STRUMMERS INSTRUMENTAL UKULELE
Welcome to my Strummers Instrumental Ukulele Page.
In pushing oneself beyond the basic chang-a-lang style of
playing, the more advanced ukulele player, sooner or later, seeks something more.
Once a player has pushed through a strong foundation of chords, played their share of
hapa haole tunes, become familiar with a multitude of chords in second position
and has found a few strums that fit their fingers quite nicely,
a yearning to play instrumental music on the ukulele always seems to move into the
more focused foreground.
The most important thing you should walk away with after reading this page is
the basic concept of instrumental playing. Instrumental playing, not to be confused
with chord solos, requires more time and patience in its refinement,
but the payoff is well worth the wait.
Chord solo playing is a method (generally speaking) where only
chords are used in different positions on the ukulele fretboard in order to create a nicely
harmonized piece of music. The melody almost always falls on the highest pitched
(A or 1st) string. In order to play chord solos it is required that a player
be familiar with the chords; reading actual music is not a necessity.
Instrumental playing requires the knowledge of both the ability
to read written music as well as to play the required chord. The following is an
overview of the steps that are needed for instrumental ukulele playing.
The first step in playing instrumental music is knowing how to read the
notes on the staff above. The notes (basic C scale) ascend from the middle C,
(C string on your ukulele), and move an octave upward to C prime. After you
have practiced your note reading for a short time this will seem quite elementary.
After mastering your music reading, time should be taken to
establish a strong foundation of knowledge concerning your ukulele fretboard. You must
move beyond knowing the name of the four open strings, and dive into the heart of the
fretboard, learning the names of the notes at each fret, on each string. Looking at any
fret on your instrument and quickly yelling out each (fret pitch name) instantaneously
is not required here, but having the ability to (in some sort of quickness),
figure out the name of the specific pitch (note) at each fret, would be most
At this point, after learning the names of the music notes on the
staff above, and learning where they are located on the ukulele fretboard, you
should be able to play the C scale, one note at a time, on your instrument.
Once you have the ability to play the
single notes of music, one note at a time, on
your instrument, you are ready to proceed.
On the same C scale, I have placed the chords required to harmonize the
melody (music notes) given.
The Melody of a song is the part you would whistle.
The Harmony of the song is (are) the chords.
Up until this point you have probably
done one of two things: you have either played
chords and sang, (strummed the harmony and sang the melody), or you have
sat quietly and plucked out the notes of a song one at a time, (hearing the entire
piece in your head, Yeah?). Both of these are excellent.
Now put them together.
Steps In Instrumental Playing
First, Using the C scale (with chords) above,
learn the names of the notes as they ascend upwards on the music staff.
Second, Learn how to play the melody (alone) on
your instrument. Take the time to know where each individual note of the song is located
on your fretboard. Not knowing where a note is located will only slow down your learning
process when you add the chords.
Next, Make sure you are familiar with all the chords in the
song you are about to play. Not knowing a particular chord will also get in the way when
you are working on combining the melody and harmony.
Then, Finger the chord as you pick the musical note given.
Make sure you are fingering the right note and fingering the correct chord.
Next, This is of most importance, don't bury the
melody note under your chords, or other notes. The melody note must be the highest
note sounding off the instrument.
Here is an example of what I mean:
As a band director for 9 years I realized that if I placed the entire
band (38 people) on trumpets, trombones, saxophones, clarinets
and tubas, and at the same time I placed a 10 year old girl on piccolo, as I had
them all play, I would be able to hear that little girl on piccolo.
The human ear is naturally drawn to the highest sound.
So, it is important that the melody note is the highest note being played, or
at least, accented. You don't want to draw attention to the notes that are
supporting the melody, you want the melody to be heard.
If the melody note falls somewhere
within the inner (lower sounding) strings, the higher notes of the chord will
hide the melody note you want people to hear. Therefore, use caution
when picking the note and fingering (strumming) the chord. The melody note
has the priority, the chord (harmony) is secondary in importance. If the melody
note falls on the low C string and you still want to strum, just make sure you pick the
melody note loudly and strum the chord softly. (Accent the melody note as you
play but still support it softly with the chord).
Lastly, over time, add strums where the melody has no
movement. As long as you are fingering the chord and picking individual notes of the
melody, the song has movement. When the melody slows down or stops (due to a
half note or whole note) something has to happen; that's when you strum.
Tips for playing Instrumental Music:
1. Know how to read the music notes.
2. Know your chords.
3. Strive to learn the notes on the fretboard. The faster you do this,
the more enjoyment you'll have, and quicker.
4. Finger the chord. If you make a mistake when you are picking the notes,
you can always strum the chord.
5. Always finger the chord. No cheating here. If you find it difficult, check for
the same chord in a different position.
6. Remember to play no note higher than the melody note. You don't want to "bury"
the melody under a bunch of supportive notes. Melody is priority, chords (harmony)
You should be able to find everything you need on this site to aid in your
learning to play instrumentally. Fretboard diagrams, how to read music pages,
music note flashcards and this short tutorial on Instrumental playing. All you need to
have is patience. As I have people read through this page for me, over time I may
add to it and take some away in order to make it easier to understand, but the overall
concept will remain.
This is a whole new way to play the ukulele, have some patience and give yourself a break.
In time, with good practice, all things become easier.
Any questions just ask.
Copyright© 2003 CF