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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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    Feb 2017
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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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    Feb 2017
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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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    Feb 2017
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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

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