After I’ve done my research, my next step in tune learning is the chords and harmony. I will typically try and isolate the chords from the melody either by scratching them onto a notepad or putting them into a chord chart like iReal Pro.
The chords I have hear are based mostly off of the iReal chords that were already there. I made a couple of small changes, but mostly those were things that I heard different than I saw on the page. Plus, some things just work better like this on ukulele but on a guitar or piano may work be better a different way. Knowing your instrument is a key component to knowing what to play.
Now, I don’t stop at just putting the chord together and playing them over and over (but you should definitely play them over and over during this step). After I have them down and separate from the melody, I begin to analyze the chords and cadences.
(When we talk about chords, the word “cadences” means chord changes or progressions of a few chords, generally only two to four.)
Also, a quick note about shorthand in jazz. The “delta” or triangle means “major” (sometimes you will see it typed as a “^”). A minus or “-” means minor. A degrees symbol (typed sometimes as a asterisk “*”) usually means diminished. A plus “+” means augmented. And finally, a percent sign “%” means play this measure exactly like the previous one.
I have to say that this tune is freaking amazing in the cadences. Normally in swing and jazz we find a lot of ii-V or V-I cadences. Sometimes a progression can go all the way out to a seven chord and work its way back around the circle of fifths to the root. For example in C major, B – E – A – D – G – C. This is called back cycling and can contain majors, minors, sevens, sixes, or any other manner of chord and substitution.
In Scotch and Soda, we find this sort of movement, but it isn’t as prolific as in other tunes from the 1930s. What I’m seeing is more substitutions that have a ii-V preceding them which is a little odd, but works really well! In fact, this is something I’ve found to be common more in tunes from the bebop era of the 1950s.
If you look at the G^7 in the first measure, that is the V chord of the D major key/scale. However, when we get to the end of the A section and have the turn around in mea. 8, first repeat we are playing a F#-7 B7 leading us back to the G^7. This isn’t a typical ii-V-I move that we generally see in a turn around. Instead, we need to think about how the G^7 and E-9 are very similar and related chords. G^7 consists of GBDF#, E-9 consists of EGBDF#; the only difference is the E! So, since F#-7 B7 can be considered a ii-V of the key of E, we are just using this as a subbed transition with a similar, but different target chord.
If you are a beginner, that may have all been a bunch of nonsense. Don’t worry, just trust me that the chord progression is really cool, it works, but it took me a second to figure it out and now I’m sort of proud of myself. Yeah me!
There are a couple of other options that we could consider for that turn around, but I’ve decided in terms of simplicity, I don’t want to focus more on them. However, if you know a couple of turns, you should try them out and hear what you think.
A good exercise that I’d like to mention is positional playing. Since the ukulele is such a short scaled instrument, we don’t consider positional playing near as often as we should. But, I would encourage you to attempt playing all your tunes without using open strings say around the 4th fret and then around the 7th fret and then, if you have room, around the the 10th fret. That is a great way to extend your chord knowledge and possibly find cool ideas to consider for solos and chord melodies.
Lastly, here is a link to me playing through the chords only. No extra embellishments or chord soloing, just straight four-two-the-bar rhythm and the chords. By this point, I had probably played the tune just this way a few dozen times familiarizing myself with the odd chord changes. I start simple long before I start trying to add melodies or chord solos.