A five week course on Improvisation (on the ukulele) for skilled players
Time: Tuesday 5-6.45pm
Dates: 31st August, 7, 14, 21, 28th Sept
Meeting number 814 0684 9612
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)
- the pentatonic scales
- use the circle of fifths (roughly)
- the blues scales
- notes in the home position of the ukulele
- some music theory
- some chord shapes up the neck
- read either tab or music notation
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 along to. Please use this site to practice and refine your improvising each week. Available soon.
Week One: Rhythm, Articulation and Phrasing
with help from the blues scale.
Explore the impact of good phrasing using limited notes. We will look at classic swing/jazz phrases, call and answer riffs, the blues AAB vocal form and adding notes to the blues scale.
REPERTOIRE FOR WEEK ONE please print off these pdfs
1. Rhythm drill
The endless options in soloing can be daunting so it’s a good idea to set some rhythm boundaries so you can make good use of your notes. There are some classic Swing/Jazz phrasing using syncopation – mixing 1/4 and 1/8th notes. Hear this in the warm up rhythm drill below.
Rhythmic Exercise – use 3 notes from the blues scale. If you can create great rhythmic phrases, the notes are a bonus.
print the above pdf and play along with Sam
2. Same Rhythm different notes (and vice versa)
This is where you follow the rhythm of song but use different notes from the melody. We will do this on two songs: Sonny Moon for Two and Strolling With Bones. Both of these are one riff tunes that can be messed with!
3. Blues AAB form
That means you repeat the same first phrase twice (A) and then play a different phrase (B) on the third time. Blue’s Walk is a good example of this style.
For soloing over a Blues try copying a typical 12 bar vocal form.
- 1st 4 Bars – Play a phrase or short phrases that fit into 4 bars
- 2nd 4 Bars – Repeat the same phrase
- Last 4 bars – Something different and resolving
4. Where Blues meet Jazz – adding non Blues scale notes
Some songs will combine the Major and minor (Blues) pentatonic scales. T-bone Shuffle and Caledonia are both examples of this.
And here is Sam playing all three tunes to a backing track!
Use this backing track for your homework. You can slow it down to 75% if you need to.
Homework 1: pick one of the songs in C and using the backing track (C swing blues) provided play the melody of the song, then do a solo for the next two rounds of the song, then end it with a run of the melody. Post the results on facebook.
1st time melody
2nd time solo
3rd time solo
4th time melody
Homework 2: change your rhythm and make a solo on a blues song with just 3 notes. (Don’t post this to facebook). Remember to use hammers and pull offs!
Video of the Week One
Week Two: 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.
Explore ways of adding notes and chords to the melodies of Autumn Leaves, Dream a Little Dream of Me, Perfidia and Mack The Knife.
Transcribing and analyzing more complex (swing, bebop tunes) melodies is a great way of adding to your bank of soloing ideas. They give you an idea of what notes work over chords and the phrases are often stealable!
Words of wisdom from Sam
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!
REPERTOIRE FOR WEEK TWO
Mack the Knife pdf page two is for your interest –
You are not expected to play those chords!
BACKING TRACKS FOR WEEK TWO
Mack the Knife mp3 backing track for you to play over
MACK THE KNIFE Here is Sam showing us how to do it!
and if you want to see the version Sonny Rollins’ plays here it is in notation!
Video of the Week Two
Pick one of these four songs (Autumn Leaves, Dream a little Dream of Me, Mack the Knife, Perfidia) to improvise on. Use one of the backing tracks provided. Then put it on the facebook page.
We will play each song again next week so please make sure you know the tunes well enough to play.
Week Three: Using chords up the neck (CAGFD) for your solo and other tricks
Chords up the Neck CAGFD
Learn some tricks for each shape, learn the chords, the progressions, and the inversions, to allow you to arpeggiate a solo. Find the sympathetic notes and harmony notes. Use a bit of campanella in your solo.
You need to get your ears to tell where your fingers should go; calibration between fingers and ear. So you can hear when you need to move a tone (two frets) or semitone (one fret).
Use chords up the neck (melody on the high string) and use the harmony notes to support the melody note.
The Diminished Scale
- The most obviously place to use it is over a diminished chord – like over the A diminished in Mack the Knife.
- It’s also very at of being used of the dominant 7th (5) to 1 chord – especially in minor keys like the B7 to Em in Sway.
- Over the B7 you would use the notes of A diminished (which could also be called C, D# or F# diminished!)
- Those notes just happen to be the 3rd, 5th, b7th and b9th of the B7 chord – which is why the sound great!
Diminished scale – how to use them.
Start by trying just the arpeggio to get the feel on the position and gradual add in the scale tones.
The arpeggio is often more used in solos that the full scale as its pure diminished notes all the way.
Montuno Picking Pattern
Vary your improvisations with this picking pattern, especially when you are using chords up the neck.
Backing tracks for Homework
Mack the Knife mp3 backing track for you to play over
Video of Week Three (in two parts)
Play any of the above tunes but incorporate chords up the neck (closed position chords) into your solo as well as put in a diminished arpeggio where you can (over the V7 chord going back to the I). IF you can also manage a montuno picking pattern for a couple of bar then wow!!!
Week Four: Scale Tone Chords (the chords that are built off the scale)
We are taking our progress another step further and adding sympathetic chords into our melodies. Try playing Mack The Knife but adding in extra chords to enrich the melody.
Video of the Week Four
Play any of the above tunes but incorporate scale tone chords up the neck into your solo and use the chord notes for your melody. Try to keep to one rhythm (for simplicity) but work the song into something that is your own interpretation of the song.
Week Five: Integrating all we’ve learnt
We are reviewing all the theory that we have covered and applying it to our blues repertoire.
Repertoire (every thing we’ve looked at so far)
Video of week five