I keep writing blog posts, and I keep forgetting to mention this. It’s a tiny but very important evolution in my progress.

A few weeks ago, I noticed with the ukulele, I can now tell when it’s a hair out of tune. At the time, I couldn’t tell how it was out of tune, or in which direction, but I noticed I can identify ‘oh, wait, this sounds off’, which was something I wasn’t able to hear before that point.

As I write this post, I can identify which string is the problem. I am still using pitchlab, or my shiny new clip on tuner, to tune, BUT, the difference is that now my ears can tell not just that something is awry, but which string is out of tune in relation to the other strings.  I can do this on the guitar now, to a lesser extent, provided I pluck the strings individually.  My guitar playing is clumsy enough that there can be any number of problems causing it to sound crappy when strumming, so I can’t necessarily hear that instrument being out of tune when strumming just yet. There are too many factors – maybe my finger is muting something it shouldn’t be, maybe my strumming hit one string harder than the others, maybe the guitar is out of tune – there are too many things for me to check for me to quite identify yet when the guitar is out of tune versus when I’m being a bumbling oaf. But, if I pluck the strings individually, I can usually tell, which is definitely a sort of progress.

I don’t think I’m quite able to hear this on the bass just yet, but my bass seems to never slip out of tune(I have no idea why. Unless I’m switching tunings, I never seem to have to tune it. I check the tuning whenever I pull it out, and it’s always good to go.), so I think I probably just haven’t heard it out of tune often enough for my ears to pick up a difference.

This is a subtle shift, but it does mean my ears are getting used to differentiating sounds and picking up how they relate to one another, which is relevant enough to be worth mentioning.

I’m also noticing, still primarily through the ukulele, that there are certain combinations of chords that seem to just go really, really well together. This is probably something that kind of touches on music theory, but I wouldn’t know since I haven’t delved very deeply into that book yet.

But, for example, since yesterday I’ve been working on the chord progression for the Simple Plan song, and can’t help but notice that F and Am are like the peanut butter and jelly of chords. They just work like they’re meant to go together. G and C seem to have a similar relationship, but with a different sort of flavor. F to Am feels kid of mellow, like a day that’s warm but overcast – not rainy, but with that edging on the horizon. G to C on ukulele, on the other hand, has a sunny sort of disposition.  G also seems like the socialite of ukulele chords; you can stick it with just about anything and it will make friends, and probably bring snacks.

So, while I may not be able to really play guitar at this point, things are happening. My ears are picking up on nuances that they didn’t notice before, which is very relevant to the learning process, and worth mentioning.  With a bit more time and exposure, I can probably start trying to tune by ear, and just use the tuner to check my work, which is a point I didn’t think I would reach for quite a while.

Until Next Time, my ears seem to be learning at a more advanced level than my fingers, and that’s okay.

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