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fisher00
02-29-2016, 08:56 PM
How much time / practice do you put into a song before saying enough is enough? I've got a folder full of songs that I've invested varying levels of time and effort to learn to try to become proficient. Trouble is, I've learnt that I'm not a good learner. I invest what I think is a high level of time and effort in each song, but eventually become bored with what seems to be little advancement. Of course I am moderately better at each tune than when I first started, but each tune is still riddled with errors. I've tried playing nothing but one tune for a fortnight (morning and night practice), and I've tried practicing 2-3 different tunes to break the monotony. What tends to happen is that after a heap of practice with little advancement, I start to look for a new tune to learn. As a result I've got plenty of tunes that are half baked. So....how long should you persevere with a tune to get it right before admitting defeat and looking for something else?

Brad Bordessa
02-29-2016, 09:11 PM
Sounds to me like you're trying things that are too hard. There's always "buckle down and practice more," but that's pointless if you reaching way over your head.

Ratchet back the difficulty by a lot and see how your progress. You also might try breaking skills down to their basic components. Having trouble with chords? Just practice chords. Having trouble with picking. Just practice picking.

Be sure to practice intentionally too. Just playing the song is never going to get you that far. Break it down.

Mivo
02-29-2016, 09:21 PM
When I ask myself, "Am I having fun doing what I'm doing?" and the answer is repeatedly "Not really.", and what I'm doing isn't paying my bills or a necessity of life, I move on (or try to, sometimes I waste more time by being stubborn) to things (songs) that are more consistently fun.

But I also have never been a successful brute force learner. If I try, the return for the immense investment of time will be minuscule. Too much struggle, too much fighting. If, on the other hand, I enjoy myself and feel enthusiastic about something, I improve at a much faster pace. The trick is probably finding the sweet spot between an approach that requires no effort (may not yield much improvement) and one that requires too much un-fun effort (also yields almost no improvement for me).

If I felt I have to endure and persevere, I would probably rethink my entire approach, because to me it would mean that it's not working -- and even if it did, the lack of enjoyment would not make it worthwhile. But this is me, and I'm chiefly a dabbler, not an achiever. :) I'm also decidedly not in the "no gain without pain" camp as I value the journey more than the destination (or at least not less).

But this is probably too general. On a practical level, I think the response above is spot on. Break it down, consider easier tunes, isolate the component you feel is the trickiest (specific chord changes, etc), etc. Sometimes it's good to let things settle: take a break, do something else.

robinboyd
02-29-2016, 09:31 PM
When I get bored, I put it away and come back to it later. I also like to mix up the difficulty a bit, so I learn a few easy ditties in the short term while I have some others that I'm sure I'll master one day, but no time soon.

Croaky Keith
02-29-2016, 09:47 PM
I am basically a finger picker, or rather a thumb picker, I am slow when playing a tune/melody, over time I will speed up, am I worried?

No. I'm doing this to enjoy myself, I'll never be good, but I might end up being an adequete player. :)

(Whilst being just a picker, I also practice a little bit of chord changing, etc.)

Peace Train
02-29-2016, 10:15 PM
As was mentioned, that usually happens when I come up against a song that's beyond my skill set, or when I've reached a plateau and gotten bored. Mixing things up by playing simpler songs, or practicing troubling elements within the song can help. So can reminding yourself to take it easy, relax, and breathe while playing. I actually play better after a beer since my mind's no longer trying to get it perfect.

Learning a song can be a lot like writing poetry. When you've done as much as you can do, put it aside and work on something else, going back to it after nine months. When you pick it back up, see whether the gestation period has given birth to a new ease with which to play the song. At the very least, you'll be looking at it with new eyes and a fresh perspective.

JackLuis
02-29-2016, 11:06 PM
Knowing when to move on is different for everyone. The trick I found is to try something very different. I had been playing mostly country pop tunes as that is what my neighbor had music for. The other day I found an Irish Jig and started practicing the high tempo strum pattern for it and it is a little complicated and FAST! After about a week I had the chord changes down and the feel of the beat, but was still too slow to play it like the yourtubes. However in the last few days my strumming speed has built up and my chord changes are getting fast enough to add a couple of changes in it to make it my own arrangement.

Now when I go back to Hotel California, my changes are better and I don't struggle with forming the chord shapes. So The Agricultural Irish Girl has helped me a lot even if I can't play it cleanly yet. Last year this time I could barely do C-F-G7 changes at 40-50 bpm, now I can do five different keys and make it at 90-100 bpm. If I ever learn to finger pick tabs I'll be dangerous!

Rotate your songs and try different things to keep the fun in your playing.

Ukuleleblues
03-01-2016, 01:01 AM
How long have you been playing for? Could you post a copy of a song that you quit playing for the reasons you mentioned? Do you try and memorize the song or do you play from sheet music? Do you play with others (club, friend, etc.) or solo? It would help with suggestions to know.

DownUpDave
03-01-2016, 01:03 AM
I like everything Brad said......he is a teacher and a great player so he knows of what he speaks. Try no tempo practice, write out the chords and slowly play it with just 4 slow down strums and smooth changes between chords. You eventual speed up in steps until you are up to speed.

As an example of how long learning something can take. I did a sound sample demo back in Sept. and I did another one in Jan..playing the same song. I practiced that song everyday and I feel the most recent sample is true to tempo and feel. It took that long......but it was worth it

pluck
03-01-2016, 02:02 AM
When you practice a song you don't have to always play from beginning to end. Practice it by section, even by phrase, focusing on the hard parts. Repeating the hard parts repeatedly in a small amount of time helps a lot.

Becoming better is not a linear progression. I can go weeks feeling like I'm not getting anywhere and then one day I seem like I've improved a lot. Playing a musical instrument is not a single skill. It is a set of different skills and your overall progression is just a reflection of what is happening with each of the skills. I wouldn't suggest analyzing it this way particularly, just know that things move along as they will. You can always set a piece aside and come back in a few months.

Doc_J
03-01-2016, 02:09 AM
Record yourself, then listen critically. This will show what you need to improve and document improvement.
This approach has helped me. Don't give up.

DownUpDave
03-01-2016, 02:34 AM
Record yourself, then listen critically. This will show what you need to improve and document improvement.
This approach has helped me. Don't give up.

This is a great piece of advice Hodge and something I do as well. I think I have something down pat until I hear it recorded, very effective learning tool.You can do it quickly on a smart phone and you will hear the parts that need "working on".

Rllink
03-01-2016, 02:49 AM
I agree with playing something easier. If it is taking you that long to learn to play something, maybe you aren't quite ready for it yet. I've found that experiencing lots of smaller successes is much more productive, than having one grand failure.

ProfChris
03-01-2016, 03:29 AM
The advice to break the song down is really good advice.

I find it helpful to make an audio recording and then listen back to it. From this I can identify the parts that aren't working, and then can concentrate on those.

Just as an example, suppose you have a chord change which is always jerky. Try different inversions of the chord to see if one of those makes the change easier - for example, D to E7 could be 2220 -> 1202, or it could be 2225 ->4445.

Similarly, if there's a passage where you regularly lose the tune when singing, a different chord inversion might emphasise the notes you need to hit and make it easier to keep the tune.

actadh
03-01-2016, 04:27 AM
Try to mentally visualize it before you go to sleep. This might be easier if you do it line by line, or bar by bar. I have found this really speeds up retaining chord melody or fingerpicked songs. I go through the song note by note and where my fingers need to be over and over instead of counting sheep.

drbekken
03-01-2016, 04:52 AM
Much good advice in this thread. I always listen to other people's recordings of the song. Search on spotify, buy records...then listen over and over (and over). In that way, the song sneaks into your system and becomes easier to learn. Listening is one hundred percent essential for all musicians. When I had piano students who wanted to play jazz, I used to ask them if they listened to jazz. If they answered no, I told them they couldn't play it either. Most of them took the hint, and many of them play jazz today. They started to listen to the stuff they wanted to master.

shermdog
03-01-2016, 05:11 AM
It definitely sounds like you may be trying to play beyond your limits. I echo some of the advice others have given on this thread: take it slow, start breaking songs up and practice in chunks. You might also consider incorporating scales in your warm-up or practice if you aren't already. This will help you develop your fundamentals and skills, and ultimately should help as you sit down to learn new songs. I'm sure you are a fine learner. Perhaps you just haven't found the right method of learning that suits you best. It may be helpful if you join a group--playing with others can often help you improve and can make it more fun. Alternatively, maybe taking lessons will help you with staying motivated and organizing your practice time to help you be more efficient. Practicing every day shows great dedication, but don't underestimate the value of taking a break (maybe just 1 day a week). Sometimes your body and brain just need a little time to take in what you have learned.

Ukulele Eddie
03-01-2016, 05:55 AM
I understand the frustration you feel. In addition to other comments about about possibly attacking a few easier songs for confidence building, a few things I try to keep in mind:

1) Many professional musicians take a very long time to get a song where they want it. Yes, they're performing to a higher standard, but if it takes them a year to perfect a song, why should us ordinary folks expect less time to get a song to a point we can feel good about?

2) I saw the great guitarist Tommy Emmanuel a few months ago. He shared there is no secret to learning music. He recommends starting with one bar. Play that until it's memorized and sounds good. Then work on the next bar. When that sounds good, put bars 1 and 2 together. And so on. I found this revelatory. Here one of the greatest acoustic guitarists of all times learns a song by memorizing and practicing one bar at a time. It's sort of like hearing that your sports hero puts his or her pants on one leg a time. We sometimes lose sight that being good at something is often a result of mastering the very basics.

3) My approach is to jump in the deep end. I am learning several songs that are way over my head. But my ultimate test is, "Am I enjoying myself?". I don't really perform for anyone, so even if I'm struggling with getting a song where I want it -- which I often do -- if I'm enjoying the challenge it ultimately doesn't matter to me. I am re-attacking some of these challenging songs using #2 and am noticing faster improvement, though I still have a long way to go.

4) Lastly, sometimes it's one particular bar that creates an obstacle. You don't always have to clear an obstacle. Sometimes it's better to go around it. If you have a musician friend, see if they can help you with an easier approach to that part of the song. Something that works but may be a shortcut, if you will. You can always learn the harder way down the road.

Good luck and keep it fun!!

70sSanO
03-01-2016, 06:06 AM
Nearly everything I play is a fingerstyle/melody-chords. I play better than I used to play, but at any given point in time I have to wonder; as nothing seems to go as smoothly as when I first learned a particular tune. Sometimes I play a tough section clean and then a month later for some reason I start having nothing but problems with that same section. I'll labor over different fingerings, but it is still a struggle and the more I work on it the more aware I am that that section is coming up and that doesn't help.

You say that you have a folder full of songs that you have invested time and they are all riddled with errors. I not going to give you some structured advice on practice techniques and times to play or how many repetitions you need to do to learn something, because for some people that is not going to work. My advice is to play through them with enjoyment and when you get to the places that are causing problems... cheat. I play some of Jake's stretches, but I can't do all of them. So I cheat and figure out what sounds good without having to stretch my hand on a rack or surgically add another finger to it. If there is a section that I need to modify a bit, I change it, remove a few non-core notes that only enhance the piece. You need to start focusing on having a folder full songs that are riddled with a lot of good playing.

John

Edit Added: I was typing this when Ukulele Eddie was posting. I think we are saying the same thing as far as shortcuts.

WhenDogsSing
03-01-2016, 06:07 AM
Until it's no longer fun, then move on. As long as you enjoy it, persevere on.

spookelele
03-01-2016, 06:21 AM
How are you choosing songs?
And what are you trying to do?

Are you learning, from just paper?
Is it staff or tab?

Not everyone learns the same way. Maybe your hold up is the method you're trying to learn?

I learn slowest from staff, and fastest from video, but I learn mostly from tab.

As people say, are you learning above your level?

Theres a couple songs I started when I first picked up the uke.
At first, I'd just pick the melody.
Then I'd find the chords from the melody.
Then I'd mix chord/melody, until it was more finger style than chords.
And now I add more improv, and look for color chords/transitions.

What I can do with a song now, is not what I could do when I first started, and I know that the more I learn, the more I will be able to do with it, even though its the same "song".

So.. how long to persevere.. I guess you are never really done with a song, only what you do with a song at a given time.

kohanmike
03-01-2016, 08:34 AM
I wonder where fisher00 has been, there's some very good advice here. My approach is to lock in small sections at a time, that's been the best way for me to learn, even the more advanced stuff, in fact, because I work piece-by-piece, I've been able to do the more advanced stuff more readily.

Mim
03-01-2016, 08:37 AM
The key for me is to play what I love, dont compare myself to anyone else, and I dont strive for perfection!

That being said, I use my uke as more of an accompaniment for my voice. But I find I lose my passion when I choose songs I think other people want to hear and not what I want for me. And also when I compare myself to other people. Play for you! Love what you play! And dont sweat the small stuff and be proud of how far you have come!

sam13
03-01-2016, 08:41 AM
Until it's no longer fun, then move on. As long as you enjoy it, persevere on.

Well said. Exactly.

mm stan
03-01-2016, 11:18 AM
Learning too fast and hard can be fustrating if your learning curb is slower. Enjoy the journey and
Play songs you can play until you improve in steps. You will know when you get aha moments
Nobody said uke learning was a race, play your own pace, practice, persevere, patience, passion
Happy strummings. .

pritch
03-01-2016, 11:45 AM
There was a recent thread discussing Tommy Emannuele's advice to learn one measure at a time. (Have looked but can't find the thread.)
Learn the first measure until you can play it mechanically then move to the second measure. When you can play that, play both together. Then move to the third measure. And so on.

Mivo
03-01-2016, 01:05 PM
When you are getting frustrated and wondering how long to persevere, don't rely on the responses of people who are internet strangers. Every great musician from the last 500 years has a biography you can find. They all got frustrated and discouraged as well, and worked out how to keep going and we still listen to their music as much as 500 years later.

If your goal is to become a professional musician, and it is your job, or you hope for it to become your source of income, that is good advice.

But since none of these apply to me, I do value advice from "people who are internet strangers", because they are more like me. They, like me, play music for recreation, have little to no competitive ambition, didn't drink their baby milk out of a soprano, can't (or don't want to) practice numerous hours every day, aren't interested in becoming alcoholics or drug addicts just so they can deal with it all, and are, above all, not musical geniuses. They, like me, are probably dabblers, too, or at least have appreciation for enjoying themselves when they make music or learn, and they, like me, probably don't look at playing the ukulele as "hard work". What works for them may well work for me, too. At the least, their situation stands a chance to be comparable to my own.

The experiences, views, and bits of "what works" of Joe the Mechanic or Mary the Nurse are more applicable and useful to me than those of Superstar the Musical Hero. Those I admire, but their lives and goals are nothing at all like mine, and their solutions and approaches are unlikely to work for me because I don't want the same things they hoped to (and did) achieve.

fisher00
03-01-2016, 03:44 PM
Hey everyone - thanks for all your responses - 3 pages worth now! Lots of good advice in there. I'll have a closer look at all the posts when I'm home with the aim of revising my practice strategy. My biggest problem - I think - is that I'm impatient and expect myself to learn faster than I am currently doing. thanks again

bird's eye view of my ukelele
03-01-2016, 04:21 PM
are you looking to learn the songs off by heart?

i find that veryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy hard!

if you wanna ease off the trying and just have some fun, look for easy songs that you like - there are loads of 3 and 4 chord songs and even 2 chord songs and yes even 1 chord songs! you can get books of easy songs, if all you wanna do (it's all i wanna do!) is strum then you can work from guitar song books, ignore the chord diagrams and if it says C just play ukulele C etc. just strum away any old how, there is no right way. strum along and sing along and just have fun. work until you can play a song through, from the chord sheet, without *too* many disasters and then just move on to another song.

you could join us over on the seasons, we have weekly uke challenges, someone posts a theme, we pick a song that fits the theme, we get the hang of it asap, post a vid, and if there is time we can try another... and another...! even if you don't wanna leap in and make vids, you could check out the theme, go looking for songs you like that fit it, see if they have nice easy chords, and have a strum and a sing. just for kicks. some seasons peeps do learn a song off by heart but a lot of us use chord sheets. you can't work on a song for more than a week because BAM after a week there is a new theme and a new challenge and a new season! it might help you not spend forever on stuff

the seasons are here...

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/forumdisplay.php?47-Seasons-of-the-Ukulele

i've been on the seasons now for oooooooooooooooooh ages, years, two and a half years or something crazy like that! and i still can't do proper down up down up downitty uppity down uke strumming but i have a shed load of fun!! :rock:

Booli
03-02-2016, 02:40 AM
Hey everyone - thanks for all your responses - 3 pages worth now! Lots of good advice in there. I'll have a closer look at all the posts when I'm home with the aim of revising my practice strategy. My biggest problem - I think - is that I'm impatient and expect myself to learn faster than I am currently doing. thanks again

In my mind, I have not learned a song until I can play without a music sheet, and my eyes closed, not looking at the instrument, forwards, backwards, start/stop at any point, for until that time, there is still the use of a crutch and the music has not been 'internalized'.

Then I change and play it on a different instrument, like guitar, or piano, and then come back to uke later. I will also learn it in FIFTHS-tuning (I have one uke tuned like a cello GDAE, and another yet tuned like a viola or tenor guitar CGDA, in addition to all the standard uke tunings, but FIFTHS-TUNINGS are completely different fingerings than the modified-fourths tunings for uke and guitar)

I say practice until your fingers fall off, however you practice the best...

That's what I always try to do....

sukie
03-02-2016, 03:05 AM
I practice as much as it takes...and more. I practiced a song 2 years ago for 2 hours s day for 8 months. I STILL haven nailed the tremolo part -- which is all of 8 measures. I'll keep playing it until I nail that part.
But -- I AM a very slow learner on the ukulele.

70sSanO
03-02-2016, 04:06 AM
In my mind, I have not learned a song until I can play without a music sheet, and my eyes closed, not looking at the instrument, forwards, backwards, start/stop at any point, for until that time, there is still the use of a crutch and the music has not been 'internalized'.

Then I change and play it on a different instrument, like guitar, or piano, and then come back to uke later. I will also learn it in FIFTHS-tuning (I have one uke tuned like a cello GDAE, and another yet tuned like a viola or tenor guitar CGDA, in addition to all the standard uke tunings, but FIFTHS-TUNINGS are completely different fingerings than the modified-fourths tunings for uke and guitar)

Not to be difficult, but using your criteria literally, I think it would be impossible to really learn a song. If this were the advice given to me, I'd sell all my instruments.

Have you really learned any songs with this criteria?

I'd like to hear some instrumentals played backwards with eyes closed. Anything from John King would be especially nice.

John

spookelele
03-02-2016, 04:30 AM
I say practice until your fingers fall off, however you practice the best...

My mom would agree with you.
But her way made me quit playing music until I was an adult.

Now I learn much better, because its what I want to do.
If you live in a world of supposed to, everything that doesn't fit makes you feel bad.
But when you think of it as things you want, you keep going, because it's all good.

Tootler
03-02-2016, 05:52 AM
Not to be difficult, but using your criteria literally, I think it would be impossible to really learn a song. If this were the advice given to me, I'd sell all my instruments.

Have you really learned any songs with this criteria?

I'd like to hear some instrumentals played backwards with eyes closed. Anything from John King would be especially nice.

John

I basically agree with Booli, though I think he overstates it a little for me. However he is right that you haven't really learnt a song until you can play it without the music in front of you and I generally don't sing a song in public until I can sing it without the sheet music in front of me.

It takes me quite a long time to learn a song these days so if I'm recording for the seasons, I learn the song well enough to play it through and then have the song sheet in front of me while I'm recording. I think with recording, having a cheat sheet in front of you is OK as you want to minimise mistakes which is not critical when you are performing live as they are over and done quickly and mostly get missed by the listeners.

hendulele
03-02-2016, 06:09 AM
are you looking to learn the songs off by heart?

i find that veryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy hard!

if you wanna ease off the trying and just have some fun, look for easy songs that you like - there are loads of 3 and 4 chord songs and even 2 chord songs and yes even 1 chord songs! you can get books of easy songs, if all you wanna do (it's all i wanna do!) is strum then you can work from guitar song books, ignore the chord diagrams and if it says C just play ukulele C etc. just strum away any old how, there is no right way. strum along and sing along and just have fun. work until you can play a song through, from the chord sheet, without *too* many disasters and then just move on to another song.

you could join us over on the seasons, we have weekly uke challenges, someone posts a theme, we pick a song that fits the theme, we get the hang of it asap, post a vid, and if there is time we can try another... and another...! even if you don't wanna leap in and make vids, you could check out the theme, go looking for songs you like that fit it, see if they have nice easy chords, and have a strum and a sing. just for kicks. some seasons peeps do learn a song off by heart but a lot of us use chord sheets. you can't work on a song for more than a week because BAM after a week there is a new theme and a new challenge and a new season! it might help you not spend forever on stuff

the seasons are here...

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/forumdisplay.php?47-Seasons-of-the-Ukulele

i've been on the seasons now for oooooooooooooooooh ages, years, two and a half years or something crazy like that! and i still can't do proper down up down up downitty uppity down uke strumming but i have a shed load of fun!! :rock:

What Lynda (BEVOMU) said.

When I first picked up the uke there was a list of songs I wanted to play from Day One. Almost all of them were way over my head. I got very frustrated until I figured out how to make pretty smooth transitions between the basic C, G(7), D, A, E7 and F chords and realized that a bazillion songs fit in that template. (And many of those that don't you can tune up or down to fit!)

Once I scaled back my expectations, I enjoyed playing a lot more, and my beloved spouse (who's had to endure the process for about 2 1/2 years) says I've really turned a corner.

I'm not sure what your goal is, but I play to enjoy and to entertain myself and torture the Seasonistas and local jammers.

Good luck!

MattW
03-02-2016, 01:28 PM
As many before had said, "break it into sections"...by breaking into manageable "chunks", it'll be easier to get proficient at that part. Once you get better at each section independently, try to put them all together. If it's more of a technique issue, check out the thousands of instructional videos on Youtube, or try the lessons on uke underground. There are also many good books out there that discuss techniques and give you exercises to get better. I've only been at it for a couple months, but feel that I have learned quite a lot through the various channels I mentioned (and everyone else before me on this thread).

As for how long to practice, that depends on your preference. I like to put in an hour or so four to five nights a week after I put my kid to bed. I find that's a good way to unwind and get some music in (and a good glass of whiskey). Once I am more relaxed, I find it much easier for my fingers to do what I want them to do when I want them to do it. Otherwise when I find myself too stressed or tense, it's hard to get the right picking pattern or strumming pattern on more difficult arrangements. So I find myself having to slow things waaaaayyy down to make up for it. Then gradually pick up the pace.

But fact of the matter is: relax, have fun, and practice. It'll come.