Everyone wants to be able to quickly and smoothly strum, change chords — everything on the uke. But, oh, my, children — you've got to walk before you can run…
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Ben, Ben, we got to be going here.
An anecdote 🙂
I know, welcome to Ukulele Practice Time with Danno, I'm the Danno, this is the ukulele, the time is your own.
I'll tell you a quick story about time before we jump into ukulele practice time. I had a friend when I was a boy who was blind, legally blind.
He could see well enough to get around, but because he was legally blind, he had access to a special tape recorder so we could listen to audio material for school. And now, mind you, this was decades ago when I was a lad. I knew this kid in fifth and sixth grade. So all our high tech stuff of today was not available. And to have a cassette deck that had special reversibility on it was a mind blowing concept. So I was very lucky, I felt to have this friend who had a special tape player for the blind that could rewind and forward and you could hear the audio as it rewound. So of course, we didn't use it for its intended purpose. We used it to goof around and listen to music backwards. And there was this song out at the time by Yellow Electric Light Orchestra that they used for one of the sports shows. So, you know, the song I'm talking about, but I can't think of the name of it this long, dramatic instrumental number. And there was this weird back masked voice in the middle of it that just sounded spooky, even as the song played. And, you know, we heard all those legends about what happens if you listen to back backwards speech and rock and roll music. So we had to try it out.
So my friend Steve recorded the song off the TV because they played it on the sports show every week and we put it in reverse mode, so you play it frontwards and there's this big spooky music in the voice just kind of goes no more rah rah — spooky already. We flip it around backwards, two little kids sitting in the dark room and the voice actually says: “The music is reversible, but time is not turn back, turn back.”
We run screaming from the room and never listen to that song again.
And that is my thought association at the top of ukulele practice time because I said the word TIME and that's instantly where my mind went.
Thank you for being with me. Hello, friends. Welcome one and
Why are we doing this?
Somebody asked me, I get emails — I encourage you to send me emails because I like to get your questions and know what I can help you on specifically. But someone asked, why do you do this every day? And we're back in season two. This is only day three of season two after a hiatus of six or eight weeks.
But I had to ask myself, why are we doing this? Because, you know, it's not like we're making money. It's not that social because of the one way stream. But I actually really missed it when we were doing it over the summer when the quarantine and lockdown stuff began. And after a hiatus, I found that I missed having what amounts to back and forth. I missed having the obligation that I had set for myself of showing up every day. And, you know, most of you are on my email news list as well. And my site is called Play It Daily ukulele dot com. And when things are going well, I actually try to send out an email every day that does nothing more than annoy a lot of people. Those people unsubscribe very quickly. And two, that email serves to remind the recipients, you perhaps that. You have stated when you sign up for my email list that you like ukulele in that you're interested in sticking with it and learning more and getting better. So my email is here to remind you, hopefully in an entertaining, not intrusive way. That you've made that commitment to yourself. So in the way that I'm trying to remind you every day to stick to your commitment, to practice, to play, to get better. This live time, getting together is me sticking to my commitment to myself, my double commitment, which is just like you to practice, to play and to get better at my secondary commitment to be a, you know, a leader in the ukulele world and to help people along as best I can.
Whoo, two long diatribes to get things started today.
“Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”
There's a prize for the first person who can name the song, I may not play it well enough for you to recognize it, but I'm going to try.
That's a song called Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
So why was I playing that song? “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” My question is, do you know “do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” I know it by Louis Armstrong.
And the reason I wanted to play that today was because I've been asking folks to send emails with questions and somebody did send me a question or kind of a comment that I read as a question.
Trouble with chord transitions
The email that I got, the person was having trouble with chord transitions moving smoothly from one chord to the next, does anybody who's here right now suffer that? I do. That's why I was playing that.
Let's see if I can share my sheet music with you.
Let's look at the notation
Ben, could you switch over to do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Thank you, Ben. That was well done.
Now, the point here is not for me to teach you this song. The point is that you heard me playing it not very well. So I intentionally chose a song that I don't know very well because I wanted you to hear me go through it roughly. So the email that I got, the person said he was having trouble changing chords.
You heard me doing some fingerstyle stuff in there and trying to pick out the melody. And I'm pretty smooth with chords myself for most chords, for most songs. So I wanted to do something that was a little more challenging to me. But look at the top of the page, friends. What's the very first thing you see now?
If you're used to ukulele cheat sheet, you may not be used to seeing the words like this.
The secret revealed
But if you look at piano sheet music, there will almost be something thrown in there, you know, that tells you how the song is meant to play a lot of times in Italian because all of our sheet music. Standards come from Italy or olden days in Italy. But look at this one, and instead of saying, you know, “lightly” “with feeling” or something like that, what does it say? “Slowly.” Slowly.
Now I'm saying slowly, slowly to emphasize slowly — whether or not you struggle specifically with chord transitions, think back to when you were a beginner and tell me the truth.
I know the truth, daddy knows you did struggle with chord transitions, and if you don't struggle with chord transitions, you struggle with something else right now, because until each of us becomes perfection incarnate, there's something that we don't know how to do. So I thought I would just try to say — The one trick of how to perfect these things is no trick at all, the one trick happens to be written right into this page and the trick is — slowly.
Change your mindset to change your physical movement
Maureen says this is wisdom right here, folks. Voiced as a complaint! “As many times as I as I've played the court, I still find it tricky.”
In the New Orleans song that I was playing, there's a G augmented and that G augmented shape is like a D minor shape moved over one, two, three.
And it's got that great augmented sound to it.
And Maureen, I have exactly the problem you're describing. I've forced myself to learn that chord and play it in songs because I love the sound of it so much. But for reasons unknown to me, that particular chord feels very awkward. And I'm going to come back to slowly in just a second. Don't worry.
But what I discovered was that a mindshift helped me play it more easily when I realized that G augmented was a G, which is there, right? And that the augmented as this note shifted up, one.
Now, I'm not saying that that's an easier way to finger it, but what it made me realize was I could envision it all of a sudden. And that's not really I'm getting off the lesson that I was intending to teach, but envisioning actually ties in pretty nicely with the slowness, because if you can see where you're going, it's much easier to get there. Right. So I could see that the G that I knew inside and out was directly related to G augmented.
It took me shockingly long to realize I could reconfigure my fingers and just play it there and know that it was OK, but because I could envision it a lot of times for speed within the song, a lot of times a G energy augmented come right next to each other in a song.
Practice slowness on a well-known song
All right. So let's go back to this concept of slowness and. Oh, Susanna.
If you're having trouble changing chords or whatever the thing is that you are working on. The only trick Is twofold.
I'm glad I stumbled off on that little side yard because you need to know where you're going and you need to slow it down.
So you got to know where you're going. You've got to know where that G seven shape is for Suzanne in this case. And then you've got to work out how you're going to do the transition. This is kind of what Jerry was saying. Are you going to play C this way and make that jump to the G7? You're going to play this way with your little finger.
And jump to G seven for the sake of argument, let's say that your ukulele teacher, Danno OSullivan, that guy has told you the best way for this song is to play C with your little finger. She's seven here.
If you're playing it too fast, you're not going to be able to do it.
you know what I mean? If it takes you that long to make the new chord, then you're playing it too fast. So this is for smoothness. This is not learning how to actually make the transition. So if the goal is to smooth it out, then you have to slow your whole song down to match the speed that it takes you to make the hard chord. So I'm not going to play it that slightly, but if it takes you a full second to get to G7, you're let's say it takes you one 100 to like that, then you're going to have to make that your tempo for the song one 100 to 150 comes from.
And you see what I'm saying? It's hard for me to play it wrong to show you what I mean. But you understand what I mean. Take the time that you need to make the chord play. The song is slowly. You need to so you can make the court in time.
Perhaps a metronome?
And then. Slowly speed the song back up, and the best way to do that is with the metronome to keep you rock solid. We've talked about metronomes back in season one. There are apps that you can get for your phone, their actual tick tock metronomes, which I like there. Even some of the tuners have a little metronome built in which those I've never found to be loud enough to really be useful, but it's good to know.
So that's what I wanted to talk about today. There wasn't much actual ukulele playing. I just wanted to remind everybody, and especially folks who are new and especially my friend who wrote to me yesterday and asked, what do I do?
One sentence summary
I'm having trouble with my chord transitions. The short answer, slow it down. The long answer is everything that I've been saying for the last 20 minutes. So that's what I wanted to talk about.
Comments and comments on comments
All the real masters do that slow practice, but privately, of course.
Yeah, well, and that's what I was trying to point out by playing my version of the New Orleans song, not very well at the beginning, that that's the way I practice and practice and practice and practice can be fun, especially if you sent yourself getting better, but. When I play for you, I play something that I've practiced to the point of being good, so you're not you're rarely going to see somebody like Julie said, play it slowly, play it poorly.
Everybody wants to look good.
Thank you so much for tuning in live.
that's all for today. We'll be back tomorrow for more merriment and ukulele fun, maybe I'll try to answer some of these questions that you're giving me right now. Take care, everybody.
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