my ukulele progress

Still a bit inactive. The finger is kind of healed. It is no longer an open wound, but a pink patch of skin that is a bit sore and rather sensitive to heat.

So I was just taking a bit of time to convert lyrics to a hum to a melody.

I just came up with "I'm so sad this morning, nothing will ever change," repeat, "When I woke up this morning it was all the same." So I just sang those little lines as it came to me naturally, then I hummed it. And if you can hum it, you can play it. Now I'm just figuring it out and then I'll figure out all the modulations and variations that a vocalist would put on the lyrics. When I have the ukulele emulating the human voice, then I can work on the other half--the stuff to support the melody. I'll need to re-start my goal of combining the modes that was pre-empted by my accident. Eventually I will connect the two halves and have a melody supported by modal improv and chords.

Briefly I wanted to annotate my Socorro stir fry for posterity's sake. A note on what is to follow, I had everything prepped before I started; that's the only way to stir fry since everything is so fast.
1. rendered the wok smoking hot
2. added fat (I favor ghee--clarified butter--and olive oil
3. I threw in rice and strips of corn tortillas
4. once those carbs were fried, I threw on some sweet peppers and crushed pequin peppers for heat
5. threw in the protein (a few eggs and my garlic lime chicken chunks
6. garnished with green onions and cilantro
7. scooped it out and topped with guacamole and sharp cheese

It was a successful stiry fry.
I happened to go to youtube and was recommended to view a backing track in E minor. I don't normally do this type of thing but I played along with it.

It was extremely easy. For the measures in E minor, you just play E Aiolian #7; for the measures in A minor, the A Dorian #11; and for B minor/B7 the B Phrygian Dominant. It is easy on the ukulele whether you play re-entrant or linear. I chose, of course, linear. The Dorian is embedded within the Aiolian, and the Phrygian is a half-step above them. So everything is clustered together and convenient. All I did was start somewhere in the middle of a shape, play a few notes with an ornamental festoon or two, and descend to the tonic to coincide with the end of the measure to punctuate the phrase. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

I do have to mention something in the spirit of full-disclosure. Sometimes, people intimate that I am so advanced because, I suppose, I work a lot with stuff that have fancy Greek names. However, like everyone else, I am only good at what I practice. I practice to be a soloist, so I have some facility in doing that. But I cannot hold down a groove. I can't play "Stand By Me." I can't just rein in my ego and and follow a strum pattern. It bores me to death, but I recognize that as merely an excuse. I can't be arsed to take the time to play in the pocket, but the fact remains that I probably couldn't do it because it requires some discipline that I haven't cultivated. The same reasoning applies to pop versus jazz. Pop songs use major chords; jazz uses extended chords. However, chords are chords. The only difference is where you train to place your fingers. One isn't better than the other. Of course, I am speaking of the mechanics. There are also philosophical differences between mass-produced pop and jazz. But that topic is beyond the scope of this little ukulele diary
With full temerity I mistakenly commented on bamboo ukuleles. I should have said nothing since I don't have a horse in that race. I just feel it is misleading to call bamboo ukuleles solid wood. They apparently take highly processed (boiled, steamed, pressed) bamboo slivers and glue them together side by side and then apply a resin over it. You could do the same thing with popsicle sticks and then claim that it was solid birch. To me it is a laminate except it is laminated horizontally instead of vertically. It just peeves me that they are passing off a composite material as a solid material, but they are cheap, cheap as a laminate. I would be really outraged if they were selling these things as $1000 solid body ukes whereas they are selling them for what they are, laminates. But it still offends my taxonomical principles.
Putting a B in my bonnet. It is too early to play; my wife's still asleep. So I am just going to think about playing. My finger is okay. It is still sore, but okay. So, if I recall correctly, I was going to use B's as pivot points to combine/collapse modal shapes. Another good reason to do this is that it makes you very conscious of where your B is. Let me think if I can place my B's. I know there are 7 of them.

G4, G16
E7, E19
A2, A14.

Cool, at least intellectually I know where they're at. And when I look at a fretboard I can immediately spot C11 and G4. I need to make the other B's as familiar to my eye.
Now, to picture the modes around those B's. I know my G4. That B belongs to the G Ionian #5, A Dorian #11, and the B Phrygian Dominant. Logically speaking, the G16 must be the same. However I can't really see it in my mind's eye. I know the shapes and I could obviously play them, but I don't have that almost instinctual knowledge of their presence as I do with C11.

We don't have to talk about C11. That is actually my favorite place to play on the whole neck.

E7 is perhaps the main culprit in this project right now. I don't really know what's around that B. I could, if I concentrated, figure it out. But that's not the point. The point is to know with total and immediate recall. And that B eludes it. I'll certainly be working on that tonight. E19 doesn't really count because it is there, tottering on the upper edge of fretboard. I know it is at the top of the B Phrygian Dominant shape that starts on fret 16, but since nothing is above it, I won't worry about it.

A2 I won't have to comtemplate. I know it rather well. A14 because I am kind of aware of it, but kind of not. I know it is the top of the shape that begins with C11. However when I look down on the fret board, I don't really see A14. I have to work on that one.
Things are working. I'm making some thoughtful and moody improv based around the B. And it is helping with fret board knowledge. I think the basis of this improvement is based on the consciousness of notes. I mean, when you're on the B, you're thinking my A at, or the C, You become cognizant of the notes and sort of forget about the shapes.

I'm afraid I cannot give a detailed description of what I did, because it was spontaneous and it would actually take a lot of work to transcribe what I was doing onto a staff. I can remember the general outline of what I did.

I started in E Aiolian #7 and when I wanked my way up to the B, I changed to the F# Lokrian 13

I wanked down to the A and from there I either ascended into the A Dorian #11 or descended with the G Ionian #5. From there I slid down to the D# Super Lokrian bb7 and ended up back at the E of the Aiolian #7.

Of course, I didn't actually think along those lines when I was playing. For the sake of clarity, I mention where my musical meandering took me, but when I was playing I was playing without any regard to shapes or borderlines.
I just skimmed cursorily over a thread and more than anything it makes me curious. Why are so many ukulele players reluctant and resistive to practice and learn their instrument? Obviously it works for them because they wouldn't do it otherwise, but it doesn't resonate with anything in my past. No matter what instrument I was playing and no matter what specific musical context we're talking about, I and those around me practiced and hoped to push our craftsmanship further along.

I've been working of more of the same. I think I'm finally going to change Yorkie's strings. I don't know if it has been two years, but it probably is getting near that. So it probably is high time. Something that caught my fancy suddenly was combining runs of a broken chord with some finger picking. I will probably pursue that later today

Well I have been slapped with the fickle finger of fate. I snipped off Yorkie's old strings and when I pulled out the Fremont Blacklines, they were too short. Obviously I am used to Worth strings which are twice as long as they need to be. So I just ordered some tenor blacklines. I'll have to see if I like the tension. If not, I'll have to get some worth concert strings. This is disappointing. Now I can't play my broken chords and I only have half of my shapes.

Ended up the evening with a few consolations. Since I cannot really play my broken chords on my Kamaka and its limited re-entrant capacity, I did a few things.

As I was cleaning up after my stir fry, I was listening to some old Randy Rhoads music and I could hear the shape he was playing. When I sat down, I found it was just the D# super lokrian bb7 with a diminished 2nd.

Inspired by that success, I finally found the missing link I was looking for in turnaround of that progression I've been playing. I've known that I wanted to end on a c#7, but I didn't know what I wanted to put in front of it to fill out the space. I finally stumbled upon the sound I had been envisioning. It was just C7b5 B7b5 C7b5 C#7.

Then I finger picked the progression using an old Cotten pick which kind of gave a dreamy/spooky sound. I strummed a few of the chords because they sounded better that way (since they were just chromatic slides) and those half-diminished chords sounded too much as they were. So I elected to just play the E and A strings as double-stops (the notes, by the way, were the I and the bV of the chord)
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I've just watched the most abjectly hilarious ukulele video. I haven't laughed like that in some time.

The guy was apparently an accomplished ukulele player and he was giving some tips on chord substitution. But it wasn't substitution as the word is usually used (viz. tritones, secondary relative minors, etc.). He was just talking about using different chord qualities than the one proscribed by the arrangement.

At the point when I stopped watching it, he was giving his advice about straight triads and dominant chords. Of course he mentioned dominants being "bluesy" and proceeded to play as an example the chirpiest, frothiest, least bluesy thing I could ever imagine. Unintentional as it was, it was comic gold. The humor was tinged with melancholy with me wondering how anyone could be so tone-deaf. I wondered if I myself may be so deluded. Am I, without my knowledge, slowly gravitating toward turning everything into reggae elevator music? There are of course pap smears, but I wonder if there is a pop Smeck or some test to evaluate how close I am to playing "I'm looking over a four-leaf clover"? I think I'll listen to some Schoenberg and try to forget about western melody.

It has been a few hours since I wrote and I am now making, by request, some pork tenderloins and potatoes. I just glanced at youtube and had to admire the perspicacity of the computerized selection of videos for me to watch. A video came up and it was Frank Zappa, in a conversation that took place over the back of a cow, telling one of the Monkees to practice his music more. I felt he was speaking to me, as if I were the Monkee that played the glockenspiel or something. I felt inclined to say "yes sir" and go back to earn his approval.

So, since I was stuck with my re-entrant Kamaka 'til Yorkie's strings come in, I thought I would make the best of it and practice my nine shape (my seven modal shapes plus two more at an octave higher). So I practiced from the open strings up to the 19th fret. In between those runs up the fretboard I practiced transitioning on the B that connects F# Lokrian 13 and G Ionian #5.
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I went to the market early in the morning to get some turnip greens and ghee and I take it that the super bowl is upon us. I don't have a t.v. so I am a bit out of the loop on this, but there were igloos of beer stacked everywhere so that unmanly men could vicariously watch other men achieve greatness whilst imbibing estrogenic beverages that make them chemically less manly. It is a bit absurd.

Speaking of absurdities, I've been mixing musical systems. I am unfortunately confined to three strings with the re-entrant tuning, so I have been going back to basics to not waste time. I've been practicing my pentatonic shapes which I know but kind of partially forget--which is a shame because they are the backbone of western music. Anyway, after refreshing my memory, I thought I would imbricate pentatonic and harmonic minor shapes around the B and see what happened.

To simplify matters, I stuck to the B on the A string. So I was working with the C Lydian #2 at the 12th fret, the two pentatonic shapes that have B's on the A string: the mediant and subdominant shapes, and the b.b. king box which also has a fifth interval on the A string. I'm still working on it, so I don't have anything cogent to say. It is hard to speak about something when you're in the middle of it, without the advantage of retrospection. All things work rather well together and there is only the occasional note that jars which creates a little more tension than anything else. For example the pentatonic scales utilize a bVII whereas the harmonic modes don't. And the b.b. box has a VI interval whereas harmonic minor has a bVII. That's cool, but I haven't really played enough to emphasize/exploit these things. But I'm working on it.
I has been kind of weird around here lately: people weighing strings and bitching about 1/64th of an inch in nut width. It is, I suppose, the typical internet scenario: people need to type less and play more. I have been trying to practice that and avoid being sucked into the event horizon of these arguments.

I re-acquainted myself with my pentatonic shapes. In my music book I have them listed starting with the mediant shape and ending with the tonic shape, which makes no sense. I assume that is how the guitar-world does it and I was just following suit. It makes more sense to me to start with the tonic, the first interval...but whatever. In my key of E, the mediant is at the seventh fret and the tonic ends on the 19th fret. So I played up there for quite some time. I played those shapes and worked in some of the minor harmonic shapes as well. I didn't do anything every vigorously. Below the 7th fret, there is another tonic shape and leading tone shape of the pentatonic. I didn't really use them. I was more focused on the upper end of the fret board.

After that I spent a long and somewhat meditative session finger picking a nice I IV V progression.
Everything is back to normal. I received my new strings for Yorkie who has been sitting around with no strings for a while now. The relative humidity inside the case was 47%. I did something that I usually do not do. I trimmed the strings. I usually leave them full length because I am always afraid that something will happen which will require me to re-tie the strings or that if I cut them too short, the strings could somehow pull through the knot. I also tried something fancy wherein you twirl the string once above the hole on the post, once below the hole. It didn't work and I didn't even use the knot I regularly do. I just tightened the strings and them seemed to be okay.

I had to devote my attention to work this evening, so I couldn't play any. I did notice that hours after I put the string on, it still sounded in tune. That's a bit different than past experiences.
As expected, the strings stretched a bit overnight. I had to re-tune. I didn't have much time today so I just focused on the B on the 7th fret and using it as a pivot for a few major and minor pentatonic shapes. I'm not really clear-headed right now. Tomorrow I will try to replicate what I did today and remember everything more fully for a better description.
I have a vague recollection that characters in the plays of Euripides (sc., Medeia and Theseus) lament that we cannot see a person's heart and intentions. However some times we can. If someone is sporting a confederate flag, decries political correctness or uses the founding fathers to justify some evil policy they want to perpetrate, then you know to give that scoundrel a wide berth. Luckily my interests insulate me from such miasmic contact. No one cares for what I do, so I can do it in peace as the world percolates.

I went on a small musical excursion.

1. started A Dorian #11 with the A on G2.
2. made my way to the A @ E5
3. went up a step to the B @ A2
4. crossed the fret board diagonally from A to C (arpeggiated C maj7)
5. arpeggiated through D#dim7 and ended up on the F# @ A9
6a. either used the F# as the top of F# Lokrian 13 whereupon I descended badk to the B @ E7
6b. or from F#, go up a half-step to G and play the B phrygian Dominant/F# Lokrian 13. Then change to the subdominant pentatonic shape and end on the A @ G14

Now that's what I call a song. Instead of having the lyrics, chords, and melody micromanaged, this kind of song just gives you places you have to be eventually, and it is up to you to get there. I would buy a book of such arrangements.
The current thread du jour seems to be the "not so nice" thread. I'm not really interested so I haven't looked at it, but I do have to wonder if I'm one of the not-so-nice people. It is hard to say.

However, to be honest, I only half-care. So maybe I'm one of ones being namelessly indicted. No use fretting about it, when I have frets to fret about.

I've been playing that A Dorian #11 song I mentioned before. I know it is a step backwards from my plan, but I lost some ground when Yorkie was out of commission. Right now I'm comfortable just playing shapes. Once I feel that I'm getting too comfortable, then I'll try to start breaking out of shapes, using the B to disrupt the patterns. I'll try to update as the day progresses.
I just ran across the oddest quote:

The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God. Feelings of the anxiety of the soul's deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor

There are several objectionable assertions there, but my main gripe is why use D#? It has six sharps in its signature. Why not just use Eb with one flat?
I haven't mastered what I was working on, but I just need a break. So I thought I would work a little bit on Bird Blues. Perhaps I should call it Bird Droppings because of what I do with it. I do not care for Bebop celerity and the jerky rhythms. I do honor the progression, but I do my own thing with it.

At this point I haven't decided on with voicings to use. I have a tendency to move chromatically through the progression as opposed to grouping all the chords together in a single area of the fret board. But at point I haven't made any decisions. Obviously the first thing to decide is the initial chord, the Emaj7 (you know I'm transposing it to E). The go-to E is obviously the one on the 4th fret, but I am also partial to the one on the 7th fret, although that would mean a diagonal barre for the maj7. There is always the E on the 9th fret. As I said, I'll see where my mood takes me. I could start on the 9th fret and descend as I go, or vice versa.
There was a recent thread adjuring us all to abstain from using our electronic tuners for a week. I could have promised to do so, but it would have been a promise bereft of meaning because I normally do not tune my instrument unless there is a need--i.e., when something sounds off, I will pull out the snark and that probably happens twice or thrice a month.

It is cold today and snowing. It isn't really all that cold, it is around 0. What makes it cold is the lack of precautions. Since the weather here is clement 90% of the time, it is in no one's interest to waste ratiocinations about the outlying 10%. For example my house doesn't have insulation. Its roof is just bigas and planks. So on mornings like this, I have the furnace on as well as milk house heater, and I am making rice in the pressure cooker for added warmth.

But it looks like it will be a good day for staying inside and practicing music. And I need it. I have forgotten a lot about my Bird Blues. I remember a few things rather darkly. I remember that I used to consider the first four bars as a unit. And it is a very unique unit. A typical jazz-blues progression goes I, quick change to the IV, I, I. However in Bird Blues it is I, VII7b5 + III7b9, vi7 + II7, v7 + I7. So you can see that there is a lot more going on here. These first four bars begin on an E and end on an E. What I typically like doing is starting on the E at the 9th fret and descend the fret board as I go and end up on the 4th fret. I know many people just play all the chords in the first position, but that sounds a bit boring to me. By moving down the fret board, there is the sound of the different chords but there is also the sound of the chromatic movement as well.

I will leave it at that for now. I will annotate the later bars in the future. I will stick to these bars. I do have to say that I really like the logic of the progression: tonic, leading tone, secondary relative minor substitution for the tonic, primary relative minor substitution for the tonic, ii-v-i ending. Good stuff. Once I commit to which voicings I will use, then I have to keep my eyes peeled for which of the seven B's are lying hard by because I haven't lost sight of my B's as a means for transitioning. Since I'm at least nominally playing the blues, I will probably limit myself to the pentatonic shapes that surround whichever B I am near. I will also make use of the b.b. box if I can since it privileges the fifth interval.
I just browsed the threads and it is quite hilarious. There are circa 1995 usenet trolls bestirring trouble. I often miss the days of moderated discussions. However it still seems weird to have such throwbacks around. A voice comes from the distant past and urges us all not to feed the trolls. It is too absurd (but I am justified; the trolls started--predictably--spouting off about political correctness as I mentioned eariler).

Now, back to the Bird Blues. The middle bars, five through eight, These bars have always been a bit beyond me as far as analysis goes. These bars consist of two sequences (one of dom7's and one of m7's) which are alternated. Here's the progression:

bar five: IV7
bar six: iv7 + bVII7
bar seven: iii7 (an interval down from bar six) + VI7 (an interval down from second half of bar six)
bar eight: biii7 + bVI7 (the chords for bar eight are just a half-step away from bar seven)
I wasn't too happy with my playing today. Earlier in the day I got my Kamaka out and I just wasn't hitting the chords. I don't know if it was a CNS issue or what. However, later in the day I was playing with Yorkie and things were appreciably better. Disregarding my fretting problem, I wasn't happy with the second bar. There isn't enough movement for my taste. The D#7b5 and the G#7b9 have too many common notes and they sound too much alike. Tomorrow I'll see if there isn't something to differentiate the chords like making the latter a G#9 or even a G# add6 sus4. Perhaps I will even grow to like the subtle movement of the two original chords. I feel I should come to terms with the second bar because the third bar has one of my least favorite shapes, the m7 with an E string root.
People talking about what's a good ukulele song. What song isn't a good ukulele song? You can play anything with the ukulele. I'm essentially playing "Blues For Alice."

Speaking of which, I was practicing the first four bars and I think I have almost got it where I want it. I didn't change any of the chord qualities. I just got used to the slight differences in the progression.

Since E maj7 is the first chord of that song, I made a good little ukulele song combining that chord with the E Lydian #2. From there I went to a F#m7 combined with a F# Lokrian 13, which I resolved into the E on the 4th fret for closure.

I worked in some of my add9 chords.

So what is a good ukulele song. It certainly can be some ubiquitous ionian/lydian thing we've all heard a million times, or it can be something darker. It is really anything you want to make it.

Speaking of making it, I have had some success in the kitchen. I made some poutine. I had some leftover potatoes from a dish I tried to make but didn't like it. I have to say that I am greatly underwhelmed by all potato dishes (except fondant potatoes). Whenever I make some exotic potato recipe, I always wish I had just baked the potato. So I had these unwanted potatoes hanging around, so I just re-baked them with gravy and cheese and got rid of them.

I also made what I called ochre chicken. I stir fried several pounds of chicken thighs in a variety of ochre-colored spices: red chili, tumeric, rogan josh, mustard powder. I'll be eating that for a while
Okay. The review of the Bird Blues has been instructive, but now my dilly dallying has started to become shilly shallying. It is time to return to the basics.

So. There are 7 B's. I can pull them up mentally with no hesitation. Only 6 of them are practical for my transitional exercises. The B @ the 19th fret cannot transition because there is nothing to transition up to (unless I use a slide and slide over the soundhole whilst picking ponticello).

The plan is to focus on the B at the 7th fret since it is there that my fret board knowledge is the haziest.

I shall use the same I IV V progression (E add9, Am add9, Bm) that I have been valorizing lately. When I get to the Bm in the progression, I shall use the B at the 7th fret as the root of the chord. I never, for whatever reason, do this (probably because I avoid this area of the fret board). This B, however, is fecund with possibilities. With this B you can either form the Bm by either fretting X675 (my preference) or 878X. I'll see which one sounds better with the progression. Also one or the other might work better with certain scale shapes.

Speaking of which, what am I working with here?

That B transitions between the E Aiolian #7 and the F# Lokrian 13. The Aiolian #7 extends to the G string in the shape of the C Lydian #2. The F# Lokrian 13 doesn't actually extend into another shape. But with a little bit of shifting, it can reach the D# Super Lokrian bb7 (or the C Lydian #2).

What about my pentatonics? For minor pentatonics, we are talking about the dominant and leading tone shapes and for major pentatonics that would be--oh!--the dominant and leading tone shapes. Mixing minor and major pentatonics is going to be something new for me although I hear that that is very normal. Also, I could use the b.b. box for this.
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