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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #401
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    Life has been a bit of a downer lately. With the pandemic running its course and more people coming back into the public sphere, I realize I had forgotten what douches most people are. And the book that I am reading is most unsatisfying. And I wasn’t able to chat about Flight ukuleles. By the way, why are they endorsing an advanced beginner as the face of their company? I also wonder what goes into that process. Does the person seek out the company and make a pitch?

    Anyhow, I felt like transitioning toward something new since the status quo is leaving a stale taste in my mouth.

    Naturally I thought of the Phrygian mode. It was natural to me, an unendorsed roots musician, because I had recently been playing the Neapolitan scale which is just the Phrygian mode with its seventh interval raised a step.

    So just to make a plan so that my practice is more focused, here’s what I remember the harmonization of the Phrygian mode:

    I bII bIII iv Vdim bVI bvii

    In the key of E that would translate to

    Em F G Am Bdim C Dm

    It is odd, but when I look at that progression, it seems to lack something. There are no black keys at all. I know it is all a matter of luck and all the chords will sound good...but I miss seeing the sharp sign.

    Anyway, that’s my progression and I’ll figure out which chord qualities to add and which inversions to use.

    I also want to add one fly to the amber. I wonder if scales that are visually similar can work together musically. What I mean is that Phrygian mode and the Dorian #11 have the same note pattern, but on different strings.

    Let me try to clarify. No, on second thought, let me not. I will play around with it and report back if there is anything in it.

  2. #402
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    I got home just as my wife was going to bed, so I couldn't explore too much.

    I played around with this:

    Em6 Dm9 Bdim Cmaj7

  3. #403
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    I'm still struggling with the Phrygian modal harmonization. Struggle, perhaps, is an inadequate word I am not at all resentful or frustrated with the hurdles placed before me.

    One of the bigger challenges of composing with the Phrygian is the fact that the I chord is minor while some of the other chords are major. I know that that sounds stupid because all keys and modes have major and minor intervals. But in this case there is a different vibe. To my ear, the I chord is mellow and the major chords are brash. Accordingly when you try to turnaround from the major to the minor chord, it is kind a let-down. It feels almost like a petering-out of sound rather than a renewal. I found that easing back into the I chord had some results. Here's what I found pleasing

    Em Am F G C C (different voicing) C add9 Am Dm Bdim Em

    However it is the Am which seems to feel like the tonic. When I return to it, there seems to be a bit of a sense of closure and a sense of "okay let's do that again." Maybe I should just go with the feeling and, at that point, just jam out that roundabout from the Am to the Cadd9.

    Yet I feel there are some options I should explore. To wit, pitch. There is, I know from my study of pentatonics, a psychology of pitch. Blues solos start low in pitch and end up high on the fret board. What if I alter my chord voicings to resemble that? I could move chromatically upward in pitch. Then, when I re-started at a low E minor chord, perhaps there would be a sense of renewal.

    Or perhaps I could affect the sound with chord qualities. I am definitely going to experiment.

  4. #404
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    I wasn't feeling very strummy today, so I worked more on picking. I was taking advantage of both the linear and re-entrant patterns. Let me try to explain my idea. If you have linear tuning, you start on the G string and ascend to the octave on the E string. If you have re-entrant tuning, you start on the C string and proceed to the A string. And if you have linear tuning, then you can play both.

    So I selected four scales that are very similar. The G# Phrygian and B Phrygian dominant (played linear) and the E Harmonic minor and E Hungarian minor (played re-entrant).

    So what I do is start on the G string playing one of the linear patterns, but when you get to the C string in the pattern, you have choices. You can either keep on playing the pattern you've started or you can start playing the re-entrant shape.

    Here's an example:

    Start playing the linear G# Phrygian
    When you get to the E on the C string, start playing the re-entrant E Hungarian minor
    When you get to the B on the E string, start playing the linear B Phrygian Dominant and descend back to the B on the G string
    When you get to the B on the G string start playing the G# Phrygian again.

    So that was the basic thing I was doing. Just imbricating scales to make up countless variations.

    While I was doing that, I was making manifest a vision I had during a nap. I used to dream of naked women and the things we'd do, but today my dreams were of soup. Upon waking I made the soup...or, at least, I made the components of the soup. I baked two trout. I will extract the meat, add broccoli and broth and that's my dream. Perhaps I should add a grain. I'll see.

    We've had a moth infestation. I've been morally upset by this. Moths are definitely annoying, but harmless. However, my wife hates them, so I kill them for her although I would rather just let them bounce around light sources. So I played a few CD's the privilege the Phrygian sound I am after (Coltrane's Olé and the Scorpion's Fly to the Rainbow) and wantonly killed moths.

  5. #405
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    In my locality, businesses have re-opened at 25% occupancy but patrons must employ face coverings which is a joke. Many people are using cotton bandanas and I myself use a wintertime neck gaiter pulled up over my nose. I drove around to see what was open. I stopped by my beer store. The biggest privation I suffered throughout the pandemic was drinking supermarket beer. At least that tragedy is over.

    I decided to put my Yorkie back in its case and let it enjoy the humidified environment for a while. Accordingly I have pulled out my Kamaka with its shrill re-entrant voice. Obviously my finger picking will be severely hampered but I will make the most of it by playing what the Kamaka can play.

    I found a piece of paper with many almost unreadable chord formulae. I think I will take time and try them out and scratch off the ones that do not resonate with me or which seem redundant. There are also a lot of dominant chord substitutions, some of which I do not like. I will organize the ones that make the cut later on in this space.

  6. #406
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    well, I played around with the formulae that I mentioned last entry and I was rather dissatisfied with them. I won't detail all the dominant chord substitutions I sampled, but in general they either sounded like etiolated anemic versions of the dominant chord, or they sounded like passing chords. Perhaps that testifies that I am a Roots player and not a Jazz player: subtle differences leave me cold.

    There was one progression that caught my fancy. It was

    I7 VI7 IIm7 V7


    In my key of E, that would be E7 C#7 F#m7 B7


    Quite frequently I would substitute a F#7 for the F#m7 and prefer it. There was also this variation

    IIIm7 (secondary relative minor) VI7b9 IIm7 V7

    Now that was a variation I could live with. The tonic substitution and the b9 chord were different enough to warrant it.


    So now I'm able to throw away that paper and all those recondite substitutions. No doubt they are all valid, but they are lost upon my ear.

    However I do have to say that my Kamaka did look great while I was figuring all this out. Obviously its spruce sound board is bleh--just a big expanse of creamy neutrality. But the koa on its sides is so shiny and quilted. And it is well accessorized with its leather strap.

  7. #407
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    I've seen a video or two over the years that portends to humorously typify the ukulele player. The caricature usually focuses on the stultifying brisk strum patterns and the tendency to emasculate any music by transforming it into toothless reggae. Although there is an uncomfortable amount of truth in that travesty, I was thinking how different the video would be with me as a subject. Just to take one instance, I was at work and noticed that the pinky nail on my left hand was unwontedly (and unwantedly) long and I immediately thought how difficult that would make my chords rooted on the E string. That's my ukulele moment for the day. And I don't see why ukulele can't be taken seriously (except it is marketed that way to alleviate the intimidation factor).

    Anyway I am up and waiting for my wife to rise from sleeping so I can try some stuff with a B dominant chord. The B7 is very central to my Rhythm Changes in E. And I was trying to find different accessories for the B chord. The two obvious candidates for scales to go with B7 are B mixolydian and B Phrygian dominant. They both have all four chord tones. The Hungarian Minor has three of the four, lacking the fifth degree, the F#. I think the benefit of the Hungarian minor are two-fold

    1. it brings in a novel note or two into the improv because it is a different shape
    2. the shape itself. At this point in time, I tend to think of things in terms of strings. I don't see the entire scale shape; I see the notes on a particular string. So a different shape lends itself to different improvisations because of its layout on the strings.

    To be honest, there is a third, puerile, reason. The Mixolydian is just so ubiquitous. I don't want to use something so common. Yes, I know how silly that is. I remember reading Alexander Pope saying that if you always avoid the crowd, then you are led by the crowd. However, there it is: I just want to be different for its own sake.

  8. #408
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    I've been noticing an increase of guitar-people around here lately. It is unfortunate because they are different and they just don't understand.

    Anyway...I don't really have time for their superciliousness; I have some items to attend to. To wit, I've started feeling (as I occasionally do) a bit uncentered. I've been moving around and advancing to the point that I feel that I'm losing some integrity. So I thought I would spend a little time getting back in touch with my roots--literally. So I am focusing on roots and shapes of 7 chords. I'm naturally prioritizing m7 and 9 chords because they play a somewhat central position in my personal sound. Obviously, I won't be annotating anything so mundane unless I stumble upon something noteworthy.

    ****

    As I mentioned, there wasn't much to write about. I just communed with my 7 chords and re-affirmed and firmed up my knowledge. I did make some progress with 9 chords in terms of being very conscious of the relationship between them and 7 chords.

    I ended the day by throwing together a blues progression. The guitar gestapo were out and about today and informed us that ukuleles aren't guitars and cannot be played as such. Luckily the piano police hadn't arrived and I could play this progression:

    Em6

    F#dim7 | B7+

    Em6

    E7

    Amaj7

    B7

    Em7

    Em6

    F#dim7

    B7+

    A13 | G#13

    F#13 | Bm7b5 / Bmaj7


    And that's what I like about ukulele. I didn't get into it with the guitarocentric people, but what's fun about the ukulele is taking the "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" instrument and trying to squeeze something good out of it.
    Last edited by ripock; 05-22-2020 at 09:38 PM.

  9. #409
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    pursuing a thought from the last update: since we're not allowed to play ukuleles like guitars but since we haven't been forbidden to use piano music, I played around with Rachmaninoff's prelude in C#m. Just those opening chords meant to imitate the pealing of lugubrious Russian church bells. I used the A on the 5th fret, the G# on the 4th fret, and the D on the 2nd fret. I freely admit that the D is probably wrong. D isn't in C#m. If anything it is probably C# or D#, but I like the D better.

    I would play the notes in their original cadence but then I would also connect them with a rough D aiolian shape. I would also use the A as the fifth in a D minor pentatonic shape and do that criss cross pattern that makes the iconic riff of "Aqualung."

    That's all I had time for since I have to take a nap before work.

  10. #410
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    I thought I'd thrown down a favorite scale of mine, the Iwato:


    Screenshot from 2020-05-28 10-35-09.jpg

    It is a nice pentatonic scale...although not "the" pentatonic which we all know and love.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by ripock; 05-28-2020 at 07:18 AM.

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