The first movement is almost finished: Three more pages to go! Video for the final page will be released on October 8. On October 9, I’ve committed to perform the entire first movement as part of the Music Faculty Recital at Regis University, where I work.
Here’s Episode 16 of “Beethoven of the Ukulele”. The video has a performance of pages 15 and 16 of the Pastorale Symphony and then I talk about some of the things you can do to help yourself prepare for a performance:
What are some of the things you like to do to get ready to perform? Get in touch and let me know!
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:
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:
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!
Here is Episode 14 of “Beethoven of the Ukulele”. In this video I am performing pages 13 and 14 of the first movement score:
Only five more pages to go to the completion of the first movement, which will happen on October 8. Yay! At that point the first movement will be ready to perform in its entirety. You will also be able to watch a “composite” video of the first movement stitched together from all the weeks of filming that have been completed so far. The first movement will also be published next month, complete with standard notation and left-hand fingerings, and available for sale.
The passage at the end of page 14
is another demonstration of the campanella fingering technique, which is one of my favorite ways to place a melody on the ‘Ukulele fingerboard. You can see me demonstrate this in this week’s video, but here is the passage in I’m talking about, with standard notation and three different fingering solutions. The first two are examples of how you might play the passage in a “linear” way, and the final fingering is the way I decided to arrange the passage in the Pastorale transcription:
The notes that Beethoven uses are the upper four notes of the F major scale: C, D, E, F. These upper four notes form a tetrachord, which can be defined as a series of four notes separated by three intervals. Here’s the cool thing: Since there are four strings on the ‘Ukulele, one string can be used for each note in the tetrachord. Here’s a chart with all of the campanella tetrachords in the F major scale that can be found on the first twelve frets of the Uke: (Note: This only works for a ‘Uke that uses the common C6 reentrant tuning.) (Another note for you “true” music geeks: I’m aware that in much “traditional” music theory a tetrachord is defined as spanning the distance of a perfect fourth, but I included the four-note sequence within the scale that spans a tritone [three whole steps] just so I could illustrate how that is fingered as well.)
You might find that your fretting hand is in for a workout if you’ve never tried these before. It’s worth it, though. Playing the notes of a scale in a campanella style creates a magical, harp-like effect that is “idiomatic” to the reentrant tuning of the ‘Ukulele and difficult to duplicate on most other fretted instruments. As a bonus, playing the tetrachords this way is a great exercise to develop the flexiblity of your fretting hand!
Are you enjoying “Beethoven of the ‘Ukulele” so far? Is there anything in particular about the music or the ‘Uke that you would like me to discuss? Get in touch and let me know!
All the best to you!
P.S. If you’re ready, you can study ‘Ukulele with me in person or online via Zoom! Click here for info about lessons!
Here’s a performance of pages 12 and 13 of my ‘Ukulele transcription of Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony:
When most people think of Beethoven’s Sixth symphony being used in a film, they probably think of Disney’s Fantasia, which includes abbreviated versions of all five movements of the work as a soundtrack for animation of magical creatures inspired by Ancient Greece. I’ll talk about this more in a future post. (In fact, when this project is in its final stages I’m considering creating a video where I replace the original soundtrack with my ‘Ukulele version!)
For me, though, Fantasia is not the first movie that comes to mind when I hear the Pastorale. Instead, it’s Soylent Green, a 1973 movie set in the dystopian future of 2022. The oceans are dead. The greenhouse effect is making the world unlivable. There is a shortage of good food, clean water, and affordable housing. As part of an government-sponsored assisted-suicide procedure, the character Sol (played by Edward G. Robinson in the final role of his life) is shown a montage of scenes of natural beauty from a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The first piece of music accompanying these nature scenes is none other than the first movement of Beethoven’s Pastorale!
I first saw Soylent Green on television a few years after its theatrical release. By the time I saw it I was already familiar with Beethoven’s Pastorale and a few of the other pieces of music included in the montage. However, I can imagine someone who had never heard the symphony getting hooked right away and seeking the music out just because of this scene.
We are living in 2019 right now, so are very close to the year depicted in Soylent Green. How close is Soylent Green’s 2022 to our current reality? Those of you who have seen the movie might pardon the puns, but it’s something to chew on. Food for thought 🙂
Thanks you for joining me on this adventure! Get in touch if you have any comments, questions, or just to say hi!
Here is my transcription for solo ‘Ukulele of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68, First Movement, Pages 11-12:
Like any other project you might consider, it started with a thought: In this case, the thought was that it would be possible to create an ‘Ukulele version of the Pastorale symphony. The thought in this case created the feelings of courage and determination, which led to the decision of doing the work to bring it into the world.
Once the decision is made strongly, a lot of other decisions fall into place quickly. Here are some decisions that have already been made, have been done, or are currently happening:
Create an ‘Ukulele version of Beethoven’s 6th symphony…
Break the project into small chunks so it isn’t overwhelming…
Transcribe a page a day…
Once the first draft of the transcription is completed, revise and film one page a week…
Post the video on YouTube every week on Tuesday…
Start an email list of folks who might be interested in playing the piece and send them a new page from the score every week…
Share the project on social media every week…
Because these decisions were made strongly (i.e. “this is DEFINITELY going to happen”) it’s been easy to acknowledge my “internal naysayer” and still follow through.
Also, because there is momentum, some of the next steps in the project feel inevitable. Following the “1 page a week” scenario, I can even predict their date of completion:
A complete video performance of the first movement (October 8, 2019).
Live performances of the entire first movement (starting in October 2019).
Second movement completed on February 12, 2020, third movement on April 14, fourth movement on July 7 and final movement December 1.
Live performances of the entire symphony starting in December 2020 (if not before).
There are many things that will probably happen related to this project that I can’t imagine yet, but that’s okay. In January of 2019, I couldn’t have even imagined it being where it is right now. I’m excited to see where it goes.
What would YOU like to see happen next? Get in touch and let me know.
The “Pastoralele” project is coming along. Here’s me performing pages 10 and 11:
Page 11 had some tricky bits, which meant more revision than usual was necessary to arrive at something that was playable.
Here’s one of several examples on the page: In the first draft, I thought I had come up with a very clever “virtuoso” kind of passage. It’s an attempt to combine two independent lines-the melody in the second violins with a triplet counter-melody in the first violins. I was quite proud of my solution even though I knew it would be hard to play. You can see where I recognized the challenge at the end of the page, and left myself a note under the last two bars (“this will take a lot of work”):
If you try it out, you might experience some difficulty as well, especially with the stretch from the 2nd fret to the 8th fret in the second beat of the first measure. It was possible for me to play at a very slow tempo, but much more difficult when played faster.
I worked on it for several weeks leading up to this past weekend, when it was time to create a video of page 11. I REALLY wanted to make it work, so much so that I spent a disproportionate amount of time on this one passage.
Ultimately decided to let go of my pride and take the option I scribbled to the right of the tab (“also-could be like page 1). This was a tough decision, but it was the right one. A decision in service of the whole. A decision to keep moving and not get stuck on a small detail.
The process of revision almost always flows from the complex to the simple. Start with an idea that might be close impossible and simplify it until it turns into something that works. What is your process of revision? Is it similar? Get in touch and let me know.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose the past few days. Why? For one, it’s the subject of this month’s activities in Self-Coaching Scholars, the coaching program I’m involved with. Also, on the day this blog post goes out, I turn 54, and whenever a birthday comes around I tend to become reflective…
Lately, the way I’ve come to see it is that the purpose of humanity is to evolve as a species. So, I’m already living my purpose just by being a human being. We all are. No matter what we choose to do (or not do), by merely EXISTING, we are participating in human evolution! This is great news for all of us, because it means we don’t need to “find our purpose” to be complete. If you were believing that you were somehow “unworthy” because you didn’t know your purpose or because you felt your goals weren’t “lofty” enough, this takes some of the pressure off.
Even better, since you’re already living your purpose no matter what, it means you can choose how you want to spend your time, how you want to spend your life. I’ve decided that I’m going to spend my life demonstrating that it’s possible even for an old (!) guy like me to be an example of positive change by taking on ambitious projects. Here are some ways this might relate to the definition of “purpose” given above:
1. How you spend your time can be your reason for existing.
You already exist and are evolving, but how you spend your time might give your purpose a little more shape. What if you were put here to share the magic of Beethoven’s music or the joy of playing the ‘Ukulele with everyone you meet? Sounds like a fine way to live your life as far as I’m concerned.
2. You can decide on the results you desire to achieve.
There are a few of the results I want to achieve with the “Pastoralele” project. To my mind these give the project a definite purpose:
To give everyone in the world who wants to play Beethoven’s “Pastorale” symphony on the ‘Ukulele the opportunity to do so, building a community of like-minded players along the way.
To create and publish an edition of Beethoven’s “Pastorale” Symphony for solo ‘Ukulele.
To eventually perform the entire symphony on the ‘Ukulele.
3. Your determination can be an example, inspiring others to achieve their goals
The roadmap for achieving my “Pastorale(le)” goals has been laid out. So far, drip by drip, bit by bit, I have taken action: One page a day for 79 days transcribing my first draft; One page a week revising, making video and sending out the music to folks who are interested–ten weeks in a row so far. If I keep up this pace, I will send out the final page of “Pastorale(le)” in 69 weeks, on December 1, 2020. I’m going to keep it up until the end. I have no idea what obstacles lie ahead. Who will I have become by then?
Who will YOU have become by then? What crazy goal could you decide to achieve in the next 69 weeks?
Thank you for joining me on this journey. If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter for the latest about the “Pastorale(le)” project.
Thanks to everyone who has sent me a message. It’s especially gratifying to hear from folks who have played through the score and/or are planning to perform it with their ‘Ukulele group. Feel free to get in touch with any questions about the project or just to say “hi”!
Here’s my performance of pages 8 and 9 of the ‘Ukulele transcription of the Pastorale symphony:
Nancy, one of my readers, asked last week what the source was for the music I used to make the Pastorale transcription. I actually considered several different sources before I finally decided what I would use, and it’s amazing to me that I was able to do that with a minimum of fuss…
Back in the day (before 2006 or so), times were different. If you wanted to look at several different versions of a piece, you would have to go to a library with an extensive collection of scores. Now, it’s possible to look at several different editions of almost any piece of public-domain music in the privacy of your own home. In your pajamas with a cup of coffee if you want. All you need is a computer or other device that can access the web and a reasonable internet connection!
If you don’t know about IMSLP, you’re about to be introduced to one of the most amazing websites in the world. IMSLP stands for “International Music Score Library Project” and it’s awesome! According to the Wikipedia article about IMSLP, “Since its launch on February 16, 2006, over 370,000 scores and 42,000 recordings for over 110,000 works by over 14,000 composers have been uploaded.” Thats a lot of music! Included are the complete works of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and many other composers.
For the Beethoven Pastorale symphony, a simple Google search directed me to this page, which lists all of the different versions of the sheet music and the various recordings of the work available on IMSLP. If you scroll down the page to discover what sheet music is available, you can see a lot of options: 22 different scores, 26 sets of parts and 29 arrangements and transcriptions!
That much choice can be overwhelming. For the “Pastoralele” ‘Ukulele transcription process, I narrowed it down to four choices. You can see what each choice looks like below (all these samples are from IMSLP).
The first was Beethoven’s original handwritten manuscript from 1808. Here’s what the section I feature this week looks like in Beethoven’s own hand:
As you can see, Beethoven’s manuscript is very difficult to read! I really pity the copyists who had to prepare parts from this for the first performance. I decided to go with something a little more clear, so the second score I considered was the first edition, published in 1826:
This is much clearer, and I almost decided to use this edition, but for reasons I’ll explain below, I ultimately went with something different.
The third option considered was the solo piano reduction by Franz Liszt:
Why a piano reduction? Well, it’s easier to read than an orchestral score, since everything is on two staves instead of twelve or more! Also, a piano score doesn’t include weird clefs (the viola’s alto clef, for example) or transposing wind instruments (horn in F, clarinet in B-flat, etc.). In addition, the treble staff of a piano fits right in the range of the ‘Ukulele, so someone who is good at reading standard notation could, to a certain extent, almost sight-read the upper piano staff.
I seriously considered working from a piano reduction, but ultimately decided to use the score in an edition edited by Henry Litollf, first published in 1880:
Why this edition? First reason-nostalgia. Back in the day, I owned this edition in a hard copy, printed by Dover Publications. It was a required purchase for a seminar on the Beethoven symphonies I took as an Undergraduate. In fact, I owned the Dover reprints of all the Beethoven symphonies, and I felt a certain pride in owning the scores. Occasionally, I would look at the scores or try to follow along while listening to a recording, but honestly, they never got much use, so they were eventually given to Goodwill when I decided to “purge” a lot of the books I had sitting around the house. I re-purchased a used copy of the Dover volume featuring Symphonies 5, 6 and 7 when I started this project. The hard copy felt more natural and less “fiddly” to work with than a pdf on the screen of a computer or tablet. Plus, it feels good to have some Beethoven back in the house!
Just for comparison, here’s what the ‘Ukulele tablature of page 9 looks like in my own hand, and after being transferred into Sibelius notation software:
Maybe someday my Pastorale ‘Ukulele transcription will end up in IMSLP! For now, join my email list if you would like a copy of what I’ve done so far.
Thanks for joining me on this journey! I love to hear from you, so get in touch if you have any questions, comments, or just to say “hi”!
I’m gonna put this right at the top if you feel like you need to “cut to the chase”…Here’s the eighth installment of “Beethoven of the ‘Ukulele“, including a performance of pages 7 and 8 of the Pastorale solo transcription:
When I was a kid (we’re talking the late 1970s!), it was all about the LP. For you youngsters, “LP” refers to “long-playing” record, and it was the dominant format for recorded music when I was growing up.
My parents had a collection of LPs, most of them scratched up from the abuse I and my younger brothers had inflicted upon them as toddlers. As I entered fifth grade and started to become more interested in music, I was surprised that, in spite of the damage, many of my parents’ records were still playable. It was from this collection that I first heard Schubert’s “Great” Symphony in C major, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, and the soundtrack to Oklahoma!
In sixth grade I started reading about Beethoven, but there was none to be found in my parents’ record collection. Sadly, I lived in Moab, Utah, a small town in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. In the late 1970s it was possible to buy pop and rock records in Moab (the latest hits by Kiss, Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, etc.). It was almost impossible, as far as I could tell, to buy classical recordings. So, I looked forward to visiting my grandparents, who lived in the thriving metropolis of Orem, Utah. When in Orem, we went to the mall and visited the Record Bar, a chain of record stores that had a selection of classical music. There I purchased the first record I actually owned myself: a budget-reissue LP on the Odyssey label that contained Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on one side and Schubert’s “Unfinished” symphony on the other, performed by Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra:
I obsessively listened to the Beethoven fifth and when became my favorite piece of music, I needed to hear more Beethoven symphonies. With the next trip to the grandparents a long way off my only option seemed to be to visit Royce’s Electronics, Moab’s local Radio Shack franchise. Royce’s also sold LPs and was able to special order records they didn’t stock. I excitedly looked through their copy of the Schwann Catalog, and ordered what looked like the perfect set for my budget: a three-disc set of Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic in four of the nine Beethoven symphonies: No. 3 (the “Eroica”); No. 5 (of course, I already had a recording of the fifth, but I was savvy enough to know I would get some different insights listening to a different conductor); No. 6 (the “Pastorale”) and No. 7.
What I expected:
It took several weeks to arrive. When the order finally came in, I was unpleasantly surprised. Somehow there was a mistake, and I didn’t get the album I wanted. It turned out to be a three-record set, but only one of the records had actual music, the Beethoven 6th Symphony. The other two were just Leonard Bernstein talking. It was the third installment of something called the “Norton Lectures“, a set of six lectures Bernstein presented at Harvard University in 1973.
What I got instead:
I don’t remember if I asked Royce’s Electronics to take it back and get me the correct album or if I just decided to keep it because it seemed like too much trouble to explain to them that there had been a mix-up. I do remember being disappointed that I wouldn’t get to discover the 3rd or the 7th symphonies right away. However, I did listen to the lecture several times and was fascinated by what I heard. Bernstein discussed the compositional techniques Beethoven used in the Pastorale symphony in linguistic terms. He talked about how Beethoven used metaphor, simile and ambiguity. He suggested listening to the Pastorale on its own musical merits without associating it with scenes from nature. I felt smarter by listening to the lecture, and felt like I had a much deeper understanding of what made the music work. And there was so much to think about-the music was deep with layers of meaning, offering immense new rewards with each listen.
The Pastorale replaced the Fifth at the top of my list of favorites. I listened to it whenever I had the chance, sometimes even running home during my middle-school lunch hour so I could listen to a little bit of it in the middle of the day.
That was over forty years ago. Times have changed. You don’t have to special order a record and wait for it. No matter where you live, you can call up a recording of any piece of music you want to hear instantly, probably using the same device you’re using to read this blog. If you want to hear (and see!) the lecture I’m talking about, you simply have to click on the link below. The lecture is about 90 minutes long, but well worth your time:
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I love to hear from you, so please get in touch with any comments or questions you have. If you haven’t already, sign up for the Beethoven of the Ukulele newsletter and share it with your friends!
In Episode 7 of Beethoven of the ‘Ukulele, I start to play the development section of the Pastorale’s first movement. This is where the composer starts to “develop”, or play around with, elements that were introduced in the opening of the movement. Beethoven kicks off the development of this movement by taking the “1 &a 2 &” rhythm first found in the second measure and repeating it over and over, applying it to arpeggios of triads in different inversions….
Here’s a chart I put together to go with Episode 7 that diagrams some of the most important triad inversions on the ‘Ukulele and gives examples of where they are found in pages 6 and 7 of the Pastorale Symphony. Click on the photo for a .pdf of your very own that you can print if you want 🙂
Triad. Arpeggio. Inversion. For those of you who “seized up” when you saw those words, I don’t want you to get scared. I’ll give you a quick explanation of the terms triad, inversion and arpeggio right now. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch because I’d love to explain more about them in future posts.
For most musical styles you’re probably familiar with, a triad can be thought of as the basic chord, or building block, of harmony. It is a structure that contains three different notes, a root, which gives a triad its name (e.g., a “D major triad” or a “B-flat major triad”), a third and a fifth. In the diagrams above these are designated by the letter “R” and the numbers 3 and 5. There are four different kinds of triads, but Beethoven uses only one type in the first part of the development, the major triad, which is probably the most commonly heard chord in Western music.
An inversion of a chord can be thought of as the way the different notes of the chord are arranged in relation to each other. If the root is the lowest pitch heard, the triad is said to be in “root position”. If the third is the lowest pitch, the triad is in “first inversion”. If the fifth is the lowest pitch, the triad is in “second inversion”.
An arpeggio is simply playing the notes in a chord in succession, one after the other, rather than all simultaneously.
I explain this in a lot more detail after I present page 7 of the Pastorale score in my latest video.
All of this stuff is part of what’s collectively known as music theory, and it’s essentially the study of what makes music work–the “grammar”, if you will, of music.
“It has a melody both happy and sad, build on victorious young triads”-CAKE, “Commsioning a Symphony in C”
These lyrics came to mind when preparing this post. Some of you might remember CAKE, an alt-rock band that hit it big around the turn of the century with “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”. “Commisioning a Symphony in C” came off the same album. I’m pretty sure they were talking about Haydn in the song, and Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony is in F, not C. At any rate, here’s CAKE’s song if you’re interested. The song transports me back to graduate school, which seems like a lifetime ago. It really doesn’t have much to do with what I’m talking about here, it’s just one of those random associations:
As of this writing (July 15, 2019) 83 people have joined me on this journey, which means we’re that much closer to the audacious goal of making Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony available to anyone in the world who wants to play it on the ‘Ukulele! If you’ve signed up for the newsletter, I want to tell you how much I appreciate it, especially those you who have taken time to send me an email or leave a comment on the YouTube videos. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for?