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Saturday, July 6, 2013


So, I really don't know what a chord even is.

As I mentioned in the prior post, one of my summer projects is the ukulele. This is actually my second formal run at this particular objective. The summer before I went into the deans' hallway, I actually took lessons from a fellow down at Dusty Strings in Fremont. I didn't get very far, probably because I insisted that he teach to my left-brain style. I wanted to understand how music worked, in detail, before I could attempt to actually play anything. I mean, I know there's math in there - it's all about ratios and intervals and how far one note is from another, and it all boils down to numbers of hertz and stuff at the bottom.

Well, it turns out knowing all that stuff, even if you can keep it straight, which I couldn't, really doesn't help much. Or maybe more precisely, that approach is unnecessary. I mean, Coco couldn't tell a hertz from a hearse, but she can harmonize at the drop of a hat and tell me that my A string is out of tune when I have to look at the app on my smartphone.

Harmony is something I have never been able to do. I never understood how some folks just know  what note to sing that will sound good with the note someone else is singing. How do learn that? Not my learning math, apparently.

And I beginning to understand that this is what a chord is - it's a bunch of notes sung or played at the same time that sound good together because they are in harmony. And I think I get that when I play chords on my ukelele, the chords sorta match the note being played or sung to produce the melody - I think because the note is actually in the chord or because it somehow otherwise matches the notes that make up the chord.

Now, that paragraph totally exhausted my musical knowledge. But like Donald Rumsfeld, I recognize the existence of known unknowns. I mean, I know that there are different types of chords, but I have no idea what they are and how they differ from each other. And some of the notes that make up the chords are minor, and some are sharps, and some are flats, and some have a "7," and I don't really know what any of that means, except I think it has something to do with the math and the hertz.

And I guess where I am going with this is that I am not going to try to figure it out beforehand. I am going to practice my chords, and practice my chord changes, and then play the chords to songs I know how to sing and see how they sound. And maybe if I do this like a million times, something will start to seep in about how this music stuff works. And if I start to get some sort of sense of it, maybe then the math will start to make sense.

I might even learn how to harmonize.

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