Beethoven’s “Pastorale” and ‘Ukulele scales in thirds

On February 6 of this year, who would have thought that there would be a ‘Ukulele transcription of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony going out in the world? Certainly not me, but here we are at the beginning of September with page 15 of the first movement! Here’s a performance of pages 14 and 15 of the transcription:

If you’d like tablature for this part of the transcription, click here to get on my email list. I also want to mention that I am currently accepting new students online and in person at my home studio in Denver, so if you’d like to study with me, click here for more information!

There are many instances of harmonized thirds throughout the entire Pastorale symphony, so it is worth discussing how to play them. A third is a type of interval, or distance between notes. As the name suggests, the distance of a third involves the span of three notes. So, for example, A is the third note above F (F-G-A), so the distance from F to A is a third.

The interval of a third is the basic building block of western music. Most chords are constructed by stacking thirds on top of each other. This includes the types of chords Beethoven uses most often in the Pastorale Symphony: major triads, minor triads, and dominant seventh chords. (BTW, in case you were wondering, these are the types of chords you most often play on the ‘Ukulele. I’m sure you already knew that, but I find it helpful to remember that the great composers are using the same basic materials you and I use every time we pick up our instrument to play!)

The third is one of the “magical” intervals you can use to harmonize a melody because it generally sounds fantastic. (The other “magical” intervals are sixths, which are frequently employed on the ‘Ukulele, and tenths, which are not used nearly as much on the Uke because of the limited range of the instrument.) As I mentioned above, there are many examples of lines harmonized in thirds throughout the Pastorale transcription. Here is an example from this week’s transcribed page:

Harmonized thirds at the beginning of page 15 of Beethoven’s Pastorale for solo ‘Ukulele.

In the third, fourth and fifth measures of the example, you can see portions of the F major scale harmonized in thirds on strings 1 and 2, as well as on strings 2 and 3. Here is the F major scale harmonized with thirds on those two string pairs, with tablature, standard notation, and a diagram showing the different fingerboard shapes involved:

These are both on adjacent string pairs, and are the shapes I used most frequently in the Beethoven transcription. These are great to practice. You can also find thirds between the 2nd and 4th strings:

These are not used nearly as much in the Pastorale, mainly because I am constraining myself to play only with the thumb on my right hand. It is easy to play adjacent strings simultaneously with the thumb, a bit harder (but not impossible!) when one or two strings intervene. You might try practicing this example using a combination of thumb and fingers, or possibly using two fingers simultaneously.

I demonstrate these harmonized scales in this week’s episode of Beethoven of the ‘Ukulele so have a look at the video to check it out:

yt starting at thirds

Thanks for reading! I love to hear from you, so get in touch with any questions or just to say hi!

all the best to you!


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