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JohnL
11-06-2016, 02:26 PM
I've been playing the uke for less than a year, practicing for the last 5 months at least an hour a day. I took the UkeBuddy online course of about 60 mini lessons and I feel it gave me a good foundation to get started with the basics.

I want to improve my playing so I decided to take lessons from an in person instructor in my area. I've been taking private lessons for about 3 months. My problem is I'm a little frustrated because I'm not sure I'm progressing like I should. Each week my instructor gives me something different to practice (one wk it's some cord progressions, the next wk might be 4 types of blues rifs, the next week might be 4 types of finger picking, then a wk of some music theory, etc. Problem is I don't ever feel like my lessons are progressing or building from one week onto the next. I feel like I'm just being giving random stuff to practice each wk. Is this the way it usually is? Or do instructors usually have a plan to allow to to keep building on what you've learned the previous wk and then keep building on that? And then do you actually try to take what you're learning at some point and try to apply it to playing songs?

My lessons are only a half hour per wk and my instructor spends a lot of time talking about everything (her grandkids, pets, medical problems, etc.) except teaching me the uke. One wk I only got 15 minutes of actual uke learning.

My instructor also belongs to a local uke club which he told me I should try, which I did. That didn't go so well. The club played over 40 songs in an hour and a half from Jim Beloff's The Daily Ukulele book. Most of it was over my playing ability. It definitely wasn't a beginners group. Many chords I don't know and the songs were way too fast for beginners like me. So now I'm even more frustrated. I don't know if I should be spending my time practicing the random stuff my instructor gives me each week or using Beloffs book and trying to learn to play some songs. Problem is at this point it seems to take me a long time to learn a song with a lot of cords I've never seen before. I think I'm just confused and frustrated on what I should be practicing or what way I should go about it.

I'm looking for advice from people who take private lessons. I don't mind putting the work in but I want to make sure my instructor is helping me progress the way I should be. There aren't many uke instructors in my area so before I try to find someone else I just wanted to get others opinions. I'm worried that the lack of vision in my lessons is starting to kill my enthusiasm for my uke. My instructor is very knowledgeable, I'm just not sure he's a real good instructor. But maybe I'm wrong and this is the way it is with private lessons?

Dan Gleibitz
11-06-2016, 03:32 PM
Like any other job, there are bad teachers and good teachers. Even with the good teachers, there will be some who suit your learning style better than others. If you're putting in the effort (minimum 4 hours per week practise) and are not progressing after 3 months, I'd say break it off.

Either way, adding a real tune or two to your daily routine will give you some continuity and let you see progress. I'm sure people here can help you pick something that's manageable at your level.

Mivo
11-06-2016, 04:25 PM
I feel that the real value of a personal instructor is to point out weaknesses and help with correcting them, which includes focusing on material that addresses your specific needs. If they just follow their standard lesson plan, you might as well head over to The Ukulele Way by James Hill and take his online course. It'll cost you less and is probably more well-rounded. Or the UU University program here on UU, which also has numerous videos for self-study. This is different if your teacher does work with you on your weak areas, but I'm not sure if that's the case based on what you described.

I'd voice my concerns to the teacher. You're (presumably) paying for it, so it's perfectly fine to touch on concerns like these.

Croaky Keith
11-06-2016, 11:10 PM
If I were ever to use an instructor, I'd tell them what I expect to be able to do, so that they gear their teaching to what I want - but I prefer to learn on my own from books mainly, picking a subject & having a go at it, if I fail, I'll try asking online about what I may be doing wrong. :)

Being able to play any instrument does take quite a lot of time, & if you aren't playing songs/tunes that you like, there's something wrong with how you're going about it. ;)

Domiuke
11-06-2016, 11:20 PM
The most important thing with instructors is confidence.
Without It cannot work.
So change.

sukie
11-07-2016, 03:26 AM
I have had private lessons for 8 years. 2 with a local instructor and 6 with an on-line teacher. My on-line teacher is phenomenal!!!! My lessons are very much tailored for me. It took a while to figure out why I was learning what I was being taught. But each lesson WAS building up to something. Maybe one week was a certain technique that would be needed in the next song I was going to learn. Or maybe I needed to work on scales for fingering. Sometimes I think I am learning nothing at all but then I'll look back and say ""whoa!!!, I've learned a lot". Plateaus suck, but then you may hit a period of explosive growth. There is so much to learn!!!!! Keep at it.
Maybe you need a new teacher? There are some great on-line teachers.


Uke club? Keep going. It gets easier each time as you learn more stuff.
Personally? I've been playing 8 years and I don't want a beginner uke club. What fun is that? We take turns picking songs so song difficulty changes each pick. Uke club really should have something for everybody.

Good luck. But most importantly, have fun.

Rllink
11-07-2016, 03:37 AM
If I were ever to use an instructor, I'd tell them what I expect to be able to do, so that they gear their teaching to what I want - but I prefer to learn on my own from books mainly, picking a subject & having a go at it, if I fail, I'll try asking online about what I may be doing wrong. :)

Being able to play any instrument does take quite a lot of time, & if you aren't playing songs/tunes that you like, there's something wrong with how you're going about it. ;)I agree with uke1950, it sounds to me like you are being passive and not taking an active role in the process. Maybe if you tell your instructor what your goals and aspirations are with your ukulele, he can better guide you. It really sounds like he is just throwing stuff at you to see if anything sticks. As far as Daily Ukulele, most of the songs in that book are not difficult if you sit down and work on them. That is another thing for your instructor to help you with. You can narrow down your focus by picking a few songs that you like and telling your instructor that you want to work on them. That is partly your instructor's fault too, if he hasn't established a direction for you.

When I took voice lessons, the first thing my voice instructor asked me, after he introduced himself, was what I wanted to accomplish with singing lessons. We wrote them down on a piece of paper and before every class he would go back through them and he would ask me if I felt like I was getting closer to them. Then we would talk about it for a few minutes, and he would structure my lesson to move me forward if I thought that things were progressing well, or he would help me over the hump if it wasn't. There was always purpose. There was always a target. Also, with each lesson, he would require me to bring in something that I was working on and having trouble with, and we would take a portion of the half hour working on that. It varied, but usually we spent a few minutes or so talking about where I was going and if I was staying on track, then some time working on my "problem child", then the rest of the time working on voice exercises and finally looking at what I was going to work on between then and the next lesson.

It was a lot, and we hustled. There was no small talk. But also, I drove the lessons. My instructor expected me to come through the door warmed up and ready to go. I would advise you to do the same. You should already be tuned up, have your music in hand, and hit the door ready to run. If you do all that, and you are still not progressing, it is the instructor.

lfoo6952
11-07-2016, 04:15 AM
John:

Great advice, especially from Rllink and uke1950. Tell your instructor what you want to achieve, and jointly devise a plan to get there.

Regarding the small talk prior to the lesson, I've been through that too. Be honest, but politely tell him you'd like to dive right into the lesson.

If that doesn't work, then maybe time to get a fresh start from another instructor.

All the best,
Luke

Nickie
11-07-2016, 12:57 PM
John,
When I 1st started playing with a group from the Daily Ukulele, they were way over my head too. Stick with it. Playing with more advanced students is frustrating, if you let it be. Catch up to them!

hal1001
11-09-2016, 03:03 AM
I've not taken any ukulele private lessons, but I have taken plenty of other types of private lessons. Just based on your post, I'd switch instructors because I don't think she's a good match for you. You seem to be the type that's highly motivated and would benefit from a more serious instructor aiming to train students for competitions or with regular tests.

One thing I didn't see in your post is whether she's using any method system. It doesn't sound like she's following any book since you gave me the impression that you don't know what's coming next. If she's not following somebody else's method, does she appear to have her own? Maybe you can ask her to tell you about her plans, kind of like a syllabus when you take a class.

CheeseSandwich
11-09-2016, 10:56 AM
Hi John,

Hmm based on what you said it doesnt seem like there is a focus on lesson plans. In addition, it seems like your instructor is using up your time talking about non music related stuff. Its normal for instructors to talk a bit about other stuff (after all we are all humans wanting social interaction!) but this seems to be too much.

As others have said, a great thing would be for you to talk to your instructor about what goals you want to set. Maybe you want to learn lots of technical stuff on the uke, songs, or music theory? Once you decide on what you want to focus on, you and your instructors can set a focused lesson plan to help you meet those goals. If those goals ever change, feel free to tell your instructor you want to change the lesson plans; after all this is your money so your instructor should be asking you what you want.

I never took private uke lessons but I took private guitar lessons for a long time. I always communicated clearly to my instructor what I wanted to learn and we kept socializing about non music stuff to a minimum so effectively use my time. This was immensely satisfying for me and this happened because we were both clear about my goals. I hope things work out for you. Don't lose your enthusiasm! Uke is the best instrument ever :P

JohnL
11-09-2016, 02:44 PM
UPDATE: Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I went for my uke lesson yesterday and I've decided I'm going to move on to someone, or something else, after my lessons are done this month. My instructor spent time yesterday talking about his grand children and he even took a phone call from his son and spoke to him for a couple minutes. It wasn't an emergency call, instead his son just wanted to call him to tell him he bought a new phone. But the clincher was with the lesson plan for this week. At last weeks previous lesson he gave me a sheet containing 4 fingerpicking patterns to learn and he told me I should practice them. So I practiced them like crazy and I had them down pretty good. When I went to my lesson yesterday he told me that 2 of the patterns are hardly ever used and then he wrote out two alternative patterns I could practice instead. So of course I asked him why he had me practicing stuff I might never use and he really didn't have an answer. This is the second time in my 3 months of lessons with him that he has done this to me. So at this point I don't really care about discussing a lesson plan with him because I just want to move on. He has tons of knowledge about the uke, but he's just not a good instructor..

lfoo6952
11-09-2016, 06:20 PM
Hi John:

Thanks for giving us an update on your situation. I think you are making a good decision. Best of luck to you in your musical journey.

regards
Luke

Rllink
11-10-2016, 03:03 AM
UPDATE: Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I went for my uke lesson yesterday and I've decided I'm going to move on to someone, or something else, after my lessons are done this month. My instructor spent time yesterday talking about his grand children and he even took a phone call from his son and spoke to him for a couple minutes. It wasn't an emergency call, instead his son just wanted to call him to tell him he bought a new phone. But the clincher was with the lesson plan for this week. At last weeks previous lesson he gave me a sheet containing 4 fingerpicking patterns to learn and he told me I should practice them. So I practiced them like crazy and I had them down pretty good. When I went to my lesson yesterday he told me that 2 of the patterns are hardly ever used and then he wrote out two alternative patterns I could practice instead. So of course I asked him why he had me practicing stuff I might never use and he really didn't have an answer. This is the second time in my 3 months of lessons with him that he has done this to me. So at this point I don't really care about discussing a lesson plan with him because I just want to move on. He has tons of knowledge about the uke, but he's just not a good instructor..It sounds like you are making the right decision. Some people just aren't good teachers. But I still suggest that when you find a new one that you take an active role right from the start. Good luck.

JohnL
11-11-2016, 02:12 AM
It sounds like you are making the right decision. Some people just aren't good teachers. But I still suggest that when you find a new one that you take an active role right from the start. Good luck.

Thanks Rllink. I plan to do that if I take lessons again with an instructor.

Axemaniac88
11-14-2016, 12:32 AM
Hi there, this may not be 100% relevant but I thought I'd share it as there might be one or two things to take from it. I haven't taken ukulele lessons, but my wife teaches piano (told you it might not be relevant!). Most of her students are kids and high school students, but the first thing she will ask them (or their parents) is, firstly what experience do they have, and secondly, why do they want to learn the piano? Some will say they just want to learn a musical instrument, others want to improve their ability and again others will want to go through their music grades to be able to play at a high standard.

Based on their answers, she can then construct a lesson plan for these students - if they want to learn their grades, this is a simpler process as she will get them through the basics, start on basic theory and sit them in their first grade exam. This way, there is a syllabus for the following grades, which she can stick to.

If a student just wants to learn piano or wants to improve, she can analyse what they are good at and where they need to improve, at which point she will correct them during any pieces they are playing. Following the conclusion of each piece they play, she will praise them on what they did correctly and let them know of any mistakes made. Again, at the end of the lesson she will go over with the student (or parent) of what is going well, and what they need to work on for the next week.

It seems to me that maybe your instructor isn't doing this and just seems to be going through the motions of teaching different aspects of the uke without a real lesson structure? I think it's worth telling him what you want to get out of your lessons (you are paying for them after all) and by having more of a set plan for the future, it will help your instructor set out more constructive lessons and you will then hopefully feel you are progressing as you hope. Also, if he isn't giving you feedback on how you are playing, don't be afraid to ask him to provide it - it will benefit you in the long run!

Choirguy
11-14-2016, 12:53 AM
I have been trying to be silent on this thread, but there is no guarantee that because you can play you can also teach--teaching is part ability and a lot of parts about training. Many of us initially teach how we were taught, so unless you realize that and obtain training and keep your mind open, you can perpetuate bad teaching.

This is one of the things that public education addresses with teacher licensing and tenure--and there are still teachers all over the map (and there will continue to be teachers all over the map). Just imagine an educational system without that--and that is what we have with music teachers. No degree or licensure necessary.

I always tell students that they need to "try out" potential teachers. With a 1:1 situation, it is important that they get you and you get them, and that you feel that you are making progress.

JohnL
11-15-2016, 12:36 AM
Hi there, this may not be 100% relevant but I thought I'd share it as there might be one or two things to take from it. I haven't taken ukulele lessons, but my wife teaches piano (told you it might not be relevant!). Most of her students are kids and high school students, but the first thing she will ask them (or their parents) is, firstly what experience do they have, and secondly, why do they want to learn the piano? Some will say they just want to learn a musical instrument, others want to improve their ability and again others will want to go through their music grades to be able to play at a high standard.

Based on their answers, she can then construct a lesson plan for these students - if they want to learn their grades, this is a simpler process as she will get them through the basics, start on basic theory and sit them in their first grade exam. This way, there is a syllabus for the following grades, which she can stick to.

If a student just wants to learn piano or wants to improve, she can analyse what they are good at and where they need to improve, at which point she will correct them during any pieces they are playing. Following the conclusion of each piece they play, she will praise them on what they did correctly and let them know of any mistakes made. Again, at the end of the lesson she will go over with the student (or parent) of what is going well, and what they need to work on for the next week.

It seems to me that maybe your instructor isn't doing this and just seems to be going through the motions of teaching different aspects of the uke without a real lesson structure? I think it's worth telling him what you want to get out of your lessons (you are paying for them after all) and by having more of a set plan for the future, it will help your instructor set out more constructive lessons and you will then hopefully feel you are progressing as you hope. Also, if he isn't giving you feedback on how you are playing, don't be afraid to ask him to provide it - it will benefit you in the long run!

I agree with everything you say. I wish I could take lessons from your wife because she sounds like an excellent instructor. My wife and I own several dance studios so we have been dance instructors for over 35 yrs. So I think I come at it with a more critical eye towards instructing. Therefore when I encounter an instructor who doesn't seem to have a plan, and wastes a lot of my lesson time with idle chit chat, it probably bothers me more than it might others.

HollyUke
11-23-2016, 12:40 AM
I felt moved to post on this topic because it is very dear to my heart. From the perspective of a full-time public school music teacher whose background includes a master’s degree in music education, and many hours being a dedicated student of private instructors herself, I was outraged after reading John’s initial post about what his instructor was putting him through/the services he was being charged for. If you are causing a student to become more frustrated with their instrument than they ever were before, you as an educator are doing something seriously wrong. If the educator is helping the student set measurable and achievable goals, practice sessions should feel challenging but rewarding, even if you hit roadblocks along the way. It’s also important to note that HOW you practice makes a huge difference in one’s day to day musical journey, and not enough educators realize that they have a responsibility to teach their students effective practice habits. It’s just as important as teaching the instrument skills.

A great teacher should inspire you, challenge you, and work with you to set attainable goals, not consistently cause frustration and stress. Great teachers also help their students make valuable connections between practice assignments and real-life playing situations.

John, I’m so glad to hear that you decided to move on. All the best to you and your uke!

Domiuke
11-23-2016, 04:05 AM
Good decision John, now you have an experience and good advices to avoid the same situation. I'been living quiet similar thing.
I wish you good luck .