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Down Up Dick
07-11-2015, 05:14 AM
I recently bought a Gold Tone mini banjo to see if I can learn to play it. I know that I said " no more wooden instruments," but it's not very woody. Anyway, so, I've been fumbling with it, and I am actually making a little progress.

So, last night I put on a Bluegrass CD to listen to the banjo players, and, my Lord, they were blazing fast. I couldn't even begin to tell what they were doing with their fingers. And they really brought me down. "I'll never be able to do that," I thought . . . Ahhh, me.

Well, what do you feel about listening to some really, really good ukulele music that is far and above what you can do? Are you moved to work harder to improve your playing, or do you feel that your uking practice is sorta useless? I know that I should just appreciate the outstanding music and strive on, but . . .

I'm just wondering how wrong my attitude is and will it hurt my playing. :old:

Rllink
07-11-2015, 05:35 AM
Well, everyone has to start somewhere, and those fellows didn't start out fast. I think you are letting yourself get discouraged too easily. Just keep doing the best that you can, and if you do that, you are bound to get better. That is my attitude about it anyway. I figure that if I can improve just a smidgen every day, I'm narrowing that gap between them and me, and that keeps me moving forward.

DownUpDave
07-11-2015, 05:38 AM
Rolli is wrong..........you will never get it.......send that useless banjo to me. Will PM you my address.

janeray1940
07-11-2015, 05:40 AM
I've never found comparing myself to others to be useful in any way, so - I just try to avoid it. Hearing good music, well played, in general (not just ukulele) is always an inspiration, but I don't measure myself against it.

Down Up Dick
07-11-2015, 05:48 AM
I've never found comparing myself to others to be useful in any way, so - I just try to avoid it. Hearing good music, well played, in general (not just ukulele) is always an inspiration, but I don't measure myself against it.

Of course, you are correct, but I guess you're stronger, more open minded (?) than me. I always seem to compare. :old:

Pukulele Pete
07-11-2015, 05:50 AM
wow , alot of Downup guys here . No Updowns? Anyway , I'm officially old now, been playing a stringed instrument for over 50 years and I still think I suck. I've always
played a relatively expensive instrument and it has never intimidated me. Just made me realize I need to practice more. There are songs I can play now that I would have considered impossible , but practice practice practice and more practice and now I can do it. A new instrument has always made me practice more.

k0k0peli
07-11-2015, 07:54 AM
So, last night I put on a Bluegrass CD to listen to the banjo players, and, my Lord, they were blazing fast. I couldn't even begin to tell what they were doing with their fingers. And they really brought me down. "I'll never be able to do that," I thought . . .
If that's what you think, then you're right. You'll never ever be that good. Might as well eat worms and die now, right?

OR you can brew yourself a quadruple-espresso, limber-up your fingers, and play faster. Playing a banjo fast is not difficult. Learn 3-finger picking and wail away. Do some hammer-ons and pull-offs for more notes per stroke.

Anyway, speed is not a problem, even for Ye Olde Phartz like us. Whether it makes any musical sense -- well, that's another question. I'm reminded of a stupid movie (The Pianist?) about some guy, raised on a cruise ship, whose only skill was piano. Stupid scene: our pianist faces-off against James P Johnson or some other ragtime virtuoso, I forget who exactly. The ragtimer does some nice fast playing. Our pianist wails away, playing blazingly fast -- but he's playing NOTHING, just vamping a couple chords. I could do that too. Big freaking deal. Speed is not the issue -- context is. Crud played fast is still crud. (I'm paraphrasing a Tom Paxton comment about rock music played loud.)

Anyway, as mentioned, very few of us were born speed-fingering our instruments. We practice. Some of us should be locked in soundproof rooms while we practice. Are we ever good enough to be released? ?Quien sabe? Who knows?

Down Up Dick
07-11-2015, 08:06 AM
Well, thanks for the shove, k0k0peli, gotta go get some coffee now. Shazaaaam! :old:

Rllink
07-11-2015, 08:37 AM
Well, it is all about expectations, isn't it? I learned a long time ago that the secret to success is to keep those expectations low. Seriously, setting attainable goals, and reaching them, then setting new attainable goals based on where you are, is a formula for success. Setting unattainable goals, and never reaching them is a sure route to failure. I'm all about a series of small successes trumping one grand failure every time. Go for success.

sukie
07-11-2015, 08:43 AM
Good (read: fabulous) ukulele players inspire the h*ll out of me. It makes me want to work harder.

I remember the first time I saw Jake. I'd been playing for 2 months. His right hand mesmerised me. I couldn't make out anything he did. It just looked like a hummingbird. 7 years later -- I usually can figure out what he is doing. It's amazing. When I listen to good players now (on a CD) I can often times know what technique it is.

With time this will happen to you also.

SteveZ
07-11-2015, 08:48 AM
There's an old story related to master guitarist Chet Atkins. Chet used to listen to Les Paul records and, try as he may, Chet just couldn't quite match Les Paul's sound. Chet could get get close, but always fell a little short. When the two finally met, Chet told Les of his awe of Les' sound and inability to match it. Les Paul later confessed that he didn't have the heart to tell Chet that when Les made those records, multiple recorders were used and mixed to make the records.

One may never sound as good as others, but, so what! The issue is, are you having fun? No matter how good one is, there will always be others better and others worse.

Down Up Dick
07-11-2015, 08:50 AM
Yeah, Rollie, sometimes our brains are a handicap and pushing them sometimes causes frustration. Dr. Tony Grant, the radio shrink usta talk about "baby steps". I guess I've forgotten some of what I know.

Thanks for joggling my mind; now I gotta think about your idea. :old:

Down Up Dick
07-11-2015, 09:02 AM
Well, SteveZ, you're probably right, but I usually don't have fun when I don't do well. I know beginners can't play like Bella Fleck, but I don't deal very well with frustration.

I suppose, when I can finally play somethin' a little, I'll relax a bit. I've done it before, so I will keep pushing. :old:

SteveZ
07-11-2015, 09:18 AM
Well, SteveZ, you're probably right, but I usually don't have fun when I don't do well. I know beginners can't play like Bella Fleck, but I don't deal very well with frustration.

I suppose, when I can finally play somethin' a little, I'll relax a bit. I've done it before, so I will keep pushing. :old:

As long as the neighbors don't call the police about your playing, no harm - no foul!

Mivo
07-11-2015, 09:54 AM
I still recommend Guitar Zero (http://garymarcus.com/books/guitarzero.html) by Gary Marcus for these moments of motivational despair!

It's difficult not to feel the way you do, especially when you are haunted by the thought of being late to the party as is. I struggled a lot with that when I picked up Go (the Asian board game) in my early, mid 30s, and I bumped into all those schoolkids not even half my age who learned to play better in one summer break than I knew I would in years. That discouraged me so much that I started playing Backgammon instead, because it was easier! I returned to Go some years later and then regretted that I had not followed through! I did set myself up for that, though.

It's not necessarily what society preaches, but I feel that competition and comparison are poison for a lot of people. There are probably times and places for them, but truth be told they didn't work for me even when I was a kid. I had this extremely old-fashioned elementary school teacher (old-fashioned even by late 70s, early 80s standards) who'd reward the kids that did well with little stickers. I never got one, and it never motivated me. Instead, it caused me to shut down and lose interest, because I felt I could never be like those other children. I went for being a pain in her behind instead and, accordingly, spent more time on complaining and rebelling than I did working on getting stickers, and instead collected red-ink notes that said, "Dear M's mom, please call me at your earliest convenience."

It's probably why I ended up in a creative, social field, especially at a time when things like community management (online, especially) were leading edge kind of stuff, heavily relaying on teamwork rather than competition, with a marked absence of established rules and theories and proper ways of doing things. Very free-form, and that worked well for me. It still does.

Anyway, you can only be who you are. Can't be anyone else. No, realistically, when you're starting to learn an instrument late in life, you won't ever become as good as someone who started at age 3 and spent half a life-time practicing eight hours a day. You can get damned good, but you won't become a star like Jake (neither will all the kids who do start out early in life).

But, you know, you can always become better than you were yesterday, or a year ago, or ten years ago, when presumably you couldn't play banjo or ukulele at all! Strive for that and bask in every little improvement you make. If you must compare, compare yourself to those billions of people who have never even held a banjo, like me!

Be gentle with yourself.

Down Up Dick
07-11-2015, 10:17 AM
Well, Mivo, thanks for the really good motivational speech, and all the rest of you too. I am at least a bit of a perfectionist, and it grinds me to make mistake after mistake. And, at my age, not to be able to do what I want with my mind and fingers is at the very least, irritating.

I know I'm whining a lot, so now I'll stop and just buckle down and play my banjo like the porch boy in "Deliverance". :old:

Booli
07-11-2015, 04:20 PM
Seeing/hearing others play shows me what is POSSIBLE. That if another human can do it, maybe so can I.

Desire, commitment and amount of practice existing in varying degrees as per 'free time' (what's that?) allowed gets me improving along the way.

Back when I was first, very seriously guitarded (as a teenager), Eddie Van Halen was an inspiration for a while, especially the song 'Eruption', which involves very fast hammer-ons and pull-offs. I had a second hand, poorly set-up, bad sounding electric guitar (all though I did not know it at the time) with the action almost 3/8" at the 12th fret, but I was going to play and sound like that song or die trying. At some point I got an 'overdrive' effect pedal and realized that if I cranked the 5-watt Sears amplifier to '11' and set the pedal to maximum, (much to the chagrin of my parents) I could get my guitar close enough. After about an hour per day of 'practice' for about a month, I could play it (by ear), and even if some of the notes were not exact, it was close enough. By that time, the infatuation with that technique and sound had lost it's shiny appeal, and I moved on to other things afterward (Queen, The Police, The Cars, U2, Genesis).

What the experience taught me is that you can learn and figure out anything, but you have to WANT to do it, and you have to put in the time required to master it. Progress comes slow, and can be frustrating. Too often folks get discouraged and give up easily, just before a break-through or epiphany. I've learned that right when you feel all hope is lost, you are just about to turn the corner, and have less friction, and that you have to keep at it, and keep at it until you do. Commitment to this goal is of paramount importance. Otherwise, it gets shoved into the 'someday box' or the 'I will never box'.


... I figure that if I can improve just a smidgen every day, I'm narrowing that gap between them and me, and that keeps me moving forward.


I've never found comparing myself to others to be useful in any way, so - I just try to avoid it. Hearing good music, well played, in general (not just ukulele) is always an inspiration, but I don't measure myself against it.


... Just made me realize I need to practice more. There are songs I can play now that I would have considered impossible , but practice practice practice and more practice and now I can do it. A new instrument has always made me practice more.


If that's what you think, then you're right. You'll never ever be that good. Might as well eat worms and die now, right? ...

The words above from our fellow UU brethren are wise words indeed, and are examples of the fact that perseverance pays off.

When I first started with the ukulele, Jake was (and still is) a huge inspiration to me. One of his songs that I wanted to play was 'Piano Forte' but I had real trouble with the 7-fret stretch required for some of the notes (on a tenor), and realized that I had to get my fingers in shape to be able to make this happen. I set about exploring these kinds of chord and scale textures, and wrote a few of my own songs having a huge stretch like that. With it being my OWN music, it was easier to practice without getting frustrated or disenchanted, and became an EXPLORATION of the fretboard.

Now, about a year later, with better manual dexterity, I am ready to approach that song again and set myself to be able to play it.

@D-U-D, As far as banjo goes, maybe you should do a YouTube search for Bela Fleck, who is regarded by many as an accessible yet master musician, and plays banjo in many different styles, and maybe by exploring his music, those banjo techniques will not seem so intimidating for you?

weaselrina
07-11-2015, 05:21 PM
I spent the first 40 years of my life only doing the things that I was immediately good at. I never learned how to get better at anything. I thought everything was a talent. Once I wised up, and was willing to be bad, then mediocre, then average.. building on knowledge and getting better at stuff, it opened up whole worlds for me.

there is no freedom like the freedom to enjoy what you are doing without having to be the best.
and letting yourself do that means you may eventually catch up to those who intimidate you.

Signed,
I suck at Ukulele and love it.

k0k0peli
07-12-2015, 09:04 AM
What the experience taught me is that you can learn and figure out anything, but you have to WANT to do it, and you have to put in the time required to master it. There's a motto about any sort of personal transformation -- and yes, gaining proficiency with an instrument *IS* a form of re-invention. The motto is: YA GOTTA REALLY WANNA OR ELSE YA AIN'T GONNA. Personal transformation ain't easy, but it's quite possible. Quit smoking. Drop the body fat. Ease off on alcohol. (That's a tricky one.) Manage anger. Master anything. All these require dedication and perseverance and lots of bloody hard work. But the rewards of re-inventing oneself are staggering. (Did I ever mention how playing an instrument helps one get laid? S'truth.) So, keep at it. Become a banjo whiz (no, don't whiz on the banjo).

One Man And His Uke
07-16-2015, 09:33 AM
I think playing fast for the sake of playing fast can often be a bit boring. There's nowt wrong with playing fast, and of course, Bluegrass gets a lot of its excitement from ultra fast playing, but as long as its musical and pushes the tune along I'm fine with that. I play mandolin as well as uke and listen to Chris Thile a fair bit. He can really "shred" a fret board, but to me he's always very musical, much like Django was. These guys inspire me, but not to be like them, Chris Thile has been playing mando since he was kneehigh to a grasshopper, and its his job, whereas music is my hobby. I know I'll never be able to play like them but I don't find that intimidating, it inspires me to "have a go".

Down Up Dick
07-16-2015, 10:06 AM
Well, One Man, you seem to have the right attitude, but I'm just not built that way. I need to either excel (first chair) or feel bad about myself. Of course, that's a bad way to be, but "I yam what I yam" (as Popeye always says). In the past my attitude worked for me, and I was usually first chair all my musical life.

But I've never been old before. My hand-eye coordination is a joke; my understanding is sketchy at best; and I seem to only remember things that happened in years long, long gone by--yesterday, not so much. But people on the TV or internet say that doing mind twisting, finger wrenching exercises is good for one, so who am I to nay say them? Who knows . . . if I try enough instruments, I'll find one at which I excell. Maybe I can play banjo funeral dirges . . .

Anyway, I got no where to go but up any more. :old: