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View Full Version : Practice=Perfect vs U either have it or you dont!???



UK Paulie
03-08-2012, 06:57 AM
As a relative newbie, with guitar experience (thankfully) I can notice, and am reasonably happy with, my progress with the little 4 stringed fella recently. When something 'gets' me like the uke has I soak up every bit of info, every tip and everything I can around it and thats what I've found myself doing. However I have, as I suspect everyone has to some degree, got bigger aspirations and when I sit and watch people like Jake and Kalei Gamiao, I wonder whether I'm in a complete dreamworld! So, my fellow ukulele enthusiasts, my question is this, and its everyones opinion I'm hoping to get here, Who thinks that with enough practice and dedication, anyone can become as good as those guys and who thinks that actually, some people have just 'got it' That some have just got that 'something' that you cant quite put your finger on, the X factor if you like...

OldePhart
03-08-2012, 07:02 AM
There's no denying that some people simply have more talent than others. That said, the guys who reach the Jake level have to have a lot more than just talent. Most of these guys have been playing hours every day for years and years.

I think it's reasonable to assume that anyone with decent manual dexterity and normal hearing could duplicate what they do if they (we) put the same kind of dedicated time into it that they have. The difference, I think, is that it takes a special spark to create as they do.

Just my $0.02.

Mandarb
03-08-2012, 07:04 AM
Daniel Levitan's book "This Is Your Brain On Music, The Science of a Human Obsession" is a great read about this very topic.

Kayak Jim
03-08-2012, 07:05 AM
Good question Paul! I think most anyone can get to an acceptable level, given enough practice and an appropriate definition of acceptable. It's like drawing- most anyone can learn to draw (really). To get beyond that requires both special talent and dogged determination.

Jim B

UkesAreEpic
03-08-2012, 07:06 AM
Practise does make perfect. But if you have it, you can go that little bit further :)

mds725
03-08-2012, 07:14 AM
I recently heard psychologist/cognitive scientist Gary Marcus being interviewed on a KQED (NPR, San Francisco) talk program . He's written a book called "Guitar Zero," in which he uses himself as a test case for how the brains of adults with no music training learn how to play an instrument. It was an interesting program, and I just bought the book.

Here's the link to the interview: http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201202271000

Here's a link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Guitar-Zero-Musician-Science-Learning/dp/1594203172/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331230277&sr=1-1

UncleElvis
03-08-2012, 07:14 AM
A) Good heavens! Who'd want to be perfect? *grin*

and

B) As has been said, there has to be a spark of something there, but the other 99.99999% is hard, bloody-fingers, oh-GOD-this-hurts, thumb-cramping, shoulder-hunching, wrist-spasming work.

ukulefty
03-08-2012, 07:20 AM
For sure anyone with decent dedication, enthusiasm plus a boatload of practice/study can become a really good uke player. But to become really, really great (Jake, James, etc) requires something extra - a talent that you either have or haven't. In the same vein, I could train my ass off for the next 5 years and run a very good 100m sprint time, but Usain Bolt I will never be...

Steedy
03-08-2012, 07:27 AM
Here's another book along these lines:

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from EverybodyElse (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1591842948/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1/188-3238566-9096040?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_r=1NDAC1CDX7EBAWHJH5HP&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_i=1591842247), by Geoff Colvin

In the book he writes about the concept of "Deliberate Practice", leading to greatness. I've checked it out from my local library, but haven't started reading it yet. Too busy playing my ukes (and not very deliberately, I might add). :)

mr moonlight
03-08-2012, 07:29 AM
Practice makes perfect. 1% Talent, the other 99% is practice.

I figure that most people (given they are physically capable of something) can attain some pretty high levels of proficiency at playing the uke, guitar or whatever instrument if they properly practice 6hrs a day, 6 days a week for 10 years. We all know kids are like sponges so if you start when your 5 years old think about how much you can accomplish by the time your 25 or 35. The thing is, is that very very few people are actually willing or even able to dedicate the time and pursue something in this manner.

Of course there are a few very rare exceptions where someone is just uber talented in some way, but we're talking Hendrix, Mozart...

ChrisRCovington
03-08-2012, 07:47 AM
If you get a chace read the book "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell. He talks about the time investment someone needs to put into the activity they do to master it. I think it was about 10,000 hours. He gives an example of the Beatles and how they were able to put in the required 10,000 hours while they were playing clubs in Germany. It's a good read. I would say practice doesn't make perfect but perfect practice makes perfect :)

UK Paulie
03-08-2012, 07:52 AM
Wow thanks everyone for all your considered responses, its certainly thought provoking methinks! In my case, I was recently told I will never work again due to poor physical health following an accident. I have, therefore, got time and boatloads of the stuff!! I also have the willingness. I thought the 'novelty' would wear off as did everyone else (mainly my better half who I think hoped more than thought, given the amount of time it was consuming) but it hasn't. If anything, the more I play the more I want to play and the more hooked I become! Whatever the case, and I think I'm with most of you on the 1% talent 99% toil, I dont mind if I don't become an amazing player, I think aspirations are healthy, I'm just so grateful that I have found something which truly brings me joy. Discovering my professional life was over at 34 was a bit of a blow and my life seemed a bit empty for a while but now I have something beautiful in it and that's pretty amazing in my book!! :cool:

Drew Bear
03-08-2012, 07:52 AM
"Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."
~Vince Lombardi
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!"
~Thomas A. Edison


That said, that 1% makes all the difference.

jackwhale
03-08-2012, 07:58 AM
Also playing with other musicians is an important part of getting 'there'. Practice gives you dexterity but a lot of the inspiration comes from others.

Glad the ukulele found you.

TheUkulelePanda
03-08-2012, 08:09 AM
Practise does make perfect. But if you have it, you can go that little bit further :)

Agreed, I mean, I am quite a musically talented person, thank the Lord, but I had to practice just like anybody else. I had to get my guitar-playing hands to grow into 'ukulele-playing hands.

chloechords
03-08-2012, 08:11 AM
Some people are natural players, same with any instrument, but if you practise enough you can be as good as anyone :)

Plainsong
03-08-2012, 08:29 AM
This isn't a scientific answer, but the best voice teacher I ever had, someone who was going to write a book on the subject, always said that in her experience, she could teach anyone to sing better than they do.... but there's a wall that everyone has, but it's at a different point for everyone. In other words, a mix of a hell of a lot of practice, and natural talent. I think the science points more to a hell of a lot of practice, but it comes down to this: you're not going to put in that amount of practice time doing something you don't love.

Teek
03-08-2012, 11:41 AM
From what I have read it seems the best way to have an extreme talent is to be OCD on the subject and start at age three. You can be all OCD on whatever in later adulthood, but if you are starting at 43 you are starting with a 43 year old brain. Music's like any other language, when the brain is young and crammed with superfluous neurons and before they start getting pruned, learning and retention is like the proverbial sponge sucking up water.

Of course you can always learn something new no matter what your age, but it's like learning a new language, you're probably going to struggle with refinements of tenses and are always going to have an accent. For myself I feel if I want to learn something new, science has proved it's good for my brain cells, and if I enjoy it, it's even better for my general health and well being. I am not going to ruin it with a judgement of how sucky I am or how good, I'm just going to make an effort to keep learning, but yeah it's not going to happen without practice.

For myself finances dictate I can't ever retire and I also don't know how with my current injuries I'm going to manage to stay employed. No safety nets here. The same injuries affect my practice. :(

OldePhart
03-08-2012, 11:50 AM
Of course there are a few very rare exceptions where someone is just uber talented in some way, but we're talking Hendrix, Mozart...

Actually, Hendrix is a good example of the difference between creation and execution that I was talking about in the earlier post. There are many players who can copy what Hendrix did much better than he often did himself. (Listen to enough of his live performances and you'll see what I mean - his execution was often pretty poor when you get right down to it - probably on those days he was too wasted...or not wasted enough.) Jimi did something nobody else had done, but the pure mechanics of what he did weren't terribly difficult and therefore there are hundreds of players today that can "do Jimi" better than Jimi did himself!

What made Jimi unusual, and an icon, was the boundaries he stretched with his creativity (and, of course, pretty decent execution much of the time).

John

DaveVisi
03-08-2012, 11:51 AM
Some people are natural players, same with any instrument, but if you practise enough you can be as good as anyone :)
I'm definitely not a natural. I'm a "left brain" player with very little on the creative (right) side. With enough practice I can become a "Ukulele playing machine" but most likely will never advance above the songs I attempt to mimic. I think that's where people like James and Jake have the advantage that not only do they have the technical skills, they have the creative ability to "imagine" a song and put it to music. That's a rare talent and if it's not already "in you" it's something extremely hard to learn.

OldePhart
03-08-2012, 11:52 AM
I'm definitely not a natural. I'm a "left brain" player with very little on the creative (right) side. With enough practice I can become a "Ukulele playing machine" but most likely will never advance above the songs I attempt to mimic. I think that's where people like James and Jake have the advantage that not only do they have the technical skills, they have the creative ability to "imagine" a song and put it to music.

I can relate. It's kind of like when Data played a difficult violin piece on the Holodeck - execution was flawless but without feeling. :)

Hippie Dribble
03-08-2012, 11:57 AM
I'm just so grateful that I have found something which truly brings me joy. Discovering my professional life was over at 34 was a bit of a blow and my life seemed a bit empty for a while but now I have something beautiful in it and that's pretty amazing in my book!! :cool:
you and me both Paul. Amen to that brother. It's the joy we get from the playing and the joy we share that is where the rubber hits the road in my view. If I could only play 3 chords that bottom line wouldn't shift.

ukuleledaveey
03-08-2012, 12:41 PM
As a optimistic Pessimist I am simply going to quote Eddie Izzard BELIEVE!

TheCraftedCow
03-08-2012, 08:09 PM
Practice makes PERMANENT. Jake started when he was four years old.Someone held him to a standard of excellence even at that early of an age. If you want a simple example , try this: play 0003 with the little finger. Play 2010 with the ring finger on 2 and the center finger on the 1. Now play 0212 without using the pointer finger. You may cognatively know that by playing those three chords like that will free you to play in C# using those same three chord shapes and fingers, and the one unused finger now is free to bar the first fret. D is bar the second fret, and still use the same three chord shapes. But you will continue to use the ring finger for playing C(or G for those of us who speak two languages). Starting to play requires conscious attention to which finger goes where. How many count out the beat patterns before even picking up an instrument? If one cannot play it correctly, slowly, chances are slim to none that playing it faster will make it better

Practice saying"I have yet to be able to play this as well as I would like." I meet very few others who say that. Most say " I can't play that." They are right...they are convinced they cannot. When I help someone to learn to think differently, they have a better idea of how they should act. Change in thinking preceeds changes in actions.
Keep telling yourself you will never be as good as(fill in the blank) and you are absolutely correct! You will not. What's so hard about asking one's self, "I wonder how capable I can become?" Shoot for what you want to hit. Don't waste your life looking at what you want to miss.

Mahalo and Martin start with the same letter, and have the same number of letters. Somewhere different thinking made for different products.

Plainsong
03-08-2012, 09:09 PM
As a optimistic Pessimist I am simply going to quote Eddie Izzard BELIEVE!

I guess that's a better quote than "I'm covered in beeeees!" But to be fair, I never had a Mrs. Badcrumble teach me uke.

But if anyone feels they lack musical talent just because they aren't as fast on the uke as others are, it just means what it is, you aren't as fast _on the uke_. That doesn't mean you couldn't whip the ass of some other instrument and not yet know it.

I call bullpuckey on the theory that whatever your talent, you have to start at age 3. I know of plenty opera singers that started in high school. In fact, that technique of singing isn't even safe to try in childhood, unless you want to sound like a chain smoker by age 18.

Teek
03-08-2012, 10:59 PM
I call bullpuckey on the theory that whatever your talent, you have to start at age 3.

Weren't we discussing what it takes to be great?

My mother was a violin prodigy and was playing for audiences at three, but even though she had an aptitude she didn't love it so slowed way down by 30. My friend however also started young and loved it and played killer fiddle for Doc Severinson for years and still plays for Smokey Robinson. Her son loves classical guitar and started very young and was a protege of Christopher Parkening for years, even living at his home.

The theory of starting early is a proven one because of how the brain learns, and when talking about music, especially how the brain learns language. It's related. That plus correct practice plus talent plus desire seems a recipe for greatness.

Is it necessary start early to learn to play well? Of course not but it helps and so does having desire and good practice.

Grandma Moses didn't start painting until 80 or so, but she was no Mozart equivalent in her craft either.

Plainsong
03-08-2012, 11:03 PM
Ok, I only have a degree in it, but please tell me about how we all started at the age of 3, and how that is just absolutely awesome for the voice and doesn't ruin it in the slightest. Yeah, I'm not famous, never was never will be, but when you made this specific thing the driving force in your life, enough so that you got a degree in it, don't you think I've probably had more experience in the community than you?

It sounds snobbish, but what do you expect? Singing with that technique at a young age has more chance of ruining your voice than helping it. Most of us, famous and not famous, there's no caste system here.. started in similar ways. But you tell me that they all must have been lying.

I'm all for scientific method, but you can't know everything about all musical fields, and that's probably the case here. He doesn't know the ends and outs of voice. He didn't know it enough to widen the test field. Just like I wouldn't know how to write for percussion.

Unless you're saying that opera singers just aren't talented enough to be included. Not me of course, I mean the ones at the the top of their game, the ones who didn't use this technique until their 20s... shouldn't be included in the study because it just doesn't count.

ukuleledaveey
03-09-2012, 12:10 AM
I guess that's a better quote than "I'm covered in beeeees!" But to be fair, I never had a Mrs. Badcrumble teach me uke.

But if anyone feels they lack musical talent just because they aren't as fast on the uke as others are, it just means what it is, you aren't as fast _on the uke_. That doesn't mean you couldn't whip the ass of some other instrument and not yet know it.

I call bullpuckey on the theory that whatever your talent, you have to start at age 3. I know of plenty opera singers that started in high school. In fact, that technique of singing isn't even safe to try in childhood, unless you want to sound like a chain smoker by age 18.

Love it your reply made me smile, i was just quoting that eddie said if you want to accomplish anything in life you have to believe,that was the angle i was coming from.
Although i do believe the younger you start, your brain is meant to be better at soakin up the knowledge, i also think having the love and desire and interest in what you are doing.
I picked the Uke up last January, i had strummed 3 chords on a guitar for 25 years never had a lesson and well never realy got the hang of it.
The uke i had had one as a child, but it was more of a weapon for fighting off my sisters who wanted to put make up on me, then a musical instrument.
But when i bought a uke last January, the fact that i could play songs within a hour, well the connection was made, i became hooked/obsessed and once i was in the UK and joined a club, my passion for the instrument just keeps on growing, i play it everyday, now i am certainly not at the level of some on here.
But i have finally found my hobby/passion that i love and know i am going to cherish for ever, I have tried many hobbies and the old saying applies"jack of all trades , but master of none"
But i now have the desire to learn as much as possible regarding the uke, but obviously at my own pace. i havent started playing the uke because i want to be famous, i play the uke or learning the uke, because i love it and it gives me enormous amounts of pleasure and all the troubles of life drift away once i start playing, i have never experienced that in my life before. now if i became famous through my playin (wont happen though lol :deadhorse: )that would be a added bonus, but i am simply learning ,playing because i love to play and i want to be able to play to the best of my capabilities.
My only regret is that i do wish that i had started younger, but i am not going to use that as a excuse to hold me back, but the biggest regret is that my parents never got the chance to see me play and that i have finally found a hobby that i have a burning desire for.

Doc_J
03-09-2012, 01:46 AM
I've recorded myself playing over the last couple of years. I cringe when I hear my early recordings. While I have very little musical talent, I try to get less bad each day. And I think I have. My wife can actually recognize songs I play, and complains much less now (ehh ... maybe she just gave up.):)

I'm never going to great but I do find I am getting better the more I practice and play. Oh.... and I started playing at 50.

Gwynedd
03-09-2012, 02:09 AM
Agree, some ability is inborn, a matter of nerve and muscle and hand-eye coordination and innate music ear as well. But with diligent practice, Suzuki pretty much proved that you can learn an instrument acceptably. Musicality is also teachable--if the person is not innately musical for the expressive side, you can show by example what makes emotional playing and what is simply technicality (as we called it at home "Juilliardization" because we thought that school favored technical brilliance over expressive playing.)

Some people will never be able to be great, but many people can be good if they practice and listen and pick up the way music ought to sound or figure a way to make their own sound. And some people cannot carry a tune in a bucket. This used to amaze me in grade school that some people could not hear the difference between note pitches nor reproduce them by singing. But it's a common problem.

AcousticBuckeye
03-09-2012, 02:48 AM
I agree with Teek. There are definitely studies that show for example that if you are not exposed to a language in your early years 1-7 that you'll never speak it perfectly/naturally like those that were exposed.

AB



From what I have read it seems the best way to have an extreme talent is to be OCD on the subject and start at age three. You can be all OCD on whatever in later adulthood, but if you are starting at 43 you are starting with a 43 year old brain. Music's like any other language, when the brain is young and crammed with superfluous neurons and before they start getting pruned, learning and retention is like the proverbial sponge sucking up water.

Of course you can always learn something new no matter what your age, but it's like learning a new language, you're probably going to struggle with refinements of tenses and are always going to have an accent. For myself I feel if I want to learn something new, science has proved it's good for my brain cells, and if I enjoy it, it's even better for my general health and well being. I am not going to ruin it with a judgement of how sucky I am or how good, I'm just going to make an effort to keep learning, but yeah it's not going to happen without practice.

For myself finances dictate I can't ever retire and I also don't know how with my current injuries I'm going to manage to stay employed. No safety nets here. The same injuries affect my practice. :(

garyg
03-09-2012, 03:24 AM
As a scientist who also carves stone and picked up the uke in his mid 50's I don't put much stock in the left brain right brain theory. In fact I think, like several have said in this thread, that many folks just won't put in the work to become proficient and so this allows them to say, "oh I'm left brained I just can't do that". And from that perspective, I think that left brain right brain does more harm than good because it limits people (okay they're self limited and now they have an excuse <g>) rather than helps them. I see this kind of behavior all the time in the large class in Natural History that I teach for non-science majors, I always get students coming up and saying "wow, I never thought that I could learn this stuff, and especially enjoy learning it". At the same time, after playing the uke fairly seriously (i.e. playing every day) for 9 months now I can easily see that physical ability does affect one's playing. I have short fat fingers that simply weren't made for stringed instruments, especially narrow necked ones like a uke. It's the worst of both worlds, they're too short to really adapt to a uke larger than concert (although I pretty much just play wide-necked sopranos), but almost too fat to cram into one -two frets for a D or D7. And then there's barring, my fingers have those "arches" at the joints and it's very difficult for me to bar successfully and it usually takes so much force that I can't get to the next chord quickly enough to stay in tempo. And then there's carpel tunnel... Like the earlier poster said, they may train like Usain Bolt but they're *never* going to be Usain Bolt. All of this is not to discourage anyone, after all I play every day, I improve and I'll never be Jake but that's okay, being an adult is setting your own standards rather than worrying about how others judge you. Frankly, I'm over the moon about just being to be able to play simple songs and enjoy the sounds (which also wasn't what the question was). On the other hand, bravery and character can be defined as "laboring on against difficult odds" so go head on and try your best to become Jake as long as it's what you really want to do, and you'll get better, much better.

Mandarb
03-09-2012, 04:57 AM
I'm definitely not a natural. I'm a "left brain" player with very little on the creative (right) side. With enough practice I can become a "Ukulele playing machine" but most likely will never advance above the songs I attempt to mimic. I think that's where people like James and Jake have the advantage that not only do they have the technical skills, they have the creative ability to "imagine" a song and put it to music. That's a rare talent and if it's not already "in you" it's something extremely hard to learn.

Very well said - I feel the same way.


As a scientist who also carves stone and picked up the uke in his mid 50's I don't put much stock in the left brain right brain theory. In fact I think, like several have said in this thread, that many folks just won't put in the work to become proficient and so this allows them to say, "oh I'm left brained I just can't do that". And from that perspective, I think that left brain right brain does more harm than good because it limits people (okay they're self limited and now they have an excuse <g>) rather than helps them. I see this kind of behavior all the time in the large class in Natural History that I teach for non-science majors, I always get students coming up and saying "wow, I never thought that I could learn this stuff, and especially enjoy learning it". At the same time, after playing the uke fairly seriously (i.e. playing every day) for 9 months now I can easily see that physical ability does affect one's playing. I have short fat fingers that simply weren't made for stringed instruments, especially narrow necked ones like a uke. It's the worst of both worlds, they're too short to really adapt to a uke larger than concert (although I pretty much just play wide-necked sopranos), but almost too fat to cram into one -two frets for a D or D7. And then there's barring, my fingers have those "arches" at the joints and it's very difficult for me to bar successfully and it usually takes so much force that I can't get to the next chord quickly enough to stay in tempo. And then there's carpel tunnel... Like the earlier poster said, they may train like Usain Bolt but they're *never* going to be Usain Bolt. All of this is not to discourage anyone, after all I play every day, I improve and I'll never be Jake but that's okay, being an adult is setting your own standards rather than worrying about how others judge you. Frankly, I'm over the moon about just being to be able to play simple songs and enjoy the sounds (which also wasn't what the question was). On the other hand, bravery and character can be defined as "laboring on against difficult odds" so go head on and try your best to become Jake as long as it's what you really want to do, and you'll get better, much better.

Interesting. I don't feel that I can not do it....I feel that it does not come as easily and I have to work a lot harder to make even small steps of improvement. Whereas, for others it appears to come a lot more naturally and therefore their improvement seems to be a lot quicker.

Dominator
03-09-2012, 07:33 AM
Lot’s of good discussion here. My motto has always been that “practice makes practice perfect” but I’m not even sure that makes any sense whatsoever. I really believe that many people do posses some element of natural ability which makes it easier for them to learn to play a musical instrument a little quicker than others. However, putting in some good old blood sweat and tears can close that gap. Regardless of what your personal goals might be, usually you get out of it what you put in.

James told me something a long time ago that I thought was pretty interesting. He asked, “Do you know what the difference is between an amateur and a professional?” He said an amateur practices until they get it right while a professional practices until they can’t get it wrong. I love that analogy.

bigchiz
03-09-2012, 07:56 AM
Read a biography in the 80s about Hendrix and was amused that while in the military he kept his guitar in bed at night. Part of that 10,000 hour thing?

When playing chess tournaments in the '90s I reached a rating of 1350 something and plateaued. Considered that a limit of "natural" ability because I had not yet studied chess books to memorize openings, improve middle game strategy, nor studying end game techniques. I was confident there was room for improvement yet my interest for putting in the time and effort was not there. Decided to switch to a more physical weekend activity because the day job was at a desk and sitting at a chess table through weekend didn't seem right.

Have been playing the uke daily for nearly year and am comfortable with most of the songs in The Daily Ukulele. Have been very pleased with an improvement to play and sing. That had been a stumbling block but is coming much easier now. My approach still is to play the chords, then plunk out the melody line, then play the chords and hum or sing "doo doo", then to play chords and pronounce the words. Tedious? Yes!

It's all a matter of breaking down the problem into the smallest pieces, then mastering those little pieces, then putting the pieces together. Practice time isn't playing through songs from top to bottom, it's better spent working on the little transitions. For example play C, Ab7, G7 everyday 5 to 10 times. Using a pinky C was awkward at first but it's great setup for the Ab7, then sliding down to G7 is a smooth transaction and uses a different fingering than how I first learned G7. Get those three chords down with the "awkward" fingering until it's no longer awkward. THEN you're really close to playing Ain't She Sweet up to tempo because that's cool! And the technique used for those chords can be used elsewhere, and you've learned how to break down pieces of music to practice efficiently, and you see improvement. GO TEAM, GO!

Personally the next step is to move away from the first position chords and play C, G, F in new positions.

bigchiz
03-09-2012, 08:00 AM
“Do you know what the difference is between an amateur and a professional?” He said an amateur practices until they get it right while a professional practices until they can’t get it wrong. I love that analogy.

That's a good one!

DaveVisi
03-09-2012, 08:12 AM
I've heard several variations on Practice make Perfect.

One is "Practice doesn't make perfect, Perfect Practice make perfect." which goes well with "Practice makes Permanent"

In other words, if you have bad technique and keep practicing, all you will do is learn how to play with bad technique.

Dominator
03-09-2012, 08:26 AM
I've heard several variations on Practice make Perfect.

One is "Practice doesn't make perfect, Perfect Practice make perfect." which goes well with "Practice makes Permanent"

In other words, if you have bad technique and keep practicing, all you will do is learn how to play with bad technique.

Now that makes perfect sense.

flyingv8
03-09-2012, 08:55 AM
Technical excellence is great, knowledege of theory can be important too, your physical characteristics come into play also (finger size, hand size etc.) But you have to remember that music is spiritual also. Who you are means alot because through your music you are sharing your spirit. If you care about greatness you will never be great. Care about the music and you will be.If you want to be a ukulele superstar you're headed in the wrong direction. It's a fun magical instrument and should be used to bring joy into the world. I'll bet if you asked Jake if he thought he was great he would say "no way...I just love to play"!
Peace and Love!
Don

mr moonlight
03-09-2012, 09:47 AM
Read a biography in the 80s about Hendrix and was amused that while in the military he kept his guitar in bed at night. Part of that 10,000 hour thing?

When playing chess tournaments in the '90s I reached a rating of 1350 something and plateaued. Considered that a limit of "natural" ability because I had not yet studied chess books to memorize openings, improve middle game strategy, nor studying end game techniques. I was confident there was room for improvement yet my interest for putting in the time and effort was not there. Decided to switch to a more physical weekend activity because the day job was at a desk and sitting at a chess table through weekend didn't seem right.

Have been playing the uke daily for nearly year and am comfortable with most of the songs in The Daily Ukulele. Have been very pleased with an improvement to play and sing. That had been a stumbling block but is coming much easier now. My approach still is to play the chords, then plunk out the melody line, then play the chords and hum or sing "doo doo", then to play chords and pronounce the words. Tedious? Yes!

It's all a matter of breaking down the problem into the smallest pieces, then mastering those little pieces, then putting the pieces together. Practice time isn't playing through songs from top to bottom, it's better spent working on the little transitions. For example play C, Ab7, G7 everyday 5 to 10 times. Using a pinky C was awkward at first but it's great setup for the Ab7, then sliding down to G7 is a smooth transaction and uses a different fingering than how I first learned G7. Get those three chords down with the "awkward" fingering until it's no longer awkward. THEN you're really close to playing Ain't She Sweet up to tempo because that's cool! And the technique used for those chords can be used elsewhere, and you've learned how to break down pieces of music to practice efficiently, and you see improvement. GO TEAM, GO!

Personally the next step is to move away from the first position chords and play C, G, F in new positions.

So true. Learning to play one note at a time really puts things in perspective. Especially the most difficult pieces.

I often slept with my guitar. It was more of a fall asleep while practicing sort of thing though. There's definitely a lot of plateaus on the path to mastering an instrument. Each time you hit one you have to up your dedication and practice time so much more to start onto the next until you have fully dedicated every waking hour to it.

ukecantdothat
03-09-2012, 09:51 AM
Behind every great artist, I don't care who they are or what their art is, is a massive amount of time put into their craft. To me, the definition of a "master" is someone who makes the seemingly impossible look easy, and there's really only one way to get there - through hard work and dedication. The joy comes through the love of what you do, and that's what shows in the greats like Jake, Aldrine, The Dominator, thejumpingflea, on and on... You can feel it in their playing that they dig what they do, but don't underestimate the time they put into getting there. It's the classic "Labor of Love."

mr moonlight
03-09-2012, 10:22 AM
As a scientist who also carves stone and picked up the uke in his mid 50's I don't put much stock in the left brain right brain theory. In fact I think, like several have said in this thread, that many folks just won't put in the work to become proficient and so this allows them to say, "oh I'm left brained I just can't do that". And from that perspective, I think that left brain right brain does more harm than good because it limits people (okay they're self limited and now they have an excuse <g>) rather than helps them. I see this kind of behavior all the time in the large class in Natural History that I teach for non-science majors, I always get students coming up and saying "wow, I never thought that I could learn this stuff, and especially enjoy learning it". At the same time, after playing the uke fairly seriously (i.e. playing every day) for 9 months now I can easily see that physical ability does affect one's playing. I have short fat fingers that simply weren't made for stringed instruments, especially narrow necked ones like a uke. It's the worst of both worlds, they're too short to really adapt to a uke larger than concert (although I pretty much just play wide-necked sopranos), but almost too fat to cram into one -two frets for a D or D7. And then there's barring, my fingers have those "arches" at the joints and it's very difficult for me to bar successfully and it usually takes so much force that I can't get to the next chord quickly enough to stay in tempo. And then there's carpel tunnel... Like the earlier poster said, they may train like Usain Bolt but they're *never* going to be Usain Bolt. All of this is not to discourage anyone, after all I play every day, I improve and I'll never be Jake but that's okay, being an adult is setting your own standards rather than worrying about how others judge you. Frankly, I'm over the moon about just being to be able to play simple songs and enjoy the sounds (which also wasn't what the question was). On the other hand, bravery and character can be defined as "laboring on against difficult odds" so go head on and try your best to become Jake as long as it's what you really want to do, and you'll get better, much better.


Due to an injury, Django only had use of two of his fingers on his left hand. Segovia had really short stubby hands. His fingers were often described as sausages. Both of them are considered to be among the best guitarists of all time. Ever heard of Oscar Pistorius? IMHO if you start out believing that you can never be the best for whatever reason or odds against you, then you've already failed. So yeah, not everyone can be Usain Bolt and if your 90 years old, you can probably check being an Olympic sprinter off your list, but if you have the same level of drive and dedication from a young age you can run in the Olympics against him.

OldePhart
03-09-2012, 12:23 PM
James told me something a long time ago that I thought was pretty interesting. He asked, “Do you know what the difference is between an amateur and a professional?” He said an amateur practices until they get it right while a professional practices until they can’t get it wrong. I love that analogy.

Love that. Years ago I hung out with a guy whose dad was a fairly well known Nashville session guitarist and he said his dad taught him, "you haven't really learned a song until you've played it so many times that you're sick of hearing it."

UK Paulie
03-09-2012, 11:19 PM
Firstly, thanks again for all you responses, amazing stuff!! I'm really happy this thread has sparked such fantastic and thoughtful discussion. I don't 'want to be Jake' as one poster said lol I just found myself, that day, watching the likes of those guys, particularly Kalei Gamiai's 'mach 4' and was considering the ease with which he uses some of those techniques and just wondered...you know? I have spent my whole life playing musical instruments (well since 3) but have only recently discovered the Uke. This little wooden thing with 4 strings has brought joy back into my life and no matter how good I get or dont get thats the most important thing to me. I WILL learn that stuff, I know I will because I'm a determined S.O.B when I wanna be lol I loved the quote Dominator used and really agree with it. From an aerly age with my mum teaching me piano I was taught that, play it and play it until you can play it with your eyes closed. I think talent certainly helps but I do think hard work is more important. You can learn without natural talent but I dont think trying it the other way round would work out quite so well, even with boat loads of talent...

barefootgypsy
03-10-2012, 01:59 AM
Paul, what a fascinating topic! I've read every post and this is so interesting - here's my two penn'orth on it. You need to love music; listening to it, making it. Love playing just for for your own pleasure. Think - there's no such thing as can't - only a goal that's going to take some time - and lots of work - getting there, and there's so much pleasure in that journey. I found in my work teaching young (5yrs +) children that some had a definite aptitude for musical activities, having a "good ear" and a good sense of rhythm - and pleasure in small successes - being good at something, and being encouraged by adults and admired by one's peers - makes the learner enthusiastic to do more. Then it's try, try, try, and put the hours in. Muscle-memory is a wonderful thing, and it comes.....motivation is paramount, however much innate aptitude one has. I do think it's important not to reinforce poor technique, though -and that can be the stumbling block. As a self-taught pianist I know that from experience. If only I had had lessons at the piano! Paul I'm so pleased you found the uke - music is such a healer.......

hmgberg
03-10-2012, 03:16 AM
There are many ways of being "great" at a creative/artistic activity, arguably as many ways as there are artists, at least to some degree. Becoming proficient is not the same thing as being great, which is only to say that while we may admire technical accomplishment, ultimately demonstrations of such prowess, alone, are forgettable. Every truly great artist has somehow transformed the way we hear the instrument, makes a personal statement about it. Artists express themselves through their instruments. It flows from an internal necessity to create; this is why thousands of hours of practice, even proper practice, will not necessarily make one great.

The "statements" that some great musicians make do not require them to possess an overall "mastery" of their instruments. They need only to have mastered the skills to make these statements effectively. Think of George Formby. All of what he does can be, and has been, reduced to a few elements - the George Formby Style. One does not need to spend hours practicing scales to play like George. But, for George, the George Formby Style clearly emanates from his internal necessity to to make a musical statement. Is he a great ukulele player? Well, I don't know about you, but when I think of ukulele banjo, I think of George Formby. "He" is the way I hear the instrument. Someone could come along and change that for me, but I don't think such an individual will do so by copying George.

All of the great players mentioned in this thread make highly unique statements; their music is immediately identifiable as expressions of who they are, musically speaking. One can practice to sound like Jake or James, but one will never be Jake or James. Moreover, it's no way to become great, at least by my theory of greatness. In any case, it doesn't sound like much fun, or very creative. One needs to absorb one's influences, discover among those influences what is pertinent to the statements one needs to make, in the process of finding one's individual voice - the "it" that one may have.

So when it comes to practicing, I recommend (as a teacher of visual artists for 30 years) that everyone practice being themselves. It doesn't really matter how old you were when you started playing. I can understand the importance of starting young if you want to master a classical performance technique or become a ballet dancer, but an ukulele player...? If it were a race, I'd put my money on those who love playing over those who want to be "proficient." As a teacher of mine once said to me, about me, "You were competent long before you were any good." By "good," in this instance, he meant "who I am." It's a paradox, really. I wasted a lot of time trying to prove to myself that I "could" be good instead of just loving the doing of it. When I started to love the doing of it more, everything changed very quickly. It's about faith, or belief (someone above wrote "believe"), or about treating your playing as if it were an act of love (as someone else wrote), or about the "joy" of it referred to by UK Paulie. These are key ingredients to "having it," in my mind - or, they are the "it" you have to have.

Uke Whisperer
03-10-2012, 07:40 AM
:old:

If there any middle aged or especially senior citizens out there that are just getting into learning to play a uke, I highly recommend that you listen to the interview with Gary Marcus. He hits on why us old folks have a more difficult time learning music and learning how to play an instrument. It really is interesting and worth the time to listen.
http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201202271000


I'm even going to order his book.

Nickie
03-10-2012, 08:43 AM
This has been a really great thread. I'm going to read Gary Marcus's interview, because ukulele stuff comes to me veeeerrrryyyy slowly. I've been listening to Tommy Emmanuel all day, except for a venture out for a walk. He is one of the greatest of the great. I think that's what we're talking about here.
Also I think we're talking about people like my friends. Someone mentioned being the best. I am the best ukulele player of all my friends except for two younger guys, one a guitar player. I am trying to catch up to them! And two of my elderly friends, a "young couple" at heart. They both play ukulele, and got me my first one. They play music wherever they can. She has written 80 songs! They have a music room full of instruments including a baby grand piano and two keyboards, one stays in the car! I spent some time with them yesterday and they told me I was playing and singing great. They have started a lot of young musicians out. They are truly GREAT. There is all kinds of greatness in music. I think whatever makes your heart sing, whatever heals your broken spirit, whatever gives your tummy butterflies, and makes your hair stand out on end, makes you tap your foot, causes a belly laugh, gives you tears, or makes you grin from ear to ear is great music done by great musicians. I'm not young, but I even like to listen to that crazy Cee Lo Greene sing the F You song!

bbqribs
03-10-2012, 09:07 AM
:old:

If there any middle aged or especially senior citizens out there that are just getting into learning to play a uke, I highly recommend that you listen to the interview with Gary Marcus. He hits on why us old folks have a more difficult time learning music and learning how to play an instrument. It really is interesting and worth the time to listen.
http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201202271000
I'm even going to order his book.


Thanks, UW. Really interesting stuff. As a middle aged ukester, I have more focus and passion, and can identify weaknesses much better than when I was younger. I make better use of time and enjoy the process.

mm stan
03-10-2012, 10:10 AM
I too have been disabled from a work injury at a young age at 35....now on a retired disability, I played when I was real young about 5 to 9 years old.. my father played too.. when he
passed away a few years ago...I was looking in his room and found his old ukulele music...I asked my cousin to play at his service..I was blown away how sweet it was and broke into tears.
He has played now for more than 45 years...after that I gave the ukulele another go... it really helps distract me from my health issues.. I really enjoy it too.. it has been a life saver for me.
I play for enjoyment and fulfullment...I am not into Jake's type of playing at all...nor do I want to be.. sure he is a great musician and great to watch..My best moments playing my
ukes was by myself and really enjoying the peace and solitude to relax and be creative...I think that is the gift from ukulele..the personal moments and achievements..enjoy your ukulele journey and take time to smell the roses or go slow so you really get the full experience..learning too quickly sometimes will get you fustrated, disappoined and stressed out...that is not what I want.
everybody has their own learning curb....go with yours...and their choice of type of playing..choose yours... take it slow and enjoy...if it comes and when it comes it will be more worthwhile and rewarding. Cramming just to impress is not for me... I play for my enjoyment, not to impress others but just myself.. to each his own my friend...as they say...A good book read is "Drawing on the right side of the brain" by Betty Edwards... very good indeed. Good Luck and Happy Strummings..

ukuleledaveey
03-10-2012, 11:02 AM
This has been a really great thread. I'm going to read Gary Marcus's interview, because ukulele stuff comes to me veeeerrrryyyy slowly. I've been listening to Tommy Emmanuel all day, except for a venture out for a walk. He is one of the greatest of the great. I think that's what we're talking about here.
Also I think we're talking about people like my friends. Someone mentioned being the best. I am the best ukulele player of all my friends except for two younger guys, one a guitar player. I am trying to catch up to them! And two of my elderly friends, a "young couple" at heart. They both play ukulele, and got me my first one. They play music wherever they can. She has written 80 songs! They have a music room full of instruments including a baby grand piano and two keyboards, one stays in the car! I spent some time with them yesterday and they told me I was playing and singing great. They have started a lot of young musicians out. They are truly GREAT. There is all kinds of greatness in music. I think whatever makes your heart sing, whatever heals your broken spirit, whatever gives your tummy butterflies, and makes your hair stand out on end, makes you tap your foot, causes a belly laugh, gives you tears, or makes you grin from ear to ear is great music done by great musicians. I'm not young, but I even like to listen to that crazy Cee Lo Greene sing the F You song!
I absolutely loved reading this :) it makes it seem all so worthwhile and not just playing the uke, you have really summed it up well what music is all about, thanks for sharing :)

ukuleledaveey
03-10-2012, 11:08 AM
I too have been disabled from a work injury at a young age at 35....now on a retired disability, I played when I was real young about 5 to 9 years old.. my father played too.. when he
passed away a few years ago...I was looking in his room and found his old ukulele music...I asked my cousin to play at his service..I was blown away how sweet it was and broke into tears.
He has played now for more than 45 years...after that I gave the ukulele another go... it really helps distract me from my health issues.. I really enjoy it too.. it has been a life saver for me.
I play for enjoyment and fulfullment...I am not into Jake's type of playing at all...nor do I want to be.. sure he is a great musician and great to watch..My best moments playing my
ukes was by myself and really enjoying the peace and solitude to relax and be creative...I think that is the gift from ukulele..the personal moments and achievements..enjoy your ukulele journey and take time to smell the roses or go slow so you really get the full experience..learning too quickly sometimes will get you fustrated, disappoined and stressed out...that is not what I want.
everybody has their own learning curb....go with yours...and their choice of type of playing..choose yours... take it slow and enjoy...if it comes and when it comes it will be more worthwhile and rewarding. Cramming just to impress is not for me... I play for my enjoyment, not to impress others but just myself.. to each his own my friend...as they say...A good book read is "Drawing on the right side of the brain" by Betty Edwards... very good indeed. Good Luck and Happy Strummings..

I wanted to quote you mike and nicke but wasnt sure how to do it together so obviously i have done it seperately. And i totally get where you are coming from. I found out when i sit in my loft with the hatch shut all on my own i can just zone into the uke and play and learn and the rest of the world just doesnt exist.
I certainly dont have aspirations to be famous, i only took the uke up last year after turning 40, but i love the instrument and am very passionate about it, i have friends who play, but they play it because they find it a novelty, but thats cool we are all different, but i have respect for the uke as a serious instrument and appreciate all styles and level of playing. this community is another added bonus as you are al wonderfully friendly and helpfull.
I just want to be able to play to the best of my ability and also learn at a good steady pace and learn the history of all things uke to.
I hope your health is doing ok and always enjoy your comments on the threads have a great weekend and keep on strumming :)

Mandarb
03-13-2012, 06:36 AM
:old:

If there any middle aged or especially senior citizens out there that are just getting into learning to play a uke, I highly recommend that you listen to the interview with Gary Marcus. He hits on why us old folks have a more difficult time learning music and learning how to play an instrument. It really is interesting and worth the time to listen.
http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201202271000


I'm even going to order his book.

Thanks for the link - it really is a great listen. I am going to have to get his book as well.

Plainsong
03-13-2012, 12:27 PM
I haven't had a chance to listen to the link yet, but my senior year in HS, I was taking Chorus I for fun. There were only 3 seniors in that class filled with horrible little freshmen girls. Anyway, the director was teaching them how to read music, and learning the key signatures was just going so slowly. Test after test and these idiots kept failing. The seniors in the class already knew the music reading bit so he gave us a free rein, and I escaped into the band director's office. Only the bandies were allowed in the band room.

Yeah, this has a point, I promise. I was chatting with the band director about the worry of upcoming college theory courses, and knowing lots of people in the program will have already started theory in high school. So the subject turns to the idiots in Chorus I, and he commented that the older you are, the more difficult it gets to learn this stuff.

The reason is simple: Because the older we get, the more we want to know the reasons why things are as they are. "Because I said so!" doesn't really work anymore. In music, there's just about always a reason why something is the way it is, but in order to understand the answer, you have to learn more. "Why does this key signature have one flat, Bb, and the key is called F?" - when you're first starting out it's "Because I said so!" - and there's a lot of that until you learn more and more and more, and the lightbulb comes on, but there's also more questions.

Of course it's never impossible to start at any age, you just gotta be prepared for lots of "Because I said so!" at first. :) Through the years, I've found his answer to ring true. It doesn't mean you can't, it just means you have to allow yourself some leeway there.

Ryan<3Ukes
03-13-2012, 05:31 PM
I haven't had a chance to listen to the link yet, but my senior year in HS, I was taking Chorus I for fun. There were only 3 seniors in that class filled with horrible little freshmen girls. Anyway, the director was teaching them how to read music, and learning the key signatures was just going so slowly. Test after test and these idiots kept failing. The seniors in the class already knew the music reading bit so he gave us a free rein, and I escaped into the band director's office. Only the bandies were allowed in the band room.

Yeah, this has a point, I promise. I was chatting with the band director about the worry of upcoming college theory courses, and knowing lots of people in the program will have already started theory in high school. So the subject turns to the idiots in Chorus I, and he commented that the older you are, the more difficult it gets to learn this stuff.

The reason is simple: Because the older we get, the more we want to know the reasons why things are as they are. "Because I said so!" doesn't really work anymore. In music, there's just about always a reason why something is the way it is, but in order to understand the answer, you have to learn more. "Why does this key signature have one flat, Bb, and the key is called F?" - when you're first starting out it's "Because I said so!" - and there's a lot of that until you learn more and more and more, and the lightbulb comes on, but there's also more questions.

Of course it's never impossible to start at any age, you just gotta be prepared for lots of "Because I said so!" at first. :) Through the years, I've found his answer to ring true. It doesn't mean you can't, it just means you have to allow yourself some leeway there.

The freshmen thing made me laugh. I wish I could relate to that though. All the girls in my freshmen music class were all smarter than me...

islander
03-13-2012, 07:27 PM
Yes I think that everything takes practice.
Almost everything I do takes about 30 minutes-4 days of practice.
So yes, practice makes perfect.

bongolele
03-14-2012, 06:11 AM
The importance of the skill level you aspire to is dictated a lot by what you want to do with your uke-playing skill.

If it's important to you to be able to finger-pick like a virtuoso and get a million views on your youtube vids, then good luck with that.

But I know the level I want to get to, and that's where I can strum and sing a selection of 'party' songs fluently - I have a list of 20 at the moment. My aim is to have fun, get other people joining in, play in pubs, in small groups. I don't want to fill stadiums - just have fun.

I'll be happy when I make other people laugh or smile, or break their inhibitions and join in a few choruses.