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Thread: Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Gold Coast
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    Default Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect

    I remember as a young kid seeing an old motivational sign which used to hang in a gym. It said "Practice makes perfect is Bulls#*t! Only PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT."

    The reason I think of this sign now, maybe 30 years later, is because essentially, I'm very disappointed in my own 'practice'.
    I've played guitar for over 20 years. I had a few lessons in the beginning, but have since essentially been self-taught. I usually describe my guitar skill level as 'Campfire guitar', and originally that's all I really aspired to. I can competently bang out all the standards and a reasonable catalogue of modern classics but only using fairly simple major/minor chords and some very basic fingerpicking. I realise now that, despite the hours and hours I used to play the guitar, I never really practiced. And there's a big difference. Playing the things you already know how to play is fun, instantly gratifying and easy. It is rarely challenging. This is what I've done for 20 years. I almost never 'practiced' new techniques, chord shapes, scales, fingerpicking, I just played and replayed the things I already knew. And now it shows. For someone who has 20 years of experience I am nowhere as versatile as I should be. I gave lessons to my teen nephew for a while, now he shreds like a pro and is a thousand times better than me. I always used to tell him to practice the hard stuff because you already now how to play the easy stuff. I just didnt follow my own advice. I'm kicking myself.

    So this week I bought my first uke. I love it, and I'm already obsessed. And I'm looking to the future. I dont want to kick myself again in another 20 years for taking the easy route with the ukulele.

    I've quite easily picked up the basic chords (C, G, Am, F) and have managed to work through a couple of songs ok'ish. I found on here the other day a list of a hundred or so songs that can be played using those chords only. But I'm not going to use it. For now, I dont want to know. Something like this would have me falling into the same trap and becoming a 'Campfire ukuleleist' and regretting it in 20 years.
    Instead I'm going to practice scales, and difficult chords, and finger picking and strumming techniques and understanding music theory. I've got the rest of my life to become a great ukulele musician. I'm going to practice the hard stuff, and play the fun stuff, and make sure there's a distinction between the two.
    I'm amazed at the wealth of resources available in this place. I've been sifting through it for weeks, and I'm going to make use of it. I love the feel of this community and I am enjoying being a part of it.

    So thank you for the help, information and advice so far, and remember, "Practice makes perfect is Bulls#*t. Only PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT."

    australelean
    Ohana Concert CK-20S
    Makala Dolphin Soprano

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    Jeonju, Korea
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    I agree completely. I fell into the same sort of habits with guitar, and to some extent, drumming as well. With uke, I am pushing myself to actually practice by using the easy-to-play stuff as a reward. I practice the hard stuff first, then work on scales and difficult chords for a bit, and finish up with a few songs that I already know. I think it's working - at least, my GF no longer puts on her headphones as soon as I get the uke out of its bag...
    Lanikai B-TCA tenor "Mystery Uke", Oscar Schmidt OU53 M baritone "The Big One", Rally concert banjolele "Cletus", Tomo Electric tenor "Little Red", Kala travel tenor "Slim", Monkeywrench Electric baritone "the Axe", hand painted Halloween uke "Spooky"

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    North Florida
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    Truer words were never spoken.
    Luna pineapple
    Pono PCES concert
    Kamaka tenor
    Kala KAA15 baritone
    Gibson Hummingbird

    Molokai mo bettah

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    I just invested in my first uke earlier this week, I'm quite glad that I found this post and I plan on following your wise words. I am very greatful that I came across this before I fell right into that very trap you spoke of. Thanks for the help.

    ~Kraft

  5. #5
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    Apr 2012
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    Near Seattle WA
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    Quote Originally Posted by His Sinfulness View Post
    I am pushing myself to actually practice by using the easy-to-play stuff as a reward. I practice the hard stuff first, then work on scales and difficult chords for a bit, and finish up with a few songs that I already know.
    Sounds like my own goals. Nice! I particularly like keeping a few favorite tunes around as a reward. After mangling scales over and over it's nice to give your ears a rest with some sweet sounds as well!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Austin, Tx
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    If you put in your time early on, like you have the opportunity to do now with ukulele, it is definitely well worth it. Always stretch your limits.

    I have over 30 years playing on guitar (luckily I was very serious about practice when I started) and around 4 years on uke now. I still challenge myself daily and I commend you all for embarking on becoming better players. It's not too late for your guitar playing, too!
    Last edited by ukuleletim; 05-11-2012 at 08:50 PM. Reason: mispelled a word

  7. #7
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    May 2009
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    Wellington, New Zealand
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    Here's a quote that's been stuck in the back of my head for the better part of 15 years. Without googling to confirm, I think it may be a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote.

    Practice does not make perfect, nor is it supposed to. Practice is about increasing your repertoire of ways of recovering from your mistakes.

  8. #8
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    May 2012
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    SF, CA
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    Well, it doesn't really matter that the 20 years you have been playing has gotten you almost no where in terms of skill, but it's all about the enjoyment and amount of fun you have playing the instrument.
    Uke journey begins 5.29.12

    Oscar Schmidt OU3 Concert
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men."

    John F. Kennedy

  9. #9
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    Jun 2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaywhy729 View Post
    Well, it doesn't really matter that the 20 years you have been playing has gotten you almost no where in terms of skill, but it's all about the enjoyment and amount of fun you have playing the instrument.
    I definitely agree with this sentiment. It really does boil down to what your personal goal is.

    If you were happy being a "campfire guitarist" all those years, then how was that time wasted? And, it seems to me that if you have the basics of guitar down solid, you should be able to now go ahead and try and challenge yourself there, too, right? Sure, there may be some technique things on which you may need to focus in order to correct, but how is that all that much different than starting as a complete newcomer?

    My personal goal with the uke (and now with guitar) is not to be some virtuoso, but to enjoy myself. As I go on and reach a level of comfort, I find that I am that much closer to playing something more complex, if I want. But for me, working on super-complicated technique, etc is kind of pointless if I never plan to use it. And, if it turns out that I do want to later on, well, I'll focus on it then.

    I guess I apply my travel philosophy to my learning instruments: it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.
    My kids:
    [SIZE="1"][COLOR="#0000CD"]
    [b]Ukes:
    None (for now), but soon!

    Please help Anabelle

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    I agree with everyone here, the op's wise words are some I can identify with myself, having done pretty much the same thing with the guitar. However, when I picked the ukulele up, about 5 or 6 months ago now I guess, I was determined to become the best I could at it. That isn't to say I regret my years playing guitar in the way I did, I enjoyed it and it always brought me joy. My goals have simply changed. As a result of this, I'm already probably better on ukulele than I ever was on guitar, taking on stuff like Kalei Gamiao pieces. The equivalent on the guitar is way out of my reach. Its down to the focussed way I have practiced the uke.
    "Make a decision to have a great day and follow through, misery is optional"

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