Single-Note Licks and Fills on Ukulele

Ukulele issue 2 cover

by Fred Sokolow

Here are some up-the-neck chords you can use to create more chord-based licks and solos. Example 4 is a chord-based solo for "C.C. Rider" using some new shapes, including the D7s in measures 5-6 and the E7, Eb7, and D7 in measures 9-10. This example is an improvisation based on the songs's 12-bar chord structure. Like many blues solos, it doesn't express the song's melody, but it rocks!

Ukulele Blues Ex. 5-6
Click to enlarge.

Single-Note Licks and Fills

Many classic blues licks are linear: single-note, melodic phrases that are based on chords. Example 5 shows some one-measure single-note blues licks based on an A or A7 chord. Most of them are played while actually fretting the A or A7 chord.

The licks in measures 4 and 5 include string-bending, an essential blues technique in which you play a fretted string and bend it up or down with the fretting finger. Bend the string uptoward the ceiling on the first and second strings and downtoward the floor on the third string. Sometimes you stretch a string and stop it at the high point (as in measure 5), while other times you bend the note and then release it (measure 4).

It’s easy to play single-note licks based on chords if you build a vocabulary of licks for every chord shape you play. The organic way to do this is to play a chord shape and hunt for useful notes that surround it. Example 6 shows some one-measure E7 and D7 licks: the D7 licks are based on the two-finger D7 shape shown above the notation.

Excerpted from Ukulele issue 2

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