Thursday, January 31, 2013


My wife finished--and passed--her course for becoming a Medical Aide today.  She still has to take the state certification exam on Tuesday before she's a real Med Aide.  I am quite relieved that she passed.  I had no doubt she knew everything she needed to, but when she was younger she would kind of freeze when taking tests and do badly because of it.  I think, with growing older, she has managed to grow out of that particular stress factor.

I am still making very slow but noticeable progress with the ukulele, and I'm happy to know that my musical ear hasn't gone bad.  I worked out two more songs today fairly quickly when I got home:  "Bird on a Wire" by Leonard Cohen and that old country song "Fraulein" by...somebody.  Who was it?  I don't know.  (Okay, Bobby Helms--I looked it up).  I don't know all the words to yet it but the music is just one of those three chord songs.  I want to be able to do it as a sort of family joke.*  Yesterday I worked out "Flowers on the Wall," too, which uses only four chords (I, IV, V and vi).  The Cohen song is also a four-chord song, but a little different in flavor:  I, ii, IV and V.  And this is probably going to sound weird, but I've been working on my own "cover" version:  a slowed-down, melancholic version of "Don't Stop Believing."  I think it sounds pretty good, but then I'm not an objective judge.

Right now I mainly focusing on changing smoothly from F to G and G to F, and also working on getting a smooth change into Em from pretty much everything.  There are a few chords that I don't know if I'll ever be able to play:  namely E and B♭.  Also B minor, which is almost the same finger positions as  B♭.  Until I can get a  B♭ down, I can't really play anything in the key of F, and of course not being able to do E makes it hard to play anything in A unless I can cheat by using an E7, which is pretty easy.  I need the B minor so I can play a vi chord in D.

I've already done a little research on tenor ukes.  I'm hoping I feel confident enough by the beginning of next year that I can justify buying one.  I've found a few that are supposed to be pretty good instruments for less than $200.  I think that, with the slightly larger size, some of the chords won't be quite so cramped.  The D chord especially I have trouble with just because of three fingers all squished together side by side, but I can still play it.

I think I'm going to go ahead and get some better strings pretty soon.

My next song project will be to see if there are any Stevie Nicks songs that I can play.  I'm thinking maybe "After the Glitter Fades" (from her Belladonna album) would fit the mold.  It has a very country-ish sound that would probably work with a lot of the other songs I'm trying to learn.  Trivia:  "After the Glitter Fades" was actually released on the country music charts.  I remember hearing it on KKYX several times way back when.  I thought it was kind of funny back then.  Yeah, I just looked it up and it's just a three-chord song.  I thought so.

*Okay, so here's the story.  My family has a tradition of holding summer reunions that started back in the 50s (several years before I was born).  In the olden days, and up until I was a young teenager, this involved camping.  As time went by we drifted more toward non-camping settings, but still someplace where we could all gather and have places to sleep on site for like 3 days and 2 nights.  We have also had the tradition of family members bringing musical instruments (usually that means guitars)** and having sing-alongs on those nights.  I guess it started with a great-uncle of mine who would open-tune his guitar and strum with it lying in his lap while chording it with the back of his pocket knife.  Later his son also brought his guitar (he played it in the traditional way), and a couple of my other cousins also played guitar well enough to get by in these little sing-along things.  Still later, when I was an older teenager, some other relative--I have no idea how I was related to him--brought his gear.  Now, this guy was I guess what you could call a semi-pro.  He didn't make a living playing music, but he did do paid gigs in country dance halls and so forth.  So, he actually had amplifiers and sang into a microphone.  By which I mean, he was loud, and his performance was hard to escape or ignore.  Myself and three of my cousins would get as far away from him as we could and play 42 late into the morning, but there was no getting out of earshot of him.  He wasn't bad--he was actually quite good--but the problem was, he kept playing "Fraulein" over and over.  I mean he would play it four or five times a night.  I guess he didn't have a very big repertoire.  We got so sick of hearing that d*** song and we took to calling him "The Fraulein Guy."  So I'm hoping to be able to bang it out at the next reunion just so I can see the looks on my cousins faces.  As years went by, the people who played guitar stopped coming to the reunions, or died, and nobody does it anymore.

**One year, an in-law of mine who plays sax brought his horn and a CD of backing music to play with, kind of like saxophone karaoke.  I sat there and listened to the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed it, but he only did it that one time.

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