Today’s Lesson: The Four-Finger Roll

..and fingerpicking, but I’m not going to say much about fingerpicking for the ukulele. Conceptually it’s very straight forward, so there’s not much TO say. Form chords. Pluck individual strings. Rinse and repeat. It may need practice for maximum effect, but there was really nothing going on in the fingerpicking lesson that I had to wrap my head around.

The four-finger roll was different.  I read the lesson. I looked it up on youtube. I thought I understood it, but in the first several tries, I couldn’t seem to get all four fingers to strike the strings. Three, yes. I was having a trouble getting the pointer finger to hit all the strings, without my pinky flying off too soon (before it has struck each string).

One of the video lessons I watched trying to figure it out called it an “abracadabra” hand, which I think actually hung me up a bit – trying to make this “abracadabra” gesture was not making matters any easier.  So, I did all I could do: keep turning my hand, adjusting it a bit, trying again. And again. And again.  And what I’ve come up with is that I don’t think it’s really an abracadabra gesture at all, at least, that’s not what’s worked for me.  If you think of a magician saying ‘abracadabra!’ and splaying his fingers, the movement is quick and sharp.  The roll strum seems to me more fluid. Ocean waves might be a good analogy, but my first thought was it’s a sort of stirring motion. When I mentioned this to roomie, he instantly drew an analogy to a witch’s cauldron. I had no choice but to concede. “Actually, yes.”  It’s a sort of wrist circle – the fingers curl toward the palm, them sweep out in the direction of the pinky, come around, then do it again and again – like a clockwise wrist circle, almost exactly, but with the added consideration to be sure to splay the fingers toward the end, before coming back around toward the strings.

Now, the Ukulele Handbook doesn’t mention the 5 finger strum, but it was included in the youtube lesson I watched, so I tried that one, too. I’m having a bit of trouble right now on that one. It’s a bit disjointed, not very smooth, and the attack with the thumb is stronger, so that last bit of strum is coming off much louder than the rest. So, there’s definitely some control I need to smooth out there. Since I’ve only worked on it for maybe 20 minutes or so tonight, I don’t feel that it’s something I need to be overly concerned with just yet. I do need to work with the technique more to iron it out, though. I have the same issue with the two finger roll (also not in the ukulele handbook, but in the video lessons I watched):  the thumb stroke is coming off much louder, so it’s just not quite marrying to the first half of the roll.  It needs some tweaking to get it to sound right, but as I continue to work with it, I will smooth it out.

I am on the last “week” of lessons in the ukulele handbook now. There are songs I can work with, and lessons I can (and should) revisit to practice, but there are really only 2 or three pages of actual new lessons left. I did impulse by the Hal Leonard Blues Ukulele book, though, so that should be here soon. (It was cheap, and I saw the words “blues” and “ukulele” on the same book. ’nuff said.)

So, I will still be working out of the Ukulele Handbook, going back over things I’ve already read, but which need more work. But, there’s very little new information left.  It looks like a bit of theory stuff, another practice song, and how to string your ukulele (which I already know, since stringing the uke left-handed was the very first thing I had to do). There are some chords in the songbook that I haven’t learned in the lessons though, so I will probably run through each at least a few times to get the hang of those (even though I really don’t have any interest in learning how to play ‘Oh my darling, Clementine’ or virtually any of the songs in the song book – or, that is to say,  I don’t really plan to commit any of them to memory since they’re songs that, in and of themselves, don’t interest me, though I think each will contain some valuable lessons worth exploring.). After that, I don’t know. I still have a lot to learn, and I’ll have to decide what direction I want to focus my energy in without a book telling me what the next logical step is.

Until next time, rolling clumsily forward.

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