a charmed life.