Sunday, 12 August 2012
A GENTLE WAVE - Ukulele Improvisation by Ken Middleton
Just the thing for a peaceful Sunday - tranquility, a calm sea and beautiful sounds from a ukulele. I've already listened to this three times - the usual, when I have really enjoyed a piece of music.
Ken Middleton is a dab-hand at improvisation. I wish I could do it - I know that I could, if I knew my way round the uke fret-board - and there's only one answer to that - work at it.
You have to know your way round the ukulele the way that you know your way round your own house - blindfold. To know where everything is. On the ukulele, that means every note, every chord, every progression, every movement by step up and down an scale, every leap to the note you want... and it means work, concentration and application, and exercising your memory. If you rely completely on chord charts and tabs, you never learn to master the instrument, because you don't know it intimately enough - it's like knowing something only second-hand, somehow.
You also need to know something about structure - structure of a musical piece. If you play, you know that most pieces are played in one key - and the most common key for the uke is the key of C - because that's the easiest key to play in for the ukulele. But a piece of music also has a musical form or shape - and a very common and basic one is AABA.
"Whaaat?" Don't panic. Think of a song - better still, look here, at how music works. I don't believe in reinventing the wheel - this chap explains it very well..... AABA song structure is actually very, very familiar to all of us!
For more detail look at 32 bar form.
AABA is just for starters, but it's a very good start, and enough to keep you going and thinking for a while.
So, knowing a bit about structure in music helps when you want to improvise. Is it essential? Well, it certainly gives you a framework, which you can build on.
Trying to remember how to play pieces without the papers in front of you is a great starter - keep the music nearby to go to when you're stuck, but remember, memorising the musical pathways is a great learning pathway to knowing your instrument. And anyway, it's so much nicer to be able to pick up your uke and just play it, instead of always having to have the music up in front of you.
So - if you want to be able to improvise, know your instrument. I resolve to get to know mine. And start looking at how pieces of music are structured. It's really interesting!