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Thread: Do I need to learn music theory to play the ukulele?

  1. #31
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    I'm quite fond of the I IV V blues progression. Works well with some chords, not so great with others. For example blues in E is good (E7 A7 B7) as is blues in A (A7 D7 E7) but if you do the same starting on C (C7 F7 G7) it doesn't sound so bluesy. Its not melancholy enough, especially the G7 which tends to lift the tone. Maybe it would sound different with linear tuning...
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  2. #32
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    LarryS, all the keys you mention are on the right side of the circle of fifths. Do you ever venture to the left side? There are some that are rewarding, especially if you get away from first position chords.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
    I'm quite fond of the I IV V blues progression. Works well with some chords, not so great with others. For example blues in E is good (E7 A7 B7) as is blues in A (A7 D7 E7) but if you do the same starting on C (C7 F7 G7) it doesn't sound so bluesy. Its not melancholy enough, especially the G7 which tends to lift the tone. Maybe it would sound different with linear tuning...
    I agree, key of C just doesn
    Last edited by Another Ukulele; 04-21-2021 at 08:02 PM.

  4. #34
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    Here is a similar table of common' bluesy' minor progressions.

    The terms 'lift, curl and turn' are my descriptions of what it sounds like to me

    -W
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    Last edited by Wiggy; 04-22-2021 at 02:17 AM.

  5. #35

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    My opinion is that you do not need to know music theory to play the ukulele or any other instrument. A knowledge of music theory is helpful if you want to write your own music, but it is certainly possible to write music without knowing theory, because you'll just end up working within the rules of theory without realizing it. Theory helps you get there faster because you have a better idea of where to start, but you can get where you need to go without it. If you're somebody who wants to play other people's music, which I feel like is what musicians are doing the majority of the time, you don't really need to know theory. You just need to know how to operate the instrument.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by donboody View Post
    My opinion is that you do not need to know music theory to play the ukulele or any other instrument. A knowledge of music theory is helpful if you want to write your own music, but it is certainly possible to write music without knowing theory, because you'll just end up working within the rules of theory without realizing it. Theory helps you get there faster because you have a better idea of where to start, but you can get where you need to go without it. If you're somebody who wants to play other people's music, which I feel like is what musicians are doing the majority of the time, you don't really need to know theory. You just need to know how to operate the instrument.
    I agree. Theory isn't about compulsion; it is about enthusiasm. If you're playing other people's music, they've already done the thinking for you. All you need to do is put your finger where they tell you. Even if you are making your own music you can do without theory. You can just hunt and peck until you find the note that sounds good to you. However, at a certain point you may want to know more about music. You start learning more and reading more, and theory starts to come into play. It is just like driving a car. You can just drive. Or you can get curious about what's under the hood, how the components interact, and how you can tweak those things.

  7. #37
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    Part of my reply was cut off.

    BC before Covid, I jammed with harmonicas and guitars in a 12 bar blues jam. Guitars like the key of E
    E, A, B7

    I like the key of A
    A, D, E7

    And yes, the key of C just doesn’t quite sound Bluesy enough.
    And, The Thrill Is Gone, does well in Am.

    And, .... my favorite is Saint Louis Woman in the Key of A

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by donboody View Post
    If you're somebody who wants to play other people's music, which I feel like is what musicians are doing the majority of the time, you don't really need to know theory. You just need to know how to operate the instrument.
    At the same time, even if you are playing other people's music knowing some theory can help in many ways. Sometimes you may wish to make changes or corrections to the written chart, sometimes you may wish to embellish or use chord substitutions. You can do that by ear, but having some knowledge can get you there a little faster. You can do fine with or without, depends on your interests and goals.
    Last edited by EDW; 04-23-2021 at 12:11 AM.

  9. #39
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    I was a music major, went to conservatory out of high school, played in symphony orchestras, the Air Force Band, etc. Now, having said all that, I strongly suspect that I would be a better Ukulele player if I had learned Uke first, without all that intellectual baggage. The Uke is a simple instrument, and you will naturally pick up a little music theory as you go along. No more is necessary. Better to play with your heart than with your head.
    "The sole cause of all human misery is the inability of people
    to sit quietly in their rooms." - Blaise Pascal, 1670

  10. #40
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    One thing for sure, any beginner reading this thread will be scared away.

    I had some music theory in high school, and went through the different kind of scales and how the same chord progressions sounds good on different keys and are used over and over. I wasnt profissient on any instrument, so didnt quite put the scales to use though.
    Anyway, I have forgotten almost everything about scales. Besides how the basic ones are colour coded for C/Am on a piano and perhaps finding the "blues scale" in one key on piano. And I dont refer to chord progressions on the abstract way with numbers, dont think about it usually.
    It is good to know that they exist, but there is no need to know it all by heart.

    I would recommend any beginner to go trough some very basic music theory, there must be a video on youtube that is better than nothing, and see what they can use. Perhaps not as the first thing they do, but after strumming the first couple of songs.
    And if you want to sing with your uke I would recommend learning how to dechifer staff notation. I say dechifer, not play from. Just to understand it, so if there is a note in the melody you are in doubt of, you can look it up. And very important, if you determine your vocal range you can see if the song is in the right key for you. Yes, I know that some people are musical enough to just hear that, but I am not.

    You all write about phrygian scales and how you might need to correct the music sheets because you should know better than the person who wrote it. I think this is not the first thing for a beginner to worry about.
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