We'll use the fine old blues song, Baby Please Don't Go, to explore a nifty little trick you can use to improvise a great-sounding solo.

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Ben, Ben, let's start with.

Ukulele practice time with Danno. Welcome, everybody.

Song of the Day

I'm going to say hi to everybody in just a second, but I want to play this while I'm at it on my mind.

It's the subject of the day that wasn't it? It's.

Baby, please don't go, baby, please don't go, baby. Please don't do all these. You know, I love you so.


Hi, everybody, welcome to Ukulele Practice Time with Danno. Despite playing the blues, I do not have the blues. In fact, I am excited and delighted to welcome my ukulele friends from what looks like around the globe. I was just about to say this morning where I am. It's just past morning. We start at 12 at one one minute past noon. So this is only our second day doing ukulele practice time and season two after a six week hiatus. So I really don't know if anybody would come back out and participate. So I'm really glad to have some folks here. You heard me playing the blues, and we're going to talk a little bit about the blues today, but we're going to talk about it in another context, which widens it up. So even if you don't like blues music, I think you'll enjoy what we've got in mind. Jim says, fancy pointer finger on the sea.

This is what you heard me doing on that sea string, that Jimi Hendrix sound. Here I come, baby. Come on. To get you something like that.

I wanted to mention a couple of other things since we're just getting started back with ukulele practice time.

Oh, I love the technology, I keep talking about the technology because I love it so much, because it makes it makes this possible in the first place and with so many of us unable to get together in real life the way we like to and want to, the technology lets us do stuff like this, which is, you know, I was going to say next best thing, but it's pretty darn good. And in some ways it's actually better as a teaching tool. I think that the very best thing is. Liv.

Ben has a penchant for drinking and sleeping it off during What should be our production time.

This is what I wanted to show you, what I believe is one of the very best ways of teaching is to be able to have these extreme close ups so you can really see what's going on with my fingers. Because to learn a technical skill, a physical skill, you need to know what the physicality is that's happening, right?

So the plus side is that you can see things right up close. The downside, of course, is that most stuff is prerecorded, including my own lessons that I do is prerecorded. And you don't have the opportunity to ask questions and get instant feedback, real feedback on what you're working on. So it's nice to have that back and forth.

Be our guest

And the other thing that I wanted to mention about just the technology is that the software I'm using, even though we're on Facebook live, I'm using a special interface called ECan, which lets me do other things like the back and forth between the two cameras that I like so much is built into the software called Ecamm. And the new version which I'm using now Lets me bring on a guest as to talk with. So you'd be on one side of the screen? I'd be on the other side.

So it's not quite like Zoom because it's just the two of us. So it's not everybody on camera at once. It's just a particular guest at any time.

And the reason I mention that is because in season one of ukulele practice time, a couple of times there were well, a couple of times I actually had on guests to conduct interviews. But another couple of times, just some of you, in fact, I think and Annie's here today, I said hello to her, but people had real specific questions that they wanted help with. And so rather than try to work it out through text back and forth, I just had that person come on as a guest. And it was a little bit convoluted because of the software limitations. But with this new system that I'm describing to you, it's as simple as sharing a link with you. You can come right on and join me and be part of the conversation. So if those situations arise. It's definitely a possibility for us to have that direct back and forth, and I really enjoyed it and I think it was helpful to the people that went through that process. So I just wanted to mention it today.

TOPIC of the DAY

I want to show you a neat little thing called the B B box.

And I know this from B.B. King, not the B.B. King and I are great friends, but, you know, we both have the blues every once in a while. But when you take the blues and make a song, you sing him out again. So the B.B. box is just a way for you to know where to put your fingers to get kind of a blues sound out of your ukulele and to use that in a different spot up and down the neck to get a more cheerful sound. I'll explain it in more detail. I just wanted to give you a real quick overview. That said, before we dove into the technical aspects, I just want to check the comments here and make sure that I'm not missing anything from anybody. Good. Lots of folks saying hi. Hi, right back at you. Don't forget, you can share this with your ukulele friends. You can use the share link on Facebook or just share the link itself out to your ukulele friends. This is always a case of the more the merrier. All right. So you hear me playing a little bit of blues at the beginning of. Switch over to close up mode so you can see a little better.

Now. Marissa's here, what a treat. What you heard me doing was a baby, please don't go.


I have to stop because Jan's comment made me laugh so much so you could hear the dogs and you could hear the cuckoo clock. I don't know if I should be delighted or ashamed, but, yeah, that's that's my down home video broadcasting unit. Two dogs floating around right here, a boy wandering through, coming home from school, and the cuckoo clock. Is it any wonder why I actually have the blues?

Why a 1-chord song?

Now, what the reason I'm using this particular blues song as an example is because it is a one chord blues song. Is anybody here taking my blues course?

I have a whole dedicated course to this, not to this one song, but to playing ukulele blues. Oh, Sheeran's here, Sheeran's at least one person doing the police course, so.

The value of a one chord blues song is that you don't have to think about Anything regarding the chords, because it's just one chord, baby, please don't go if you're just strumming.

Oh, baby, please don't go.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo, I love this.

Now, when I was playing it, you heard me throwing in all of the fancy stuff that make it sound more like real blues. But I want you to understand that underlying that is just that one court in this case, it's an A chord we're playing in the key of A. So you could do nothing but strum it maybe in A7 day.

You see what I mean? So it's a nice it's as simple as a song can be and still sound like a song.

Adding in single notes

Now, let's say that you wanted to add some single notes around that, a little bit of blues style soloing. How do you know which notes to use?

I have to interject here for just a second, because we have several folks here who may be here for the first time today. And I just want to explain that ukulele practice time is widely varying from day to day. Some days we do kind of advanced material. Some days we do real beginner material. So wherever you are on the ukulele spectrum. There will be things that are more suited to you on various days, so I say that because this is leaning a little bit towards not beginner, but it's not hard. And if it feels taxing to you today, come back tomorrow. We'll do something completely different at the same time. If it feels a little taxing to you today, just let it sink in. You never know when these new elements will hit your brain the right way and you'll get that delightful. I was going to say Euripides, but it was Archimedes Archimedes, right? He said Eureka, and suddenly you understand something that you didn't understand before.

You know, for some people, the idea that there's such a thing as a one chord song may in and of itself be a little bit mind blowing. There's a bunch of them. In fact, I've got a list on my website, just a fun to play one chord songs. And I was really excited to find the baby Please Don't Go is just a one chord song because it sounds so full and complete.

Now, the Question of the Day, I don't want to just play those chords, I want to play something in addition to that.

Watch what I'm going to do. So get the sound in your mind the trouble when you're playing by yourself as.

A lot of times you can't play the rhythm chords and play.

A melody line together or a solo line?

You saw me throwing in some extra notes on top of the rhythm chords and I cover that in the blues class.

But that's not quite what I'm describing here.

The BB Box

That really is a different technique. What I want to talk about here is if you wanted to play that sort of extra single note line, that would go over the chords. All right. So here's how I want you to think about it. Since I can't do that and play the rhythm, I'm going to play a little bit of the rhythm so you can get it in your mind. And then I want you to let the rhythm continue in your mind while I switch over to some single notes. And the point of this exercise is to show you how do I know where to find those single notes. There's a magic trick.

Here's the rhythm that set up just a chord. So get that feel. You get that sound. And I'm going to shift over.


You see what I'm talking about? Well, I was holding my breath for some reason, trying to get that right, and it's made me a little lightheaded. So do you see the two sides? There's the rhythm side and there's the solo side. Right. All right. So let me teach you friends about the beatbox.

So there's something called the blues box or the B.B. box and B.B. is B.B. King. So you know about these chord diagrams, right?

Let's do it here. That shows up.

So these are your frets, these are your strings and these are your friends.

Um, so you need to be able to think in these terms of strings and frets, but I told you I was playing in the key of a..

So I want to find my blues box in the key of a, uh. How do I do that? I'm going to tell you how I do it. I need to find. The note of the court, the root note of the court.

So here's my A'Court and I'm just going to go by ear. You know the names of your string's GC, a..

So that's a note and it's the root note of an a chord. No, I don't like to go into too much music theory, so we'll just leave it at that.

All you need to know is that the note matches the name of the chord. Like has an interesting tidbit here.

Is that true? B.B. King never sang and played at the same time. Curious.

Now, if you know the name of the note, A, in this case, you need to find it on string to string to as we kept from the ground one, two.

So I need to find.

A note on string two, there it is. Now, if you've noodle around with single strings, you may be you may just know where that note is. But can you hear now that I'm playing string two, four, five, it matches open a.

So that's this is going to be the top end of my BB box. My blues box. All right. So remember, I did the little drawing for you. We need to use these two strings, string one and string two. And I want you to picture dots.

In fact, I'll draw them in for you. Give me a second here.

If I were really high tech. I'd have this all in a premade slideshow for you, but this is just as good. All right, so this is our. Top of the ukulele up here, so this is going to be our note that we found. At strength five, I mean, at four, five.

This is far more technical than I usually do for these sessions, but I think once you see what where we're going with this, you'll find it a really fun thing to be able to use.

All right. So this is fret five, a note that we found and I called it the top of the blues box top going towards the sound hole as we go up the next. So these are the notes that we want. Do you see why it's called a box, if you think of it as a chord shape? I'll come right back to this. You know, we've got our.

Our neck again, you know, there's a G seven, right?

So you're used to seeing those dots creating a shape, this G-7 creates a triangle, this Bluebox box creates a box. Now, the difference is this is not a courtship. These are single notes. So you're not going to play these all together. You're only going to play them one at a time.

Here's how it works, so I found my a note for the key of my blues box is.

Those four notes, now there's a couple extra that I'll show you in a second, but that's that's the box of the blues box and you play them one at a time.

Now, the magic is that those will always fit your blues chords in the key A there's my remember I got I wanted you to get the sound in your mind. So here's our blues background in the key of a no change just a bit.

And then I start adding in those single notes.

Can you hear how they do? If you can blend the chords plus the single notes in your mind, can you hear how they go together? Background.


So can you do the mental overlap yourself? The ideal thing would be for you to find a friend, to play the chords for you while you noodle around and then you switch back, you do the chords and your friend noodles around.

So what do I mean when I say noodle around? And by the way, we're in our last couple of minutes here, you know, I try to keep this as short as I can noodle around. I'm saying there's not a correct order for those four notes of the blues box. They're just four notes that in any order can become blues solo. And for the musicians here, you can shift it up and down the neck. And the four notes will still work for a not blues solo. So you're not just locked in here. It's just that's information for another day.

Root note on 2nd string

Yes, that's a great question. And the answer is yes. Do you always find the note on the second string? The answer is yes. That gives you the top of your blues box and you can work out the other four notes from there.

Once you found that note on string two, that gives you the next note down, the next note over and the next note up, so creates the box for you and you could work it out other ways and once you do it a lot, you can jump right to it in the right place, but that just gives you an automatic way to make it always sync up.

I'm playing in the key of A, I have to find the note A on string, too.

Add the bump

So does that make sense? When I say noodling, You know? You can play those in any sequence and create a solo. You're the Eric Clapton of the ukulele. Let me show you one more note to add to it, to really spice things up a little bit and we'll call it a day here. I'm going to go back to my notepad. Welcome to the notepad, everybody. So here's our blues box.

There's our note, a little box around it. One, two, three, four. So in the blues course, we call it a. A box and a bump and the bump is over here.

Let's make sure you can see that so you've got your box, the four notes I just showed you, and the bump is a bump out of the house. In fact, I saw somewhere somebody referred to this as a house. And if you turn it this way, you can see that, in fact, it does sort of make a house. Sorry for the lighting.

See the house. A little chimney on top.

I'm getting some good questions here. So I want to let me show you the bump and then I'm going to come back and answer these questions. Now, clarify, what do we need to clarify and are those part of the 87 court House of Blues? That's great.

So let me show you the bump real quick. All right. So here are four notes, all that you're asking me to clarify about noodling. Just how do you find that?

How do you know which sequence to play in if that's the case? Let me know.

So here's the. But here's the box. I'll go down string one. I'll go down string two and I'll at the bump on string three.

So let me show to you one more time and then we're going to call it a day.

Changing keys

There's a lot more to it than that, there's changing chords, there's changing keys, there's going back and forth between the box and the blues scale. In fact, Annie just asked that question. And I'm saying that, yes, you can apply you can apply the BB box to any scale — I mean to any key.

So if you want it to play in C, so there's out, so I would find the note C on string two.

It's all the way up there. And how did I do that? I did it by ear and look to see String. I found it on string two until it matched an octave apart, and now that's my new blues box, all the way up there at fret eight.

The bump and C chord. See how those go together, so you find your root note of the chord and it's going to be the chord name except as a single note. And then you can shift it up and down the neck for any any key.

All right, Kathleen, you nailed it. It's one thing to understand it and another thing to actually do it.

Key of E?

So for the key of E, would you go up to the 12th fret?

Yeah, that's right. Exactly. You'd have to go all the way up to the 12th fret. So for that, on this particular ukulele, I'd be way, way up here and I would not be inclined to do that just because of physics. You know what I mean?

Wrapping up

I love all the questions and I love that this is apparently interesting enough for you to ask questions. So maybe we'll we'll slink back around one of these days and cover it in a little more detail. Yeah, that really was meant to be just a quick overview to help you guys work. Give give you some inducement to see what might be possible with something as simple as a one chord song. You can always jazz it up.

Can't do it with open strings?

You could do it with open strings except the open string E in this case, would be the bottom of your blues box, so you'd only have two notes of the blues box available on an open string.

You guys are the best and let me know if you have other questions, I can keep checking questions here for the next little while so you can just report back here if you have further questions. And please don't be bashful about dropping me an email since we're doing these every weekday on the weekday. I love to get your questions and suggestions for things that you are working on and need help with, because as you can imagine, a half an hour every day is a lot of information to to think of what to do next. So take care of yourselves. Be healthy, wealthy and wise, not necessarily in that order. And friends will be back again tomorrow at 12. Oh one. Take care.

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Danno Sullivan
Danno Sullivan

Founder of ”Play It Daily” Ukulele, co-founder of the Ukulele Union of Boston, and spreader of good cheer.