View Full Version : Practice session length/strategy...

11-25-2017, 05:56 AM
I'm wondering how folks handle practicing/advancing their skills.

I want to come up with a strategy for improvement rather than just playing the songs I like over and over.

Questions I had:
Do you start with a certain amount of exercises?
Do you spend a certain amount of time on new work?
Do you play old work each session?
Do you try for a certain length of time each session?


Croaky Keith
11-25-2017, 06:29 AM
As a total newbie, I used to practice for just 10~20 minutes at a time, until my finger tips hardened up.
I use tunes that I know, practice switching chords, but don't worry about learning them to start, C-D-F-A-G should get you going.
Rather than increase the session time, increase the amount of times you practice.
Having said that, we're all different. :)

Edit: I prefer to pick melodies, but have been known to sing & strum. ;)

11-25-2017, 07:25 AM
I don't practise! Does this surprise anyone???? (Well, what I mean is, I only practise the songs that I am going to attempt for the Seasons, which means that I sort of learn new things as they come up. Practice sessions as such would be just too boring!)

11-25-2017, 07:29 AM
My first piece of advice would be to take some lessons if possible. Short practice sessions as many time a day as you can fit in. I try to do 5-6 sessions a day and typically they last 20-30 minutes. Each session is usually devoted to something different. I also try to go back and review older pieces that I may not have worked on for a while. best of luck. Just have fun!

11-25-2017, 07:47 AM
I could write a book on this topic (and have sometimes thought about it). While amount of time is important, focus more on what you want to accomplish. Every time you sit down you should have some goals in mind. Sometimes that goal might be just to play some things you enjoy and other times more rigorous work. Try to accomplish something rather than just worry about time on the clock. It is far more important that way. It is very easy to spin your wheels, taking a lot of time and getting nothing done.

Think about things that you want to improve, focussing on what you have trouble with and think about what you need to do to improve. You might spend a some time on a particular skill or few measures of a song and then build everything else around that.

It is often good to have a mix of things in each session. Think of it like a meal, where you want a balance of a variety of things. Try to always include something for fun or older material that you want to keep in your fingers, like dessert at the end of a meal.

11-25-2017, 07:51 AM
Maybe I should have added more info..... I'm not a total newbie. I don't know what level I would be considered, in Fred Sokolow's Bluegrass book (fingerstyle) I can play at least 10 songs comfortably. I prefer fingerstyle/picking to strumming.

I've bought some of Sam Muir's classical pieces and they're beyond me. I want to get to a point where I can play them.

Thank you for all the suggestions!

11-25-2017, 09:03 AM
In my humble experience, there are a few major keys to successful practice:

1. Mindfulness.
Don't just play. Play with awareness, control, and exactitude. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect. So make sure you start out practicing an exercise or piece slowly, with perfect precision and intent. Pay careful attention to any blips or unevenness in your tone, volume, and rhythm as you play. Slow it down and get those things smoothed out before you bring it up to speed. Practice sloppy and you will get sloppy results.

2. Consistency.
Practice regularly. 30 minutes a day should be enough to make consistent progress, but two or three 30 minute sessions a day can help to speed things along. Practice every day if you can. Keep your focus during practice consistent as well... if you are working on a particular exercise, keep it around for a few weeks until you can master it. Moving on before you have it down will prevent you from achieving maximum gains.

As far as what to practice it just depends on your current skill level and your goals. This is where an instructor can be valuable--by providing you with some direction.

I am only about six months into my personal ukulele journey. Right now I am working through Daniel Ward's Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele book(I am up to exercise four in that book so far,) and expanding my chord vocabulary and strumming skills by picking a new 'fun' piece to strum every few weeks. I am as guilty as anyone of violating the key principles I outlined above, but I always make an effort to be as disciplined as I can be. Breaking my practice time down into several shorter sessions a day helps to keep me focused and mindful.

3. Fun
There is one other thing that deserves mention... it can be worth it to sacrifice a little discipline to keep things fun. If you aren't having fun, none of the above matters because your consistency will go to shit and you might even decide that you don't want to play anymore! So make sure you don't go overboard to where things get too tedious. Setting something aside for a while because it is sucking the fun out of your practice sessions can be a net gain in the long run. You'll need to regulate yourself here.

Good luck TobyDog! Practice right and you will be impressing yourself before you know it.

11-25-2017, 09:26 AM
You mentioned you prefer fingerstyle. I find the book I am working through, Daniel Ward's Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele, to be challenging, relaxing, and fun. The book is filled with short 16-32 bar fingerstyle exercises. Each is designed to be played in an endless loop so you can get into a kind of zen mode and really concentrate on the quality of the music you are making. Playing them slowly and perfectly does not seem a chore to me because of the soothing nature of the music.

I am still pretty new to ukulele, so I don't know how your current level compares to mine, but if you are into fingerstyle it might be for you. You can read more about it and view an example from the book in this thread: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?128281-Arpeggio-Meditations-for-Ukulele-(Daniel-Ward)&highlight=arpeggio+meditations. I recommend it.

Edit: Hah, it seems you already visited that thread and obtained the book :o. In that case I can only recommend that you use it!

11-25-2017, 10:41 AM
Hi Mopman! Many thanks for the thoughtful responses;)

I've only gone through the first 2 exercises in DA's book. I also bought Muir's Arpeggio ebook and 'Ukulele Exercises for Dummies'. I really like the fingerpicking/arpeggio exercises in the Dummies book. I must admit I only use that book for the fingerpicking chapters.

I've got a lot of material to work with, but I need a good strategy. I like your ideas of consistency and mindfulness - definitely going to give those a try.

I've given myself the pressure that I'm not allowed to buy another uke until I can play most of the sheet music which I presently own. I found myself coming down with a case of UAS and I really don't want to end up with a stable of nice ukes that I can't play. We'll see how this works out.

11-25-2017, 01:27 PM
I'll weigh in, even though I am a beginner. I will first note that I am taking one half hour lesson a week. I try to practice 4-5 days a week for 30 minutes to an hour, not including my lesson as practice. I had a decent grasp on strumming chords and the most common/easy chords that I taught myself before hand.

I luckily have a teacher that varies my lessons. He uses the lesson book as a tool, but applies it to things that interest me. He asks what I want to play as supplement to the book. Don't get me wrong, I know that the nursery rhyme/kids songs have a place when learning, but If I were to have to play those for hours on end I would go insane. So we run through those a couple times, and then he lets me pick a song that incorporates the lessons we have done so far, to work on.

When practicing at home, if I get bored of the song or lesson, I switch to something else. I'll maybe look up a new technique, find a different song, or even just the riff or something out of one of my favorite songs to mess around with. It still helps with fretting/timing/position changes/reading music, which is really what a lot of the first lessons for beginners are about.

I might have got a little rambley, but the short version is: MAKE the time to practice, and keep yourself interested by changing things up if you are getting bored or frustrated.

11-25-2017, 01:48 PM
Maybe I should have added more info..... I'm not a total newbie. I don't know what level I would be considered, in Fred Sokolow's Bluegrass book (fingerstyle) I can play at least 10 songs comfortably. I prefer fingerstyle/picking to strumming.

I've bought some of Sam Muir's classical pieces and they're beyond me. I want to get to a point where I can play them.

Work slowly. Aim for accuracy. Speed will come with time. Use a metronome (I like the Tempo app)

11-25-2017, 02:47 PM
The best advice I had was two things:
- don't be afraid to practice slow
- always play the whole song through

The first part of the advice really gets you to be aware of what you are playing.
The second part lets you give each part of a song attention, helping you to make the song your own.