Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fun with Ukulele - St. Thomas basic melody (Sonny Rollins)

My no name baritone uke
Thanks to John Gonzales del Solar at Fan Guitar and Ukulele I've had a baritone ukulele strung up for about a week and a half now.  It's just a cheap, thrift store, no name baritone uke but it's got a good sound to it.  I've been messing around on it and the first tune I picked out by ear was Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Playing ukulele is good complement to my study of tenor banjo because it use a different tuning.  The 4-string banjo is tuned in 5ths like a mandolin or cello - GDAE from the lowest to highest strings.  The 4-strings of the baritone uke are tuned DGBE from lowest to highest, like the 4 highest strings on a guitar.  The different tuning of the uke helps reinforce ear training interval recognition.

I'm finding that the ukulele also has its own benefits.  The uke tuning offers a better "chord" sound than a 5ths tuning of a mandolin or tenor banjo, potentially making it easier to hear chord changes and making the uke more suited to strumming and singing songs.  In addition, classic melodies that don't have a wide interval between the lowest and highest notes are very conducive to playing on the ukulele.
Due to the way the uke is tuned, you can easily play these melodies in a closed position, never having to utilize open strings like I have to do on tenor banjo due to the longer stretches.  Because you don't need to use any open strings when playing a melody on the baritone ukulele, it means that it's a no-brainer to transpose that melody to almost any other key.

Today I learned the basic melody to the tune St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins.  The recording below is in the key of C, but on ukulele I could instantly change it to another key by simply retaining the same pattern up the neck.  It would take me a lot longer to transpose it on tenor banjo.

St. Thomas is a jazz tune, so you're supposed to improvise after introducing the main theme.  I haven't gotten to the improvisation part yet, but one thing at a time, right?

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