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Nickie
06-14-2015, 01:12 PM
Your comments, please....

http://www.gotaukulele.com/2015/06/can-we-stop-with-easy-ukulele-myth.html (httphttp://www.gotaukulele.com/2015/06/can-we-stop-with-easy-ukulele-myth.html)

k0k0peli
06-14-2015, 01:31 PM
http://www.gotaukulele.com/2015/06/can-we-stop-with-easy-ukulele-myth.html Bad link. Fixed.

No, uke ain't easy, not tuned gCEA. Slack the A to G for open-C tuning and it's easier, but still non-trivial. Mountain dulcimer is easy. Slide whistle is easy. Spoons are easy. Uke is like guitar in that learning a few chords is not real difficult, but going beyond the basics takes effort and determination and time, lots of time. The beginning player should probably be locked inside a closet for the first couple years till they become listenable. I know that *I* should have been!

itsme
06-14-2015, 03:42 PM
Your comments, please....
Well, don't you have any, seeing as how you started this thread?

I will agree that the uke is easier to learn on than some other instruments. And you can learn a few chords and be on your way with making music.

But mastering, or being really good at it is a whole 'nother story.

vanflynn
06-14-2015, 04:22 PM
Put one finger there - C. Put one finger there -Am. Put two fingers there - F. Put three fingers there - G.

In various permutations and combinations, that is 80% of all songs.

Where you take it from there and augment is all the fun!

Mivo
06-14-2015, 04:58 PM
This is an excellent article.

When I first picked up the ukulele, a bit over two years ago, I also heard everywhere how easy an instrument it would be. Having had no exposure to string instruments before at all, and just having hit forty, it was anything but easy for me. Nothing about learning some of the first basic chords, like G or G7 felt easy or natural. Those weren't movements or positions my hands and fingers were used to.

Strumming also wasn't straight forward. My fingers would get tangled up in the strings, or I'd hit only three, or it sounded muted, or I hit the body. Using the thumb? Didn't work! And when none of those things happened, it still didn't sound like in the videos that made it seem to trivial.

Even holding the thing was tricky. It kept slipping off, I was confused about where to exactly put my thumb and still support the slippery instrument, and how could I hold it with my right arm without cramping up? (Getting rid of the idea I need to learn how to play without a strap fixed this -- Lori's Uke Leash was a blessing!) I started to wonder if somehow I had hands that were completely different from everyone else's, because I sure couldn't rest the neck in the web between index finger and thumb while still chording easily.

Meanwhile, everyone said it's so easy and anybody can play songs after a few hours! I couldn't. So not only did I feel clumsy and unmusical, but also inept and hopeless. I failed at something that was supposedly so easy everyone could get decent at it within a brief time. (And let's not talk about the nerve wrecking adventure of changing strings for the first time!)

A direct result of that was that I lost interest for a while. Actually, no, I didn't lose interest in the ukulele. I lost interest in feeling stupid. It took me a while to crawl out of that hole and pick up the instrument again, this time with more determination to deal with the beginner troubles, and certainly with more realistic expectations to myself. (Reading Gary Marcus's "Guitar Zero" book helped greatly with motivation. Anyone feeling hopeless or "too old" or "too unmusical" should read this.) Approaching it with the mindset of learning ukulele being pretty challenging, and it requiring steady practice just like any other new skill, made this a much more enjoyable and rewarding activity.

At least in my case, the myth of the ukulele being easy nearly drove me away and caused me to give up. I'm glad I didn't! It's a fantastic hobby, just not an easy one. :)

(I guess I should post that in the comments section also.)

IamNoMan
06-14-2015, 05:21 PM
Hey Guys. I regularly read and comment on Barry's Columns. Here is my response to the subject column:

As is frequently the case Barry I agree with most of what you are saying here. Rome Wasn't Built in a Day. After thirty-five years playing stringed instruments and nine months studying the Ukulele I have to say the ukulele is the most accessible stringed instrument to learn but "easy" is a misnomer. I agree with you that learning to maintain a steady rhythm is very important. I think that the student of ukulele; (as opposed to just the player of ukulele), should understand that in the rush to achieve competence one tends to pick-up habits that need to be un-learned or relearned in order to break through to the next level of playing. If you start with Hawaiian Chords expect to go back and learn the more legitimate chords as well and then move on to closed chords, etc. In essence you are relearning the easy stuff over and over.

The whole issue of "easy" is indeed a misnomer. Some of you have suggested bones are easy. Well not for me. Slide whistle? Recorder was easier for me than that. And so on.

One thing that can make ukulele easier to learn is training your ear. LEARN TO PLAY BY EAR! This will make things much easier. Uncle Rod's BootCamp (http://ukulelebootcamp.weebly.com/uploads/2/2/4/8/22489722/ukulele_boot_camp_2013.pdf) is a good place to start in this regard. And not just for Uke either. I think if you can play by ear your fingers will start to teach themselves. A valuable trait.

PhilUSAFRet
06-14-2015, 09:05 PM
Easy is relative, as in easy to learn 3 to 6 chords on the first three frets using a 1-2 strum. You could say something similar about a lot of instruments.

phil hague
06-14-2015, 10:02 PM
The Uke is a very difficult instrument to play properly, but fairly easy to strum a few chords while singing along.

kaizersoza
06-15-2015, 12:06 AM
as stated numerous times above its not easy, to play any instrument well you have to serve your time and put the practice in

CeeJay
06-15-2015, 12:32 AM
There are easier instruments, but uke is about the easiest string instrument I've encountered—apart from autoharp. Even after years of playing uke, I may still be no great shakes, but that's largely because I haven't applied myself as I did with piano, guitar, fiddle or banjo. I even find mountain dulcimer harder than uke, unless you play it in that "simple melody with invariant drones" way that causes your spouse to estimate the heft of the candlesticks.

So yeah, if you want to play chords or polyphony—basically, more than one note at a time—uke is nearly as easy as it gets. And that attracts a lot of lazy people (myself included) with unrealistic expectations. You don't have to be a brainiac to figure out that fretting and strumming are going to be a challenge if you've never tried something like that before, particularly if you have no previous musical experience. I hardly think the press is misleading anyone if they call uke "easy". It's not super-easy, but it's as easy as one can reasonably expect a string instrument without labelled push-to-play bars to be. And the expectations for how well you have to play before you're considered "listenable" are a lot lower than for other instruments. I love the little fellers, but let's face it, uke is the miniature golf of the string world.

Damn that Windmill though ....that's why I keep missing the soundhole ?!!!

Rllink
06-15-2015, 03:17 AM
When people hear "easy", they get that confused with "effortless." They think that it will just play itself. Then when it takes some effort and time, they wonder if it is the uke. So they go off on search of a better one, which in most cases is just another one. Or they change strings every other week, or they let themselves be convinced that the action is too high, or, they just decide that their fingers won't work right for some reason. But the fact is, while it is an easy instrument to learn to play, it still requires some time and effort to learn how to play the ukulele, and more time and effort to play it well. I think that is where people with a lot of experience playing other musical instruments have a leg up. They not only have experience with other instruments, they have experience learning to play other instruments, so they at least have realistic expectations.

Down Up Dick
06-15-2015, 04:04 AM
Almost all instruments are easy to play, but very difficult to master. Once folks learn some scales or a few chords, they can crank out a few easy tunes, and then they gotta get ta work.

Ya gotta crawl afore ya can walk. The crawling is easy and fun, the walking not so much . . . :old:

kkimura
06-15-2015, 04:25 AM
Yes, ukulele requires focus and dedication if you want to excel at it. However, ukulele is very easy to have fun with too!

acmespaceship
06-15-2015, 10:16 AM
Recently I saw this same discussion on a knitting forum. We say "easy" but people hear "instantaneous." They try something for a few days, don't make progress, and give up because it's hopeless.

I have a friend (an intelligent adult no less) who was bemoaning a lack of talent as a beginning percussionist. "I've been working with the practice pad for a whole week and I still can't get a groove." Several of us within earshot, despite our best efforts, could not help but burst into laughter and the poor thing had to ask why we were laughing!

Lately I've been telling people it's easy to get started on uke (or knitting...) but it won't come overnight. It's OK if it takes months before you feel confident playing a 2-chord song. Mastery requires practice; the point is to enjoy the process. You wouldn't think it's necessary to say that, but apparently it is. How touching that people still believe in magic.

pluck
06-15-2015, 11:04 AM
I haven't found that doing anything very well is particularly easy, but ......

I think that with the ukulele you can develop a lot of musicality for a relatively small investment in technique studies. Note that "relatively small" is a comparative term, not an absolute. I studied classical guitar about 10 years ago and I discovered that if I took 2 days off it took me about a week to get back to where I had been. I finally quit and I'm not going back. I love the ukulele.

cua94
06-15-2015, 11:51 AM
I think "easy" is relative because compared to the last instrument I tried to learn - bagpipes - the uke is pretty easy!

I have great respect for anyone who can play them!

Doug W
06-15-2015, 04:02 PM
As it is with any instrument, short of, say, triangle. You can pick up the rudiments of playing harmonica or tinwhistle in a day, but it takes a lot of practice to sound respectable on either one, and you could spend your life trying to become a pale imitation of a Steve Baker or Sean Potts.

Professional Triangle Player (http://musiciansutahsymphony.com/how-to-become-a-professional-triangle-player/)

KaraUkey
06-15-2015, 07:06 PM
There are easier instruments, but uke is about the easiest string instrument I've encountered—apart from autoharp. Even after years of playing uke, I may still be no great shakes, but that's largely because I haven't applied myself as I did with piano, guitar, fiddle or banjo. I even find mountain dulcimer harder than uke, unless you play it in that "simple melody with invariant drones" way that causes your spouse to estimate the heft of the candlesticks.

So yeah, if you want to play chords or polyphony—basically, more than one note at a time—uke is nearly as easy as it gets. And that attracts a lot of lazy people (myself included) with unrealistic expectations. You don't have to be a brainiac to figure out that fretting and strumming are going to be a challenge if you've never tried something like that before, particularly if you have no previous musical experience. I hardly think the press is misleading anyone if they call uke "easy". It's not super-easy, but it's as easy as one can reasonably expect a string instrument without labelled push-to-play bars to be. And the expectations for how well you have to play before you're considered "listenable" are a lot lower than for other instruments. I love the little fellers, but let's face it, uke is the miniature golf of the string world.

After several decades of doing gigs singing and playing a guitar and now several more years of doing the same sort of gigs playing a ukulele, I can assure you I didn't go from golf to miniature golf, I'm still playing the same game, I'm just using a different club.

katysax
06-16-2015, 05:24 AM
I haven't found that doing anything very well is particularly easy, but ......

I think that with the ukulele you can develop a lot of musicality for a relatively small investment in technique studies. Note that "relatively small" is a comparative term, not an absolute. I studied classical guitar about 10 years ago and I discovered that if I took 2 days off it took me about a week to get back to where I had been. I finally quit and I'm not going back. I love the ukulele.

That is really well-put. I've played a number of instruments over the years and this hits it on the head. The amount of time spent mastering the mechanics of the uke is relatively small. You can focus on the music. But bringing the music out of it is something that that takes work and learning.

kohanmike
06-16-2015, 05:34 AM
After playing the guitar for almost 50 years before taking up the uke, it was not difficult to make the transition. The biggest problem I had was before I knew anything about ukes, I bought a soprano that I very quickly realized was too small for me, so from then on I went with tenor.

bazmaz
06-16-2015, 11:49 AM
As the author of the original link (and thanks to the OP for sharing it) i feel I should comment.

This one tipped me over the edge really, and won't be doing the Got A Ukulele rants anymore. Maybe it's just me, maybe my writing is too subtle, maybe I am a bad writer. But... I just had to many people commenting missing the real point. This was not a discussion point for ukulele players, it was a post I hoped would be picked up by absolute beginners as a counterpoint.

The media feel unable to mention the ukulele without mentioning the words 'cheap' and 'easy' - that is really all it was about - and how unhelpful that is for total beginners.

This is not a site for total beginners - but I well know many who are sick to the back teeth with the constant claim that the 'ukulele is easy'.

Yes - I KNOW it is easier than many instruments, but that is not the point at at all - some people struggle and devaluing the instrument into the lowest common denominator is what this was about...

Rant over.

Mivo
06-16-2015, 07:07 PM
I actually think starting out on a keyboard is substantially easier than starting out on a ukulele (or any stringed instrument). On a keyboard, you press a key and you get a perfectly pitched note. No need to tune, either (keyboard). You press three keys, which anyone can do right off the bat, and you get a perfectly pitched chord. Five minutes in, you can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on a keyboard or piano. Music theory is more transparent on a keyboard or piano also, I feel.

However, you comparatively rarely see the claim that playing piano is "easy" or cheap (beginner keyboards don't cost more than beginner ukuleles). So when the media (and not just them) toot how easy the ukulele is, and how quickly you can "play hundreds of pop songs" (no, you can't: you can strum along feebly, feeling accomplished in a Karaoke-kind of way where you just don't realize how awful you sound by yourself), it really creates a completely wrong picture of what learning ukulele is really like when you have no background in music or playing (stringed) instruments.

To most people, "easy" does mean "effortless", which is how advertisers and marketeers use that word. They're not saying, "It's easier than a 12-stringed guitar", they are saying it's easy. Like Baz, I find that misleading, and I feel that it needlessly sets up people for disappointment. For me, it took quite a bit of determination and stubbornness to get past the early beginner stages, and it really didn't feel easy (my exposure to keys and non-reed wind instruments felt much easier). But I may just have been unusually dense! ;)

Mivo
06-16-2015, 09:32 PM
This one tipped me over the edge really, and won't be doing the Got A Ukulele rants anymore. Maybe it's just me, maybe my writing is too subtle, maybe I am a bad writer.

Too hard on yourself.

If you were a bad writer, you'd get no reactions, at least not varied reactions. This piece does get reactions, both positive and (apparently) negative, and that means you're touching on an issue that moves people. Or maybe the way you tackled it moves people. Same thing, though: People talk and think about it, and that's good. The only bad articles are those that nobody cares about, in my opinion.

I thought it was an insightful "rant". It's refreshingly different from the same old, same old that every blogger writes about the instrument and that every (intro) book rehashes. That's not to say that the same old, same old is wrong, just that it's so same-y. Don't be afraid to ruffle feathers, especially if your intentions are positive (and they are). Had I read this article when I started out, it would have really helped me to keep my expectations real, and saved me disappointment with myself. It's a reality check more than a rant, I feel.

Icelander53
06-18-2015, 05:48 AM
There are easier instruments, but uke is about the easiest string instrument I've encountered—apart from autoharp. Even after years of playing uke, I may still be no great shakes, but that's largely because I haven't applied myself as I did with piano, guitar, fiddle or banjo. I even find mountain dulcimer harder than uke, unless you play it in that "simple melody with invariant drones" way that causes your spouse to estimate the heft of the candlesticks.

So yeah, if you want to play chords or polyphony—basically, more than one note at a time—uke is nearly as easy as it gets. And that attracts a lot of lazy people (myself included) with unrealistic expectations. You don't have to be a brainiac to figure out that fretting and strumming are going to be a challenge if you've never tried something like that before, particularly if you have no previous musical experience. I hardly think the press is misleading anyone if they call uke "easy". It's not super-easy, but it's as easy as one can reasonably expect a string instrument without labelled push-to-play bars to be. And the expectations for how well you have to play before you're considered "listenable" are a lot lower than for other instruments. I love the little fellers, but let's face it, uke is the miniature golf of the string world.

Very good response IMO. I choose it for many of the reasons you mention and my playing style sounds a lot like yours. I got to the point of a little decency after about a year and a half. That was when I was really able to play without looking at my fretting hand. Things got to be a whole lot of fun at that point but I realize what a basic level that is and is no indication that learning fingerstyle ects is going to be as easy. I think once you get into intermediate level and beyond the uke becomes very complex like other stringed instruments.

IamNoMan
06-18-2015, 09:58 AM
As the author of the original link ...This was not a discussion point for ukulele players, it was a post I hoped would be picked up by absolute beginners as a counterpoint....The media feel unable to mention the ukulele without mentioning the words 'cheap' and 'easy' - that is really all it was about - and how unhelpful that is for total beginners.
Barry I don't know what kind of response you are getting from the neophyte ukulele crowd but the Media is usually a font of dis-information. It may be more effective to take the argument to the media's turf in terms of rational reasoned comment that encourages others to do likewise. Of course blogging is just as easy as playing ukulele is. ;-)

Nickie
06-18-2015, 02:51 PM
Yeah, Barry, please don't stop ranting, I mean writing. I posted this article to the people of TBUS, and there was a lively discussion there too. LOts of people agree with you.
Yeah, I learned my 1st song in 20 minutes. Now the songs I learn take weeks.
Easy is a relative term. Ukulele might be easy to a good guitarist, but it's tricky for a clutz like me.

KnowsPickin
06-18-2015, 03:45 PM
The uke is actually one of the hardest instruments I've tried to master. The easiest were bass and mandolin. Their big advantage is that the string intervals are the same all the way across, bass in all fourths and mandolin in all fifths. Therefore scales lay out very logically across the fingerboard and are very easy to remember. Also, if you switch hand positions, the intervals are the same wherever you go. Once my ear is trained, I can pretty much play melodies along with anything and hardly think about it.

That third in the middle of a uke screws me up royally. I can deal with the one third interval on guitar because it is closer to the top and I spend most of my time on the other strings and go up the neck as needed. The uke is not as forgiving. I find myself having to think very hard about what I am doing on uke and switch positions often to compensate for the limited range you have in a single position.

Of course, this third in the middle is one reason the uke can make such lush sounding chords with so few strings, a big advantage for accompaniment. It also lets you play a few chords very simply with one finger. But I don't want to stop there.

No it is not easy, but yes it is worth it in the end.

k0k0peli
06-18-2015, 08:09 PM
More than one music shop owner has told me that ukes pay the rent, and not high-end ukes, either. But how much of the overall trade is plastic Little Mermaid ukes from WalMart? That business model promotes "cheap and easy". Okay, so a world-class musician like Jake does wonders -- but he's not exactly a pop star. Maybe there'll be a tipping point when an electrified gang of Little Mermaid uke graduates take the world by storm. But face it -- little instruments (and their players) don't get no respect. Saxophones trump harmonicas. Double-neck guitars trump ukes and mandos. Nobody notices the piccolo player. Life ain't fair!

Mivo
06-18-2015, 09:13 PM
I can't think of another stringed instrument (other than the guitar and, to a lesser degree, the violin) that people associate with mainstream pop music either, though. Neal mentioned Bill Monroe and the mandolin, but I had never heard of him before, either. Mandolin doesn't have any "hip" associations, but it isn't associated with "cheap", either. I'm actually surprised how many North Americans, even young ones, still link the ukulele to Tiny Tim. (Being a non-Brit European, I had never heard of him before I got into the ukulele, but I did associate the instrument with Hawaii and hula hula. ;))

I speculate that it's the combination of the shape and the size of the ukulele that contributes to the widespread belief that it is both cheap and easy, and possibly a toy. To the uninitiated person, a ukulele looks like a small, simplified guitar. Doesn't help that entertainers often emphasize the smallness of the instrument and use it in a comedy context (which it does work well for, probably precisely because of the "mini guitar" appearance). Most of the time, the average person sees ukuleles only strummed, not finger picked (probably true for the guitar also, but everyone knows a bunch of famous guitar riffs).

There's an upside to all of this. While probably a sizable number of would-be ukulele players are turned off by their first encounter with an unplayable ukulele, or find it to be harder than advertised and get discouraged, the fact that it's a less intimidating instrument likely also pulls in a lot of folks who would otherwise never have considered learning a musical instrument, and some of those will stick around.

In a way, this is true for me also. I didn't consider a guitar when I looked for an instrument to learn because I wanted something portable, and I didn't consider a fiddle or mandolin because I figured those would be hard and expensive. Without the uke, and some portions of the myth surrounding it, I'd probably not play a stringed (or any) instrument now.

Icelander53
06-19-2015, 01:37 AM
I would have never started guitar or any other string instrument other than the uke. Which is cool because I always wanted to play stringed instruments but was completely intimidated with the prospect.

Rllink
06-19-2015, 06:19 AM
I guess that all the angst over whether the ukulele is easy to play, hard to master, a serious instrument, a toy, is just lost on me. If one wants to be viewed as a serious musician, take up something that is viewed as a serious instrument. Maybe a cello. Because this whole argument is not about you, it is all about other people and how you want other people to view you. This argument isn't about how serious you are about playing the ukulele, it is about how seriously you want other people to view you. I mean, it isn't about ukuleles at all, it is all about image. I don't know why any one else came to play the ukulele, but for me, it looked fun, and it looked like it wasn't that hard. I hope the uke does not ever become pretentious, because if it does, I'm going to have to move on. I'm not that kind of person. I don't want to be viewed as a serious musician, I want to be a ukulele player. So that is the other side of the argument, and that was a rant, I guess.

terrgy
06-24-2015, 03:42 PM
I play mountain dulcimer, tremolo harmonica and now ukulele. When I talk to non-musicians about my music, they don't have a clue and don't take me seriously. When I discuss music with other musicians, especially guitar players, then and only then do I get a measure of respect. Words like, "hey cool man, love a harp."

I took up playing music when I retired 3 years ago at age 65. Something to do in retirement. It's one of the best things that have ever happened to me. A whole new world. I really gave guitar a shot first, but the arthritis in my hands won out. I found mountain dulcimer to not being a problem with my hands, since I play with a noter, playing up and down the melody strings with the other strings as drones.

I took up ukulele approx 2 months ago, and am loving it more than even my beloved mountain dulcimer. But making chord shapes is really bothering my fingers and hands. Even had a doctor's visit this past Monday, as the pain is sometimes bad. However, I have made a conscious decision to continue none the less. Pain pills make it manageable. I have decreased my practice time from approx an hour and a half a day to 30 to 45 min. This has also helped. Too much fun to give up. Once I learned "Stand By Me" on uke, that's all it took.

Best Regards,
Terry

Fleacia
06-24-2015, 03:51 PM
I see both sides. The uke is considered "easy" because the gratification (read: making a pleasing musical sound) is much more instant than with most other instruments. I found that to be true myself. However, playing anything well is never easy, as most of us around here know! And saying the uke is easy to a beginner who is having trouble could easily discourage them from playing, because "if this is easy, what will it be like later?" I've had an adult beginner spend 3 hours learning a C chord. I've had a child spend 5 minutes with her C chord and several strumming patterns, happily moving along. And I've had another adult beginner play a fingerpicking arrangement of "Jingle Bells" in a day. People are different; one person's easy is another's several months of work.

k0k0peli
06-25-2015, 08:38 AM
I recall a saying: "If it was easy, everybody would be doing it." And there's a truism: "Mastery of anything takes 10,000 hours of practice." Playing a few chords or melody lines on any fretted string instrument is not difficult; moving beyond that level, is. Another remembrance: "It took him ten years to become an overnight success." Lucky guy. Yes, small instruments with comfortable necks and soft strings are easy on one's hands. A person not wanting to put a lot of effort into playing something should be quite happy with a small uke. And as with anything, more effort pays off. The uke is only as easy as we allow it to be.