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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #431
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    I did some work on my open D minor tuning. It confirmed a pet theory of mine: that the ukulele like other stringed instruments is designed to play in the aiolian mode and that the ionian is just a variation. Unfortunately music is taught the other way around. Anyway, here's what I found with an open minor tuning. On every single dotted fret (since my ukulele is custom its dotted frets are 3, 5, 7 10, 12, 15, 17 and 19) either all four of the notes are members of D minor pentatonic or three of the notes are with a fourth note being one fret away. It is so regular and beautiful. It will make it a breeze to slide between the dotted frets and play the notes. Another nice thing about the open tuning is the ability to play the blues in two octaves--if you have a 19 fret instrument (sorry, soprano!).

  2. #432
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    Maybe it is the beer talking (over the past seven hours or so, I've had seven--which isn't a lot over time), but I just bought a Dunlop cry baby wah wah pedal. It is the last thing I need in my arsneal to sound like my heroes. Well, at least, I have no longer a technical reason to not sound like my guitar heroes. However, I don't have the chops. Now I have fuzz, I have distortion, I have chorus...there's no excuse to not sound awesome.

    I'll be waiting for it. Until then, one of my favorite patreon contributors just uploaded a tutorial on "freebird" and I downloaded the notation for the slide intro. I'm not really interested in the rest. I'll be adapting that to my open D minor tuning and trying to play it. It will be weird because I never play other people's music.

    * * *

    I just shaved with a straight razor despite the beers and the results were mixed. At a certain point I looked up and noticed that despite the inebriation I had only caused a little bit of blood on a cancerous mole I have. That was good, but then my guard was dropped because of my vanity and I immediately cut myself along the cleft of the chin.

    * * *
    Okay, I'm finishing my 8th and final beer. I don't want to make it appear that this is a regular occurrence. I'm an essential worker; I have worked through the pandemic. When my days off pop up, I get a six-pack or two and celebrate life. I have an itinerary to keep: drink my beer, sober up, take my wife out for our traditional july 4th dinner, do laundry, play ukulele.

    So I do have a very definite plan...even with the beer. Also I have some research to do. There has been a merging of three threads. My reading, my discussion with my wife, and my watching of youtube videos, has all triangulated towards the fourth book of the Georgics and the treatise on honey coming from carcasses. I need to re-visit the primary text.
    Last edited by ripock; 07-04-2020 at 01:00 PM.

  3. #433
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    I suppose the ukulele world has been wondering where I have been (as if!). I ripped the nail on my right ring finger. I didn't know it until recently but that's my main strumming finger. I strum with a loose fist and didn't know which finger was the actual plectrum. But once I injured my finger it became obvious that it was the prime strummer and it hurts to strum.

    I could have just strummed like they show you in newby videos with the index finger, but I prefer to be me.

    In lieu of playing I was reading some British novels written around WWII. One salient characteristic of this literature is the presence of war privations and rationing to promote the common weal. It is yet another glimpse into how broken our world is in comparison. On a daily basis you can read about people freaking out because they have to wear a mask to curtail the spread of the virus. I wonder what these people would do if we had to ration our resources. We are so soft.

    Now that my hand feels better, I did play around with the A Dorian #11. Here's a few observations:

    1. Harmonic minor modes make some interesting and somewhat exotic melodies.
    2. I like using the D# dim7 to walk up to the A on the 9th fret.
    3. I have some double hammer-ons that I use to bridge the space between the 2nd and 9th frets. I haven't had the same success going back down using pull-offs. Maybe it is a technical difficulty.
    4. The re-entrant A Dorian #11 is contained within the linear E Aiolian #7, making the transition between the tunings rather seamless.

    I am going to further explore the D# dim7 angle and see what I can come up with.

  4. #434
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    I have been working on the Lydian #2 in the open position to complement the Dorian #11 (I am, of course, talking about the re-entrant tuning). I am fairly comfortable with the Dorian #11 and the Phrygian Dominant right above it. So I have that area of the fret board covered. With the Dorian and Phrygian, we're talking about the fourth and fifth intervals of the key--which are totally central. Another central sound in the key is the sixth, the relative minor. In the harmonic minor the sixth if flattened and is a C. That means the C Lydian #2 employs open strings. I hate open strings because it throws my shapes off. However, I am going to overcome my prejudice and embrace this shape with its five fingerable notes and three open string notes.

  5. #435
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    I made some headway on my interests.

    I am beginning to see why Pindaros was never taught although he is acknowledged to be the cornerstone of ancient poetry. He would be a hard sell nowadays. He is very earnest and doesn't seem to be a bit ironic. In contrast, other poets such Kallimachos, Horatius, and Vergilius did what they had to do under tyranny in terms of their courtier-poetry. However they included some ambiguous material that gave them some independence--some resistance. Pindaros gleefully wrote for the elite even when the elite were on the way out. Democracy was surging at the time but Pindaros clung to his patrons. His aim was to celebrate his patrons and immortalize them so that they (and he) could approach the status of hero like Herakles or Achilleus. Therefore he is not a very likable personage. We want someone with his own voice, someone who stands for what we believe in politically and morally. He seems to be sincere in his allegiances. I'll keep on investigating in the hopes of finding some unique voice that isn't corporate.

    My harmonic minor studies proceeded much more satisfactorily. I already had the E Aiolian #7 and B Phrygian Dominant under my belt. I added the A Dorian #11 and the C Lydian #2. With the addition of those latter two, I have the fret board pretty much covered. When I formally decide to add the final three modes it shouldn't be too much of a problem because I'm already playing them partially. The G Ionian #5 is closely linked to the C Lydian #2; the F# Lokrian 13 is connected to the B Phrygian Dominant and the D# Super Lokrian bb7 is part of the G Ionian #5.

    At this point it is a bit impossible to annotate what I'm actually doing because I'm just improvising up and down the neck. I do have a tendency to start off with two adjacent notes (e.g., the D# and E of the A Dorian #11) and then move to a lower string and play its three notes. Aside from that it is just going where my fingers lead. I do bust up this parade of melodies with a chord progression in E Harmonic Minor: Em, B7, D, Am (I know D isn't diatonic; I do it just because I like it). I use that progression as a little interlude and I either transition to the A Dorian #11 from the Am chord or I start ascending the fret board with D#dim7 until I get to a lattitude that suits my attitude.

  6. #436
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    I focused today on playing around the 11th fret which is my favorite. There's a lot to do there. There is the B Phrygian Dominant as well as the dominant shape of the E minor pentatonic. If you extend the Phrygian Dominant to the G string, it becomes the F# Lokrian 13. Right below the Phrygian Dominant is the A Dorian #11 which becomes the E Aiolian #7 if you extend it out to the G string. And right above the Phrygian Dominant is the G Ionian #5 / C Lydian #2.

    I assume there are similar clusters of shapes everywhere on the fretboard. Right now I'm just playing what and where I like; I will explore later.

  7. #437
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    I have been stricken by the guilt once again. I bespoke my Yorkie to be everything that I love, and I do in fact love my Yorkie. My Kamaka is designed to be everything that I do not care for: it is high G (basically a 3-stringed instrument) and its Spruce sound board is meant to emphasize its shrillness. My reasoning was that although I know and believe my opinion, my opinion is still an opinion. So let's assume that the traditional sound has some merit that I cannot perceive--trusting in the generations of players. The Kamaka was designed to give me balance. The problem is that I don't often want to be balanced. Hence, the guilt. I have this wonderful instrument and because I have it, someone else doesn't have it. I feel the need at times to justify having it. This is one of those times. I'm going to put Yorkie to sleep in its velvet-lined case for a while and play on my Kamaka. The problem is finding something to do that the Kamaka can actually do with the liability of only having three strings. At this point I think I will take up again my studies in Rhythm Changes in E. A lot of that project is chordal and a re-entrant uke can play chords albeit a bit tinnily. And if I want to play over the chords, the top three strings have some options.

  8. #438
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    I just got off work. It is 3:30 a.m. and therefore I am bound to the moratorium of playing ukulele 'til my wife awakens. However I can do some planning. It is never advisable to disregard Bill1 and this case in no exception. Bird Changes are an excellent suggestion. I actually have "Blues for Alice" although I never listen to it. I receive stuff like Charlie Parker or Chick Corea as gifts because people think I like it. I am more of a Thelonious Monk guy; Bebop always seemed too frenetic for me. But listening and playing are totally different. I may not want to listen to bebop but playing it is fun.

    So I just cracked open an imperial stout and now I'll do some thinking out loud.

    I will definitely watch the video pertaining to Bird Blues that was published by Jens Larsen, a jazz guitarist who videos I like to cull for ideas.

    Now to get organized. "Blues for Alice" runs thus:

    FΔ7
    Eø | A7b9
    Dm7 | G7
    Cm7 | F7
    Bb7
    Bbm7 | Eb7
    Am7 | Db7
    Gm7
    C7
    FΔ 7 | D7
    Gm7 | C7

    That's the progression. I think I will substitute a Fm6 for the FΔ7 because I like the sound better. Aside from that I'll play it as it is. But let's look at the formula of the progression:

    IM7 viiø7 III7 vi7 II7 v7 I7
    IV7 iv7 ♭VII7 iii7 VI7 ♭iii7 ♭VI7
    ii7 V7 IM7 VI7 ii7 V7

    That's better; it is easier to see what's going on with the Roman numerals. Plus, I will be able to transpose this to E, my favorite key.

    That should keep me busy for the month of leisure that I have before me. I do have a job. I am fortunate enough to be in an industry that has worked throughout the pandemic. On August 17th, one month from now, I will begin teaching three online college courses to supplement my income. By then my Bird Blues should be smooth.

  9. #439
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    I realized that I was conflating two things: Bird blues and "Blues for Alice." Bird blues is more of the general template and "Blues for Alice" is an instantiation of that template with some variations.

    Both the general and specific iterations have the first six bars, so I was focusing on them. The key is to find the appropriate voicings of the chords. I guess that comes with the territory. When all I could play were cowboy chords, you just played the voicing you knew and chalked it off to experience if it didn't sound right. I remember feeling that way about the key of Bb. It just sounded off.

    There are a few opportunities for altered chords in what I'm doing. I usually go for b9 chords in this situation because I find the #9 is an uncomfortable stretch. But there is the fifth interval to consider.

    When I drive to work I purposely drive north on 2nd street because of the local color and the visual stimulation. On the right hand side of the road there is the soup line and on the left, directly across, is a fast food joint with a line of cars with tinted windows and air-conditioning all awaiting their processed food handouts. I love that dichotomy. Or further up the road, there is the Rio Bravo microbrewery where you can see satisfied bourgeois sipping their designer drinks while directly across from that is Coronado park which is festooned with the mobile Caravansarai of the homeless whose brains have been addled by too much alcohol.

    I bring all this up because on 2nd street there is a building which is named flat twelve. I immediately equated that to music and thought a b12 is an odd thing--something I have no recollection of having seen. However a flat 12 is the same as a flat five. That would be another way to alter a dominant chord. Obviously a sharp five is an augmented chord, but a flat five is equally admissible. I will be looking into whether or not it is a convenient thing to fret a D7b5.

    Penultimately I want to observe that I forget how excellent my Kamaka is. It is my dedicated high G, bright, traditional ukulele and it was designed that way to represent that side of ukuleledom which I don't really like but which I feel a need to reverence due to its tradition. Nevertheless it has an ungodly amount of sustain the resonance. It is plain to see why Kamakas are Kamakas and why we pay $2000 for them. They are a cut above. Plus, I have some super slinky strings on the Kamaka. I believe they are Fremont Concert size strings. Whatever they are they are slight and bend like crazy. It is a joy. I think my Yorkie has tenor Worth strings on it. A bit stiff. I will definitely migrate toward concert scale strings.

    Ultimately I wanted to share my observation that I was reading a person specifying that straps took too long to put on. How many milliseconds of effort are we talking about? My straps are always on, so that it only takes a fraction of a moment to throw it over my head. On my Yorkie, the strap never leaves ever. I intentionally purchased a baritone case for the Yorkie so that it would be a bit large. When I put the Yorkie to sleep in its velvet lined coffin, I wrap the strap around the lower bout of the body. That makes the ukulele fit more snugly in the case. My Kamaka is a different situation. Kamaka cases are fitted exactly. They are as tight as a sorority sister's party dress. Accordingly I have to take the strap off when laying my Kamaka to sleep. But when I take the Kamaka out to play it for a week or two, then I put the strap on and leave it on. It really is no hindrance.

  10. #440
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    I have been busy but taking solace in tinkering around with "Blues for Alice." I'm still trying to find voicings I like. Right now I am tending to start high and move down the fret board. I did look at one ukulele tutorial online, but I turned it off within five seconds because the musician was just mimicking the lines that Charlie Parker plays. What kind of jazz is that? If I want to listen to something cryogenically frozen, then I'll just play my CD. But why would I want to listen to a live version of a dead thing?

    So that's my mind set. I'm trying to get a progression that I like. Then I'll plan out the arpeggios/scales to play over the chords. Then I'll fail and succeed in creating something. I will most probably watch a few theory videos about these blues to make my progress less hit and miss. I know these blues are essentially a bunch of ii-V movements, but I would like to learn a bit more so that I could make more informed decisions.

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