What You Need to Know
PENTATONIC SCALES: There are many songs, particularly from the folk tradition, that use just five notes. A five-note scale is called a pentatonic scale. You’ve already learned four notes by learning the open string tones on the ukulele, GCEA, and how these are notated on the staff (see fig. 1). If we add just one more note (D), there are enough to put together your first pentatonic scale, the C major pentatonic scale (which is particularly easy to play on the ukulele). You can go a long way as solo player just by learning your pentatonic scales.
FRETBOARD DIAGRAMS: Finding all the notes of a particular scale on your fretboard online is made easy by UkeBuddy.com’s scale finder. Just select the root note for the scale you want to learn (C) and then select the kind of scale (major pentatonic). Uke Buddy generates a lovely representation of your fingerboard with all the notes in the scale that looks like this:
You can see that this layout, called a fretboard diagram, has a lot of similarities to tablature (see fig.1), except that instead of showing notes as they happen in time, it is showing them to you all at once.
JUST THREE STRINGS : If you look at strings 1 & 4 you’ll notice that the notes on string 4 repeat all of the notes on 1, just two frets higher. When you get to more advanced techniques (campanella) you’ll be able to use this to your advantage, but for now, pretend you just have three strings: 1, 2 & 3 (A, E & C). That means you’ll need to play G on the third fret of the the E string (string 2).
ONE FINGER PER FRET : For now, assign the 1st finger of the left hand (the fretting hand) to the 1st fret. Assign the 2nd finger to the 2nd fret and the 3rd finger to the 3rd fret. This means you’ll play D on string 3 on with your 2nd finger, G on string 2 with your 3rd, and C on string 1 with your 3rd.
Earn a Soloing Level 1 patch by demonstrating the following:
- After printing out some staff/tab paper (pdf), write out the C major pentatonic scale up to the 3rd fret using whole notes (as in fig. 1). Start with the low C on string 3 and work up to the high C on string 1. Write the appropriate fret numbers on the tab below the staff (numbers should only appear on strings 1, 2 & 3).
- Play the C major pentatonic scale from the bottom note to the top and then from the top note to the bottom. Tempo (speed) does not matter, but keep a steady beat.
- Play a pentatonic melody that uses the notes from the C major pentatonic scale, keeping a steady beat. You may write down an original tune on staff/tab paper (pdf) and play it or play an existing tune like the one shown below for Oh! Susanna. Other possible tunes include Bought me a Cat, Buckey Jim, Goin’ Upon the Mountain, etc..