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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #361
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I ran across an interesting passage in an old British detective novel. I don't have it in front of me, but the purport is this: an impoverished character was being interviewed in her rooms and she had a broken down piano with loose wiring. Whenever the train would pass by her window or whenever anyone walked too close, the piano would emit a jumbled aeolian melody. This isn't high literature. However the author could still rely on his audience to know their modes to follow that passage. In the last century we have gained a lot but left a lot of information behind.

    I have been cooking all day. I received my new pressure cooker and made some habichuelas, some pinto beans, some basmati rice to go with my habichuelas, and some porridge for my wife. Now I'm making some fondant potatoes for a midnight snack.

    To accompany all this, I was practicing the pentatonic minor modes on my Kamaka (re-entrant, so only one set of shapes to worry about). For some reason I had become foggy about the mediant shape and the leading tone shape (the one up there around the 12th fret).

    Later on, I am going to try to practice my harmonic minor modes on my Yorkie. That will mean trying to remember both sets (the GCE and the CEA). That is one of the advantages of the linear tuning. It can play everything the re-entrant can, plus it has a whole other set of shapes using its G string.

  2. #362
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    It seems these recent journal entries have been peppered with culinary tid-bits. This one is no different. I went to a new market today and procured some essentials like cumin seeds, ghee, as well as some treats like maamoul cookies and haloumi (Cyprian friable cheese).

    I saw something motivating today. It was an analysis of the music of Guthrie Govan, a favorite British guitarist of mine. Lo and behold! He was combining minor pentatonic (the Bb) with harmonic minor scales. That's what I've been doing. So at least I know I am on the right track. One thing I noticed he does is utilize half-step slides to rub out the rough edges betwixt the shapes. He also doesn't privilege the tonic note in his phrases. In the thing I was viewing, he was punctuating his phrases around the sharp seventh. I might want to give that a try.

    I just finished my fried cheese and had a local double IPA, so now I think I will plan out my schedule for tonight. I really wanted to work on my Harmonic minor modes tonight (both linear and re-entrant). Speaking of modes, recently I have received a few comments about my erudition/hoity-toityness and I think it is just because I call the modes what they're called. I didn't make the names up. I just use them and I use them because, if I didn't use them, I'd have to use some descriptive periphrasis instead. This seems more economical time-wise. And it isn't really that complicated, despite all the Greek nomenclature.

    What I'm dealing with is the set of notes known collectively as the E harmonic minor (E F# G A B C D#)

    And the modes are nothing more than these seven notes, except each mode starts at a specific degree of the scale and goes up an octave. For example,

    the E Aiolian #7 starts on the E and goes up to the next E
    the F# Lokrian 13 starts on the F# (2nd degree of the scale) and goes up to the next F#
    the G Ionian #5 goes from one G to the next....and so on.

    So I am not really doing anything special. I am just repeating the same seven notes all over the fret board. In my mind, the goal is to practice these seven modes so much that the delineations of their respective shapes become obscured and then I am just playing one gargantuan shape starting with the G Ionian #5 at the open G string and going all the way up to that final E of the Aiolian #7 on the 19th fret of the A string.

    I cannot make any promises on when I arrive at that musical land of New Zion, but I am getting closer. And I will say emphatically that I hate the G Ionian #5 and the C Lydian #2 because they use open strings and I hate open strings; they throw off my pattern. My index finger should be fretting the note of the open string and that confuses my hand, head, and heart.
    Last edited by ripock; 01-21-2020 at 01:58 PM.

  3. #363
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I am cleaning my floors and have everything but the main room mopped. I have to let the others rooms dry so that I can transfer furniture to them and give me unencumbered access to the floor of the main room.

    I see that the 2020 NAMM show thread has innumerable views. I am just not that interested in the new and timely. My eye is fixed more on the timeless. So I haven't even clicked on that thread. I have contacted a few custom luthiers about my idea for a baritone. It seems it will start at $4000 and to get on the build-list I have to wait about two years. So if I ever want an elite baritone to complement my other fine ukuleles, it would be about a five year wait (a few years to save the money and a few more to have it built).

    But back to the present. I have been involved in an open versus closed chord conversation. And, to be honest, I never really have it any thought. In the past I just played whatever I could because, I reasoned, beggars cannot be choosers. However nowadays I am a chooser and I realize that I never think about the choice in terms of do I want a big sound or not. I have a system of chords that I use. For each chord quality I have four shapes (each shape has the root note on a different string). Let me look at what I do and see exactly where I use open and where I use closed chords.

    This dilemma seems to appertain only to major and minor triads for me. Augmented, diminished, and sus chords are all closed. All my dominant chords and add6 chords are closed. My extended chords (9, add9, and 13) are by definition open chords (except when they aren't because of omitted their roots).

    To take the major triad first, the shapes I use for the interior strings are closed. The C string shape is just a barre with the A string dampened. D would be, e.g., 222X. The E string shape the good old G major shape=X232. For the G and A strings, I use the old Bb shape which has its root on both strings. That shape may or may not be open depending on the tuning used. This chord is actually two chords in one. Rooting it on the G string a C major would be 543X and rooting it on the A string=X433. However I never separate the two chords.

    Now on to a chord quality that is closer to my heart, the minor. It is very similar to the major in that the G string rooted shape (e.g., Bm=4222) will or won't be open depending on the tuning, the C string rooted shape (the standard Em) is similar with its fifth on both the G and A strings, the E string rooted chord is closed (e.g., Gm=X231), and the A string root is closed (Cm=X333).

    It appears that I need to be mindful of the G string when playing my regular shapes.

    And that's my regular shapes. Obviously I can always do something crazy by way of open chords such as G maj=0 11 10 10.

  4. #364
    Join Date
    Feb 2017



    I believe this is why I haven't even browsed the NAMM threads. When I have a beautiful ukulele, what do I care about what the latest Lanikai or Kala uke is all about. In a way, I have put myself above it all. If Luna or Romero puts out something, it doesn't mean a hill of beans to me; it is still beneath my contempt. It is a shame to a degree.

  5. #365
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    So what have I been cooking up, literally and figuratively?

    Literally, I just got done making carne adovoda from some pork sirloin roast. I didn't tell my wife, but I included some ghost peppers as well as some green chilis (with plenty of seeds for piquancy). She may detect the peppers, but I think a stout denial will win me through. The problem (or the thrill) of peppers is that they don't go away. A chili's heat has a more or less normal life span. You eat it, it is hot, and it fades. Designer peppers such as Reaper, Carolina, Ghost, etc don't evanesce. Their affect lingers and then combines with the next mouthful. And that's why New Mexican cuisine usually doesn't include peppers. They are kind of like cheating. A liberal dash of pepper sauce can inflame a dish. There really isn't an art to it. Anyway, I made some carne adovada and have been drinking a porter or four.

    On the figurative front, what have I been doing? Well, I have, I suppose, been engaging in some Fusion...although I dislike Jazz Fusion. Stuff like Billy Cobham's Spectrum, for example. I think it is something about the rhythm section of fusion. It always seems to be a bit too upbeat for me. It always strikes my ear as a bit chirpy and vapid. I prefer things to be a bit more somber.

    Anyway, I have been fusing the Harmonic Minor with the blues.

    Before I write down some of the building blocks of what I have been doing, let me mention the beauty of the linear tuning in this endeavor. Linear tuning allows me to play two systems at the same time. I can play the top three strings (as if it were re-entrant) or the bottom three strings. Just to give one practical example, if I am hovering around the 4th fret. The E of the C string gives me the E Aiolian #7 scale...but if I move laterally to the G string and play that B at the 4th fret, then I am in B Phrygian Dominant.

    But back to the basics with which I was working.

    For a chordal backdrop, I was sticking to the E Harmonic minor harmonization: Em, F#°,G+, Am, B, C, D#°. I also insert D major into the mix just because it sounds good although it isn't part of this system unless you want to call it a flatted seventh. I need to utilize the two diminished chords a bit more. They always sound good but I don't think of them often enough.

    I made limited use of different chord qualities. I shuffled between Em, E add9, E13, E7 sus4.

    Here is a basic roadmap of where I was going.

    I would start in E Aiolian #7
    from there I would back up to the leading tone shape of the E minor pentatonic
    from the B contained therein, I would proceed with the B Phrygian Dominant
    then I would walk up the fret board using the mediant and subdominant pentatonic shapes.
    At this point I could pursue the B Phrygian Domiant or the Dominant pentatic shape, resolving it all with that E on the 9th fret.

  6. #366
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I did some playing around earlier. I heard a song and it was evidently in G (technically it was the relative minor, E minor) but my ear hears things in the major. So, using the Aiolian picking pattern it was simple as pie to re-create the melody--except for one note. That led to some improv. I used my tenor guitar for this and for the ensuing burst of strumming.

    The thing that was interesting was the strumming pattern left on my fingers by the steel strings. I could see little grey lines where the strings habitually contacted my fingers. It is interesting because the hand just does what it does and I don't have any way to articulate it. Here's what I found: on the downstroke I strum with my middle and ring fingers (specifically at the juncture between the middle and distal phalanges) and on the upstroke, I use my thumb (around the knuckle). That's just my natural tendency. Of course, I do have the ability to alter that when the need arises. For example, if I am doing something like a stop-time blues where I need to transition from chords to notes, I can strum with an unaccustomed configuration so that my picking fingers are ready.

    Just looking ahead to my playing tonight, I think I will change things up a bit. I have been playing a fusion of things around the 11th fret. I think I will shift my attention down to the 5th fret or thereabout. The cool thing about the 5th fret is that I can mirror those efforts on the 17th fret. I am not going to waste any ratiocinations on it right now, but I will try to remember what I come up with with the inspiration of the moment.

    I will say before I go outside that I have a rather acute case of PTSD from NAMM. I of course haven't read the thread here because...well, because who cares what festoon or fluff Kala is using to gussy up its crap. But I am still being assailed on other fronts. Merchants with whom I have had some intercourse in the past are trying to tempt me and I cannot even go to youtube without being assailed with a bunch of videos recorded by non-entities with handheld devices (never have lives been lived less well with so much documentation, as I heard someone recently say). It is quite a cluster and rather repugnant. It feels like going to a third-world country and being swarmed with dirty children hawking scarves and gew-gaws.

    I had a nice breakfast of two burritos. They consisted each of a fried egg, little bit of sharp cheddar and a mixture (carne adovada, beans, green chili, red chili sauce, and Mad Dog [a blend of Scorpion, Reaper, and Ghost peppers with an unnatural extract which makes this more like battery acid than anything else]). Many people add potatoes to their burritos, but that is rather bourgeois. Potatoes are just cheap filler, like iceberg lettuce. After the burritos and three, I think, IPA's I sat down to plan my evening's music. If I base my improv around the fifth fret, a few possibilities suggest themselves since I will be using my linear Yorkie.

    1. @ the 4th fret of G string, there's the B Phrygian Dominant and, @ the 5th fret, the C Lydian #2.
    2. If I play it re-entrantly (using the upper three strings), I have the D# super lokrian bb7 @ 3rd fret, the E aiolian #7 @ 4th fret, and the F# Lokrian 13 @ 6th fret.
    3. Pentatonically speaking the subdominant and dominant shapes are right there for the picking. Or, if I restrict myself to re-entrant strings, there is the leading tone and tonic shape.

    I don't even have to think about chords because in this area all the rudimentary first position chords are available.

    When and if I move all this up an octave to fret 15 and following, I might have to get creative with my chords. Up there, some of the chord shapes don't work with the confined space. Also, some really open chords, spanning two octaves, are possible and shouldn't be overlooked. Lastly, I think I will try some different chord qualities. Some minor 6's or minor add9's or sus chords may shake things up.


    Today was food prep day. I pressure cooked some habichuelas rojas (Dominican red beans). I added some garlic because I was experimenting with an old garlic press that my wife inherited from her mother. It didn't really work. I took the half-mangled garlic from the press and finely chopped it with a cleaver (which would have been my first inclination anyway). I have received uxorial approval for a variation (for this week) not including rice. I don't really like rice because it is bland and it has no nutrients. However, in the great compromise which is marriage, I use Basmati rice because my wife likes rice. But this week, I was allowed to let my fancy run wild...well, kind of wild; amaranth would have been too wild. So, millet was my grain of choice.

    I toasted some millet in butter.

    {I once was asked by a younger person who didn't really understand the alchemy of cooking about why I toasted millet. One toasts millet to get a toasty flavor. Confer the difference between bread and toast. It is similar with other (unprocessed) grains. }

    Anyway, I toasted some millet in butter and when it had browned, I deglazed the millet and poured the millet into a little bowl which I then put in my pressure cooker.

    I wonder if people understand how to pressure cook delicate things, things such as rice, lentils, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, triticale, et cetera? In case you don't know, if you place delicate things in a pressure cooker with the appropriate amount of water, those things will stick to the bottom of the pot and burn like a Christmas tree in February.

    The solution is the pot in a pot technique. You place a little bit of water in the pressure cooker, place a trivet in the water and atop the trivet place a small bowl containing the delicate thing and its water. Lest the contents jump out, cover the bowl with something: tin foil if you don't mind heavy metal poisoning or, in my case, I use a small stoneware plate.

    But I digress. I toasted some millet, put it in the pressure cooker, covered it and put three potatoes on top. I always add potatoes atop my grains because I don't want to waste an opportunity to soften up some potatoes for some future use.

    I combined the millet with the habichuelas. I added sabzi dolmeh, a traditional middle eastern mixture of greens (all the usual suspects: mint, cilantro, parley, etc.). I had already put some garlic in the beans. I added some ground umami (mushroom-based which I received as a gift) and black salt which I had ground in my mortar.


    As far as music is concerned, I didn't make as much progress as I had hoped. There is a small learning curve. Conceptually the shapes aren't innovative, but it takes a while to get it down. The C Lydian #2 is, as the name implies, is just a variation on the normal Lydian which we all know. I really wish I had some software which would plot chords or scale shapes. For my personal use, I employ graph paper cut into 4X6 grids. Then I just insert the dots where my fingers go. It would be nice to upload those charts. Maybe some day I'll find something like that.
    Last edited by ripock; 02-03-2020 at 01:15 AM.

  7. #367
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I suppose this entry could be entitled "notes from the desk of Captain Obvious."

    I realized when I was playing that the modes of the harmonic minor in the linear tuning interlock with those of the re-entrant. This discovery is rather patent because these modes share the same notes, albeit in differing orders.

    I have a tendency to play my scales over three strings so that my hand doesn't move vertically so much. So, if I play the C Lydian #2, I use the G, C, and E strings. However, if I start at the C string, continue to the E string, and then add two notes from the A string, I am playing E Aiolian #7 in re-entrant tuning. In other words the C and E strings are common to both scales. The linearly tuned C Lydian #2 precedes the C and E strings with a few notes, whereas the re-entrant E Aiolian #7 follows the C and E strings with a new notes.

    The result of all this is that I can now play all four strings as a unit with a very facile understanding. And the principle holds true all up and down the fret board. For instance (just to stick to the fifth fret area that I have arbitrarily chosen to practice) The B Phrygian Dominant scale starting at the 4th fret overlaps with the D# Super Lokrian bb7.

    Now whether I start at the 4th or 5th fret, I can improvise through all four strings effortlessly.

    So what I basically did was take a little riff I made with D# E and F# and surround it with some extemporization which was rooted in a few ideas:

    1. From the C Lydian #2, I slide up to the C# where I moved to the leading tone shape of the E major pentatonic, or I bent the note down to the B where I had the option of the dominant shape of either the major or minor pentatonic.
    2. At the tail end of the B Phrygian Dominant/D# Super Lokrian bb7, I either end on a B note or a D#. From there I morphed into minor pentatonics.

    Even though it is extremely arbitrary I would move to major pentatonics if I were at the front of the harmonic minor block and to minor pentatonics if I were at the end of the harmonic minor.

    I am going to pursue this some more because, hitherto, it sounds a little bit unmusical because I am not exercising discretion with this new idea of mine. I need to get back to the melody sooner, otherwise it just turns to wankery up the neck. That's no problem--well, wankery is a problem--I mean the solution is no problem. All I need to do is pick some notes instead of all of them. Currently I am thinking of this as a call-and-response or an amoebean dialogue of Boukolic poetry. Accordingly, the soloing has to approximate the length of the riff. Alternatively, it can be twice as long--the point being that there has to be some logic or repetition to make it musical.

    As an addendum to this schema, I should add something about the chords I use to support this. I use the harmonization of the good old fashioned Harmonic Minor. I realize that each mode of the Harmonic Minor has its own harmonization but it doesn't pay dividends to use them. With the modes of the major scale, there seems to be a substantial difference between a I IV V using the Ionian and the Lydian, for example. I don't get that from the modes of the Harmonic Minor. Once we get to the modes of the Harmonic Minor, things have become so specialized that there really isn't a lot of variation; it is as though I have painted myself into a corner. I go from the major scale to the minor. From the Minor to the Harmonic Minor. From the Harmonic Minor to the B Phrygian Dominant. The only difference between a Harmonic Minor harmonization and Phrygian Dominant harmonization is the order of the chords. Therefore it makes more sense to just use the Harmonic Minor harmonization and alter its order for effect instead of conceptualizing all seven of the modal harmonizations.

    For example in the Harmonic Minor harmonization, a simple 1-4-5 progression in E would be: Em, Am, B
    In the B Phrygian Dominant harmonization, 1-4-5 would be B, Em F#°.

    In other words, the 1-4-5 in the B Phrygian Dominant would be a 5-1-2 in the harmonization of the Harmonic Minor. So I don't really don't need to memorize all the different modes; I just need to be create and think outside of the 1-4-5 box.
    Last edited by ripock; 02-09-2020 at 11:45 AM.

  8. #368
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    In preparation to three days off from work, I was looking at some ukulele threads. I didn't find inspiration, but I did find things that raised my brows. There's a thread about necessity vs. UAS buying. I think the necessity argument is a losing battle. The argument seems to say that a cheap uke inhibits your ability to progress and, therefore, you should buy a better uke.

    Even if this is true, I think to admit it is to pass the buck and not take personal responsibility for your suckiness. You should shoulder the burden and progress with the knowledge that everything is within your power. That is psychologically more enabling.

    I have only slept an hour in the last day, and I just had three ales, so I may not be coherent and I may I'm just going to leave this comment unfinished.

  9. #369
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I had a busy three days off from work. I did some major house cleaning and, of course, some long-term food prep (hummus, pollo adovado, habichuelas, frijoles refritos) and now I want to map out my next phase in practice.

    I've been focusing on right hand stuff for a while. So much so that I feel I have kind of strayed from my core musical values. I want to re-connect with the left hand for a bit.

    So I am reverting to my home key of E, and I will be focusing on the central chords

    1. triads (Δ m sus +)
    2. dominants (m7 7 7sus4 7sus2 °7 ø 9 13)
    3. adds (6 Δ7 9) {to be honest, not the add9 so much because half the time it requires too much of a stretch}

    I am going to be trying a lot of different chord qualities in an attempt to erect a contraposto structure in which all the different slants balance out. I am especially interested in m6 and 9 chords for some reason.

    Here's a few examples of the sort of thing I had in mind

    1. I Δ7, IV 6, V9
    2. I, III (V of vi), IV, II (V of V) V
    3. I V IV vi iii ii vii

  10. #370
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I have been making progress on the refocusing I alluded to above, but it hasn't been quick. I have been doing one thing and doing it a lot.

    I have been playing in E and restricting myself to the ubiquitous ii V I progression.

    With the chord qualities that I've been using, my progression has been F#m7 B9 EΔ7

    I found some voicings I really like and they are close so that they sound very appropriate together.

    I did play around with a tritone substitution for the B9. I used F7 or sometimes F9 although that is rather taxing because it is quite switch for the fingers. The F7 is a smooth transition but the bare dominant chord lacks some of the 9's flavor.

    I did notice one cool thing. Instead of using your brain to calculate the tritone of something, it is easy with the circle of fifths. To find a tritone of something just look across the circle. A note and its tritone are directly across from each other. It is one of those little tricks that really tickles me. It is like when I discovered how to remember how many flats or sharps a key has. It is simply that a natural key and its "unnatural" namesake will always have a combined number of accidental notes that equal seven. For example I know that E has four sharps. Accordingly Eb (which I am in no way familiar with) has three flats. G has one sharp, so that Gb has six flats.

    My next task will be to venture into other progressions.

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