Blog, Fenwick The Grape, Music, Original

Guest Post: The Accuracy Of An Art

Good after evening to you all. Welcome to… a rant.

So, recently, on my endeavours throughout the world (South London) I was sent out on a quest for eggs. Half an hour later saw my return with eggs, bagels, sweets, a box of small percussive instruments and a ukulele. The uke only cost me £15 but I bought it from Lidl and was only supposed to purchase one item. Thrifty or not, I leave that to your absent musings.

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Fast forward a few lazy months and here I sit in front on my laptop, very annoyed and on the verge of being thoroughly resigned to going downstairs to sit at my piano in order to work out exactly what it is I’m trying to play because the internet seems too incompetent to be of any real service to me.

I shall explain.

Let’s begin with, I have no real idea of how to play a stringed instrument, let alone a ukulele. In my introductory post two weeks ago, I mentioned that I sing and also play piano. This isn’t the extent of my abilities but any other instrument is rudimentary at my best attempt.

An example; I can play an accordion, which sounds whimsically exotic until I further explain that I can only play the piano keys while operating the bellow. The fancy chordal buttons are as simple as understanding traditional Chinese characters. I exaggerate, I’m sure, but as I don’t own one (until Lidl is willing to branch out its musical range) there’s no way for me to get to grips with operating the entire thing. But I digress.

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My point is that instruments seem to be, for me, a bit of a “Jack of all trades” affair, in which I can play only what I can play. Thus, my having to reach out to the vast superiority of complex knowledge, held captive in the ether of the internet (internet – ethernet… I’m sure there’s a joke in there).

So here you find me, on the Ultimate Guitar website, browsing through a plethora of artists, songs, chord charts and tablature, the latter of which I find more trouble than it’s worth to read, while many a young guitar enthusiast would assure me that it’s wonderfully simple. I’d sooner sight sing grade 8 pieces, but again I digress. The upside of this website is that there is no limit to songs ,or artists, that can be found on there. So, should your heart be yearning to host a karaoke night, with your friends, and sing through all your favourite N’Sync tracks, by the power of the guitar chord fairies it shall be done.

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The very, VERY, excruciatingly frustrating downside is that, over the years I’ve found many of the chords written out to be…well, just plain wrong. Not entire songs, but often very important chords. Other times very easy chords. A minor where there should be a major. A sus2 when it should be a minor7b5. And now the non-musos have gone to sleep upon seeing algebra.

It’s annoying, because this is a website, much like Wikipedia, where you can edit things at will and no one is really going to follow it up too closely, if you make a mistake. On the chart that I’m presently huffing and puffing over, at the top the creator has written,

here are the chords used to play it.
It doesn't sound exactly the same but it's correct 🙂

No.

No smiley face.

If it doesn’t sound the same THEN IT CAN’T BE CORRECT.

Don’t be absurd. You couldn’t figure out the right chords, so you put chords that fit the melody line and therefore don’t sound wrong. But they are wrong. I’m not here looking for wrong. It’s a good thing these are free to read. Anyone truly musically inclined, and for that matter, who know the song well enough, will realise that something is off. The chords don’t sound bad when performed, but they don’t sound like how they should. It doesn’t portray the same feeling as the original.

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What’s even more annoying is that I’m now expected to go be the musician, I went to music university to be, and figure out the chords myself. But sometimes, you don’t want to full on theory class it. You just want to sit with your little £15 uke, and have a nice little sing-along. And, as I don’t have the luxury of knowing my way around enough of the chords yet, like I (sort of) do on a guitar, I’ll have to go to my piano, work out what the chords should be, find out how to play them on the ukulele, and THEN be able to play the song that should have taken only 10 minutes of my time to learn.

-Breathes-

I think the reality of my problem is that my piano is downstairs, I am upstairs, and I am also rather comfortable where I sit. My piano is in my office, and it’s cold there.

The moral of the story is (there was a lesson in all that complaining?) that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

But I won’t be doing it today.

Signed,

Fenwick

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