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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #171
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    I briefly played around with some m7b5 and augmented chords.

    I noticed something about the m7b5 versus the 7: They sound very similar but the seems to lilt upward. I don't know if it is a matter of pitch or an emotional thing, but it seems slightly more upbeat. The two are close enough to be interchanged but the seems to be a little bit less harsh. That might come into play if I ever have a choice. Right now I would probably stick with the 7 merely because I know how to form it.

    The augmented chord is a special kind of ugly. In arpeggio-form it sounds nice, but it is discordant as a chord. I did make a small progression with it, going from augmented to sus4 to major triad, and it sounded nice. It was a lengthened passing chord sequence. My idea was to move from a chord with an altered fifth, to a chord without a third, and finally to a chord that had its third and fifth intact.

    I read that the augmented chord is also used in the turnaround of a blues progression, kind of like some of those grating Robert Johnson double-stops. I messed around with making the V chord augmented and it seemed okay, but I will need to replicate it to be sure. Another thing to try would be to experiment with using the augmented voicing on some chords in my modal progressions that I've been playing around with, either making the v of the Phrygian augmented instead of dminished. Or I could just pop an augmented chord in somewhere else and see what happens.

  2. #172
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    I had to go to a family function and I brought my Kamaka because we need some quality time together. I am still getting used to it. The biggest difference between the Kamaka and my others is that its nylon strings make chords rather difficult to make in the lower frets. Patently I could just put different strings on it, but that seems like cheating. I think of it as breaking in a horse. You want to curb its natural wildness and enthusiasm, and channel it; you don't want to extinguish it. So I want to meet the Kamaka on its own terms. I want to retain its strings and embrace its tinniness. That is, after all, why I bought a custom spruce-top ukulele. I wanted something dedicated and built to play that end of the register. I am still working on it.

    Since the above was my priority, I didn't try to do anything new. I was just going over old stuff with the Kamaka. I just improvised with some pentatonic stuff, with some modal progressions, with some fancy strum adornments like finger rolls and raking the strings with my thumb on the upstroke.

  3. #173
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    First, I have to chastise myself a tad for being unmindful. One of my highest priorities is to stop being lame by not even knowing the notes I am playing. E.g., how am I supposed to improvise a melody based on dom7's if I don't know where those notes are on my fretboard? To overcome this I have been rolling through the modes using one key.

    I somewhat arbitrarily chose E because it is an easy blues to play and because it is the highest key from which I can play all the modes (the lokrian ends on the 18th and I hit the E note on the 19th just for some resolution). The thing that makes this work for me is getting a static set of notes (in this case E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#) and playing them in all their permutations. I.e., E ionian, F# Dorian, etc. As I play I try to say the note out loud and look to see where my finger is. This way, I am seeing, hearing, and speaking the notes. After I feel I have culled enough from E, I am going to do the same thing with a key that has a lot of flats because I have a tendency to be inflexible when it comes to naming notes. I want to be ready to see a note as Db or C#. Right now Db makes me furrow my brow.

    I think Db would be the logical candidate for this application because it has five flats, it starts on the first fret and Lokrian ends on the 15th. Let me see, those notes would be Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C. Damn! That's going to be nasty. The I IV V is going to be a bear. And my favorite progressions in the Phrygian mode won't be much easier since I will need to flatten flats and that will change the name of the note. Confusing. But that's for later.

    Today was more of a day for messing around. The only noteworthy things I did were practiced some progressions with a rumba beat (a strum consisting of eighth notes in which the 1st, 4th, and 7th are stressed). I also plugged in my tenor guitar and played with some electronics. Using some overdrive and flanger, I turned on my Fat Fuzz Factory pedal. I turned it on Fat mode (where it accompanies my notes with those of one and two octaves lower) and I turned the gate setting down low. It was as fuzzy as an angora sweater.


    I also forgot to mention that once my custom linear tenor gets here in July/August. I will have the option of doing these exercises from the lower three strings as opposed to the upper three strings of the re-entrant. E.g., that would mean the E to start my ionian would be on the ninth fret and I would start it all off from the first fret with the G# Lydian.
    Last edited by ripock; 05-19-2018 at 09:13 PM.

  4. #174
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    I was exposed to some new terms today by Stu Fuchs. Evidently they are classical string musical terms. They are ponticello, dulce, and sul tasto. I know most ukulele players use sul tasto; I tend to play dulce, or rather right where sul tasto and dulce meet. I see an application for the ponticello tone. It is brassier. It could be used to differentiate stresses. For example, in the rumba strum I was toying with, the 1st, 4th, and 7th beat would be ponticello. I can see it could be attainable through practice. Right now it is a bit challenging physically to alternate dulce strums and ponticello strums--it's a coordination thing. However, I've seen it done. Guru Peter Forrest demonstrated a figure-eight strum which did it.

    Another little trick I stumbled upon is using the quincunx shape for improv. At least, that's what I call it. Quincunx is the Latin term for the configuration of the five dots on a die. I don't know if there's an English term aside from some clunky periphrasis. Basically the quincunx is just a Dorian with some of the notes taken out. It makes it less scaly and more musical.

    Just to use the F Dorian as an example and visualization, on the 5th fret, you play the C and A strings, on the 6th fret the E string, on the 7th fret the C and A strings again. The quincunx works with a pentatonic scale tolerably well because they both have a minor vibe going on. Both the pentatonic and quincunx share the root and that Bb note (the middle dot of the quincunx). So you can switch from one to the other on the Bb. It sounds like something different is going on, but it is more of an interesting transition than something so foreign that it is just a head-scratcher for the auditor.

  5. #175
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    I watched a video...at least, I watched the start of it...of some online guitar instructor counterarguing against those who hold that Jimi Hendrix didn't know theory, so why should they. I didn't more than glance at the video because I didn't want to get bemired in the negativity. But I was thinking that there are some easy arguments to make.

    First of all, if we assume that Hendrix didn't know theory, we can say Hendrix was a prodigy. He did what he did because he is who he is. However, everyone else isn't Hendrix. Since they aren't gifted, they have to learn guitar.

    However, the easier answer is that Hendrix was lying. He obviously was building his brand and part of that process was telling this narrative about how he is natural and raw and unspoiled by academia. But that is just preposterous. Just think about it. He, as the tradition goes, just sat around noodling and taught himself music. It is a coincidence that all the complicated extended chords he "came up with" are the same chords that are played in jazz and R & B and blues. Give me a break. Maybe he didn't go to the 60's equivalent to a Guitar Center but someone showed him stuff and pointed him towards these traditions.

    Whatever. Maybe that video said this. But, as I said, I wasn't very interested. I am more interested in moving myself forward. To that end, I've been messing around with some stuff based around A and its intervals. I copied the voicings that I picked up from observing some jazz melodies. Once you can appreciate intervals, the rest of the stuff comes pretty easy. Don't misunderstand. I do make some clunkers. But I also can just make up progressions that sound acceptable. Here's some of what I remember I did:

    A Bbdim7 Bm7 E7
    A A7 D Cdim7 A
    A F#m7 Bm7 E7

    As you can see I am not doing anything great. Just playing basic chords from A and just changing the voicings sometimes. The voicings are the hard part for me. To be honest, I probably never would have guessed these voicings and I owe them to looking at jazz and seeing how they do it there.

  6. #176
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    I thought it best to push myself a little bit. So I decided to steer away from harmonizations that I comfortable with. I thought I'd play around with the Lydian.

    Technically it doesn't offer many obstacles. There's the major II which is a bit difficult just because the F# isn't something we play a lot. I just have to decide how to play it. There's the standard way (G shape with the pinky), the F-shaped barre chord, and the standard way except the G string is muted thus alleviating the need for the pinky. The other technical issue is that the IV is diminished. That's not a problem; it is just different. I was again playing around 'twixt the diminished and the half-diminished versions of A and found the differences subtle. For what I've been doing the diminished chord sounds a little better because it is a tad more strident and that's the sound I envisioned. The half-diminished works well, but it has a slightly more ingratiating tone. It works in its own buttery way but sometimes you just want that dissonance. Oh, the final tribulation is the minor vi which is a C#. My preferred method of playing it is 1444. That renders the C# rather high-pitched. High-pitched things seem like the culmination or the turning point of the progression since things usually build up to that climax. I just have to figure out how to use it. It is tricky. It sounds best after the I, but it sounds like you're setting up a I vi IV V progression in the Ionian mode. Deviating from that is rather disconcerting. I'll work on it.

  7. #177
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    For the first time I used my amp with headphones. It felt quite naughty to be making that much noise at that hour. However no one was the wiser.

    Since we're talking about my electronics, I had some time ago, changed the tuning on my cigar box guitar to an open D7. It works great for playing bluesy stuff. The only liability is having to learn a new fretboard basically. I had to map out my D7 fretboard and highlight where all the notes in the D minor pentatonic were located. The trick is to memorize the new shapes and the new cluster of sweet notes. It isn't hard...as long as I have my map next to me. I can play respectable stop-time blues filling in between the slides with notes. My wife said it sounded good...except for the tone! I was playing extremely dirty with overdrive, flanger, and fuzz. I still haven't mastered the settings on the fuzz. It is a very crazy pedal and I haven't mellowed it out yet. Since it is new, I am still relishing all the pulsing craziness. Over time I should probably back it off to the level of something more like a fuzz face or big muff.

    I started to re-acquaint myself with linear pentatonics. I had been playing three-string patterns on my Kamaka. However I should be receiving my custom linear uke in about two months. I have to admit that I am unrepentedly a linear-favorer. I see that re-entrant turnings have their advantages. I was watching someone online do these descending hammering/pulling integrated with playing the G string. This only works because the G and A strings are only a step apart. With linear, there's an octave difference which spoils the effect since the notes aren't clustered.

    However, I don't play that kind of music. For me the linear is better because it can play all the three-string pentatonic shapes, but it also has the five other shapes that span all four strings. And that's where things get fun because you can create your own shapes and stay in key. For example you can play a four-string subdominant shape but stop on the 3rd on the E string. From there you can start playing the three-string dominant shape which also has its 3rd on the E string.

    The linear pentatonic shapes have their challenges. The tonic, subdominant, and dominant shapes are very regular, but the supertonic and mediant require some shifting. I like to keep my index finger in the same fret as an anchor. The linear supertonic, however, requires me to shift down a fret on the C string, but move back for the E and A strings. The mediant shape requires moving up a fret on the E string. This isn't unprecedented. On the re-entrant shapes there is also some shifting going on. I just have to get used to the new shifts.

  8. #178
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    I have been toying around with the augmented chord. Stu Fuchs gave me some advice on using the augmented chord for the V chord of a progression. Using that premise I made a new turnaround in E for the final two bars of a blues progression: B+7, Bb7, A7, E.

    Aside from that, things have really been coming together for me. Since I've been studying the key of E, I can now effortlessly improvise music with melodies and timing using my pentatonic shapes.

    That is great, however I have to admit I haven't made progress on some of my goals such as memorizing the keyboard using the modes of E. And I have totally ignored my desire to create a fingerstyle style that uses the fourth string as a drone. Now that I think of it, the fingerstyle goal probably should be put on the back burner for a while because of the key. I am committed to E. However if I want to drone the fourth string, which is a G...then I think I need to be playing in G. Therefore I need to wait to such a time when I devote my time to G. And G only has one accidental note, a sharp...not very conducive to pedagogy.


    Spent some time thinking about the last point and realized it wasn't correct. I don't necessarily need the G for the tonic. I just need a key that allows for the G. As long as it is in the key it will sound alright although its emphasis will be different depending on the G's function in the harmony of that key. So I did some thinking about keys and the more you learn about music, the more you're amazed. Music is connected to the numerical balance of the world: the seasons, the sunsets, etc. So it is no surprise that my query also lent itself to symmetry. Of the 12 keys, the G works with 6 of them. G is in Eb, Bb, F, C, G, and D. The other six wouldn't work. In E, B, and F# the G is sharp; Db uses an Ab (G#); Ab has a diminished G and A has a diminished G#.

    I think D would be good for the drone. D has always been my favorite key. My cigar box guitar is tuned to an open D7 and with my ukuleles the G would be the subdominant of D. That would sound appropriate.
    Last edited by ripock; 06-06-2018 at 05:41 AM.

  9. #179
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    I've been having fun.

    I systematically thought about add6 chords and m7 chords. I can't really play add6, but I know all my m7's. And they're the same. So all I have to do is remember which add6 is which m7. The one exception is that I play A6 differently. I learned to play it in a typical blues shuffle: A, A6, A7. The A of course is 2100; the A6 is 2120 and the A7 is 2130. Those 6's and 7's obviously are lacking their dominant degree, but they sound good. The implication for this is that if A6 is 2130, then F#m7 is 2130 which is a godsend because F#m7 is regularly played as 2424 which is a very nasty chord. That means that I would play the F#m and F#m7 as the same thing. That might not work in all cases, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. This isn't at all unprecedented in my playing. For example when I need to play F#maj7, I play Bbm. The Bbm is a rootless F#maj7. Rootless chords can sound a little etiolated but the context will be judge of that and how often will I need a F#maj7?

    Why is F# such a pill?

    Speaking of being a pill, I just stumbled upon a video purporting that music theory is not hard (a thesis I whole-heartedly endorse) but then the person in the video quizzes the viewers with how many keys there are? His answer is 30! I thought: dude, you're being a douche by including the enharmonic keys. The practical answer should be 24 because no one is going to play in Cb or Fb or even use G# with its 6 sharps and one double-sharp when Ab, its enharmonic equivalent, only has 4 flats.

    Anyway, that brought my mind back to F#. Gb and F# are enharmonically equivalent and each has 6 accidents. Therefore there is no way to prefer one to the other. However, I have been told that Gb is more common. However I think it would depend on what you're doing with the key. If you're just making a rather simple melody, then either would be okay. However if I were going to play some modal harmonies, I would definitely write them in F#. For example if your melody was in Aiolian, a very popular mode, you have a flat III, VI, and VII. These 3 notes are naturally sharped because of the key, so playing them in Aiolian would be easy: A# becomes A, D# becomes D, etc. If I conceived of this in the key of Gb, it would be a little more awkward because I would be flattening a flat, which any musician worth his weight in tabouli can do...however, since we're talking about ease. F# is easier in this context.

    The last thing I'm doing right now, is struggling with a new Am7 fingering. I dislike the typical 0000 chord, so I usually play it 2433. I saw a video of Stu Fuchs playing both the E and A strings with a flattened middle finger and I was very intrigued because I cannot do this at all. I normally use the index for the '2', the pinky for the '4' and my the two middle fingers play the two '3' frets. One of my favorite sequences is Eb7, D7, Gm7 and I play the Gm7 with my index finger barreing the E and A string and my ring finger fretting the C string (0211). But transposing that shape up a note is impossible for me. The index finger isn't part of this issue; it is just replacing the nut and will barre everything and only be responsible for the G string. The antogonists here are the middle two fingers. The issue is that they aren't independent. However I need one finger to lie flat while the other finger remain arched. I'm going to be working on it, because this is for me a very important movable chord. If I can master the new fingering, it is eminently more movable.

  10. #180
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    In that video I maligned above there was one good tid-bit of information: the number of accidents in a key plus the flatted form of that key equals seven. For example, C has 0 sharps but Cb has 7 flats. Okay that one wasn't very practical since no one plays or practices in Cb. On the other hand I know from experience that E has 4 sharps; that means that Eb has 3 flats. That is a nice trick for knowing key signatures.

    For some reason I have been getting a lot of recommended videos on that little girl Grace and her ukulele. Yes, she's a millionaire and she has a cool treehouse, but she's not a very good musician. I guess it shows you what fame is really about. Personality, charisma, etc....but playing your instrument is pretty low on the list. I even saw a video where she was tasked with writing an impromptu song about dirty dishes and she didn't do a good job. I tested myself similarly and just rhymed a few words in a micro-narrative backed with a generic stop time blues in G. It isn't that hard. However I would be as ill-equipped for her world as she would be for mine.

    I practiced (meaning failed repeatedly) the new Am7 chord. That is going to take some doing.

    Speaking of doing, I decided to get off my ass and do something about the gap in my fingerstyle playing. My problem is analysis-paralysis. I have studied and I know exactly what to do, but then I sort of scoff at the simplicity of it and never do it. I just have to practice it. I will start to work through the fingerstyle workbook I have but also make some strides in my own personal improvisation. That means blues-based melodies in G using the open G string as the drone. From what I've seen the drone regularly is the root note. I previously thought I could use another key as long as it has a G in it. And technically I can, but Tommy Emmanuel said doing so would relegate the music to curiosity-pieces. I think I will listen to anyone who has played with Chet Atkins.

    I'll be starting basic and just playing 4 drones to a beat and then work in the melody notes on top of the drone as well as on the off-beat between the drones as well as making triplets (drone + two meldoy notes). That's my personal goal. I will obviously also support that with playing whatever little ditties that are in the fingerstyle workbook.

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