Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Playing up the neck

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    146

    Default Playing up the neck

    I just hit my 60th birthday this spring, and I've been playing guitar a bit over 20 years. I've never been much of a picker, just a strummer. I play guitar in church almost every week. Through the years, I have learned how to play moveable chords, which helps when other acoustics on stage are playing in first position. But I've never learned how to solo up and down the neck. Having started playing uke last summer, I really want to make a push toward learning improvisation before I get any older.

    I have no trouble at all memorizing chord progressions or chord melodies . . . I just suck at improvising. My problem I think is that I'm mostly self taught, and never followed a "path", just learning songs that interested me along the way. I've been watching Jay Lichty's Advanced Uke Building Course, and not only is he a talented luthier, but he wrote the music for the videos, and he's a pretty fabulous player, too. Any ideas on how to break through that ceiling?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Marin County, CA
    Posts
    563

    Default

    Practice scales and the circle of fifths. Ad nauseam. Literally until those around you complain. And then do it some more.

    It may sound simple (and boring), but those two elements can really help you to just feel the music rather than play what someone else has written.

    There are improv books I used to practice from for trumpet—I too was awful at improv, and as a result often found myself just playing lead since I could nail the screamer hits...just never had an interesting musical lick of my own!—and I’ll see if I can find the name of it.

    The books were great because they gave you something melodic to practice like a blues scale and then provided an accompanying CD that had different rhythm and harmony tracks pre-recorded so you could put them on your home speakers and then just jam over the top of it.

    Only reason I never truly got better at it was I ended my pursuit of a professional trumpet career shortly after I discovered those books.

    Last thing I’ll say is that practicing your improvisational skills, regardless of the “how”, is pretty pointless without practicing in tempo. That’s why I loved the CD recordings mentioned above, but even if you only use a metronome, make sure you try to keep with the beat. That doesn’t mean you have to be constantly strumming or fingerpicking; just aim for playing in tempo. If you play around casually in practice, it will inevitably manifest that way in performance.
    Last edited by YogiTom; 06-21-2019 at 05:08 AM. Reason: Latin and autocorrect are not friends
    Current UAS fallout:

    Ohana SK-21A — ‘10s L. Nunes Ukulele 0 Hawaii Soprano — 1918-19 Martin 2M Soprano — ‘60s Kamaka ‘Keiki’ Soprano — ‘70s Kamaka White Label Soprano — Blue Frog Soprano — aNueNue Moon Bird US200 — Ohana SK-30L — Cocobolo Concert #382 (teak!) — Outdoor Ukulele Carbon Tenor — ‘50s Harmony Baritone


    Mead Ambassador/Horticulturist at Heidrun Meadery since 2017

    Teaching Music Together since 2019

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Honoka'a, HI
    Posts
    1,609

    Default

    I've been impressed by the content on the "Improvise For Real" Youtube channel. Really some interesting ways to think about improvisation. Might be worth a look.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    314

    Default

    Interesting topic, and my 5 cents are that the DGBE design of the Baritone uke, maybe included (?) the thinking that voices are usually comfortable in the keys of F and G, and brass instruments in F and Bb. I also am a strummer, and found that playing along with Jazz standards in the key of F allow me to change shapes and enables one to play chords in first, and second position,and some even in 3rd position. So playing along in that key mainly, you can jump from 1st position to 2nd position and vice versa, with the progressions and turn arounds becoming more interesting.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    696

    Default

    Just to add to the knowledge of the thread, here's what I've been doing:

    For about a year now I have been playing in one key. I chose the key of E. I practice playing all the modes of E, from the C# aiolian at the first fret all the way up to the D# Lokrian on the 15th fret. On my linear tuned uke, I do the same thing but starting on the G string so that I'm playing the G# Phrygian on the 1st fret and B Mixolydian on the 16th fret. I realize it may sound a bit complicated, but all I'm doing is playing the same seven notes of the key of E over and over again, in a different order, all over the fret board. The result of this endeavor is that I am aware of those notes and I can readily go to any of them and make up my own little riff by utilizing the modal shapes I know or just make my own shapes. I supplement these modes of E with the E major and E minor pentatonic scales.

    Playing in one key may sound boring, but even at this juncture in my project I don't feel that I have exhausted the possibilities in terms of improvising. And that's just the finger picking. Once you get into modes, there are new chord progressions to complement the standard I IV V progression that is rather ubiquitous. There's the Lydian's I II V, or the Phrygian's i iv bvii.

    So it is possible to get a lot of mileage from just one concept if you dig deeply enough.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    146

    Default

    Thanks for all of the replies. I think I'm going to start with Brad's suggestion and check out "Improvise For Real".

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    on a sunny FL beach
    Posts
    1,361

    Default

    I was very much where you are a few years ago, just a strummer. I found the key for me was really learning the fretboard and practicing scales and interval training. I started with only G. I play a lot of trad.,old country, bluegrass which is often in G (plus G generally suits my voice). Scales, intervals, arpeggios are good warm ups. It gets the notes of the key in your ears and under your fingers.
    Then put that training into your improv. I start by picking out the melody to any particular song I have in in my head. It’s not hard to find the melody if you’ve already got that scale down and can kinda hear the possible interval in your head. Once that’s solid, I add passing tones (like you would hear in a fiddle tune). In real familiar songs like “I’ll Fly Away” or “Will the Circle” you probably already have them in your head. Those scales and arpeggios are what you will naturally draw on when you are noodling with the melody.
    Getting it all up to speed is the tricky part and that’s where playing along with a jam track or just a youtube video (slow down gear is your friend) is super helpful. If you are not gonna slow the recording down a bit, you may have to just do the simple melody, until you are comfortable sneaking in the embellishments. Anyway, this is where I am right now. My next step will be to move to the key of D, then C. Good luck! PS, I keep an instrument next to me in the living room and noodle constantly picking out tunes by ear in G, reinforcing that connection between the tune in my head and the fretboard.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •