I’ve just spent my Friday night running through every last song in the Ukulele Handbook. Except, not really. Honestly, if I never learn ‘Oh My Darling, Clementine’, I think I’ll be all the happier for it. And, I know it makes me a bad ukulele fan who should be slapped on the wrist, or something, but I really couldn’t give two craps if I ever learn aloha oe; I like the uke because it’s fun, not because it’s Hawaiian or islandy, or whatever other little quirky reasons you can think of to like the ukulele. I like it because it’s fun. Period, so I really feel no pressing need to learn traditional songs, unless those songs hold an intrinsic appeal for some other reason. In other words: if I just happen to fricking like them, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve always hated that song. I wasn’t really trying to play any of them effectively, per se, just giving them a first go through, getting an eye at the chord progressions and checking out the new chords that I haven’t come across yet.

Tonight, I learned C7 and Gm. C7 is one finger chord like C, so it took all of two seconds to memorize it. Gm for ukulele looks just like Dm for guitar, so that one is easy to remember, too, though still a bit awkward on execution, since I haven’t used Dm(guitar) very much, so switching in and out of it will take a little bit of practice.

I also went a-googling, and spent a few minutes practicing the dreaded E chord, which I can physically do. It’s a little cumbersome, and getting in and out of it is definitely going to take practice, but it can definitely be done.

The other chords in the songs I’ve looked at that I don’t properly know yet, but got to check out tonight are: Bb, Adim, Gm7, Bbm6, Fm, F7, F6, & Bb6. The B’s and Fs are a bit rough. I think all of the B’s I’ve seen so far, if memory serves, are partial barre chords. Bbm6 isn’t bad, because it’s JUST a barre with nothing else going on, but the others are more stretchy. I’m finding barring only two or three strings harder than barring all of them. I think that’s likely a flexibility issue. When barring all the strings, my other fingers don’t have as far to go, so in time, it should get easier. I’ll pick these chords one or two at a time and work through them until I have them all down, an then I’ll flip open the chord chart inside the front cover and work through the ones I don’t know little by little.

I still feel perplexed by a lot of the fancy chord names. I know that b is flat, # is sharp. I know the numbers and dim are all sort of…different versions of the base they’re attached to, but I have only scratched the surface on theory, and I haven’t yet really got a feel for what it all means. I’ve read about it a bit, and it made a sort of sense, but it hasn’t stuck.

Another thing that I should be better at by now is reading chord diagrams. I keep forgetting which side of the chart is which string. There are only two ways for me to make sense of them:

1) reference a chord I know to remind myself which side of the diagram is the 1st string and which the fourth.

2) Guess, then play it. If it sounds like crap, I did it backward.

I never thought that there was any necessity at all for a left-handed chord book, but I am starting to wonder if the need to mentally flip the charts over to the opposite of the instrument I’m holding is what’s preventing this information from properly sticking in my head.

On the other hand, I think it’s better to stick it out as is. Online, in books… chord diagrams are going to default to right-handed orientation, so I’m going to have to get used to looking at them that way one way or the other. I’ve just got to get used to reading things upside down and backwards, and eventually that will become the new norm.  This just means I need to spend more time looking at chord charts and tabs. That’s the only way I’m ever going to get better at it.  I haven’t done this too much yet. I’ve mostly been working from chord charts, which are just vastly easier to look at, and between the charts and my ears I’ve been getting all the necessary data. I’ve been focused, and irritated, by the fact I can’t seem to form a connection between playing and singing yet, and that’s what’s been on my mind, but my music reading level is still at “See Spot Run”, so it might be better for me, right now, to worry more about that – learn some songs, not worry about singing them, and then backtrack later. I really haven’t made any solid decisions on how to progress, but there’s really only but so far I’m going to get when I have to keep looking for a reference point every time I come across a new chord, just to see what I’m looking at, and I’m not going to be able to read tabs well until I start making my eyes bleed trying.

So, I say ‘one book down’, but I’ll keep coming back to the Handbook. There’s a lot in there that I haven’t mastered or am not comfortable with, but I have gone through it from cover to cover. Now I’ll just be opening it to revisit specific lessons. I think I may decide to learn one or two of the songs in the songbook. ‘House of the Rising Sun’ has perked my interest, so I will probably go back to that one and work through it in a more coherent manner. …but not tonight, apparently. The cat has other ideas:

He's got a thing for books...little nerd.
He’s got a thing for books…little nerd.

Until Next Time, have a lot to think about, but moving more or less forward. Or, in circles. Possibly scribbly round about lines. But, movement is movement, right?

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