Grabbed a solid koa Imua tenor ukulele in Kona last year and have been sitting down with it this summer. Picking up the uke has always been something I’ve wanted to do. Needed to do. We were both born in Honolulu, after all. (Its ancestors can be traced to Portugal.)
Music was my major in college, and all that theory’s still very much alive in my brain, so it’s been fun to revisit the stuff and apply it to this magical little instrument. I’ve never picked up the strings before, so the finger positions are all very new and awkward to me right now. But at least the theory’s out of the way.
One of the first things I’m determined to get into the muscle memory is the classic Hawaiian I-II7-V7-I vamp in all keys. Working through the circle of fifths recently, I read about an exercise that travels clockwise around the circle in a progression that takes you around the thing in logical laps. All you need to do is add the I7 to the end of the main vamp, and it’ll pull you to the fourth immediately adjacent in the clockwise direction, landing on the new I. Modulation via secondary dominant sevenths and all that.
I’ve been doing these types of laps around the circle, using separate diagrams as my finger guide. Yet since I’m still such a uke baby, the roads between my brain and fingers aren’t paved yet. Too much energy is spent just digging through the files in my memory bank and looking for the next finger position.
So I put the thing on grid. It allows you to through the first row, then the second, … all the way down to the the twelfth, then back to the top, effectively cruising counterclockwise around the circle of fifths indefinitely using the Hawaiian vamp. (Study the grid for a moment and some patterns will become beneficially apparent to you.)
Have fun with it. And aloha.
Ukulele I-II7-V7-I-I7 progression for counterclockwise laps around the circle of fifths: