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Theory 101 – The Basics (reading music)

Posted by Ian on March 7, 2008

To continue my music theory series, I’m going to go back to basics to catch people who have little formal music background. If you already know how to read the treble clef, this lesson will be nothing by review for you, most likely.

Anyhow. Let’s take things from the top.

Most any uke player can read a tab and understand chord names, but not all can read a piece of music if put in front of them.

The basic parts of a piece of sheet music are the clef (in this case, treble), the key signature (I will get into this later), the staff (the five lines adn four spaces where all of this, and the notes, are placed), and the notes themselves.

I apologize if things seem a tad thrown together from this point: I”m rushing finishing this post, sacrificing some quality… sorry ’bout that.

Here is an example of the treble clef on a staff:

Notes are placed on the lines or in the spaces in between the lines on the staff. The bottom line corresponds with the note ‘E’, the space above that with ‘F’, then a line for ‘G’, then a space for ‘A’, a line for ‘B’, space for ‘C’, line for ‘D’, space for ‘E’ and a line for ‘F’.

To remember this, you can use the mnemonic devices such as ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’ for the lines, and ‘FACE’ for the spaces. The first letter of each of these words correspond with the note name of the corresponding line or space from bottom to top.

Things called ‘ledger lines’ can be added above or below the staff to show notes that do not fit in the staff’s normal range. I do not have time to describe them, but, if you would like, you can look them up… simply google ‘ledger lines’ and you will most likely get an answer to your questions.

And I have run out of time to work on this. I guess it will be a two parter…. sorry that I didn’t get too far on this. Hope it helped someone….

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Posted by Ian on March 5, 2008

Well… I had another theory lesson planned for today, but for some bizarre reason, my computer is not letting me ‘copy and paste’, and that pretty much ruined it. As soon as I can get that fixed, I’ll upload the lesson.

In the meantime,  I’ll throw out a piece I’m working on composing for the uke… it’s still a work in progress, but it at least gives you all something to do… and it gives me something to post.

…and it’s not letting me upload anything, either. Looks like I need to do some tinkering, here…

Okay… I’m giving you all an IOU for more theory lessons and that piece of music.

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Music Theory – Basic Triads (Chords)

Posted by Ian on March 4, 2008

One thing I have discovered about us Uke players is that, as a whole, we know very little about music

theory. Sure, we can play all sorts of fancy chords and whatnot right and left, but when asked why

something is a chord, many of us have no clue what the answer is. Over the next few days I am planning on

making a music theory 101 course so you all will understand enough basic music theory to not have to rely

on chord charts and the like to figure out chords when playing a song.

Today’s lesson will be covering the basic triad chords: Major Chords, Minor Chords, Augmented Chords, and

Diminished Chords.

I guess the easiest way to explain the basic major triad chord is this:

Pick a note, any note.

Let’s pick ‘G’

Now, you count up four half steps, or a major third, from this note.

G…. G#…. A… Bb… B

Then, you take three half steps up from the new note, which makes as a major fifth from the first note.
B…. C…. C#…. D (which is the same as G… G#… A… Bb… B… C… C#… D)

The resulting ‘G Major’ triad is GBD. Whenever you play these three notes, you are playing a G Major


Things become a little more fun when you start on a sharp.

Let’s start with a C#.

You get the major third….

C#…. D…. Eb…. E…. F

And the Major fifth…..

F…. F#…. G…. G#…

And you now have a C# major triad: C# F G#

For a Minor chord, you take the following….

The Root Note, a Minor 3rd, and a 5th

You already know how to get a 5th above the root, so let’s work with the Minor 3rd.

A minor third is simply the note three half steps above the root note.

To demonstrate, let’s construct an A Minor chord.

A is our root note.

To find the minor 3rd…..

A… Bb…. B…. C

And then we must be careful that when constructing the fifth, we base it off of the root note, not the

minor third, as that wold yield a minor 5th.

A…. Bb…. B…. C… C#… D….. D#… E

So an A minor chord is A C E

Now take a breath, because things are about to get a bit more interesting.

To take things a step further, We’ll construct an Augmented Chord (Aug.)

An augmented chord consists of the Root, a Major 3rd, and an Augmented 5th, which is the same as a Major

fifth except you go one half step higher (8 half steps from the root note, as opposed to 7)

An F Aug. chord would be constructed as follows…

F is our root note

The major third…

F… F#… G… G#… A

and an Augmented 5th

F… F#… G… G#… A… Bb… B… C… C#

The resulting triad of an Augmented F chord is F A C#

Now, to wrap things up, I’ll explain how to construct a diminished (Dim.) chord.

A diminished chord is constructed by taking the root note, its minor third, and a diminished 5th, which

is a major 5th lowered by one half step (6 half steps above the root note, as opposed to 7).

Let’s make a D diminished chord.

D is our root note.

We construct the minor third for the root.

D… Eb… E… F

And we construct the diminished 5th

D… Eb… E… F… F#… G… G#

The resulting triad is D F G#, D Diminished.

And that pretty much sums up the basics of chord construction.

With a little practice, you will no longer need to reference a chord chart every time you come across a

chord that you don’t know by heart. You will also be able to figure out different ways to play common

chords higher up on the fret board, using alternate fingerings, or duplicating different notes to put

emphasis on different parts of the chord.

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Songs that are ‘Made’ for the Ukulele

Posted by Ian on March 3, 2008

So, when listening to songs, I occasionally come across one that just feels like it’s made for the ukulele, and this probably happens to you all, too. Anyhow, here’s a list of some songs that the chord progressions and all fit beautifully on the uke. I’d recommend that, if you want to look one up, you go to ‘chordie’ at for the chords, unless you feel like picking them out on your own.

1)  Moths, by Jethro Tull. I will probably be putting up some form of tab or sheetmusic or something for this song.

2)  Les Champs Élysées, by Joe Dassin, if you can speak at least basic french.

3)  Let it Be, by the Beatles…. and most anything else by the Beatles, come to think of it.

4)  Holy Lamb, by Yes

5)  Wonderous Stories, by Yes

6)  Starman, by David Bowie. Space Oddity is also rather good.

7)  Hotel California, by the Eagles

8) Daniel, by Elton John

9)  Without Question, also by Elton John

10) Daydream Believer, by the Monkees

And that’s it for today. Happy ukein’

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Gone For Weekend

Posted by Ian on February 21, 2008

Sorry about the wy things have been going slowly, lately… I’ve been really busy up at school, and haven’t had much time to put into this. However, my internet is back up, now, so that’s good.

And I”m letting you all know in advance that there won’t be an update this weekend until possibly late Sunday; I’m going camping (bringing a uke with me), and it’s a tad hard to blog in the middle of nowhere…

And, just a little thing to think about: we always say ‘a ukulele’, but wouldn’t it be grammatically correct to say ‘an ukulele’?

…just sounds horrible, doesn’t it?

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No Tab Today…

Posted by Ian on February 18, 2008

Did have time to tab anything out today… sorry to disappoint y’all.

And just to let you know…. my intenet is dead, and I’m having to mooch off of a neighbor’s. Daily updates are a tad harder to make, so hang with me for a while… I’m trying, but some days it just might not be possible to get a post up.

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Happy New Year!

Posted by Ian on January 21, 2008

Happy New Year! I don’t have a tab for you today (I’ve been too lazy to tab anything out for a while… sorry)… but I have a little thing for you all to think about and maybe try if you haven’t yet. For those of you who play on a soprano or a concert (and maybe a tenor) with GCEA reentrant tuning, and your uke just doesn’t sound as bright as you want it to, or your C string has that annoying dull buzz that some people complain about, there is a way to improve your uke’s tone. You can try the A-D-F#-B tuning, which places all of your strings a whole step above those on a GCEA Uke. It sounds a whole lot brighter, at least on my ukes. Now taht you have it tuned, you’ll notice that you can use your familiar chord patterns, but that the chords are merely raised a whole step (or a note). A C-chord becomes a d, an A becomes a B, etc, etc. IF you just remember that everything you’re playing will be one step higher than you’re used to, you’ll be able to get a hang of playing with the ‘traditional’ tuning. <br>
And that’s it for today… so far, at least. Hope I didn’t make any of you snap your strings……

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We’ve Got Attitide

Posted by Ian on January 21, 2008

I”ll try to get something more substantial posted later, but, for now, here’s a rather neat link for you to check out if you haven’t read it before…. it’s a description of the ‘Uke Attitude’… fits me rather well. Link

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Stuff, Stuff… and Stuff

Posted by Ian on January 21, 2008

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a few days… I’ve been really busy up at school with end of semester stuff and whatnot… but now I’m on break, so I should be able to put a good chunk of time into this site! Yippee! This is my first non-tab related post… I don’t have anything completely ready for posting, yet, tab-wise, though I do have some random stuff for you all….

First off, I have a somewhat neat little technique that I really recommend you try if you haven’t already. For lack of a better name for it, I will call it a ‘Fake Slap’, as the sound you achieve when performind the technique somewhat resembles that of a slap bass. Essentially, what you do is, instead of using one finger to pick a string, you pinch the string between your thumb and finger of your choice (I recommend that you use thumb and index finger, though thumb and middle finger works fine, too) and pull the string away from the fingerboard. When you release the string, you will hear somewhat of a percussive snap accompanying the note, giving it a unique tone. You can also pluck two or three (and maybe four, though I can’t pull it off, yet) strings by pinching additional strings between index finger and middle, middle and ring, etc.

Secondly, in case you have been looking for a hard case to keep your beloved ukulele protected…. there’s some no-name brand one that I bought off of ebay and was rather surprised by. It costs about half of what it would cost you to buy one from any other store (that I know of) and is surprisingly well made, for a cheap ebay product. It has a nice leather outside, a somewhat cheap, yet durable, plastic handle, sturdy construction, and a niftly little inside compartment which can hold a pretty good amount of stuff (I can fit a harmonica and a glass slide in it with some room to spare…. speaking of which, if you have never tried playing a ukulele with a glass slide, you need to. Nylon strings with a slide sound rather neat… maybe I’ll make a psot about that later).

Here’s the link: Link

It’ll run you around 40 dollars… well worth the price if you have a nice uke that isn’t already protected.

And I think that’s going to be all for today…. thanks a ton for visiting my site… and thanks even more if you made it this far through my rambling!

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