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Thread: Chords and Picking

  1. #1
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    Default Chords and Picking

    Here is something I would like to know about playing. When you are playing/strumming chords and then you pick a little riff or ditty, where did you learn that - where did it come from. Are you picking the individual notes of a chord or are you picking notes from a scale and if so how do you know what notes to pick? In the videos, everyone makes it look so easy.

  2. #2
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    In some songs, the little riffs are imported from earlier versions. For example, in Aldrine's version of "Summer Breeze" the intro and recurring riff is (in one or another form) also in the original Seals & Crofts version and the Isley's one. In a case like that it's a matter of finding where those notes fall on the uke, and playing them in a way that sounds cool.

    In other cases there may be simple touches such as hammering on certain notes when playing chords. That gives a nice little flourish and adds a bit of colour and interest.

    When people invent their own little picking bits they are usually based either on the melody itself, or on related scales, or on the arpeggios (spread out chord notes) of the chords used in the song.

    That doesn't necessarily mean that the player is aware that those notes are from such and such a scale or arp. Many, maybe most, make things up by ear.

    Learning which scales go well with which chords is a bit of a can of worms and is something that takes a bit of work. Perhaps the easiest places to start are with Major and minor pentatonic scales, and chord arpeggios. Those give you a limited basic framework to get you started in making stuff up. With the scales, if you learn the patterns you can then shift them about so they fit in different keys. That's MUCH quicker than trying to learn the actual notes for each key.

    Bear in mind that most of the little picked licks and riffs you hear are not improvised on the spur of the moment. 9 times out of 10 the player worked out the arrangement and has played it many times, so it looks easy for them.

    A good way to start is to strum through the song chords and make up little licks by scat singing them or humming. when you come up with a bit you like, figure out the fingering on your uke.

    I'd recommend recording while you do it. There are few things as annoying as working out a neat riff and then, next time you pick up your uke, realising that you can't remember how it goes!

    If you decide to work on scales, AcousticMonster's scale charts are a great resource for learning some moveable patterns.

    .
    And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no,
    And whether the skin be black or white as the snow,
    Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong,
    As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangorockfish View Post
    Here is something I would like to know about playing. When you are playing/strumming chords and then you pick a little riff or ditty, where did you learn that - where did it come from. Are you picking the individual notes of a chord or are you picking notes from a scale and if so how do you know what notes to pick? In the videos, everyone makes it look so easy.
    You can definitely do that, and it sounds pretty cool. You can strum, pick a few notes, strum, pick a few, etc. Picking out individual notes of a chord gives a more melodic feel. It can also create the illusion that two instruments are playing, like one uke is strumming and another is "answering" those strums with a little melody, even though it's really you doing everything.


    Maybe you already know this, but another easy way to spice up your playing is adding flavor notes--for example, add your pinky to the third fret, A string, while playing an E7 chord (1202.) So you add the pinky and make it 1203, pull the pinky off to go back to 1202, etc. Sounds good and adds a melodic flavor to a simple chord progression.

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    One of the things that help me with what you are asking about was to take printed sheet music ( I have a couple Jumpin Jims books) and scales that shows the notes on the music staff and the tab of where the notes are on the fretboard.
    example : http://www.ukulelestrummers.com/Scales.html

    I took the scale and tabed out the notes to some songs and it gave me the single string melody (which would be the same as the lyrics) to add where I want to when playing the chords.

    It is also helping me learn where the notes fall on the fretboard and to be able to sight read sheet music.
    Ukulele, the most fun I've had being bad at something!!!

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    Thanks so much guys. That is some GOOD info. I'm really stoked about the scales. Going to start on C & G right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mangorockfish View Post
    Thanks so much guys. That is some GOOD info. I'm really stoked about the scales. Going to start on C & G right now.
    C and G major? Great place to start.

    If you ever jam with blues guitarists, you might also want to consider learning the minor pentatonic shapes. Those are pretty much the simplest way in for improvising blues solos.
    And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no,
    And whether the skin be black or white as the snow,
    Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong,
    As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by buddhuu View Post
    C and G major? Great place to start.

    If you ever jam with blues guitarists, you might also want to consider learning the minor pentatonic shapes. Those are pretty much the simplest way in for improvising blues solos.
    Is there someplace to see some blues riffs or is that something I'm going to have to make up myself? If that's the case, it's scary!!

  8. #8
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    Guitar sites! Rip your blues licks off from guitar sites!

    Search Youtube for blues licks.

    Also, the great thing about the minor pentatonic scale is that it has the two most awkward notes from the major scale taken out. The notes left that form the pentatonic minor all sound pretty good in most places in a 12-bar I, IV, V7 blues chord progression.

    Try this.

    1) Find any slow blues backing track
    2) Learn a simple one-octave minor pentatonic scale pattern in the key of that blues track - best a pattern that starts on the root note (the A note if you were in the key of A, for example)
    3) Play the ascending and descending scale notes along with the tempo of the blues.
    4) See how you think it sounds compared to playing any old random notes from the fret board.

    You'll see how the minor pentatonic gives you a relatively "safe" selection of notes that mostly fit pretty well however you pay them over those chords - at least, once you've got a bit of a feel for it they do.

    Another tip is to try to finish your lick phrases on chord tones from the chord playing when the phrase ends. Those chord notes often sound better to end a phrase. You can get away with all kinds of mistakes so long as you end on a good note!

    Those are limited beginner or bluffer tips. They work, and they're valid, but that stuff's just an 'in', a starting point.

    Once you have the hang of those basics, don't fall into the trap of only licking minor pentatonics for the rest of your playing career. There's much more to learn and mess about with after that: scale modes for example. Now there's a can of worms for later on!
    And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no,
    And whether the skin be black or white as the snow,
    Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong,
    As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.

  9. #9
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    Supplementary tip. If you want blues licks? Watch some videos of BB King. Not too flashy, just sheer class.

    I know your original question wasn't genre-specific, but improvising blues is a great way to learn.

    Oh, and check out the beginner blues ukulele videos from Rigk at Risa ukes in Germany.

    Here you go:

    Part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13FPL5cYMGM

    Part 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROeqMu0zn70
    And whether the blood be highland, lowland or no,
    And whether the skin be black or white as the snow,
    Of kith and of kin we are one, be it right, be it wrong,
    As long as our hearts beat true to the lilt of a song.

  10. #10
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    Thanks Buddhuu for the great advice.

    And thanks to the questioner for bringing up what's on many of our minds.
    Uncle Rod Higuchi
    ( rohiguchi@seattleschools.org )

    MP3s: http://www.mediafire.com/?50db7nls4o6m6
    Ukulele Boot Camp, FREE Songbook, Holiday, Hawaiian & More: http://ukulelebootcamp.weebly.com
    Crazy G tutorial on YouTube ( uncle rod crazy g )
    pdf file for Crazy G:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/0o6id06c06...20TAB.pdf?dl=0

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