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View Full Version : I'm in an Ukulele Rut *SIGH*



Hidden Character
11-01-2010, 07:27 PM
I've been playing for a year now and I love playing the uke. Itís an instrument I'm very passionate about, and through my job, my love for it has only grown.

Unfortunately, I'm in a Rut.

When I first started playing, I practiced for upwards of eight hours a day. My drive to learn and master the instrument was just so strong it took precedence over many thing. Of course, all that practice didn't go to waste, and, with all humbleness, I got pretty good at the uke. But these days, I don't feel like I'm getting any better. I practice daily fingerpicking drills, improve on songs I already know, work on my singing and am even in the process of composing a piece directly inspired by the likes Bandito Tyler, Bodysurfing, and Mach4. But even with all this going on, I'm finding it hard to even play the uke for more than two hours. All the things I mentioned kind of just feel like things I do every day, just part of the schedule.

The same goes with trying to learn a new song. Before, when I first started playing, I had a lot of songs I only dreamed of playing. Songs with very tricky fingerings, tough chord changes, and speeds that are just plain astounding. Since then, most of those songs have become part of my repertoire. I love each and every song I know, but recently, it has become quite tough doing that for other songs. The passion that once drove me so hard to learn the songs I know now doesnít seem as strong as it used to be. Whenever I sit down with a piece to try and remember it, it feels like Iím just doing rote memorization, just playing the song for the sake of knowing that song, not because I had a deeper motive fueling it. If anything, I feel like the road Iíve been travelling has become very foggy and I donít exactly have a clear view of my next stop.

I feel like this rut of mine is seriously hampering my ability to get better and while I'll never get bored with the uke, I definitely need something to boost me out of this. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's gone through this. So I ask, what have you guys done to break through this rut?

haoleerik
11-01-2010, 07:45 PM
kanaka916 brought this into the forums

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA9thAbRndk&feature=player_embedded
watching a great artist (whoever you perceive that to be) always gets me motivated to play better.
for me its troy fernandez, i LOVE his playing style. discover a new artist, a new style (like santana or something). thats what works for me.
hope you get outta the rut!
-erik

CoLmes
11-01-2010, 08:30 PM
I'm the same way sometimes. But I got lucky and saw Aldrine AND Jake within the same month. Everytime I see Aldrine I think of how much I improved, then I look at him and see how far I have to go.

For me, I have to reallllllly want to know a song to learn it. I really only know 10 ones that I'd consider I play good. Others are jst and always will be a mess. One thing I noticed of the 2 is they both learn from ear and feel and they use their creativity to continue learning. That helps a lot. I've even started doing it with the help of Aldrine.

You dude, are one of my fav people to watch on youtube. No matter how good you are, you still can improve a ton. One thing Aldrine told me was this

Think of ukeing, as karate.
Take away every belt but white and black.
We all start as white belts, as beginners. We want to get to that black belt and know that we need to work really hard to get there.
So we do, we work our asses off. We work for a really really long time.
The belt becomes tarnished through our hard work. Through everything you do the belt gets dirtier and dirtier, eventually turning black.
When you get to that point, you just wash your belt again, and you're back to white.

My guess is you're at your black belt, put yourself through a wash.

Brad Bordessa
11-01-2010, 09:08 PM
It's a music rut. Everybody has them.

It sounds like you might want to consider working (more) on two things: 1. The basics (just playing gets you better at the basics, but how clean can you play something? How efficient is your playing? Does your vibrato sound nice? Etc... Do everything better) 2. Writing (finish your song that you are working on and write more. It's 10x more exciting to play your own music than someone else's. Open your mind as much as you can to whatever universal juju inspires songs.).

And a last thing: read "The Music Lesson" by Victor Wooten. It tackles the head game of music and is absolutely phenomenal.

Live life too, don't feel like you just have to practice - that will get you down by itself. Music is just like life on a small scale, so apply life learnings to music.

Hippie Dribble
11-01-2010, 09:10 PM
howdy hidden character

my suggestion is to give your spouse or partner the keys to the cupboard and lock all your ukes away in there for a week, maybe two...Under no circumstances is she to give you back the key or allow any contact with your uke(s)...once you start sweating and dribbling and shaking like a wild man, swearing and talking a different language...then and only then are you allowed to handle a ukulele for a few short minutes...repeat the process until you're an utterly desolate and broken man...

all that will help put things in perspective and renew your creative passion

the rut will be over!!!

just my :2cents: cheers mate. eugene

Brad Bordessa
11-01-2010, 09:15 PM
howdy hidden character

my suggestion is to give your spouse or partner the keys to the cupboard and lock all your ukes away in there for a week, maybe two...Under no circumstances is she to give you back the key or allow any contact with your uke(s)...once you start sweating and dribbling and shaking like a wild man, swearing and talking a different language...then and only then are you allowed to handle a ukulele for a few short minutes...repeat the process until you're an utterly desolate and broken man...

all that will help put things in perspective and renew your creative passion

the rut will be over!!!

just my :2cents: cheers mate. eugene

+1. Some time off will definitly change your perspective.

P-co
11-01-2010, 11:16 PM
Good thread and some great responses.
I am by no means good but getting competent and I like to make a song or at least the lyrics for a tune I know for one of my kids. They love it when you drop their name and a few things about them into a legitimate sounding song.
If you are single start seeing a cute chick from your local uke club, every group has at least one.

Cokecan72
11-01-2010, 11:45 PM
I can only say, when i was learning to play the guitar, i used to play it for hours on end everyday, and yes after a while you hit a wall of bordem i suppose, it all seems more like a chore than pleasure..and i still get like that here and there on the uke..
I find as suggested, 1) pack it away for a week untill you feel the urge to play, 2) Relax and be happy that you have reached a certain level on the uke and think how much somepeople struggle to get half as far on it as you have.. 3) Jam with some one if you can, i always find that although i might not play so complex stuff when jamming with others its just more fun and you learn and play some interesting stuff sometimes.. 4) Remember that lots of other musicians hit walls when playing/progressing.. It will all come good in the end..
The most important thing is not to stress about it as playing any instrument is ment to be fun above all else..

Keep on strummin, (maybe not for a week though.lol)

Mandarb
11-02-2010, 03:07 AM
So, you are looking for something to break you out of your uke rut - well, you need one more post to become a Senior Member. Everything changes at that point. Seriously though, some more time on the forums might help you find the inspiration you ar looking for - reading about new ukes, new techniques, spending time with people that share the same passion, etc.

lindydanny
11-02-2010, 03:15 AM
Common problem with anything artistic. I get it sometimes too.

I've found two methods that help me break the rut: First and least effective is trying a new "style" of music for a while. Even picking something that you generally aren't fond of listening to can sometimes kick you into better playing and more passion for the instrument.

The second, and most effective approach, is to restrain yourself from playing at all for a set amount of time. I was in a horrible rut playing guitar until I went on vacation for two weeks and didn't have one. When I got back, I was totally phsych'd up about playing and I learned a ton in a couple weeks. It may sound corny, but it works for me.

Lastly (and I didn't count this because it can be cost prohibitive) try learning a new instrument. Pickup a harmonica or a concertina or something equally inexpensive, hokey, and easy to learn. Play it only for a while... Either you will go back to your uke and be thankful, or you will find a new love and get really good at that!

~DB

savethecheerleader
11-02-2010, 04:13 AM
As lindydanny mentioned, I was going to say to try to mess around in a different style of music. Heck, trying taking pop songs and making them into cool covers. Sometimes seeing things from a different angle can help even if it's completely different. As someone else also mentioned, a break can do a lot of good too.

GX9901
11-02-2010, 05:19 AM
I've been playing for a year now and I love playing the uke. Itís an instrument I'm very passionate about, and through my job, my love for it has only grown.

Unfortunately, I'm in a Rut.

When I first started playing, I practiced for upwards of eight hours a day. My drive to learn and master the instrument was just so strong it took precedence over many thing. Of course, all that practice didn't go to waste, and, with all humbleness, I got pretty good at the uke. But these days, I don't feel like I'm getting any better. I practice daily fingerpicking drills, improve on songs I already know, work on my singing and am even in the process of composing a piece directly inspired by the likes Bandito Tyler, Bodysurfing, and Mach4. But even with all this going on, I'm finding it hard to even play the uke for more than two hours. All the things I mentioned kind of just feel like things I do every day, just part of the schedule.

The same goes with trying to learn a new song. Before, when I first started playing, I had a lot of songs I only dreamed of playing. Songs with very tricky fingerings, tough chord changes, and speeds that are just plain astounding. Since then, most of those songs have become part of my repertoire. I love each and every song I know, but recently, it has become quite tough doing that for other songs. The passion that once drove me so hard to learn the songs I know now doesnít seem as strong as it used to be. Whenever I sit down with a piece to try and remember it, it feels like Iím just doing rote memorization, just playing the song for the sake of knowing that song, not because I had a deeper motive fueling it. If anything, I feel like the road Iíve been travelling has become very foggy and I donít exactly have a clear view of my next stop.

I feel like this rut of mine is seriously hampering my ability to get better and while I'll never get bored with the uke, I definitely need something to boost me out of this. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's gone through this. So I ask, what have you guys done to break through this rut?

I was sort of in a similar "rut" over the past year or so, where I really didn't learn very many new songs. I also had gotten to a point where I'm playing many songs that I had not even dreamed of being able to play too long ago but didn't feel like I'm improving as a player anymore. However, for me it's always been "I play it when I want to play" (to paraphrase an infamous Minnesota athelete) and I've basically never stopped wanting to play the ukulele even when I did not have any motivation to learn new songs. I always want to get better, but even when I don't feel like I've improved, it's still a lot of fun to play the ukulele for me. If it's still fun for you, maybe just keep playing the songs you know until you find the urge/motivation to learn new songs.

One thing that might give you a jolt of motivation is a new high-end ukulele, preferably a custom built one. I recently received a custom uke I've ordered over 3 years ago and it has given me a nice jolt of motivation to learn a few new songs. I suppose this would only work for someone with UAS tendencies, but maybe that might be the ticket for you. I'm not sure how many different ukuleles you've tried, but I think a great uke can be motivating and inspiring.

Lori
11-02-2010, 06:47 AM
I think you need a break. If you can go on a vacation, I think that helps.

Other ideas to liven things up:
Try a different tuning... Low G or slack key, or make up your own.
Try making your own arrangements of songs for ukulele.
Don't play the same songs every day. Mix them up and don't practice for as long unless you are motivated and enjoying it.
A new ukulele with something different about the sound would also help.

–Lori

Amoore135
11-02-2010, 07:23 AM
Have you tried Clawhammer style. It is a completely different way to play the same interment and you get a different sound. You could also try some genera of music you have never even thought about playing. I am a photographer and sometimes when I am in a rut I try to take a completely different type of pictures than I am used to. Even if what I am doing is not interesting right away, I am still expanding my self. When I go back to the subject I am more interested in I can look at it in a new way.

Papa Tom
11-02-2010, 07:56 AM
Add me to the list of folks who have been exactly where you are many times. I think when many of us first pick up the uke, we imagine ourselves carrying it to every party or neighborly get-together and entertaining people for hours. Unfortunately, that rarely happens in reality unless you try really hard to MAKE it happen. This often leads to disappointment and loss of enthusiasm for the instrument. But those few times you pick it up and make some rambunctious children smile in an airport terminal or you get to jam casually with a good singer should be all you need to get re-energized.

I think the uke is an instrument you pursue in two stages. We all have that beginning period where you can't put the damned thing down and you get really good at chord changes and rhythmic patterns really fast. Then comes the moment you have to decide whether you want to become an impresario or just learn a bunch of fun singalongs and keep it all "lite." I've reached that moment a few times and I always choose the latter. One thing I'm considering during my current "rut" is to invest in a banjo uke and explore how new and different my current repertoire might sound with that instrument.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
11-02-2010, 10:05 AM
Here's one more suggestion, especially if you haven't tried it yet.

Busk in public or offer to play a gig at a favorite restaurant (for free, or for a free meal)
or just make the rounds to as many open mics and you know of.

Playing in public will cause you to factor in an audience, other than your own ears.

Sometimes when we only play for ourselves, well, we get bored. Add a third party (audience)
or a few more third parties and the whole dynamic changes. You're playing the same songs,
but your focus is heightened and if you're lucky, it's a refreshing change.

Sometimes, preparing to play for others gives the added impetus that makes practice more
meaningful.

Just a thought.

Keep uke'in',

ukecantdothat
11-02-2010, 10:25 AM
Eh... Ruts are easy to fix. Trenches need more help. One good way to get out of the rut is to play with another musician. I teamed up with a steel drummer (mixing up Caribbean and South Pacific sounds), playing soca, calypso, reggae, pop and rock, and I'm having a blast. Before that I was where you are, wondering what it was I was doing with this little box with the big sound. I dig your YT improvs a lot. Turn some of that into originals and see what happens. Maybe get some solo gig somewhere, even if it's a freebie, just to stir the pot. Direction may be all you are lacking.

Stir it up!!! :nana:

knadles
11-02-2010, 10:39 AM
Some of this has been touched on already, but...

You need to break your routine. Routines are for peeling potatoes.

Try a different musical style. Play for people. Play *with* people (or different people). Put the uke down for a few days. Play it in a different location, like a park or a street corner or the cafeteria at work. Fool around with a different instrument if you have one available (sacrilege, I know :)). Flip it over and try it with the other hand. Try a different tuning. Record yourself playing a rhythm, then play it back and solo over it. Get out and see a movie. Write a song, but limit yourself to using no major chords. Learn a heavy metal song, but play it in a jazz style. Draw a picture of a ukulele, then go back and draw a better one. Read a book.

The human brain is a miraculous thing, but it works better when challenged. Teach yours something new, then go back to the uke. Just my HO...

bobby b
11-02-2010, 10:48 AM
kanaka916 brought this into the forums

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA9thAbRndk&feature=player_embedded
watching a great artist (whoever you perceive that to be) always gets me motivated to play better.
for me its troy fernandez, i LOVE his playing style. discover a new artist, a new style (like santana or something). thats what works for me.
hope you get outta the rut!
-erik

Troy inspired me to play the Uke.
I met him in Waikiki this summer , an amazing player!
This pic was taken the day before I bought my 1st Uke.
17165


As far as the 'rut' goes, I tend to switch to guitar for a while then back to the uke. If I still find myself in a rut, then yeah, i usually just don't play for a few days which does help to inspire new ideas/approaches.

Hidden Character
11-02-2010, 05:28 PM
Awe shucks you guys, you have such awesome input. I actually bought that book you suggested, Hippie Guy. All the input helps, heck even just posting about it kind of helped you know? And its good to know that you guys know where im coming from. As far as some of the suggestions, it's kind of hard for me to actually avoid the instrument these days. I work at a music store and we specialize in ukuleles so im pretty much around them all the time. But hey I'm not complaining!

Again, I want to thank you guys who posted, keep up the suggestions! Just knowing there's people I can relate helps a bunch.

Dane
11-02-2010, 09:41 PM
I don't really learn songs anymore, I occasionally will go and try to figure out a cool part of a song or something, because I want to know how they did it, or I might look up a new technique. I really just play my own instrumentals or improvise now, so this might not help you with your play style.

BUT if you're curious... when I find I'm in a rut, or that I'm just repeating things I've done before, I will find some chord that really takes my interest, and base an instrumental around it. It sounds difficult but I find if I find just one sound that I really like to start, the rest just sort of comes naturally (of course I always have trouble coming up with good endings though, I still gotta work on that)

Hope that helped in some way.

Have a good one,
-Dane

Ukuleleblues
11-03-2010, 12:24 AM
I try to keep my uke playing fun. When I get in a rut it usually means I'm making it into something other than fun. I know the difficult songs have to be practiced alot so you don't forget them, but sometimes I find too much practice makes them stale.

I'll let them sit for awhile, learn new "songs of the month" and just try to get togehter to play/perform for the fun of it and not as a quest for perfection. I guess it depends on the reasons you play before you determine how you get out of a rut. Why do you play the Ukulele?