A four week course on Improvisation (on the ukulele) for Intermediate players
Time: Tuesdays – 7:00 – 8:30pm
and repeated Wednesdays 4-5.30pm
Dates: 13,14, 20,21, 27,28 April, & 4,5 May
Tuesday Meeting number 872 9539 5545
Wednesday Meeting number 874 2297 3944
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
This course will give you opportunities to improvise in class. Some of this can be live (ish), most will be in your own privacy bubble, but we also ask that you submit homework each week. To get the best sound in Zoom, please select Original Sound. This document tells you how to do this – Optimising Zoom for Musicians
Join the Facebook Group (click here) to submit ‘homework’ and to participate in conversations about improvisation. We ask you to submit an improvisation on a song each week for comments by your peers.
Assumed Knowledge (what you should know already, or be ready to practice)
- how to play your pentatonic scales
- how to use the circle of fifths (roughly)
- How to play your blues scales
- Notes in the home position of the ukulele
Repertoire for every week (please print these out and have them ready every week)
Chromatic scale (all the notes on the fretboard)
We have provided you with online material that contains video of us playing songs that you can improvise on. Please use this site to practice and refine your improvising each week.
Week One: revision of pentatonic scales major and learning the pentatonic minor scale
- Review of diatonic songs (songs that stay in one key)
- Review of improvising using the pentatonic major scale
- Learning how to improvise on minor key songs with the pentatonic minor scale
- Combine the major pentatonic and with relative minor pentatonic scale
- Learning harmonised scales to give more texture on your improv
Repertoire for Week One
Diatonic songs and major pentatonic scale
Minor scale songs
Combining the relative minor and major pentatonic scales
I’m On Fire A song in F major that you can use F major pentatonic (5th fret) and the D minor pentatonic (2nd fret)
Sea of Heartbreak A song in G major that you can use G major pentatonic (7th fret) and the E minor pentatonic (4th fret)
Free Falling A song in A major that you can use A major pentatonic (9th fret) and the F#minor pentatonic (6th fret)
and harmonised riffs
Please print or download all of the above sheets for our session.
More Suggestions for Improvisation:
- Listen to the chord changes
- Sing a melody over the chord changes
- Vary the scale rhythmically and melodically
- Play small patterns of the scale
- Break the improvisation into small sections Eg. two bars with only two different chords in them
- Use ‘tricks’ such as hammers, pull offs, vibrato, bends and slides to achieve professional sounds
- Learn some ‘licks’ and vary them
Please record yourself doing an improvisation on a diatonic song (of your choice) using the harmonised scale in places OR a song in a minor key using the minor pentatonic scale. Submit it to the Facebook Group where your fellow Zookulelians will give you constructive feedback.
Videos of Week One
Two sessions for the price of one!
Tuesday Session – please provide recommendations for stylists for Mark when he features on our highly produced videos
Wednesday Session – please provide appropriate captions to suit Emily’s Thumbnailed face
Week Two: Reviewing Expression, Rhythm, Blues AAB form, Sequencing and Syncopation.
Review of Expressive Techniques
Hammers, pull offs, vibrato, bends and slides!
1. Review of Blues improv call and response
So we are going to play a few blues songs encouraging you to response to the vocal or musical line. Remember to keep some conversation going but don’t interrupt!
We will play Blue Yodel for this.
2. Review of Rhythm drill
To get more rhythm into your playing, use only three different notes for your improv and the only thing you can change is the rhythm. Remember to use hammers and pull offs!
See Sam Lemann does this really well.
Print the above pdf and play along with Sam
3. Blues AAB form
The blues improv can often be in a AAB form, that means you repeat the same first phrase twice (A) and then play a different phrase (B) on the third time.
The song Caldonia is a great example of this. We will play through this slowly.
A repeated scale pattern that when repeated, starts each time at a different note but keeps the same pattern.
Such as (on the G string) 023, 235, 357, 5
Let’s use the D blues scale to create a sequence of notes.
Let’s get off the beat, and use a bit of syncopation in our playing. Let’s start with C jam blues but the best song for syncopation is Sonny Moon for Two.
REPERTOIRE FOR WEEK TWO
Listen to the tune of Caldonia here.
Listen to the tune of Sonny Moon for Two here.
Videos of the Week Two
Please record yourself doing an improvisation on a blues backing track (of any key) in an AAB form and submit it to the facebook group where people will give you some constructive feedback.
Week Three: Steal From The Melody
Melody is the foundation of a good solo. Using the melody as a base for a solo is one of the best devices (you steal from the melody). Tunes are the ingredients for your solo playing.
Words of wisdom from Sam Lemann
Sometimes all you have to do for a great solo is embellish the melody! Learn it the melody well and then try some of these ideas:
Keep the exact shape but change the notes
Add chords to notes melody (that suit)
Add notes within a melody phrase but keep the important melody notes - turn crotchets into quartet notes
Add notes the beginning or end of a phrase.
Add a chords or phrase in gaps of the melody
Try a complimentary shape.
The more melodies you learn, the more you’ll have in your improv tank!
Messing with the melody
Explore ways of adding notes and chords to the melodies of Love Me Tender, Sway and Autumn Leaves.
- Firstly add a bit of syncopation to the melody
- Then add a few more notes
- Fill in the gaps with an extra motif
- Fill in the occasional gaps with some rhythmic chords
- Play the shape of the melody in a different place
- Maybe add a bit of sequencing
Tension and Release
Next we will explore how to create tension and then release or resolution in your playing. Another word for this might be allowable tension: be aware of the notes you play, particularly the ending notes, and how they relate the the chord being played.
A good example of this is Spanish Harlem.
REPERTOIRE FOR WEEK THREE
Backing tracks for Homework
Video of the Week Three
Please record yourself doing an improvisation on any song (perhaps one of these three) where you have changed the melody and submit it to the facebook group where people will give you some constructive feedback.
Using chords up the neck CAGFD
For many songs that have chords borrowed from other keys (such as secondary dominants) one scale cannot fit the whole song. Learning how to play chords up the neck allow you to have another improv tool up your sleeve.
Learn each of the most commonly used chords shapes, so that you can arpeggiate a solo on songs that are really tough to solo on. You might learn the chords, the progressions, and the inversions, to do this. It also allows you to find the sympathetic notes and harmony notes. You can also use a bit of campanella (ringing notes) in your solo.
REPERTOIRE FOR WEEK FOUR
The songs from last week as well as the following
Some examples of chord inversions in these songs you can use (from Stephe Payne)
Inversions for Aged And Mellow around the 7th fret
C 9 7 8 7
E7 7 8 7 7
F 10 9 8 8
Bb9 10 10 9 8
A7 9 7 9 7
D7 7 9 8 9
C#M7 9 8 9 11
Inversions for Aged And Mellow around the 3rd fret
C 5 4 3 3
E7 4 4 4 5
F 5 5 5 3
Bb9 3 5 6 3 or B7 2 3 2 2
A7 2 4 3 4
D7 2 2 2 3
C#M7 1 1 1 3
Inversions For Creep around the 7th fret
G 7 7 7 10
B7 8 9 7 9
C 9 7 8 7
Cm 8 7 8 10
Video of week 4
Please record yourself doing an improvisation on a song of your choice using chord shapes up the neck to perform your improvisation. Submit it to the facebook group where people will give you some constructive feedback.