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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #231
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    Feb 2017
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    Somewhat recently I said that I had painted myself into a corner with shapes and patterns. I said I needed to learn to unlearn them. That is a really good slogan and might even make a trendy t-shirt but what does it mean, really? What mechanisms do you use to unlearn something?

    My idea is to obscure the path I use to transition between shapes. Now I seem to naturally jump when I am at the end of a shape. I propose to jump at other points in the shape, thereby creating another path. I was thinking of it like a path through a field of tall grass. If everyone walks the same path, then one bit of the grass is beaten down into a path. But if there are many paths, everything is beaten down and there is no longer a path.

    I am going to be doing this by focusing on transitioning between two shapes, the tonic and the dominant. In E the dominant spans the frets 11-14. Usually when I transition to this shape, I go for the easy target that first B note. It is easy to see since it is nestled between the 10th fret and 12th fret markers. However, if I were required to transition to somewhere other than the start, I couldn't do it. I only have a vague knowledge of the shape's interior. I would be totally guessing if I tried to slide up to a G or D.

    So my first goal is to practice mindfully the dominant shape so that I am very comfortable with seeing all its notes. Then I will have a definite landing site. Then I can just be down in one of the lower shapes, but then I'll say let's go up to that dominant shape A and--bam--I'll be there. I'll be making a lot of new connections by sliding up the interior strings (or by switching strings mid-transition) and these new connections will obscure the old connection that I over-used.

    One unexpected perk of this method--so far--is becoming very familiar and partial to certain notes. I find myself thinking "I really like that B"; Certain frets are becoming like familiar neighborhoods whose houses and yards I know and appreciate.

    The obvious application of all this is improvisation, but I also am using it with the library of riffs that I am converting into keyless formulae. I tend to play the riffs inside one shape. That is limiting me because when you play one shape there is only one place to go if you want, for example, a D. However, you could transition mid-riff to an adjacent shape and get the same note. That would really open my eyes to some new possibilities. And transitioning mid-riff between the tonic and dominant shapes in going to create some shifts in octaves which will either be cool or not. For example, there is a segment of a riff that runs: I V bV bIV. And transitioning to the dominant shape after the first note creates a very different sound even though notes of the two shapes are in the same octave.

    And all this is just focusing on the re-entrant shapes. I haven't even scratched the surface of the linear ones. That'll come later.

  2. #232
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    At work my mantra was bd, eg, ab. Those are the respective notes on the C, E, and A strings for the dominant pentatonic. Do that for ten hours whenever your mind is empty. You'll remember it.

    Things are going okay. It is the quiet time, when I can only hear the ticking of the clock and the scratching of my pen (my new nib finally arrived). Yesterday I went to the pub to start off my weekend and I converted some more riffs into formulae. However I hit a rough patch when I came to the section written in D. The problem wouldn't be a problem if I were writing in standard notation, but as it is I am writing sequences using roman numerals for the scale degrees. Hitherto, this hasn't been a problem. When I write "I V" it obviously means from the I note go up to the V note. As the roman numerals increase, so does their pitch. The key of D is throwing some curveballs. It is, in places, descending so that when I write "I V" it means play the I note and then go down to the V note in a lower shape. I hadn't anticipated this and I am clumsily appending little notes to my formulae to remind myself to ascend or descend. Maybe I'll sit down and think of a more concise way of annotating that. Hopefully the other keys will stick to a single direction for my ease. However, this is why I am trying to unlearn my shapes so that I can move anywhere and it not be an issue.

    I haven't had much time, but I entertained myself by messing around in the general neighborhood of the dominant shape. I started off with the E Phrygian scale which starts on the 9th fret and which ends on that E of the 12th fret. And when you hit that E there's a lot of options. That's the E of the dominant shape, and that E is also part of the subdominant shape which occurs a little bit lower on the fret board. And if you extend the subdominant shape back to the G string, then it is the tonic shape which includes that 9th fret E which I started on. It is a great way to end the phrase.

    I also have been having fun with a dim7 arpeggio shape that I saw a guitarist use.

  3. #233
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    Work has been kind of nasty lately, not leaving me much time for playing. Evidence of this: the nails on my fretting hand need trimming. When I am playing a lot that never would happen.

    I have had a slight setback on my agenda. I was observing the latest post from TenThumbs Productions, a music resource I favor. The lesson was a chord melody for "La Vie en Rose" and I was watching it for chord progressions. It has some good half-diminished chords and minor 9s. However my wife overheard it and requested me to play it. The song is frequently used as incidental music whenever a scene from a movie is located in a French cafe. So I was compelled to learn it.

    There are some lessons here for me. The music isn't heard at all, but it is the discipline involved that is a bit foreign to me. With an established tune, you have to play it as written and that's a pressure I am unaccustomed to. Usually I improvise and I at will adorn notes with bends or what not, and I frequently pause and let the silence speak and then resume in response.

    Although my spirit was protesting the constrictions, I found a way to placate my need for creativity by making my own lyrics. As I sat on the porch and had some tobacco I noticed a few things: a dwarf futilely raking leaves in the wind, the wind blowing a hole in the overcast sky in a shape that resembled a humpback whale, Domino's is hiring. So I made my own song. It starts "look, a dwarf is raking leaves..." and you get the picture. That alleviated the burden of being bound to the music.

  4. #234
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    My eyes are getting better musically speaking. Although I have never played a guitar, I can watch a guitarist and play it on the uke (as long as they don't use those pesky base strings). There was a youtube video of someone playing a blues riff. I think it was John Lee Hooker, but even if it isn't the riff is one of those chestnuts everyone's heard. Anyway I could immediately see it. Here's what it is (using the five notes of the pentatonic scale):

    5/1 2 5 #4 3 2 3

  5. #235
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    As I may have noted earlier, things are getting ugly at work and they are just getting uglier and uglier. So I don't really have the emotional capital to invest in really pushing myself musically. So I have been playing some comfortable things. The foremost of which is a scale I know by the name of the Gypsy scale. Knowing what I know about music, I can see that it is just a major scale with a flatted second and sixth. However the sound is greatly different even though it is just slightly changed. It has an eastern quality to it. It sounds like something out of the Middle East or maybe one of the liminal, Slavic European countries. I am tired and nodding off at the keyboard; it is time to go to sleep

  6. #236
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    In the last few days I have worked over 40 hours and slept 7. I haven't really had time for much playing. The only thing of note that I did was watch a guitar player play the main riff from Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" and I mimicked the fingering on the ukulele and was able to play it. I plugged in my tenor guitar, used my "super crunch" channel with some fuzz, reverb, and delay. That was fun.

  7. #237
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    I am in that intervallum between putting the pies (sweet potato and blackberry) in the oven and putting the turkey in, and I thought I would update a few items.

    My fingerstyle book is collecting dust on the music stand, but it cannot be helped. Life is a sprint with cancer or cardiac disease right at your heels, so you have to live for now. And right now my heart is more intent upon other things. I do realize that eventually the fingerstyle will be essential to my playing. Being able to drone the G string while playing my melodies will complete the package. However, right now I'm working more on the more central aspects of that equation.

    Speaking of which, I have been thinking about how the ukulele world thinks that you should play linear or re-entrant. I am finding that both are needed. I am an unrepenting linear fan, but I see how my re-entrant practice plays into it all. I can play in re-entrant (ignoring the G string) and then slide back into the low G string and get the bonus of those lush deep notes. I couldn't do that without knowing my shapes on the top three strings. Also, when I finally get my fingerstyle going, I can play re-entrant pentatonics while using the low G string as a drone.

    As far as playing is concerned I have recently been embracing my subdominant shape, adding it to my tendency to focus on the tonic and dominant shapes. The subdominant has the tonic note in the middle making it easy to lead into it either from above or below. And if you extend the subdominant back to the low G string, it becomes the tonic shape.

    I have been benefiting from the metronome immensely. Yeah, I can play seven pentatonic shapes and all my modes from both the G or the C strings, but all that isn't really necessary for being musical. I have my metronome set to click on the quarter notes and chime at every measure. It is sort of like snare drum/snare drum/snare drum/high hat. What has been illuminating about this is the fact that in that time frame, I don't have time to play a scale. Unless you're a virtuoso and can play 1/64th notes, you're only going to get to play two or three notes. It has been liberating to have that restriction. In that context, I just play a note or two or sometimes I do nothing and let the silence speak. Being a novice, I am bound by the measure. However since I am an expert in poetry and metrics, I do know that eventually I will start to bridge the gap between measures and play a riff over the two measures. For right now, though, I am sticking to the rhythm of the measure and enjoying it a lot.

  8. #238
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    Think I will use some of this in my own play. Take the droning of the g string. And playing the melodies with the three other strings. Of course it has to be done that way.
    Sole uke: Soprano Flight NUS310, nut end and fret ends a little set up (I sanded) for comfort
    Chromatic tuner Korg CA-40, surprised I needed one

  9. #239
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    Quote Originally Posted by player View Post
    Think I will use some of this in my own play. Take the droning of the g string. And playing the melodies with the three other strings. Of course it has to be done that way.
    And according to the experts you have to play in G; the drone has to be the root. However, I am not so sure. It seems that it would be okay, for example, to play some blues in E and have the G drone, which would be the dominant note of the scale. Time will tell I suppose.

  10. #240
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    I have been selectively integrating some modes with my pentatonic shapes. By "selectively" I mean I don't use all the iterations of the mode. I just use the mode which shares some real estate on the fret board with one of the pentatonic shapes. I do this because I can literally see the relationship. I can see that the D# of the Lokrian is just a fret away from the D of the tonic pentatonic shape. In theory, since all the pentatonic shapes have the same notes but in a different order, I could go from the Lokrian and then just jump up to the dominant pentatonic shape and hit that D. However that would require that I would know where that D is. If you give me five seconds or so I can figure it out, but I cannot do it quickly right now.

    I have had some success with the Lokrian and the Phyrgian modes. I think I am going to try the Dorian next. Supposedly, it works well with pentatonics. I am going to have to get over a slight bigotry I have against the Dorian. I have always been a little off-put by the way it ends. It has that little half-step interval right at the end which I have never fancied.

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