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From The Ukulele Yes! Vault
Re-prints of vintage Ukulele Yes! articles

Marven Shields offers advice on introducing blues improvisation to beginners. It might be easier than you think! Reprinted from Ukulele Yes! Volume 5 (1980).

Blues Improvising For Beginners
By Marven Shields

This article is in C6 tuning (g, c, e, a).
Click here to read in D6 tuning (a, d, f#, b).

In the key of A this is very easily done. One can use any open string note, any note of the 2nd fret and the 'C' (3rd fret 1st string) to create a melody:

fig. 1: Available Notes in the key of A

A preliminary exercise might be:

  • Play 2nd fret and open string notes (in that order) on strings 1-2-3 and 4, followed by open string and 2nd fret notes (in that order) on string 4-3-2-1.

Now, one has the facility to create many interesting improvised melodies. Start with quarter notes only, then begin experimenting rhythmically. Other techniques such as bends, hammer-ons and pulloffs may be introduced later.

This pattern of improvising a melody is moveable so we can use it in any key we wish. For example:

C / / / C / / / C / / / C7 / / /
F7 / / / F7 / / / C / / / C / / /
G7 / / / F7 / / / C / / / G7 / / /

The pitches to use in an improvised melody are: all pitches at the 3rd and 5th frets as well as the E-flat at the 6th fret, 1st string.

fig. 2: Available notes In the key of C

Here you use many of the same techniques used in cross-string scales.

Blues For Uke

In the key of A

Easy progression

Play with a lilting strum:

A / / / A / / / A / / / A7 / / /
D7 / / / D7 / / / A / / / A / / /
E7 / / / D7 / / / A / / / E7 / / /

More Advanced Progression

The more advanced version of this progression uses some new chords: A6, A7, D6 and D7. Here's how to turn A into A6 or A7:

Add finger 3 (on the "x" in the diagram above) to get A6, then add finger 4 (the square in the diagram above) to get A7.

Here's how to turn D into D6 or D7:

Add finger 4 on the "x" to get D6, then slide into fret 3 (the square in the diagram above) to get D7.

Play with a lilting strum:

A / A6 / A7 / A6 /
A / A6 / A7 / A6 /
D / D6 / D7 / D6 /
A / A6 / A7 / A6 /
E7 / / / D7 / / /
A / / / E7 / / /

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An innovative and energetic teacher, Marven is the author of the landmark ukulele text A Music Reading Program for Ukulele. Formerly Supervisor of Music in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Marven is now retired and lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


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Comment: (max. 2000 characters)

Name: Oliver González
Date posted: January 11, 2012 - 01:14 am
Message: Thanks for the information!
I made a similar post on my ukulele blog regarding blues for ukulele