insight

Insight 10: Chromatic Scale and Fretboard Geography

In this edition of Insight we talk about how notes move chromatically up the fretboard.  The chromatic scale is made up of all 12 notes that we can play.  They are ordered from A to G with a note in between each letter or “natural" note.  That in-between note we can call either the preceding note # or the following note b.  The # symbol tells to move an interval of 1/2 step, or one fret, up from whatever note it follows.  The b symbol does the opposite by moving down 1/2 step or 1 fret.  The two places where this differs is between the notes B and C and the notes E and F.  Here the distance between these notes is only a 1/2 step with no sharp or flat.  So our chromatic scale is as follows:

A   A#/Bb  B  C  C#/Db  D  D#/Eb  E  F  F#/Gb  G  G#/Ab  A

And the whole pattern repeats again at starting at A.  We can familiarize ourselves with where certain notes are on the ukulele, or what I call fretboard geography, with this exercise.  Play all the open notes and say each one aloud to yourself.  We want to view these open strings as being our 0 fret.  With a finger for each fret play each from 0 to 4 then back again.  You can use this to warm up or practice your dexterity but at least once go very slowly and say the notes you are playing aloud to yourself.  Give it a try and remember each of those in between notes has two names so the next time you do the exercise use its other name.

Thanks again for all the support, if you found this or any of our resources helpful be sure to connect with us on social media in the sidebar and sign up for our email list under SUBSCRIBE in the sidebar to keep up with everything new at Ukulele Inspired. I want this to be interactive so don't be shy and send me some requests for the songbook and other content that you would like to see!

Insight 8: Types of Chords

In this edition of Insight we talk about the 3 most important types of chords we need to learn and how they differ.  The first chord that most of learn is the C chord.  This is the easiest open Major chord to play because we only need to fret one of the strings.  Open chords refer to chords that have open strings in them, like the C chord which has 3 open strings.  So how does this chord sound to you?  So many times when we are learning music we forget that listening is one of the most important skill that we need to develop!  So take some time and play some major chords that you know and see if you can hear how they all sound or feel major.   Use some words to describe the sound or feeling.  It might be easier if you have something to contrast it like an am chord.  Like C, am is the easiest open minor chord with only one string fretted.  Now try playing some minor chords you know and really listen to them and try and describe how they sound and feel.  Also pay attention to how they differ from major chords.  If I had to choose one word to describe each it would be happy for major and sad for minor.  The third chord we need to know is 7 chords.  Play a G7 and try and describe the feel of this chord.  Do you notice a certain tension in the sound?  7 chords are what are called tendency chords because they tend to want to move to other chords in order to resolve that tension.  Try playing G7 a number of times then moving to the C.  Can you you hear and feel that resolution?

     Remember these 3 types of chords are the most important, as a matter of fact if you can play all of them then you can play ANY song so try adding some Major, minor, and 7 chords to your left hand arsenal.

Insight 7: Triplets

Today we discuss a little right hand technique on how to play triplets.  Check out our Insight #2 about rhythm where we talk about how to subdivide beats within a measure in order to give us more ability to vary our strum patterns.  We can create quarter notes, 1/8th notes, and 1/16th notes but we can also subdivide the beats into three different parts or into triplets to give a completely different feel to our rhythm.

1

2 3

2

2 4

3

2 3

4

2 3

For this technique we are going to involve both our index finger and our thumb.  Play the first beat or “downbeat" with a down strum with the index finger, follow that with a downstrum with the thumb, and lastly an upstrum with the index finger.  Which takes you to the next beat in the measure and you repeat.  Start slow and increase the speed as you become more comfortable with the technique.  You can include triplets into the exercise we described in Insight #2.  Try changing between 1/4, 1/8th, and 1/16th and triplets while keeping the tempo constant.  Check out Insight #6 video to see how we move our upbeats to create a different feel to our strumming.  These triplets fit really well when we are playing with this “swing” feel because we are actually shifting our upbeats into the last part of that triplet sequence!  So give it a try, play some swinging 1/8ths or some strums built from them and see if you can add this triplet technique for some variation :)

Insight 6 Swing Your 1/8th's

In today's Insight video we discuss a little right hand technique and how you can swing where you place your upbeats to create a slightly different feel to your strum patterns.  In our Insight 2 video we discussed how we create rhythm on the ukulele by playing a set pattern of strums against a constant beat or pulse that's happening in the music we play.  I like to think about building strum patterns as a subtractive process where we start with a foundation of alternating down and up strums and take certain parts away to create a pattern.  Remember that our hand should be continuing to move in a constant down and up motion to keep us in tempo and we just decide when we play the strings.  So what happens when we alter that foundation slightly by moving where we place our upbeats?  We get what we call "swung" or "shuffled" 1/8ths.

STRAIGHT 1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

SWING 1    +2    +3    +4    +

So the downbeats occur in the same place but the upbeats get shifted to be closer to the next down beat which can create that "swing" feel to our rhythm.  Now we can remove certain parts from both these foundations to create patterns and they will technically be the same but have a different feel because of where we place the upbeats.  Give it a try, take some strum patterns that you already know and try swinging those 1/8th's to give you little bit different sound and feel.  Thanks for watching! Thanks again for all of the support and be sure to check us out on social media, like and subscribe to keep up with everything new at Ukulele Inspired.

Also feel free to email me any links or files for your own performance videos or videos that inspire you and maybe we will feature them!

Insight 5: Chord Mapping

In today's Insight we are discussing some left hand techniques that can help you to move from one chord to another more easily.  Usually when we learn a new song there are certain chords that we feel comfortable with and can move in between smoothly.  If there are some new chords added that we have some trouble with try and remember to slow down your playing.  This will allow for ample time to move between the chords while still remaining in tempo.  Another thing we can do to is to imagine a visual map of the chord with it's shape and position on the fretboard to help aid our hands in learning.  One example is an em chord:

emchordchart
emchordchart

I like to think of this chord as looking like stairs moving from the bottom and going up one fret and one string each time.  Once I have the shape mapped out you can choose a pivot point on the chord, like the second fret on the A string.  We can then move our pointer finger to that point first then build the stair shape from there.  This can sometimes be easier than trying to find where all your fingers need to land in that chord.

Gchordchart
Gchordchart

Lets take the chord G as another example.  This is usually one of the first challenging transitions that we find when learning ukulele.  We can map this chord as being a triangle shape with the point of the triangle pointing towards the bridge or to our right hand.  The pivot point that I like to use for transitioning is again the second fret on the A string.  If we can move our middle finger to this point and build the triangle around it can often be easier than trying to move all three fingers into the shape at one time.  Remember when when we are learning new things we always want to simplify to give us the best chance at succeeding.

Give it a try!  Find some more difficult chords and trying mapping out the shapes with a pivot point that you can move to quickly and build the chord around it. Thanks again for all of the support and be sure to like and subscribe to keep up with everything new at Ukulele Inspired.

Also feel free to email me any links or files for your own performance videos or videos that inspire you and maybe we will feature them!

Insight 4: Melody and Major Scales

Today I want to discuss melody and give you a quick way of finding notes within a Major Scale.  In our first video we defined melody as being a series of individual notes that are grouped together to form phrases.  The notes that we use to form melodies are chosen from a group of 7 specific notes that belong to the key of whatever song we are playing.  Let’s use the the song Brown Eyed Girl that we used last week to examine melody.  That first vocal melody is a certain combination of notes from the key of the song, the key of C Major.  If we assign each note in the Major scale with a number than the melody looks something like this:

5 4 3 4 5    3 2 1 2 3

Every vocal line in the song uses some combination of the 7 notes from the key to form different phrases that make up the melody throughout the song.  As a matter of fact, everything that happens within that song, chords and melodies, is made from different combinations of those 7 different notes.  We refer to this set of notes as a scale and practicing our scales is really important for knowing where these notes are found on our fretboard.  As we move through the scale each note has a specific distance, or interval, between them.  This pattern of intervals is the formula that we use to create a Major scale.  Let’s think of these of these intervals in terms of whole steps and half steps and on the ukulele one 1/2 step is equal to 1 fret. Now the distances are as follows:

w w h w w w h

We show each note in the scale with a number so our formula looks like this:

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  1 w w h w w w h

Let’s learn a quick hand shape that we can use to find a M scale starting from any note on the fretboard. Start with your pointer finger on any note than make the whole step to your middle finger, whole step to your ring finger, then a half-step to your pinkie.  Now we slide the pointer finger a whole step above our pinkie than repeat the whole pattern.  Easy right?  Now you can move this pattern to any position on the fretboard and what you will end up with is a Major scale of whatever note we started with.

Insight 3: Harmony and Chord Progressions

Today let’s dig a little deeper into the second important element of music, HARMONY.  We can define harmony as being more than one note being played simultaneously.  On the ukulele we are usually talking about four notes right?  One on each string to form a chord.  I like to use the metaphor of music as a language where we combine each of the pitches into a chord like letters making up a word.  We can extend this metaphor to start to view groups of chords the same way we view sentences as a combination of words to form a statement.

I have a little bit of a love hate relationship with the song sheets that I’ve been creating for our songbook.  I think that song sheets are a great tool to be able to learn a song quickly, but all too often they can become a crutch where people begin to need and rely on them to be able to play a song.  We need to be able to memorize a song as quickly as possible and learning the musical sentences, or progressions, in a song is a lot more realistic then memorizing every single chord change in a song.  Many people don’t notice that songs are usually comprised of a couple of 3 or 4 chord progressions that repeat a number of times throughout the song.  Lets take the song Brown Eyed Girl from our song book, and try to find our musical sentences or progressions.  If we look closely we see that there is a repeating set of chords that make up that first verse:  C  F  C  G.  Now we want to look further down to the 5th line to find where our progression changes to:  F  G  C  am  F  G  G  C.  We can simplify this into two of the SAME four measure progressions with a C replacing the am on the second line.  If we examine it some more we see that the chorus is the same as the verse.  The only other thing we need to know is G for 3 measure before each chorus.  So now memorizing this song becomes a little more simple if we can focus on each of these progressions:

Verse:    C F C G

Bridge:  F G C am (C 2nd ending)

Chorus: same as verse preceded by G for 3 measures.

Easy right?  Give it a try and see if you can condense a song sheet you have into a few different progressions and see if you can commit it to memory.

Thanks again for all the support, if you found this or any of our resources helpful be sure to connect with us on social media in the sidebar and sign up for our email list under SUBSCRIBE in the sidebar to keep up with everything new at Ukulele Inspired. I want this to be interactive so don't be shy and

send me

some requests for the songbook and other content that you would like to see!

Insight 2: Rhythm

In our last Insight video we talked about 3 fundamental elements of music:  rhythm, harmony, and melody.  Today we go a little more in depth into the first of these, rhythm.  Let's explain some foundational concepts and give you an exercise to help develop and strengthen your sense of rhythm.

Remember, when music is playing there is a natural pulse or beat that occurs and how we create rhythm on the ukulele is by playing a pattern of strums or sounds against that pulse.  The strum pattern that you hear me play is a certain ordering of down and up strums, this is the pattern:

D, D, U, U, D, U

But more specifically this pattern occurs in relation to that natural pulse in the music. When I play the first down strum my hand needs to travel back up to the top of the strings in order to play the next down strum.  The same thing happens when I play the next set of 2 up strums but in the opposite direction.  When you watch my hand play the strum my hand will be moving in a constant down and up motion and only playing the strums when they occur in the pattern, IN RELATION TO the natural pulse of the music.

So our foundation with our strum below it looks like this:

D U D U D U D U

D     D U    U D U

So this strum pattern is created from an alternating pattern of down and up strums played in 1/8th notes,  so what are 1/8th notes?

That natural pulse in music usually occurs in cycles of four.  There are four beats then it repeats.  These four beats are called 1/4 notes because there are four of them in one cycle or measure.  Now if we divide each one of the these beats into two parts we end with 8 parts per measure or 1/8th notes.  So we can count it like this:

1/4 notes:     1  2  3  4

1/8th notes: 1+2+3+4+

So we connect it to our foundational pattern and our strum pattern it looks like this:

D U D U D U D U

1  + 2  + 3  + 4  +

D    D  U    U D U

If we want the opportunity for more complexity in our strum patterns then we can divide each quarter note into four different parts to get 1/16th notes that we can count like this:

1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a

Learning how these different notes sound and how they feel to play is really important because they are the foundation for creating different strum patterns.  Try out this exercise of alternating between playing 1/4, 1/8th, and 1/16th notes.

D     U     D      U

1      2      3      4

D U D U D U D U

1  +  2  + 3  + 4  +

D U D U   D U D U  D U D U  D U D U

1  e  +  a  2  e  +  a  3  e  +  a  4  e  +  a

Remember the pulse remains constant just how you divide it changes ;)

Thanks again for all the support, if you found this or any of our resources helpful be sure to connect with us on social media in the sidebar and sign up for our email list under SUBSCRIBE in the sidebar to keep up with everything new at Ukulele Inspired. I want this to be interactive so don't be shy and

send me

some requests for the songbook and other content that you would like to see!

Insight 1: Elements of Music

ELEMENTS OF MUSIC:

Welcome to our first installment of our new Insight video series where I’ll share a little knowledge about music and ukulele and hopefully help you to become a better player.  Today I want to talk about 3 fundamental elements of music and how they apply to ukulele: RHYTHM, HARMONY, MELODY.

We can think of RHYTHM as the interaction between music and time.  When we hear music there is a natural and constant pulse or beat within that music.  We create rhythm by playing the strings in different patterns against this constant pulse with our right hand by strumming.

HARMONY can be defined as multiple notes or pitches happening simultaneously.  We quickly learn how to do this on the ukulele with our left hand by learning our first chords.  These two things rhythm, our strumming, and harmony, our chords, are usually what we learn to do first and we spend most of our time developing.  I think this is a great thing to get us playing very quickly but all too often people don’t put enough emphasis on developing the third element, melody!

Where harmony is multiple notes happening simultaneously, MELODY is a set of individual notes that are strung together to create a musical phrase.  These melodic phrases are really what define a song, it’s the part of the music that you remember when you think of a song.  Go ahead think of any song…what you're probably recalling is the melody…

So how do we incorporate melody with the ukulele?  We either do it with our voice, or we do it with the instrument.  Both of these things take a little time and effort to develop so you should start incorporating one or both of these into your practice right away.  The great part about this instrument is that, unlike a trumpet or a violin, you can actually accomplish all 3 of these elements at the same time while you are playing.  Check out our last Sessions Video for an example of this.

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