Make Hymn Cry + Cover

In the win­ter I made a short video teas­er for Jesse’s upcom­ing album by get­ting him to per­form a song off it called Make Hymn Cry. As the only ukulele piece on a rap album, it def­i­nite­ly stands out.

Then it dawned on me this morn­ing to see if I could cov­er it. As I was try­ing to fig­ure out the chord pro­gres­sion, I real­ized it’s a fair­ly sim­ple song that only alter­nates between the G and C chords. The strum­ming in Jesse’s video is slight­ly sim­pler than on the album, the lat­ter of which is the pat­tern I use in my ver­sion, and includes the pick­ing arpeg­gio for the sec­ond verse.

Still, it took me half the day just to get com­fort­able with the strum­ming pat­tern because it’s syn­co­pat­ed in a way I’m not used to yet, the rhythm at the end of each bar divid­ed beyond eighth notes into six­teenth notes. This is what long week­ends are for.

The main thing I’m con­cen­trat­ing on is count­ing the beats so I can strum off them and keep track of where the extra strum is at the end of each bar. The next is try­ing not to speed up, which is a very bad habit of mine, regard­less of instru­ment. I also need to pay atten­tion to soft­ly rest­ing my hand on the strings when tran­si­tion­ing to the sec­ond verse; first­ly, to pre­vent the last chord from ring­ing too long, and sec­ond­ly, to phys­i­cal­ly feel where the strings are so I can get my thumb on the C string. I’m def­i­nite­ly not good enough to know where it is at all times. Most of the rest came by itself (i.e. I’m not con­scious­ly focus­ing on it), prob­a­bly from already lis­ten­ing a few times to a pre-release copy of the album Jesse gave me.

The phras­es of the lyrics are also syn­co­pat­ed against the strum­ming; it always feels like your strum­ming is late because the first word of every line falls on the beat before each down-strum), which adds anoth­er lay­er of com­plex­i­ty. The fact that I made it through with­out any major mis­takes but fucked it up right at the very end1 is why I can’t stop laugh­ing.

My singing is strained cause I’m try­ing to project above the strum­ming to stay in bal­ance, but it’s clear­ly out of my com­fort zone. I’m not good enough to strum soft­ly with con­trol yet, so I cheat­ed and just raised my voice. The thing is, I nev­er prac­tice singing when I’m prac­tic­ing my play­ing, usu­al­ly because I need to con­cen­trate on one thing at a time. Singing prac­tice is also bor­ing by itself, so I nev­er do it, even though I should.

Anyway, I had a good day after learn­ing this lit­tle piece, and being able to fig­ure out the chords and the strum­ming was prob­a­bly just as fun as being able to play it.

  1. I lost track of the extra strum in the sec­ond last bar! []


  1. You actu­al­ly can pluck, which I think is more dif­fi­cult than strum­ming. But you did lost your beat with the strum­ming at some point. When I strum I always feel it’s no dif­fer­ent from tap­ping to the beat with you hand, so it’s best to be not too con­scious about it and relax.

    • I find pick­ing and strum­ming equal­ly dif­fi­cult actu­al­ly; each has it’s own chal­lenges. I agree about try­ing to think of strum­ming like tap­ping to the beat with your hand, but in this case, each strum is actu­al­ly off the beat! It’s the oppo­site of what we nat­u­ral­ly want to do with thy rhythm, and that’s where my brain got con­fused.

  2. well, holy dang. jeff got some lungs. :]

  3. Good stuff and con­grat­u­la­tions on per­se­ver­ing with your music…

    I can see you now in a kung fu epic sit­ting in the tea­house strum­ming your ukelele [whoops, your p’i­pa] while the bad guys argue two tables away and throw you sus­pi­cious glances because they can see the hilt of your broadsword…

    Just don’t do like the famous swordsman/poet Li Po and fall into the riv­er while admir­ing the reflec­tion of the moon in the water. It’s easy to drown while mis­tak­ing the image for the sub­stance. :-)

    • It’s fun­ny you should say that, cause the sopra­no ukulele does have a sim­i­lar high-pitched twang as a p’i­pa. They’re even held some­what sim­i­lar­ly, and both have four strings. Makes me won­der whether the lute or the pipa came first.

  4. I like your voice much bet­ter than his! Good work. You just need more time to let the rhythm stuff come more nat­u­ral­ly. Listen to some gospel music if you want to get syn­co­pa­tion and clap­ping on 2 and 4 instead of 1 and 3 down.

    A FURTHER chal­lenge for lat­er: try pat­ting your knees: right knee gets 3 pats while left knee gets four pats at the same time. The rhythm you come up with will be “pass the god­dam but­ter” (at least that’s how we remem­bered how to do it). It’s REEEEEEEally hard. But amaz­ing once you get it. Learning four on three is very valu­able.

    • Yeah, I’m def­i­nite­ly not at the point where any­thing is nat­ur­al yet. There’s so much to work that I have to focus on one thing at a time.

      I should look up some polyrhythm exer­cis­es like the one you men­tioned. Little tips like that are what music lessons are for. All these mnemon­ics that musi­cians use to remem­ber things like tim­ing and notes and chords are frickin’ hilar­i­ous.

      • (That being said, all these lit­tle tricks are just fun prac­tice — then when you learn some music, stuff comes out more nat­u­ral­ly that you did­n’t real­ize you had in you, because you did all the lit­tle weird exer­cise pre­vi­ous­ly. It just sinks into your brain that way.)

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