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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #351
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I am still having some conceptual blind spots, and it seems like they occur on the E string more frequently than not.

    I have run across this with dominant chords already. I do not like the 7 and m7 chords rooted on the E.

    But now I have to face the more fundamental problem of the minor triad.

    When I think of the minor triad, The E string root never pops in my head unless I force it. And that's a shame because there are two really nice shapes rooted in the E. I suppose some people would consider it one shape, but I tend to break the shape into two shapes. I do this so that I can control the pitch and decide if I want a higher or lower pitched triad, instead of smooshing them together.

    The two shapes are the ones we learn as F#m and Gm. To take E as an example, we have that E on the 12th fret. Now we can either play:

    12 11 12 X

    or X 11 12 10

    If we select the former, then the flatted third is on the G string and the A string is muted, resulting in a lower pitched voicing, whereas the latter suppresses the G string and has that A string singing out.

    This is my usual modus operandi; I keep my triads as triads in order to keep the sound clean and in order to be able to have more options.

    I won't at this time bore anyone with my augmented and suspended triads, but just looking at the major and minor triads, here's what I usually do:

    For E minor, aside from the two shapes I have already mentioned, I normally would use: X777 or X432. Sometimes, if I want a lower pitch, I will play 9777 and make use of that low G string.

    For E major, my typical shapes are

    X 11 12 11

    Alright. I've talked it out and got it straight at least in my head. now I have to practice those E string roots and make them natural to me.

  2. #352
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I was braving the New Mexican winter (it was in the 60's because of a semi-overcast sky) and reading some Vergilius. A certain passage seemed significant. At Aeneid 8.8 it says "vastant cultoribus agros." It is rather a small line in terms of the narrative but here's what struck me:

    Students, of course, would ask what does this sentence mean.

    I would say it means

    1. They despoiled the fields of its farmers (i.e., they conscripted the farmers into war)
    2. They ravaged the fields to the chagrin of the farmers (and they either did it unintentionally because an army eats and tramples as it goes or they did it intentionally to trap the farmers and local residents into fighting as they had no alternatives)

    The students want a simple answer but the poet actually takes pleasure in saying two things at once; it is what elevates poetry from prose. The reader has to be flexible and understand which meaning works for him or her.

    I mention this because I find myself settling into a similar flexibility with the ukulele. I used to be as stiff as one of my students when it came to music. I came from a rather more objective background where an E was an E and there was one way to play it. As you can imagine I was very upset because 1402 does not sound like 4447 although they are both E major. I certainly understood the concept of voicings, but it took a few years for me to allow that information into my heart as well as my brain, and to be cool with it.

    Speaking of being cool, I have also become more flexible in terms of opinions with the ukulele. For example, there is a current thread about outdoor ukes. I think the concept is asinine. I don't leave things in the car; as I walk out the door I collect stuff like books, backpacks, wallets, some tobacco. And if I want a car ukulele, I grab my kamaka on the way out. That's my outdoor uke. Why spend money on some piece of crap ukulele when you can just bring a good one with you and take it back inside when you're done. However, to each his own.

    And what has been my own lately has been the dominant diminished scale. It is a great scale because it does work well with blues progressions being that its triads lend themselves to dominant chords and the vibe of the scale is somewhat minor-ish. The first two strings of the scale resembles the phrygian mode.

    ...uh-oh. I just heard my wife's alarm resound and I haven't made her porridge yet. I'll be back if I can arrange it.

  3. #353
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I've been busy with a new job and I am still busy. But I did manage to spend some time with my Kamaka today.

    Someone mentioned how I do everything the hard way, and I cannot deny it. However I think I like it that way in certain respects. It is almost as if I invented the things that I have discovered on my own. Granted, a google search would have been easier but, as things stand, I have a much more personal connection with some things.

    For example, I was practicing harmonic minor scales merely because the guitarists I appreciated in the 80's were said to be all about the harmonic minor and diminished stuff as well.

    So I was practicing the harmonic minor. Then I started to think. I said to myself if the major scale can have modes, why can't the harmonic minor? So I mapped out shapes to play the notes of the harmonic minor starting at the seven different degrees of the scale (I could have just googled this).

    Fast forward a good spell and I have become enamored with a song entitled "Sails of Charon." I discovered that it employs B Phrygian Dominant. What the hell is that? I look it up and immediately recognize it as the fifth mode of the harmonic minor and it is also one note away from one of my favorite exotic scales which is alternately called the Byzantine or the Greek or the Gypsy or the Double Harmonic. And since it is the fifth mode, that means that it is in the key of E, which is my key of choice for two years.

    So I could have saved a lot of time, but I meandered onto the rudiments of the song by accident.

    Anyway, I just practiced improvising melodies using the B phrygian Dominant, the F# Dorian, and E minor pentatonic. I based it around my favorite B, which is the one on the 11th fret. I think I like it because it resides between those two fret markers.

    So I was just jamming around with the B Phrygian Dominant, the B Double harmonic (only different from the previous with an A# instead A), and the E minor pentatonic (dominant shape). I interlarded some B minor chords and some 6th interval double stops.

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