UD#37 Horse First Then The Cart: One String Melodies

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UD#37 Horse First Then The Cart: One String Melodies
from Ukulele in the Dark
w/ Guido Heistek



I remember being amazed by this experience when I was a kid: I used to listen to the same album again and again. I became so familiar with the songs on the record that when one song finished, the next song would “pop” into my head before the song had even started. This always seemed magical. Have you ever had a similar experience?This effect is one of the most magical things about music making: When you play or even think the notes of a melody or scale, the first notes seem to elicit the next notes. The melody seems to be drawn out of you one note at a time.I believe it is musical memory that is the driving force behind music making. In other words, the musical idea tells the fingers where to go. It is the musical thought that leads. Just like the horse leads the cart. I think it’s really important for students of all levels to experience this effect. Here’s one way I do that with students.C Major Scale Up One StringMost people are pretty familiar with the sound of a major scaleDO RE MI FA SOL etc…

….but it’s good to have a listen just to set the stage. Even sing along with the scale if you like. Here is a recording.

After we’ve listened to and sung the scale together, me and a student set out to find the notes of the C major scale along the C string of the Ukulele.

(Quick note on notation in this lesson:
The dotted line ———- represents the C string.
The numbers on the line represent which fret we are playing on the string.
–0—-2— means: OPEN C string followed by 2nd fret on the C string.

This type of notation is called TAB or TABLATURE)

First, we play the first two notes of the scale on the C string like this:

C string —-0—–2——-
DO    RE…

Usually the next note pops into our heads. We might even sing it so we can both agree on the note we are looking for and then we go find the note on the C string. And we get this:


If we play these three notes, usually the next note pops into our head and then we can go find it on the on the C string and get this:

DO   RE  MI   FA….

Using this system we gradually find all the notes of the C-major scale along the C string BY EAR! Sometimes we mark them with stickers. Yup, adults too.

See if you can find the rest of the notes of the C major scale up the C string. Answer is at the bottom of the page.

Melodies up One String:

Another thing I do with students is have them try to find familiar melodies on one string. Once we’ve learned the scale we try to play some familiar songs that use the same scale. We can use our ears to tell us whether the melody is going up or down. Or leaping to a new note in the scale. I often start off with simple songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had a Little Lamb. These songs are usually really well entrenched in our memories. Here’s my daughter finding the notes for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the C string of her uke:

Want to give it a try?

Here is the tab for the first few notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the C string. See if you can figure out the rest by ear:


Try  Mary Had a Little Lamb. Here are the first notes. See if you can figure out the rest. Answer at the bottom:


And finally another classic: Row Row Row Your Boat. Here is the beginning:


Hope you have a great few weeks and that the joy of music making continues to shine on you. Wishing you all the best.




P.S. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe to my mailing list below to receive every lesson right when it comes out. Be sure not to miss a thing!


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