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Jerryc41
05-06-2019, 01:33 AM
We had a great time at the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree in Altoona, PA over the weekend. One idea that several instructors drove home is that you have to practice - every day. Starting below the age of ten and playing every day will also produce good results.

These instructors talked of spending many hours figuring out how to do certain moves and then spending many more hours practicing after they learned how to move their fingers. It doesn't matter how long it takes to get a move down. Just keep at it. It will take as long as it takes, but you have to work at it.

You can also practice without playing by muting the strings. You can even practice without a ukulele by moving your strumming/picking fingers in the pattern you want to learn. The movement should become second nature so that you can carry on a conversation while you do it.

Swamp Yankee
05-06-2019, 01:58 AM
Starting below the age of ten and playing every day will also produce good results.



I'll get right to it.

edited to add: ;)

Bill Sheehan
05-06-2019, 02:13 AM
Great advice, Jerry! Sometimes we tend to forget that the really good players out there didn't just wake up one day with those chops; they had to spend an incredible amount of time "in the woodshed"! I just read an interesting newspaper article about the band "Chicago", still performing after 50 years (with three of their original members still in the lineup), and I found it inspiring to learn that their trumpet player, Lee Loughnane, still asks himself after each performance, "How can I improve?"

Ziret
05-06-2019, 04:02 AM
Aren't they great? I'm going to put them on now.


Great advice, Jerry! Sometimes we tend to forget that the really good players out there didn't just wake up one day with those chops; they had to spend an incredible amount of time "in the woodshed"! I just read an interesting newspaper article about the band "Chicago", still performing after 50 years (with three of their original members still in the lineup), and I found it inspiring to learn that their trumpet player, Lee Loughnane, still asks himself after each performance, "How can I improve?"

AQUATOPAZ
05-06-2019, 05:07 AM
We had a great time at the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree in Altoona, PA over the weekend. One idea that several instructors drove home is that you have to practice - every day. Starting below the age of ten and playing every day will also produce good results.

These instructors talked of spending many hours figuring out how to do certain moves and then spending many more hours practicing after they learned how to move their fingers. It doesn't matter how long it takes to get a move down. Just keep at it. It will take as long as it takes, but you have to work at it.

You can also practice without playing by muting the strings. You can even practice without a ukulele by moving your strumming/picking fingers in the pattern you want to learn. The movement should become second nature so that you can carry on a conversation while you do it.

Yeah. Most days I practice for hours. Interestingly, if I take a day off, my playing improves. It's important to practice loads, then give yourself a moment for all that work to ferment in your subconscious. But I love practicing. It has kind of been forced on me since the music I like to pkay isn't beginner stuff fir the most part. I started with Arpeggio Meditations a couple of weeks after starting, which required a lot of practice for a complete beginner, then whent to "Spanish Guitar", which at level 4 is way above my level. Luckily I don't force myself to play fast. It's just for me anyway.

Canuckulele
05-06-2019, 05:46 AM
Yeah. Most days I practice for hours. Interestingly, if I take a day off, my playing improves. It's important to practice loads, then give yourself a moment for all that work to ferment in your subconscious. But I love practicing. It has kind of been forced on me since the music I like to pkay isn't beginner stuff fir the most part. I started with Arpeggio Meditations a couple of weeks after starting, which required a lot of practice for a complete beginner, then whent to "Spanish Guitar", which at level 4 is way above my level. Luckily I don't force myself to play fast. It's just for me anyway.

I experience this phenomenon with guitar and uke both. I was never sure if I actually got better or if my ears just heard different after a couple days off. When I took guitar lessons I’d take three months worth and then take three months off and practice until it became automatic, then I could move on. I usually learn new songs no more than three at a time. But play them until the Mrs. “suggests” I lean something different. :D

John boy
05-06-2019, 07:00 AM
Ditto on the time off thing. With both guitar and double bass, I found that once in awhile I had to put the instrument down for a week or two. Then when I picked it back up, all was better. I sounded better, I felt better. It may have been real, or may have been psychological, but whichever it was, it sure helped.

Bill Sheehan
05-06-2019, 07:14 AM
Aren't they great? I'm going to put them on now.

I agree, Ziret! Chicago hit the scene when I was just a junior in high school. I was crazy about Terry Kath, their guitar player. I admired his playing, but also his uniquely "husky" singing voice. I hope you guys don't mind if I include this link to Chicago doing their song "Dialogue" back in the early seventies; I think it's one of the tightest live performances I've seen... https://youtu.be/YTL53bmYqzM

rrieth
05-06-2019, 07:18 AM
Jerry

I need a ticket in the Wayback Machine to 1958 or before so I can start over the right way.

bratsche
05-06-2019, 07:18 AM
... The movement should become second nature so that you can carry on a conversation while you do it.

Ahhhh... this is the one thing I've never been able to do.

I can play intricate Bach movements from memory while watching a documentary online, and then be able to describe the documentary in great detail... afterward.

But, despite starting a stringed instrument before age 10, playing (almost) every day, and making my living at playing music since my early adulthood, I simply cannot play and speak at the same time. The areas of my brain required for each of those tasks have never been successfully "connected". And I have done many exercises to try to make them connect, all to no avail. Either I open my mouth and can actually speak clearly, and my playing immediately turns to garbage, or I maintain my playing flawlessly and open my mouth, and incoherent gibberish comes out. Each and every time. So if I'm playing something, and someone intrudes and asks me something, I have to stop playing altogether to give an answer.

It's been very frustrating, but the one upside of it is that no one will ever have to hear me sing and play. :rofl:

bratsche

RichM
05-06-2019, 07:58 AM
I remember being at an informal concernt with Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka where they took questions from the audience. Somebody asked Bela, "How can I get as good as you?" Bela responded, "I became fascinated with the banjo when I was 10. I would get up early and practice for two hours before school. When I came home from school, I would get my homework out of the way fast and then practice until dinner. After dinner, I would practice until bedtime. I did this for years." You could tell that the guy who asked the question didn't much like the answer.

RafterGirl
05-06-2019, 08:07 AM
I never played a musical instrument growing up, so I don’t have a negative connection with the term “practice” that some people do. I play almost every day because I love it and I seriously can’t keep my hands off these wonderful little instruments of happiness. The one problem I have is an overload of material to work on at times. There’s 3-6 songs for church every Sunday, music for the three uke groups I belong to, and stuff that I work on just for me. It gives me lots of variety, but sometimes my office desk has a lot of piles of music on it. I can work on a chord melody piece for awhile, then it can get lost in my brain somewhere if I take a break from it. I’m trying to be better about printing things off or bookmarking videos for future reference.

I’m having some minor surgery on my left wrist this week and may have to curtail my playing for a week or two. I’ll be terribly bored & unhappy, but maybe it will give me a greater appreciation of playing once I’m back at it.

ampeep
05-06-2019, 08:12 AM
For the past 30 years, jammed with friends maybe twice a year. My guitar strings were 20+ yrs old.

Now if I play with all my uke groups, it would be 6 days/week. I play with them 3 days - my practice is jamming with them. Strings wear out in 3 months now. Might practice if slated to play bass at upcoming gig.

leighbarker
05-06-2019, 09:03 AM
I remember being at an informal concernt with Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka where they took questions from the audience. Somebody asked Bela, "How can I get as good as you?" Bela responded, "I became fascinated with the banjo when I was 10. I would get up early and practice for two hours before school. When I came home from school, I would get my homework out of the way fast and then practice until dinner. After dinner, I would practice until bedtime. I did this for years." You could tell that the guy who asked the question didn't much like the answer.
I remember Bela at a workshop being asked how long he had to practice to get that good. He seemed confused about “having to”. It’s just what he does.

Bill Sheehan
05-06-2019, 09:12 AM
I remember Bela at a workshop being asked how long he had to practice to get that good. He seemed confused about “having to”. It’s just what he does.

Great point, Leighbarker! As long as it's fun, we don't regard it so much as a "have to" !!

Kyle23
05-06-2019, 09:34 AM
I usually know if I'm not getting enough practice when I'm only playing things I'm comfortable with. I never progress if I don't uncomfortably practice. If it's not at least a bit frustrating for me, I don't see it as practice.

Rllink
05-06-2019, 10:06 AM
I play every day. I don't think that I practice a lot. I mean I do learn new things, but it is not anything that is structured. I hear something neat and figure out how to do it. I feel like I pick up a lot along the way. And I do feel like I progress. I can play more than I could last year, and last year I was better than the year before. But I want to ask, is anyone out there just satisfied with their level of playing? I mean, I'm not a great ukulele player, but I'm good enough. I don't embarrass myself. People seem to enjoy my music. I get asked back when I play somewhere, so that has to be some indication. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I would hope that over time I will get better and better, but I'm not really consciously working toward anything. It is what I do. Does anyone else feel that way?

Kyle23
05-06-2019, 10:11 AM
I play every day. I don't think that I practice a lot. I mean I do learn new things, but it is not anything that is structured. I hear something neat and figure out how to do it. I feel like I pick up a lot along the way. And I do feel like I progress. I can play more than I could last year, and last year I was better than the year before. But I want to ask, is anyone out there just satisfied with their level of playing? I mean, I'm not a great ukulele player, but I'm good enough. I don't embarrass myself. People seem to enjoy my music. I get asked back when I play somewhere, so that has to be some indication. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I would hope that over time I will get better and better, but I'm not really consciously working toward anything. It is what I do. Does anyone else feel that way?

I used to be happy with where I was at when I was about 2 years in. I didn't have high goals when I started, so I was very satisfied. I'm not so content right now, but I know that when I practice hard that I can get better. I do have to say though, I don't really have a practice structure. I find a song that I like, even though it may be hard, I just learn the tough parts over and over and over. Then, it helps me with that technique on songs in the future.

I feel like when I do it that way, I'm having some fun, while also learning since I'm playing a part of a song. I can't just sit there and do exercises over and over. I get no joy from that.

prb035
05-06-2019, 10:23 AM
I’m busy practicing right now:D I know I need lots of practice, but I also want to make sure that I really do enjoy the journey :D

Rllink
05-06-2019, 10:43 AM
I used to be happy with where I was at when I was about 2 years in. I didn't have high goals when I started, so I was very satisfied. I'm not so content right now, but I know that when I practice hard that I can get better. I do have to say though, I don't really have a practice structure. I find a song that I like, even though it may be hard, I just learn the tough parts over and over and over. Then, it helps me with that technique on songs in the future.

I feel like when I do it that way, I'm having some fun, while also learning since I'm playing a part of a song. I can't just sit there and do exercises over and over. I get no joy from that.

What do you do with your ukuele Kyle? I started playing the ukulele because we were sitting with friends around the fire evenings during the summer singing oldies. I thought it would be fun if we had accompaniment. So I learned to play the ukuele. I'm five plus years into it. But I'm still pretty much doing that. Just singing and playing. Not trying to dazzle anyone.

RafterGirl
05-06-2019, 10:57 AM
I play every day. I don't think that I practice a lot. I mean I do learn new things, but it is not anything that is structured. I hear something neat and figure out how to do it. I feel like I pick up a lot along the way. And I do feel like I progress. I can play more than I could last year, and last year I was better than the year before. But I want to ask, is anyone out there just satisfied with their level of playing? I mean, I'm not a great ukulele player, but I'm good enough. I don't embarrass myself. People seem to enjoy my music. I get asked back when I play somewhere, so that has to be some indication. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I would hope that over time I will get better and better, but I'm not really consciously working toward anything. It is what I do. Does anyone else feel that way?
This sounds like me for the most part. My structure comes from learning songs to play with various groups as well as stuff just for me. Playing makes me happy & challenges me in a good way. I do have a few goals I’m working towards. Mainly getting more comfortable playing in front of people. At some point I’d love to learn more fingerpicking, but there are other things to work on first. It will come when I’m ready to devote more time to it.

Nickie
05-06-2019, 11:36 AM
I Used to practice every day. For 30 to 60 minutes.
Lately, I've not been so motivated.
I'm suffering a lot of headaches, taking meds, going to the neurologist, trying another herbal and going to a chiropractic neurologist soon. I had some dental work done which aggravated migraines. Ouch!
I seem to prefer to listen to/watch better players.
I don't practice on days when I:
lead a workshop
have a gig
play in open mic
play at Shriner's hospital
feel crummy.
I just want to play well enough to not screw up leads during performances. Last time I played open mic, I didn't practice 1st, and totally f'ed up a lead that I composed myself.
However, I have a new custom uke ordered which might be ready next week.
I keep telling myself this will fix everything....for a while.

AQUATOPAZ
05-06-2019, 03:09 PM
[QUOTE=Kyle23;2149323]I find a song that I like, even though it may be hard, I just learn the tough parts over and over and over. Then, it helps me with that technique on songs in the future.
/QUOTE]

That sounds like practicing to me. I think there is a misconception that "practice" has to look like a structured lesson playing disconnected things you don't want to play. I think a huge chunk of the great players of the last 100 years never practised that way.

kohanmike
05-06-2019, 03:32 PM
A couple of weeks ago a member of my seniors uke group for which I play bass uke, mentioned that I'm getting better while I warmed up before rehearsal. She asked why is that, I replied that I practice almost every day. She dropped her head and sheepishly stepped away saying, "I don't, guess that's why I'm not."

Of the 60 or so members, it seems that maybe 10 play at home, the rest only play when they come to the hour rehearsal once or twice a week. I even record each song during rehearsal and post them on my web site to make it easier for them to practice at home.

This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly West near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 11 solid body bass ukes, 9 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 34)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers

Jan D
05-06-2019, 07:10 PM
There is no doubt that the more time you spend playing an instrument (I don't think of it as practicing), the more you will improve. I'm more attached to the idea of playing than improving. I know the improvement is happening, but it's not my goal. What floats my boat is the actual playing. Enjoying the journey, even if it goes nowhere, is what matters the most to me.
Jan D

Jerryc41
05-07-2019, 12:39 AM
There is no doubt that the more time you spend playing an instrument (I don't think of it as practicing), the more you will improve. I'm more attached to the idea of playing than improving. I know the improvement is happening, but it's not my goal. What floats my boat is the actual playing. Enjoying the journey, even if it goes nowhere, is what matters the most to me.
Jan D

What's nice about getting instruction is learning the correct way to do things.

robinboyd
05-07-2019, 12:43 AM
There is no doubt that the more time you spend playing an instrument (I don't think of it as practicing), the more you will improve. I'm more attached to the idea of playing than improving. I know the improvement is happening, but it's not my goal. What floats my boat is the actual playing. Enjoying the journey, even if it goes nowhere, is what matters the most to me.
Jan D

I totally agree. That's my approach, too.

Jerryc41
05-07-2019, 12:48 AM
I came across this last night - very appropriate.

117749

bunnyf
05-07-2019, 02:19 AM
When I first started on uke, I just played. I picked easy songs I really wanted to learn and just went at it. I enjoyed what I was doing, so I played alot. If I never did more than that, it would be just fine. Eventually though, I craved some theory and some better technique so I started “studying” and “practicing”. It’s fun for me. At my age, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. Now I practice about an hour a day and then noodle around and play for few hours throughout the day.

Kyle23
05-07-2019, 02:30 AM
What do you do with your ukuele Kyle? I started playing the ukulele because we were sitting with friends around the fire evenings during the summer singing oldies. I thought it would be fun if we had accompaniment. So I learned to play the ukuele. I'm five plus years into it. But I'm still pretty much doing that. Just singing and playing. Not trying to dazzle anyone.

I try to do a little of everything. My first year I was mainly strumming and attempting to sing. Then I started to learn a bit of picking and whatnot. Basically if you've watched any of Aaron from HMS tutorials on youtube, that's the style I'm into. Over the past 6 months I've really enjoyed laying down a chord progression, looping it and picking over top of it. Really helps with scales and soloing. But yeah, you've got it figured out it seems like. Just very relaxed it seems and that's great.

Graham Greenbag
05-07-2019, 02:40 AM
I came across this last night - very appropriate.

117749

I loved that cartoon, so true and yet when we practice we shouldn’t necessarily be doing exactly the same thing again and again (and expecting a different result), we should be looking at what we do and how we can improve on it to get different (better) results. When we purposely do the same thing again and again then it is to build (muscle) memory of some achieved ‘perfection’ so that we might be able to repeat it (the perfection) easily at some point in the future.

Like many of the other replies on this thread my practice is skewed more towards enjoyment than focused work, but that’s the way it needs to be for me. For those that find it difficult to practice I suggest that they do as a music teacher told me many decades ago: each day set a timer for just fifteen minutes and see what you can do in that time. If what you do is structured and focused then that’s all the better, but fifteen minutes each day normally isn’t that hard to find and the regularity keeps you ‘in-touch’ with your instrument. Little and often is the way to go.

Joyful Uke
05-07-2019, 07:53 AM
I Used to practice every day. For 30 to 60 minutes.
Lately, I've not been so motivated.
I'm suffering a lot of headaches, taking meds, going to the neurologist, trying another herbal and going to a chiropractic neurologist soon. I had some dental work done which aggravated migraines. Ouch!

I hope that you find relief from your headaches soon. Dental work can sure be a trigger, as can so many other things.

I hope that your new custom will brighten your days, and you'll get to enjoy playing it, headache free.

Jan D
05-07-2019, 09:16 PM
What's nice about getting instruction is learning the correct way to do things.

As long as people understand that there is frequently more than one "correct" way of doing something. :-)
Jan D

ricdoug
05-09-2019, 07:01 PM
I do not practice often of the stage. I've been performing for over 60 years. If you practice these vamps and chord progressions twice through at your own speed each and every day for an entire month, you will have the muscle memory and the ability to play 80 + % of all songs by ear. Music is simple math and I can teach most the basics in a week or two. Practice the following chord progressions twice each line daily for a week and a month at your own speed and your fingers will naturally be conditioned to go where they belong to sound great!

YogiTom
05-09-2019, 08:23 PM
When I was studying trumpet performance in college, my teacher said two sentences to me that made me change career paths: “To maintain my current level of ability, I have to play for at least eight hours a day. If you want to improve, you’ll have to do more than that each day.”

He was a fantastic teacher and player, and that exchange told me immediately the difference between being a working musician and an avid enthusiast like myself.

Clearly you don’t need eight hours of play time and practice each day to be a good player, and I’m sure there are professional musicians who don’t play that much each day.

For me, the most important parts of any practice session that involves going over a particularly difficult passage, progression, riff, scale is to isolate and to play those trouble spots three times through, without error, while still playing in rhythm. Then, after three successful repetitions, playing the larger piece of the song to put the problem spot in musical context, again three times without error. Go at the slowest tempo needed to play without mistake, and increase the tempo as you become more confident. It is also important to not stop should you make an error. Try your best to keep playing through the passage, staying in time, and aim to get it right on the next repetition. Or the next. Then, walk away from the instrument for a few minutes and do something else. Come back and try playing the larger passage or whole song, and see if it isn’t easier to play than when you started.

What can happen when you obsessively breakdown a difficult passage without regard to maintaining the note values and tempo is that when the time comes to perform the piece as a whole, you’ve trained yourself to play that problem spot differently than the rest of the song. By practicing staying in time and playing through mistakes, you’ll have a much easier time when mistakes or flubs inevitably happen in a performance setting. It’s not that Yo-Yo Ma is such a great cello player that he doesn’t make mistakes; he is such a great player because you’d never know when or if he makes one.

If you’re gonna flub a lick, flub with confidence. Just my 2.

Graham Greenbag
05-09-2019, 11:31 PM
When I was studying trumpet performance in college, my teacher said two sentences to me that made me change career paths: “To maintain my current level of ability, I have to play for at least eight hours a day. If you want to improve, you’ll have to do more than that each day.”

He was a fantastic teacher and player, and that exchange told me immediately the difference between being a working musician and an avid enthusiast like myself.

Clearly you don’t need eight hours of play time and practice each day to be a good player, and I’m sure there are professional musicians who don’t play that much each day.

For me, the most important parts of any practice session that involves going over a particularly difficult passage, progression, riff, scale is to isolate and to play those trouble spots three times through, without error, while still playing in rhythm. Then, after three successful repetitions, playing the larger piece of the song to put the problem spot in musical context, again three times without error. Go at the slowest tempo needed to play without mistake, and increase the tempo as you become more confident. It is also important to not stop should you make an error. Try your best to keep playing through the passage, staying in time, and aim to get it right on the next repetition. Or the next. Then, walk away from the instrument for a few minutes and do something else. Come back and try playing the larger passage or whole song, and see if it isn’t easier to play than when you started.

What can happen when you obsessively breakdown a difficult passage without regard to maintaining the note values and tempo is that when the time comes to perform the piece as a whole, you’ve trained yourself to play that problem spot differently than the rest of the song. By practicing staying in time and playing through mistakes, you’ll have a much easier time when mistakes or flubs inevitably happen in a performance setting. It’s not that Yo-Yo Ma is such a great cello player that he doesn’t make mistakes; he is such a great player because you’d never know when or if he makes one.

If you’re gonna flub a lick, flub with confidence. Just my 2.

I very much like and relate to what Tom has said, it certainly chimes with my own experiences.

To my mind key questions to ask here include:

# How quickly does the benefit of practice fade away? It varies between individuals but there are similarities between the retention of skill and the rate at which water escapes from a tank with holes in it.

# What is the they way of deciding the sustainability of music practice? Practice is something that takes time that could be used to create wealth (eg. in employment) or some more permanent change (eg. painting a fence). Music enhances life but there is a balance to be found and that balance point differs for each of us.

# Perhaps there are efficiency factors here too? How can we be more efficient in retaining skills acquired through practice (blocking up the holes in the tank) and better at using our practice time (putting water into the tank faster and with less effort)?

I play more than one instrument and would like to learn others too. However the time required has value and the proportion of my time required isn’t sustainable so I (have to) limit the number of instruments that I play. I wonder about the decision making process and the logic (reasoned process) of deciding what instrument (types) to set aside and what to continue with to get best value from your time.

Jerryc41
05-09-2019, 11:39 PM
Practice the following chord progressions...

I'd love to, but what are they? : )

YogiTom
05-10-2019, 06:34 AM
Just a few more thoughts on effective practice habits:

- I recommend starting every practice session, regardless of instrument, with a 5-10 minute warmup routine. This should focus on waking up your body and connecting the different actions you’ll be doing later in a deliberate and fluid manner. Think tai chi for your musical muscles.

- Try to limit the amount of focused practice on those difficult passages to 5min. More than that and you’re likely causing yourself more anguish than good, so take a break and play or do something else.

- When I would practice (again, aiming to go pro with trumpet), I would rarely play through an entire song, start to finish. Granted, ukulele tunes tend to be a bit shorter than symphonic movements, but the idea was to focus on the issues and to get in a diverse amount of practice (i.e., scales, intervals/chords, improvising, basic flexibility exercises, etc). Flexibility, both mental and physical, are pretty important to be able to make your instrument sound as you audiate it in your head.

- Try not to practice exactly the same way day after day. Again, mix up the order of what you work on after your warmups.

- Recording yourself practice, ideally with video, can really help improve your form and technique. It allows you to see yourself from the audience or teacher’s perspective and to adjust habits you may not even be aware of like posture or hand positions.

- If you’re serious about learning and improving, working with a teacher or mentor who can observe and correct issues as well as provide you with a varied musical repertoire to work on is invaluable. This applies to just about any skill in life, but I’ve found is especially true for music.

- Above all, do what works for you and try not to sweat the small stuff. Every day is a new day and a chance to try again or learn something new.

Happy practicing, everyone! See you all at Carnegie Hall real soon. ;)

leighbarker
05-10-2019, 10:05 AM
Personally, I pick up the uke more days than not. I find that if I keep going back to it, I continue to improve. I’ve been playing more seriously for about 10 years now. Finally getting to the place where I can fingerpick and sing at the same time. But basically I find that if I keep going back to it, I will keep getting better. Even if it’s not EVERY day.