Revisiting my first song: ‘Turn it On’ by the Flaming Lips, ukulele style.

I have so many things to talk about, but for the moment my thoughts on most of them are pretty scattered.  I’ve been mostly focusing on the ukulele again.  I find when things get hectic, it’s just so incredibly easy to grab an uke and go, which makes me neglect my other instruments. I’m hoping soon things will slow back down again so I can focus, but at the moment, no end is in sight.  The last quarter of the year gets to be the busy season, since we’ve got birthdays and holidays stacked on top of each other, and because I am taking every opportunity to hike while the weather holds. Basically, I do battle with a giant time suck every day from October on. It’s exhausting.

But, in the interest of moving forward, I’ve taken a moment to move a bit backward. I mentioned this briefly in previous posts. Since I don’t actually know all of the words to ‘Wagon Wheel’ yet, what I essentially have to do there is work through the lyrics and build the strum as I get more comfortable with them.  This basically means 1-2 strums per bar as I learn the words, building up to the conventional strum pattern.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t see if I’m able to sing to a song that has more than four strums in a bar, if I use one I’m pretty familiar with. When I first taught myself ‘Turn it On’, I deduced that the original strum pattern didn’t seem to be working for acoustic. In retrospect, it just wasn’t working for me, because I couldn’t sing to it. I wasn’t able to sing to anything with more than 4 strums in a bar. But at this point, I know the song fairly well.  Well enough to push a little further.

It was a bit tough at first. I really want to be accurate and precise in my playing, but it’s impossible to focus on both strumming and singing at the same time. Inevitably, as soon as I move to one, I lose my place in the other. The result is I have to learn to trust myself a little. At a certain point, I had to just trust that my hands would know what to do left to their own devices. That doesn’t agree very well with the perfectionist in me, but I realized along the way that actually, most people won’t notice small mistakes on a song with lyrics, because they’ll be focusing on that. That’s actually not how I listen to music (as evidenced  by the fact that I don’t remember all of the lyrics to most of my favorite songs), so it’s a bit tough to be like ‘It’s okay. Just do it.’  Which is funny, because this is coming from the girl who never plays the end of the song the same way twice because…fuck it.

Still, it’s gone pretty well overall, so I can more or less divert back over to Wagon Wheel and work on learning all the words.  I think it will take a while before I’m able to get up to speed on the strum pattern, but that’s got much more to do with memorization than my actual physical capability to play the song. Until I know the lyrics very well, I just won’t be able to manage both at once.

As a weird little aside, I realized my stupidity of previous recordings. The uke has been much louder than the vocal parts because I’ve just been dropping my phone on my desk and going. This ends up being just about on top of the uke’s soundhole.  At first, I thought I must be singing really quietly, but then I looked down and realized that I could probably balance it out by putting the phone ten or twelve inches away.  That definitely helped, though I still don’t have a perfect sound situation, it’s much better just based on that very small adjustment of leaning it against my computer monitor.

Until Next Time, still moving forward, in my scattered sort of way.

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