I guess you could technically call this composing…

So, In the hair-brained act of the week, the tab I was working out for ‘Lean on Me’, writing down like a good girl, by hand…yeah, I threw it out with a pile of garbage paperwork. Whoops! So, I had to start over.

That’s okay. I am absolutely getting better at this tab thing because of it. This time through, I’m using a pencil, because I found the first time I kept accidentally flopping the 2nd and 3rd strings when I was writing, and had to scribble it out and start over. Funny thing about that? Since I am now working in something I can erase, I haven’t made that mistake once yet.

I also spaced out my lines on my homemade music paper so I would have more room for notes and words. On this version I get to use all those fancy words, like “chorus” and “verse” to make the whole thing easier to read. Yay.

And, working it out bar by bar with the lyrics and chords/notes, I am finding I can, in fact, sing along to this song. I can’t say yet if the method is the reason. There are a lot of things that could be going on, so further experimentation is absolutely necessary.

  1. I could just be able to sing along because I had this song drilled into my head before all those synapses reached adolescence, so I know the words pretty darn well most of the time.
  2. Maybe I’m able to sing it because this particular composition leans far closer to the melody than rhythm end of the spectrum. The vocals and strumming mimic one another pretty closely, imho.
  3. Or, maybe, just maybe, the act of breaking down which words go with which chord/note is giving me a more fundamentally solid grasp of the song as a whole unit.

To be honest, it could be any or all of those things, so until I work through more songs that I know I have trouble singing with the same methodology, it will be impossible to say with any certainty if I’m getting better at songs, or just better at picking songs that are easy to sing to.

So, I’ve been breaking the song down, and as I get to the bridge, I find myself just…completely unsatisfied with every way I’m coming across the way it’s done. In the original, I believe it’s pretty much all drums and bass. It’s very percussive. To emulate that when playing on the ukulele, the first lesson I read said to just clap or acapella your way through it. I didn’t like that, so I sort of used the uke as a drum and slapped the body lightly to imitate the beat, which wasn’t bad, but…I just knew there had to be something better, something that felt less like an avoidance tactic.  Then I found notes that it was all C chord, mostly muted. I tried this, and didn’t like that, either. It just felt kind of bland and uninspired. I didn’t like it any better than the first. So, I tried alternating between C and F, between C and Dm…

…and then I started breaking it out piece by piece, as if it was any other part of the song and just, trying different combinations for each bar until I found ones that I thought sounded good. So, whether it’s wise or not at this stage, that’s what I’ve done. I’ve basically just written my own bridge to the song, since I didn’t like what any of the lessons were telling me.

I guess you can technically say that I’ve had my first tiny little taste of writing music tonight.  The rest of the song is pretty much repeating what I’ve already gone through, so it should be fairly easy to copy through to the end at this point. The bridge was my biggest hang-up, and as soon as I can memorize what I wrote, it should go smoothly.

Basically, I just sampled the notes and chords used up to this point and rearranged them in different formations  until I had one that felt right.

Maybe, in a few weeks, I’ll be able to say I know TWO full songs for the ukulele, instead of just one. Won’t that be new and different? 🙂

Until Next Time, still plugging away. Possibly making solid progress.

2 thoughts on “I guess you could technically call this composing…

  1. Sounds like fun! It’s one of the things that I really enjoy doing with some of my favorite songs. I think a healthy balance of the two approaches are the best way to go. You want to build skill and increase your repertoire while at the same time cultivating your imagination 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny, because it seems that it’s only songs that I really have to think out of the box on to get ‘just so’ are the ones that I’m learning well. Of course, there is a concern that the reason I have to think out of the box is because I lack the skill to execute toe songs the way they’re meant to be executed, but it’s equally possible that the lessons are taking the more complex, interesting parts of the songs, and watering them down to ‘any idiot can do this’, which leaves me with something that is just plain uninspired, and I’m picking up on that oversimplification on some level. Until I’m more advanced, I honestly don’t think I can have a solid answer of which is more true, but as long as I’m learning songs, if I’m jimmy-rigging them or experimenting along the way, I think that’s alright. I might just be the type of student who becomes more engaged when there’s a puzzle to solve.

      All I can say for sure is that I still have a lot of trouble mentally processing rhythm and melody simultaneously, and that I’m likely to continue to have that problem for a while. If I want to learn songs rather than just shards of them, the only way around it is to take the parts that aren’t working for me in the original and rework them until they are.

      It is kind of a fun process, but I find it funny that I’m doing it with this particular song, since there is a pop cover on it that turns up on the radio now and again that I absolutely hate. I know the words ‘stop ruining good songs with your s**tty covers!’ came out of my mouth at least once on the subject of ‘Lean on Me’, so it’s a bit ironic that, at the end of the day, I’ve ended up adapting it, too.


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