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Thread: my ukulele progress

  1. #461
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    I just re-read what I wrote and I wanted to point out that it isn't as technical as it sounds. These are all just modes of the E Harmonic Minor. So all I'm doing is using those notes in differing orders. I'm not even introducing non-diatonic notes. It is also obvious that what I'm doing is made possible through a Low G tuning. The reason I prefer low G (aside from not embarrassing myself by sounding like Tiny Tim or George Formby) is that it allows two systems. There are scales that start on the G string and end on the E string, and there are the scales that start on the C and end on the A. It is nice having the option of playing a scale in more than one place. Also, as I showed above, it is possible to start in one system and end in the other. For example, you can start on the G Ionian #5 and switch halfway through to the C Lydian #2. There's a lot to do.

  2. #462
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    What have I been creating?

    I made some Tuscan soup for this week's staple. It is inspired by the soups my wife and I ate while we were in Italy for a month. I use a pound of cannellinis. A cup of barley. Those two things I pressure cooked--obviously, not together because beans take two hours whereas grains take fifteen minutes. I added a pound of browned meat (lamb). I added two cans of Ro-Tel (which is a commercial brand of spicy dice-y tomatoes). I added a liberal amount of basil and oregano. That's it. I might have to add some water when I re-heat it.

    I also made some mustard for my condiment needs. For mustard I have more of a method than a recipe. I pour some black mustard seeds into my mortar and add some salt and tumeric. Then I add a jigger of Laphroaig scotch and a jigger of vinegar. Then I just grind it with the pestle. Then I add more vinegar or more seeds to get the texture I want. Today I finished it off by adding some garbanzo bean flour to thicken it up. I added some more salt because the flour made the mustard a bit bitter. Beans are one of the few things that absolutely need salt. Otherwise they taste like soil.

    Musically, I am enjoying finger picking my harmonic minor modes. I was listening to an old song "Diary of a Madman" and I heard a motif which I knew I could play with the modes. It was relatively simple. I started off in the re-entrant B Phrygian Dominant and used the first two notes thereof. Then I backed up into the re-entrant A Dorian #11 and used its first three notes. The re-entrant A Dorian #11 is embedded within the linear E Aiolian #7. So I quickly changed to the latter to get the "buuum-bump"--that two note base that caps off the riff. So I played that for a while and did some other things not worth mentioning.

    I have a lot to do (my two jobs, go to doctor because of a retinal detachment I have, pick up my new spectacles, take my jeep for $2000 worth of repairs, get my wife's care safety-inspected and registered) nonetheless I want to work into that schedule some ukulele work. I feel inclined to stick with what I'm doing and try to get a little bit more fluid with my modes. The biggest stumbling blocks are linear G Ionian #5 and the re-entrant C Lydian #2, both of which are the shapes that include open strings. I avoid them because they have open strings and that affects my scale shapes since the index finger is replaced by the nut. The problem with that (aside from not inviting your demons to tea and embracing your adversities) is that I am depriving myself of the lowest frets and the lowest frets are the best frets. So I'm really doing myself an injustice by not using my bass notes. So I'll be working on getting comfortable with those shapes. I don't know if I should just consider these shapes as unique and just memorize them or if I should just not use my index finger, thereby preserving the shape that occurs at the 12th fret. I'll try both.

  3. #463
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    I have some free time before my wife wakes up and I thought I'd update what I've been doing.

    First of all, I've been playing around with some new chord qualities. Well...they aren't new; I just don't use them. The first one is the sus2. It isn't the easiest to play. Making those chords dominant--i.e., 7sus2--makes it a little bit easier and more applicable as I would probably be using them in that way.

    Secondly, I have been experimenting with some minor add9's and 11's. Those qualities have a bit of a stretch to them. Honestly some of them aren't going to be practical because they are so difficult (similar to the maj7 chord rooted on the E).

    * * * *

    For the right hand I have been focusing on The Dorian #11 scale and my open string scales. The Dorian #11 is interesting because it is the only shape in linear tuning that doesn't have another re-entrant shape embedded within it. With the linear Dorian #11, once you finish with the E string, to move to the A string you either have to move down to a Lydian #2 or up to a super Lokrian bb7. Just to give an example of the normal proceedings, if you start playing a Lokrian 13 in linear tuning, there is a Phrygian dominant contained within it, and if you play them both together you can play all four strings. Anyway...I have been focusing on the Dorian #11 because it is an anomaly.

    I have also been focusing on the linear G Ionian #5/re-entrant C Lydian #2. I am focusing on them because they employ open strings--something I normally avoid.

    It is worth noting that all open strings are in the E harmonic minor so that it is convenient to pull-off any string.


    Before I go I'd like to mention two recent threads. One was devoted to expensive ukes and the other to a checklist of things to do with a new uke. I'd just like to say that when you buy an expensive custom uke, part of the value emanates from the fact that you don't have to do anything to a newly acquired uke. It is already perfectly ready to go.

  4. #464
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    I've been a bit busy, but today I entranced myself with a little I-IV-V progression. The chord qualities were a bit eccentric. The progression was Em add9 to Am to Bm7. I really liked the movement from the E to the A chord. I didn't really know what quality to give the B. I settled on the rather buttery m7. As a turnaround of sorts, I would improv on the A Dorian #11 because it contains all the chord tones of the Em add9 (except the b3, the G, which belongs to another scale, even though it would still sound good since G is part of the E harmonic minor).

  5. #465
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    I put my Yorkie away although it pains me to do so. It had been out for a week or two. Typically the air around here is about 20%. Inside the ukulele cases, he hygrometer says it is 42%. I owe it to Yorkie to get some humidity. So I took out the Kamaka. Its incredible sustain and high G string always is a bit jarring, but I think I'll spend some time with my modes and the top three strings. If all goes as planned, By the time I pull the Yorkie back out, I'll just need to incorporate the G string to have a working knowledge of the entire fret board in terms of the modes. This seems a little bit robotic, but I find I need to be overly assiduous with my shapes and then erase the lines to connect all the notes together. It is a matter of over-learn and then un-learn. That's just how my mind works.

  6. #466
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    Pursuing my plans I naturally did some 19 fret runs.

    Then I made some efforts connecting the shapes I know very well with the adjacent shapes to make one big super shape.

    Then I gravitated toward the D# Super Lokrian bb7 that starts on the 15th fret. It has a nice, but overlooked, E on the 16th fret to punctuate phrases. From the D# Super Lokrian bb7 I want to jump down to my comfort zone of the 11th fret, and that's perfectly fine but there is a shape betwixt the 15th and 11th frets. It is the C Lydian #2. And it is easy; I'm just not comfortable with it. And by 'easy' I mean it has a consistent home row I guess you could call it. That's when the index finger stays in the same fret as you move across the strings. I have found that re-entrant tuning (playing scales on the top three strings) makes "major" shapes easy and "minor" shapes hard. The opposite holds true for the linear tuning: it makes the "minor" shapes easier. That's another reason I prefer linear tunings. The "minor" sound is my default sound and naturally I prefer to have it easier when playing them. Anyway...as you can tell by its name, the C Lydian #2 is a major shape and therefore has a consistent home row and therefore is easy. I really need to practice it, so that it becomes a musical option. Right now I am forced to jump from the 15th to the 11th frets and that's a good sound. But what if I want sounds that are closer? The C Lydian and the D# Super Lokrian share notes and they become a super-shape when taken together. So I owe it to myself to practice it a bit more. As a coda to this stream of thought, I just realized another contributing factor as to why I am not comfortable with the C Lydian #2. I used to avoid it because in its first instance on the fret board it utilizes open strings and I don't like open strings. When I play it low, the nut plays the low notes, but at an octave higher the index finger does that honor. I don't like that inconsistency. I'm getting over that.

  7. #467
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    I'm starting to get a feel for those Lokrian shapes. Yeah, I know we can all google Lokrian and get the canned answers about it being a passing tool. And I acknowledge that. When I play the D# Super Lokrian bb7, I never want to stop on the D#. I always want to just take that extra half-step and end on the E. However I am starting to see some other musical applications. Namely, employing them as an extension of the shape adjacent to them.

    For example, playing something very central like the E Aiolian #7 is variegated by using the F# Lokrian 13 which is just above it on the fret board. You kind of wank around in E Aiolian #7 for a while and then shoot up to the F# Lokrian 13, which is by definition rather without a center. Then you just slip on back down to the E Aiolian #7 and get some resolution to the uncertainty caused by shifting to the Lokrian.

    I found the same vibe working between the C Lydian #2 and the D# Super Lokrian bb7.

    So I'm starting to get the whole fret board organized. Then I only have to unlearn the lineaments of scales to move more smoothly.

    The one fly in the amber is the G Ionian #5. It is right smack dab in the middle of the fret board and consequently holds some very valuable real estate. However I do not like it. Perhaps because it is Ionian, I have a natural disliking for it and its blandness. Right now it is splitting the fret board in half. I play the stuff above it and below it. I probably need to embrace it and maybe treat it like the Lokrians as an extension of the A Dorian #11

  8. #468
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    I called into work today. I either have a mild instance of Covid or the regular flu. Headache, runny nose with yellow snot...that kind of thing. Even though I feel fine again I am going to milk this thing and take another day off because the temperature dropped from the 80's to the 20's. I deserve to sit at home by the furnace and play some music.

    I've been practicing my Harmonic Minor modes. I'm still confusing the two Lokrian shapes. On the other hand I am starting to obliterate the boundaries between the shapes. For me it has been an issue of knowing the seven notes that are the basis of these modes. It is difficult to think outside the shape, but if you just think about the individual notes then it is easier just to jump to one of the notes on the fret board and then figure out what shape you're in after you've jumped there.

    To break up the modes a bit I was just strumming through the first six bars of Rhythm Changes in E before going back to the modes. That was actually interesting because thereupon the modes sounded like a solo for the chords although there was a little bit of a mismatch in tone.

  9. #469
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    I read something today which referred to the fourth mode of the Harmonic Minor as the Dorian #4. I have always called it the Dorian #11. Obviously the 4th and 11th intervals of a scale are the same note although the latter is at a higher octave. It does make one wonder about the naming conventions. The #4 makes more sense because the 4th interval (and the 11th) are raised. To call it the Dorian #11 implies, to my ear, that the 4th is not sharp. However, I'll just keep on calling my scale #11 because I have better things to do than expend grey matter on remembering that.

    I was working on that block of frets which includes the 7th, 9th, and 11th frets. I am right in the middle of the fretboard and allows for movement in either direction. And the stretch is a bit more comfortable on the higher frets. For example the G Ionian #5 has a 5 fret stretch on the C string which is less stretchy than the same stretch involved in the D# Super Lokrian bb7 at the 3rd fret.

    The sound I am rather fancying nowadays is a downward movement in pitch. For some reason that sounds natural to me. The high note sounds like the climax of a situation and the lower notes sound like a resolution. Take, for example, a question. At the end of an interrogation sentence we pitch upwards and then the answer cascades down from that height.

    Anyway, that's the whimsy I am pursuing today. And I am implementing it by starting at the 11th fret in the B Phrygian Dominant and from there backing into A Dorian #11 or even the G Ionian #5. The latter scale is turning out to be useful. It sounds the least exotic when played sequentially--as its name hints it would--but it actually sounds good to improvise with. When you jump strings with the G Ionian #5, it already sounds like a lick whereas other scales sometimes sound a bit random.

    Since the cold weather has trickled upon mountains finally, I've had the furnace on. I love the furnace--as opposed to central heating--because it gives heat a personal feel. A furnace is like a hearth and its gift emanates from a certain locality and you cozy up to it...if you can pry one of the cats away from it. However, the heat is a dry heat and my Kamaka should probably be put back in its humidified case.

    The advantage of that is Yorkie and even lower notes. Above I was talking about the satisfying devolving of pitches. With the low G it gets even lower. It does a bit more complicated though. That's because most of the scales played re-entrantly are encased in another scale played linearly. Take for example the A Dorian #11. It has notes on the C, E, and A strings. However, if you play its E strings notes, then its C string notes, and add a few from the low G string...then you're playing the E Aiolian #7.

    Similarly the Phrygian Dominant I was playing morphs into the F# Lokrian 13 and G Ionian #5 becomes a D# Super Lokrian bb7. So things are about to get a bit spicier.

  10. #470
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    I viewed a discussion today about fret board shapes and it was puzzling. The tacit consensus was obviously for a radiused fret board. I don't necessarily have a preference. Whether you use a flat, radiused, or even a scalloped fretboard...just pick it, adapt to it, and play it. It isn't rocket science. The thing that piqued my interest was people saying that radiused fret boards were useful to them when they had to play barre chords. That's what I found curious because when does someone not play barre chords? Barre chords are arguably the most important part of playing a string instrument. It was one of the first tricks you learn on the ukulele. It is so fundamental to playing up the neck. It isn't an advanced skill; it is remedial.

    I just pulled out my Yorkie and put the Kamaka to sleep. The first thing I did was strum a little bit of Rhythm Changes using, incidentally, all barre chords. Emaj7 to E7 (rooted on the C string) to an Amaj7 and Adim7 (rooted on the G string) to a B7 (rooted on the A string). Barre chords and closed chords are the backbone of my personal system. I know: whatever, huh?

    Since I have my Yorkie out, that means getting that low G string into the mix and it is deeply satisfying. You can create such a wall of notes when using all four strings. To recapitulate where I was at using the first three strings. I could play all the modes of the harmonic minor whether they started on an open fret or the 16th fret. I was able to transition between adjacent modes. The one thing I was still struggling with was making big jumps. For example, if I were to slide to some random note on any of the strings, I couldn't immediately recognize the shape it was in. That'll come. It is starting to shape up now that I am practicing linear and re-entrant shapes simultaneously. It is like being immersed in a culture to learn the language.

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