In May of 2019, I completed a transcription of Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony for solo ‘Ukulele. This post is the first installment in what will become a series that introduces my transcription to you, one page at a time.
You might be wondering what the heck this is all about, so let me try to explain what I’ve done. Back in February of 2019, I was improvising, as I often do, on the ‘Ukulele, and I fell into this pattern while fingering a C major chord across the seventh fret:
You might recognize this as the opening of the fifth and final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, commonly known as the “Pastorale” symphony. I immediately had a crazy idea: Why not figure out how to play the final movement on the Uke? It seemed like it could work. Now, I often have a lot of crazy ideas that flash through my head. I’m sure you do too. For most of us, most of the time, I think they remain just that – ideas. This, however, became one of those rare ideas that I acted on.
After playing around with this a little while longer, I decided that just learning how to play the final movement was not ambitious enough for me. I decided that it would be better to learn to play the entire symphony. And so that’s what I did. Yes, it was a big project, probably the most ambitious musical project I’ve taken on so far. Beethoven’s Pastorale is around 40 minutes’ worth of music, written for a full orchestra, and the challenge was to adapt it so it would fit onto the ‘Ukulele in a playable way.
The transcription work started on February 13 of 2019. Once it was clear what I was up against, I established a daily routine for myself: Every morning, I would get up, usually around 5 a.m. or so. The first fifteen minutes of the day would be devoted to taking out Coco, my miniature Dachshund, feeding her, making sure my teenage kid was up and starting to get ready for school, and brewing a cup of coffee or tea. As soon as the preliminary “waking up” activities were done, I would get to work. It would take about an hour to transcribe one page of the score, so I made the decision to do just one page every morning. To make things less complicated for myself, I did not use a computer or notation software. I wrote the tablature for my transcription into my journal, a book of blank 8 1/2 x 11″ pages I bought from Michael’s.
Once I get going with something, I tend to stick with it. I’m proud to say that from February 13 to May 2 I completed a page every morning, without missing a single day!
Now that the transcription is done, I have two scary things in front of me. The first is to learn how to play the symphony that I transcribed-to create a convincing performance. The second is to get it out into the world and share it with all of you. My gut tells me that there are at least a thousand people in the world who might want to know how to play this piece, maybe more. So my mission now is to make it available to anyone who wants to learn it. At first I waffled about this, indulging in my fear. In fact, I did this for the entire month of May. What I finally am coming to realize is that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. I can do it anyway.
Here’s the second installment in my YouTube series. During the first part of the video I perform the first two pages of my transcription. I then talk a little bit about Beethoven’s coffee habits and about some of the comments on the project I’ve received so far:
Want to take a deep dive into one of the greatest pieces of music ever written and maybe even learn how to play it yourself? You’re invited along for the ride! Any questions are most welcome. What would you like to know about the project? Are you more interested in learning to play the piece? The process of translating Beethoven to the ‘Ukulele? How to tackle a gigantic project yourself? Something else? Please contact me–I will answer all of your questions! You’re also invited to subscribe to my email list so you can be informed about my latest videos and receive ‘Ukulele tablature from the transcription so you can play it too!
I can’t wait to share this adventure with you!
sending you all my love-