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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #381
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I've been a bit busy lately. I work in logistics/supply chain and I don't get the luxury of hiding out and indulging my paranoia. If I don't work, then communities don't get food--although what they seem to be desiring most of all is instant noodles, so that whilst they hide from the virus they poision their bodies with MSG. I'm afraid I offended some people with what seems a cavalier attitude. I'm just nihilistic. I wash my hands; I avoid getting other people's bodily fluids in my orifices (a good principle in general even outside the pandemic context!); at that point it is all in the lap of the gods. There's no need for bottled water or toilet paper or overthinking.

    And on that note of simplicity, what I have been doing in my spare time is re-acquainting myself with the mixolydian mode. I plan on using that mode in conjunction with my dom7 chords in the rhythm changes. The mixolydian is the default pattern in that context because of the flatted seventh in the mode and the flatted seventh is, of course, the signature sound of the dominant chord. Even though I know the mixolydian I have been trying to get a little bit more detailed in that knowledge. For me that amounts to being able to move horizontally (from string to string). That breaks up the mode and makes is sound more musical rather than like a scale. It helps if you want to make double stops. So that's what I'm doing as the world descends into its silly maelstrom

  2. #382
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.


    ripcock, please look at your PMs.

  3. #383
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I made a stew of sorts for my wife. It consisted mainly of chicken thighs, red beans, and rice. She likes it. Happy wife, happy life. Because of that principle, I cannot play instruments late at night, my preferred time. But what I can do is think. And I'm still thinking and wondering why people eat so poorly during this quarantine. I can personally attest to the fact that people are buying a ton of instant noodles, which is a cancer cocktail...just add water. Why? I realize you have to stay at home, but why stay at home and eat crap? I literally just came from the local market where I bought some chicken and vegetables and eggs. There's no reason for crap. Yeah...I get it; you stay in your domicile until you cannot breathe and then go to the hospital. I grant that. but why eat instant noodles until that moment arrives?

    Governments are getting more and more Draconian. The one upside of the approaching martial law is the confiscation of toilet paper. People cornered the market on toilet paper with the thought of exploiting the community's weakness in this trying time. It will be great to see the government take it away by main force. Capitalism sucks.

    I played around with my cigar box guitar in open D tuning. I always use a slide with that instrument because when I re-attached the neck I screwed it up, rendering the action to be measured in inches. I mainly played pentatonic stuff, both blues-based things as well as some funk (focusing on the tonic and dominant degrees)

    I did some other stuff which I will annotate later since I need to go right now.

    I was fumbling around with the B section of my rhythm changes. Traditionally, it is just a III VI II V progression and it is normally played with the dom7 chord quality. I changed it a little bit. First of all, I have been playing this progression with all the chord roots on the C string. So I am going from the 8th fret, to the 13th, to the 6th fret, to the 11th. Obviously, that has a low/high/low/high pitch thing going on. So that's the first thing I had going on. Secondly, I changed the two lower chords to 13 chords. I know that's no big deal; jazz musicians actually call the 13 chord a 7 chord.

    Therefore by B section runs: G#13 C#7 F#13 B7

    The other thing I did was figure out an ending that I liked. Rhythm changes ends on a root dominant root progression. I like to end on a high note, so I play those last three chords as E6 (rooted on the 4th fret), B7 (rooted on the 2nd fret, drawing the pitch downward), Emaj7 (rooted on the 7th fret). I like this ending because the Emaj7 is an octave higher than the E6. I like this maj7 chord because I play it as a diagonal barre and that's fun.
    Last edited by ripock; 03-21-2020 at 07:34 PM.

  4. #384
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I've been working a lot lately but I just browsed the site and found several posts relating to cheap ukes. People seem to be thinking that cheap ukes are a different beast altogether and need special attention. However ukes are ukes. I am a fan of high-end ukes because of the personalization and guarantee of quality. But a cheap uke can good as long as there's no intonation problems. Yes, they are ugly and assembly line and might have high action or pokey frets, but they play.

    I have been doing some thinking lately. I was thinking about a reading jag i've been on: Golden Age British detective fiction. What I really like about it (aside from being a New Historicist's gold-mine for historical data) is how unrealistic it is. I like that these novels have their own diegetic space; their worlds have been largely fabricated and I appreciate the creativity involved in creating this faux world.

    And I noticed that my musical tastes run parallel to my literary ones. When I see people playing perfect renditions of existing songs, I mentally, if not physically, shrug. It is perfect but I have to wonder if a monkey could do that if you gave it enough bananas. What I value is creation as opposed to emulation. Emulation is all about the fingers while creation is about something deeper. And that's what this diary demonstrates. Admittedly, my music probably sucks when viewed on the spectrum of possibilities, However it is mine and spontaneous and sincere.

  5. #385
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    Listening to the greatest Black Sabbath album, Sabotage. That's how you can legitimate a Black Sabbath fan: if their favorite album isn't either Sabotage or Technical Ecstasy then they didn't grow up with Black Sabbath; they're johnny-come-latelys who have synthesized the experience through media.

    But on to creativity. In the kitchen, I made a nice casserole:

    1. softened butternut squash cubes in boiling white stock with cinnamon and brown sugar.
    2. added a cup of millet cooked with baharat
    3. added a pound of ground lamb (with some garlic a lot of tikka masala spice and green chiles) which had been browned
    4. added a pound of white cheddar (as an uxorial concession; I would have preferred no dairy or at least some Stilton)
    5. poured in a pie dish and baked so that the flavors would marry (if I had had my wits about me, I would have had a pastry shell ready)

    In terms of ukulele playing, the main aspect worth mentioning is the changing of instruments. I put away my beloved Yorkie and got my Kamaka out. I have a mixed relationship with the Kamaka. My Yorkie is my love because I created it. It was my vision made real and for that reason it has a special place in my heart. However I have to admit that the Kamaka plays better in certain ways. It is much more resonant. Usually that doesn't matter because I mute it while playing, but when you just give it a big strum, it sure can echo. And it sustains the glissandi very well. I like that. That being said, I still have an awkward relationship of the Kamaka because of the way it was built. My Yorkie was built to be everything I love. The Kamaka was built to be all that I don't love. It is kept in gCEA tuning and it has a spruce sound board to emphasize that end of the spectrum--a spectrum that I definitely do not like. Why did I spend $2000 to have something I don't especially like? That's a matter of philosophy. I am endowed with an opinion and I embrace that opinion. But I am aware that an opinion is just as opinion. So I want a ukulele that contradicts me and demonstrates the other, more traditional, point of view. I got it because I didn't like it. Similarly look at my master's thesis. I am decidedly a scholar of ancient Greek poetry. So what did I do my thesis on? A Latin historian. Why? Because I didn't want to be pigeon-holed by my own personality. Same thing with the Kamaka.

    And the Kamaka does streamline things a bit since it is for all intents and purposes a three string instrument. I was playing my shrill chord progressions today with that high G, but filling in the gaps with only the upper three strings. I have to go now and attend to the casserole, but I'll try to return and expand on what I was doing.

  6. #386
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I've been prepping for all day--at least intermittently. I made porridge, red beans and rice, and now pinto beans. I still don't understand the Covid mindset. People are buying a ton of instant noodles. Why? Haven't they been to the store lately? There's meat and vegetables and other whole foods. It makes no sense. But, then again, neither does it make sense that gun shops are considered essential services. Yet, their lobby has won the day. Amazing.

    And equally amazing is my practice. As I mentioned earlier, the gCEA tuning really simplifies things since it essentially a 3-string instrument. It limits your choices and allows you to focus on what is actually there for use.

    I did practice moving from an Em6 to finger picking. The E major pentatonic still is the easiest and most natural shape to work with. I tried using some modes of the harmonic minor and while none of them really sounded bad, they didn't quite sound right either. If i contented myself with only using part of the shape I suppose I could use the G Ionian #5 and tie it into the G of the Em6.

    That lead to practicing the harmonic minor modes themselves. I am fairly fluent with the central ones, but the less used ones, the ones based on the II, III, VI, and VII degrees, are a bit hazy. They definitely deserve a bit more attention.

    I also practiced minor arpeggios. Basically played a 12 bar blues in E using arpeggios. I thought it sounded good, but my wife didn't as it woke her up. But it was after noon, so it was fair game. She says real instruments just penetrate the walls in a way that recordings cannot.

  7. #387
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I have to wonder if I'm the only one not really affected by the pandemic. I see a lot of headlines about how teenagers or this-or-that population is coping with it all. Maybe I am in a perpetual state of self-quarantine but my life hasn't changed. I read and play music. I go about the neighborhood and read a little in the sun. I go to work. What is there to cope with? I think I would like to have a haircut but cannot until the place re-opens. That's the extent of my anxiety in this crisis.

    Musically I haven't felt very adventurous. Since I have the gCEA uke out, I thought I would play the one thing it is useful for, "Stairway to Heaven." and then I naturally morphed into the chord progression for "Hotel California" and ended by starting to wank around with the melody for a Led Zeppelin sound which is very easy since it is basically the Dominant shape pentatonic. I think I'll re-start that tomorrow and include the entire song including the solo.

    I also ran across a new picking pattern called the Cotten pick. I don't know if it is authentic or not, but it sounds good. It is essentially an outside/inside pick with a little extra up front:

    P1 P2 I
    P1 M (outside)
    P2 I (inside)

    Instead of using the regular PIMA fingering, I prefer PPIM. And the P1 and P2 above are the P on the G string and the P on the C string.

    This is a nice pattern regardless of whether it was actually employed by Cotten. It sounds better on low G; the A string pops out more. With the high G, the high notes are twice as frequent and as the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith would have it twice as valueless.

    addendum: I spoke too soon. For lunch I found myself eating bunker food. Therefore I have been impacted by the virus. I had a frozen turkey burger and a can of foule. You know times are rough if I'm frying a frozen meat patty and throwing some tomatillo sauce on top. The foule has a special covid19 angle. My wife having been swept up in the pandemonium that the media was inculcating wanted some toilet paper. I told her she could go to Walmart with the rest of the sheep, or a little ethnic market I knew about. She went to the ethnic market and doubled our toilet paper stockpile from 4 rolls to 8. Luckily she didn't get persuaded to invest in bottled water by the media. We have two faucets at home with perfectly good water which the virus cannot alter. My wife bought the foule to legitimize her presence at the market. So happily I received some nice fava beans to which I added olive oil and lemon and a handful of sabzi dolmeh as garnish.
    Last edited by ripock; 04-06-2020 at 07:12 AM.

  8. #388
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I haven't updated in a while.

    I just made a pot of carne adovada. I tried to up the ante flavor-wise. I increased the red chili content but also augmented the brown sugar to keep the balance.

    I had some strumming issues. With all this damned hand-washing that I am required to do, my hands got all dried out and the fingertips cracked. It was painful to strum. I used some triple-antibiotic ointment and repaired the worst crack. I don't know if it was the moisture or the three antibiotics, but it is half-way healed. In the past, when this happened I super-glued my cracks shut. I may still do that if the crack isn't filled in by Sunday when I return to work.

    However, my cracked middle finger didn't really impact my finger picking.

    I caught the bug of a ten-day blues challenge in E on Patreon. I didn't actively participate by uploading videos. I just became interested once again in pentatonics. Even though I was thoroughly hamstrung with a re-entrant uke, I played a lot of shapes. My ukuleles are designed to have a lot of shapes. I have seven (the five standard shapes + two shapes at an octave higher). I just played around with connecting bars of chords with bars of finger picked fills. In the ten day challenge there was a day devoted to turnarounds; I'll study those since you can never have enough turnarounds.

    Moving from E minor pentatonic to Em6: I practiced filling in some notes with the Em6, one of the central chords in my Rhythm Changes. In the past I found the Leading Tone shape of the E major pentatonic very nice in this regard. I filled out my toolbox with a few more scales which I don't readily use. I used the E dominant diminished scale and the E whole tone scale. The former has all the chord tones in it. The latter seems to work because it is weird. The only connection between the m6 and the whole tone scale is the E. I suppose it sounds purposely recherche and therefore jazzy. One thing I like about these new scales is that they are essentially above the chord on the fret board whereas the major pentatonic is below. I like the sonic options. These scales occupy the first seven frets of the fret board. That covers more than a third of the total real estate.

  9. #389
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I received my government check today which is pure gravy since I've been working continuously throughout the pandemic. Feeling a little bit flush I went crazy at the market, spending $73 which, for my wife and me, is rather indulgent. We eat whole foods and things without labels as a rule. It is hard to rack up a bill when you eat like that. I think that's why the so-called quarantine means nothing to me. I quarantine myself every day. I don't go out to restaurants and let Food Inc. poison me, so I'm not really feeling the pinch. By the way, people are still buying really crappy survival food. Why can't they just buy some meat and vegetables to renew their flesh while they wait for the end?

    I did a cursory glance at musical websites to get a feel for what knowledgeable people are using around certain chord qualities. Here's what I culled for my current project:

    m6: I already had that taken care of with major pentatonic and dominant diminished
    7b9: again the dominant diminished (alternatively, the Phrygian Dominant my favorite scale)
    m7: Dorian mode
    7: Mixolydian mode
    maj7: major pentatonic

    That was for the A section

    The B section is traditionally all dom7 chords. However I play half of the bars as 13 chords. Dom7 chords obviously use a Mixolydian scale and 13 chords work with what the sites were calling Lydian Dominant scales, but I grew up calling that the Overtone Scale. The Phrygian Dominant also doesn't clash with dom7 chords but it does with the 13.

    Despite all this new gleaned info, I didn't put it to practice. For whatever reason I got hung up on that E located on the 9th fret of the G string. For some reason I just felt drawn to it and decided on just building stuff around it.

    The first thing I did was to collate the Tonic shapes of the E minor and E major pentatonics. This is a bit tricky because if you get the ratio wrong it doesn't sound right. Like most people, I use the minor pentatonic as a base and I jump into the major pentatonic just for a little bit of flavor. The problem arises when you use too much flavor. I think the problem is that the major pentatonic is just the relative major--i.e., it is just the minor pentatonic in a different key. Therefore if you play the major pentatonic too much it just sounds like you're playing the minor pentatonic in another key instead of adding some flavor to the original key you were playing in.

    After that I started jamming on a progression. Well it wasn't actually a progression because its formula would be: I I I I I I I I etc.

    I stayed on the I chord and the only difference was the chord quality. I wonder what that's called in theory because it isn't a progression. It doesn't progress. Anyway, here's the chord qualities I was playing with:

    E7sus2, E7sus4, Em add9, Em, Em7b5, E+.

    Actually the two sus chords were the kernel of what I was doing and I added the other qualities as variation before returning to the sus chords. I will return to it later, and describe which ones worked the best.

  10. #390
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I just glanced and saw that there's a thread exulting in cheap ukuleles. I don't really understand. When I was a child I paid $23.89 (that price is still seared in my mind) a month to pay for a flute. It was a crappy instrument but it was all I could afford. I certainly don't romanticize and rationalize it. I would never pine for the days when it is all I had. My current flute's tail piece alone cost $1700 (pure silver) and I love it. I've never found myself thinking that penny-for-penny that first flute really played better than it had a right to. So, again, I don't understand. Is it a pride-thing to be able to say that you've squeezed some music out of something for a minimal price?

    Another one of those perennially unanswerable queries. Something less mysterious was me filling my pen's reservoir and tucking my pocketbook into the inside pocket of my favorite sports jacket. I was going to the park to sit, and think, and write out what I'm currently doing for my rhythm changes project. It is getting a bit unwieldy. What follows is a description of what I'm currently doing and it isn't meant to be prescriptive. And it doesn't take into consideration any variations such as tonic, dominant, or tritone substitutions. It is more of a baseline. Here's what I doing bar for bar, with the chords on the left and the scale I use for improv on the right.

    1a. I (Em6) major pentatonic/diminished dominant
    1b. V of II (C#7b9) diminished dominant/Phrygian dominant
    2a. II (F#m7) Dorian
    2b. V (B7) mixolydian/phrygian dominant
    3. same as 1
    4. same as 2
    5a. I (EΔ7) major pentatonic
    5b. V of IV (E7) mixolydian
    6a. IV (AΔ7) major pentatonic
    6b. IV (A)
    7. same as 1
    8. same as 2
    9. same as 1
    10. same as 2
    11. same as 3
    12. same as 4
    13. same as 5
    14. same as 6
    15. I (Em6) major pentatonic/dominant diminished
    16a. V (B7) mixolydian/phrygian dominant
    16b. I (Em6)
    17. III (G#13) Lydian dominant
    18. III (G#13)
    19. VI (C#7) Phrygian dominant
    20. VI (C#7)
    21. II (F#13) Lydian dominant
    22. II (F#13)
    23. V (B7) Phrygian dominant
    24. V (B7)
    25. same as 1
    26. same as 2
    27. same as 3
    28. same as 4
    29. same as 5
    30. same as 6
    31a. I (Em6)
    31b. V (B7)
    32. I (Em6)

    That's the current state of affairs in my rhythm changes. The only thing I have been contemplating is to alter the voicings of one of the A sections.

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