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View Full Version : What got you to the next level?



etf
03-06-2013, 09:39 PM
Hi all,
I doubt very much if this is just a me thing so need to ask you this.
What did you do to push to get to the next level in your playing?

This is hard to put into words but basically I am at a stage where I try to learn something new and a bit more challenging, I get frustrated then go back to playing things I know I can play. I know this sounds silly, but I did not know a single chord or strum pattern about 10 months ago yet I learnt those to get where I am now. So why have I hit a point that I find I'm stuck in a safe place that just draws me back instead of pushing on?

I have joined UU+ and I'm working through the UUU classes and they are very helpfull but I guess I'm looking for that Eureka moment.

If this situation rings a bell in your playing can you tell me what got you through it and onto that next level in your playing please.

Sorry if I have not explained it well, I just hope for those of you who have been in this situation understand where I'm at.

Thanks for reading,
ETF :cool:

Brad Bordessa
03-06-2013, 10:03 PM
Yup. It happens.

Just do the hard stuff. Try to make it fun (it should be fun to be playing music). Use whatever you are working on in a song as soon as you can. That way it will be enjoyable to practice whatever the thing is.

You donʻt need to practice what you know to get to the next level, you need to practice what you donʻt.

Flyke
03-06-2013, 10:08 PM
I don't think there's a problem with going back to what you already know. I reckon honing the skills you already have can actually help you to learn new skills. If you practice and practice the same songs over and over with absolute attention to detail to chord changes, fingering, strumming volume, etc, so that you can play them as beautifully as you possibly could, it can actually make it easier when you start a new song.

Maybe it's just a confidence thing, but years ago, I would learn a song quickly and play it non-stop for a week and then move on. I don't think you learn all the lessons that each song has to teach you if you move on too quickly. When you master a song completely, you have learnt all it can teach you. Then, you are ready for another. I'm not saying you can't learn more than one song or technique at a time, just learn them completely before you try the next level.

Just a thought. :)

dhoenisch
03-07-2013, 03:30 AM
I hit that stage from time to time. I will try to learn a hard song, give up, and go back to the others I already know. However, there are some pretty hard songs that I absolutely love, so I will scope out YouTube for some videos of people playing the song that inspires me to learn it, and every time I feel like I want to give up, I just watch that video again. I've learned a few songs that way. Might help?

Dan

Kyle23
03-07-2013, 03:45 AM
Yeah it happens to me. I wimp out and go back to easier stuff. But I've kind of ditched that and willed myself to do harder stuff. You just need to have that mentality that says "I'm GOING to learn this song" because it's not about you not being able to do it but how hard you want to work to learn it. I think that makes sense lol

Mandarb
03-07-2013, 04:23 AM
I will let you know when I get there.

Stackabones
03-07-2013, 04:26 AM
Playing with other players may help you get to the next level, provided that they are better than you. It happened to me in that way, and I've seen happen to friends and many students too.

FairyGodmartyr
03-07-2013, 04:39 AM
I may get flogged for saying this, but a big change came for me when I was banned from using TAB by my teacher and focused on learning the notes on the fretboard. Focusing on the notes has let me learn a lot more of the theory, especially with building chords and figuring out songs on my own. And, of course, having a teacher to point me in the right direction has been a huge part of that, too.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
03-07-2013, 04:43 AM
may I ask, are you talking about strumming new and more difficult chord forms... or picking out more difficult riffs and melody lines?

As a strummer/singer I do experience the need to learn an unfamiliar and initially uncomfortable-to-form chord from time to time. As mentioned above, if the chord is essential for the song, I work at it until it becomes 'natural', that is more and more familiar for me to form on the fly (in time with the tempo of the song) :)

I have learned to pick some songs (in the distant past) and I think I remember just working at it until 'it' began to feel more and more 'natural'/familiar. However, not being primarily an instrumentalist, I defer to those in the UU Ohana who are of the instrumental vs vocal persuasion.

PS (not to the original poster in particular) when I read threads like this one, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, as queried above, 'Are we talking strumming or picking?' It seems to me that the advice given may not be the same in each instance. May I request that future requests for assistance specify 'strumming' or 'picking' assistance? :)

keep uke'in' (strumming or picking) :),

alanjang
03-07-2013, 05:35 AM
For me, it was learning from others, either from taking lessons or playing with others and swapping tricks, techniques, etc. I had taken myself as far as I could go and "self-taught" was becoming "self-staying-in-my-comfort-zone". There are still those times I need to just close the door and work something out, but the wisdom of others has taken me to new places.

Rubio MHS
03-07-2013, 05:39 AM
Tony Mizen's books. Highly recommended.

berean_315
03-07-2013, 05:49 AM
The main thing I've learned is to play with people as much as you can (especially those who are better than you skill level wise) and keep it fun. I find playing and working on specific songs is more helpful than doing specific drills, scales, etc. Try to incorporate those things into songs you are working on. Watch YouTube videos for songs you want to try, look up the chords and go at it. You can't get around practice, but playing with people makes practice not so tedious.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
03-07-2013, 06:00 AM
Three things have helped me:


Playing with other people. It wasn't until I took my ukulele out and strummed along with friends playing other instruments that I started to "get it". Generally, I don't think it matters if one plays with friends or if one finds a good instructor. Music is communication---it's difficult to communicate by oneself.
May Singhi Breen's New Ukulele Method. This book taught me more in a couple months than I'd learned on my own in five years. I doubt this particular book would help everyone, but I like to think there is a great method out there for each person. Learning to read and understand standard notation does open up a vast array of musical resources beyond tab.
The Seasons of the Ukulele weekly contests. Each week's contest provides inspiration to learn something new. The Seasonistas (the contest participants) are the most supportive, friendly group of with which one could ever share music. Come on over, share a song with us!

I've found myself on a "skill plateau" more than once. It can be frustrating. Finding something to challenge yourself is important. It's equally important to play music for fun. As long as you're doing both, you'll be improving. Remember that the rate of improvement may not be easy to perceive sometimes, and enjoy the ride.

Bob Bledsoe
03-07-2013, 06:09 AM
Playing scales and learning the fretboard have been huge as far as training my ear and giving me the ability to pick out tunes and improvise melodies.

Dougf
03-07-2013, 06:13 AM
I completely agree with Ralf on the value of weekly seasons contests. The weekly theme is a great way to help a pick a new song to work on, and try to learn it well enough to get a good take within a week. And it's also fun to see what other players come up with, and I think it works for a wide range of skill level.

etf
03-07-2013, 07:56 AM
Thank you all for your replies. I will take onboard all that has been said. I know it has to be practice, practice and more practice. Just nice to get ideas from people who have been there. I find it hard to play with others due to getting out and about through disability. I am working on my wife to take me and stay while I join in with others at the Swansea Ukulele Club. That way I kill two birds with one stone, I get to play ukulele with others and my wife can't say I never take her out lol, even though I guess she is really taking me out.
One thing I can say for sure is that however difficult I find new things on times I'm still having fun. I just like to push myself. I love learning new songs and there are thousands that tend to use the same basic chords. It's just I like to try and learn new and challenging sets of chords to broaden my playing. Some times I get frustrated as the changes come thick and fast and there are new chords. But as I keep telling myself a few months ago all chords were a challenge if they needed more than two fingers to form. Onwards and upwards however long it takes. At 54 mind it's more muscle memory than brain memory lol.
In reply to Uncle Rod, I am trying to learn both strumming and picking but I would say I tend to lean more towards the strumming and singing along. I have a voice that tends to be better where no one else hears but for my enjoyment it's fine. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the great help I had from your Boot Camp.
As suggested I do follow the seasons videos and enjoy watching you all play. One day I will buck up the courage to work out how to use my iPad to upload a song, guess the first one is the hardest.
So, thank you all once again for your replies on this I can assure you it does help.

ETF :cool:

mm stan
03-07-2013, 08:02 AM
I'm old....he he and disabled... getting worse as my health and condition deteriorates....geez practice, patience and perserverence it used to be...

Dan Uke
03-07-2013, 08:07 AM
Buy a new uke and practice!!

Rick Turner
03-07-2013, 08:14 AM
What got me to the next level was realizing that I could work up chord melody arrangements of classic jazz tunes one note at a time. Start with the melody on some fairly simple tunes...single string...really simple. Try to do this with the melody being the highest notes you're playing...first or second string at first. Add one harmony note to that. Then add a 3rd. Then a 4th if appropriate. Use these chords where needed and tie them together with single note playing. Now you've got the basis of chord melody playing. Don't be afraid of notes up the neck. Don't worry about what the chords are called in the beginning...but then learn them by what function each note has. Get away from "strum-diddle-diddle". Don't be afraid to be frustrated. Learn to transpose. Play with others and learn to play what they are not playing. Learn all the basic chord inversions in three or even four positions on the uke neck. Practice changing chords where every finger moves to a different fret or string. Learn the utility of diminished chords.

I'll be teaching a lot of this with Sarah Maisel at the Asilomar Uke Retreat in April...

Kmetzger
03-07-2013, 08:28 AM
Personal live lessons remotely via skype from Matt Dahlberg. http://www.mattukulele.com/

Nicko
03-07-2013, 09:31 AM
Excellent thread here!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-07-2013, 10:07 AM
Playing with the lights off. (TV too!)

Sporin
03-07-2013, 10:55 AM
I'm in a bit of a rut myself. I got myself to where I'm a competent strummer to accompany my adequate singing and while I know that I need to learn the fretboard so I can start to learn finger-picking and elevating my skills — I'm having a hard time motivating myself to actually do it.

When I sit down to play (limited time due to work) I don't want to spend hours practicing something I'm trying to learn. I'd rather be learning the chords to a song I love, within my existing skill set, or practicing my open mic set or something.

ChaosToo
03-07-2013, 12:03 PM
Is there 'another level'? Or is it just one staircase with no actual levels? For me, I seem to be learning new stuff every time I pick one of my ukes up - be that fretting, strumming, adding accents, jumping between chords, finding more comfortable ways to play chords or simply being able to play a succession of chords without looking at my left hand.

If there's 'another' level, then I guess I've not reached the first level yet - but I'm having fun climbing the stairs, I can tell you! :D

Wicked
03-07-2013, 03:07 PM
To paraphrase my signature, the best way to become a better ukulele player is to become a better musician. Get beyond the ukulele-specific technique. Focus on the music.

Most people will immediately start in about scales and modes, harmonizing, etc............ but the thing that will prvide the "highest return on your investment" is to really, REALLY, work on rhythm. Most of the time, the ukulele is used to provide "pitched rhythm," yet people rarely focus on that aspect.

Bland Mango Patterson
03-07-2013, 03:23 PM
I'm in a bit of a rut myself. I got myself to where I'm a competent strummer to accompany my adequate singing and while I know that I need to learn the fretboard so I can start to learn finger-picking and elevating my skills — I'm having a hard time motivating myself to actually do it.

When I sit down to play (limited time due to work) I don't want to spend hours practicing something I'm trying to learn. I'd rather be learning the chords to a song I love, within my existing skill set, or practicing my open mic set or something.

thats the thing innit. if what you wanna do is not requiring a lot of finnicking then its all about honing ... if your particular love is something more intricate its all about hard yards and then honing. I love folk music and have spent years moving back and forth between three chord ditties which i will play exclusively for months, and then ill fall in love with clawhammer banjo or flamenco or formby style and knuckle under for a few months pursuing right and wizadry. whatever floats my boat is never work!

Skottoman
03-07-2013, 03:23 PM
I don't sing/strum, I mostly try and play complete songs. (Melody and chords at the same time).

This video got me to the next level.

Kalei Gamiao - Kiss From A Rose
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f5VkLUtGE4

When I watched that, it gave me goosebumps. I needed to be able to play it! I sat and watched that video (You can see his fingering), until I could play it.

Now I can play it, (Nowhere as good as Kalei!) but to echo some other comments, I do play it over and over, and have learned to add more "feel", more "emotion" to the song from when I first learned it. My wife is probably sick of it, but it helps me learn technique.

So this did take me to the next level (for me), because at first I was blown away, and didn't think I could do it... but I did. :)

Cheers,
Skottoman

etf
03-07-2013, 08:53 PM
Again great replies and reading. I know the answer is hard work or should that read hours of fun. But when I watch others videos and playing I am amazed at how they play and at what stage did they learn how to branch out? How do you get to that stage when you know how to slip in those alternate chord shapes that many of us don't know leave alone how to use them? Those little improv riffs, everything that makes a plain tune into something fantastic. For example when you try learning something from a You Tube video, they show you how to play the chords and a basic strum pattern then finish by playing through and it sounds totally different as they put their spin on it and it sounds so polished and a totally different level than they just taught you. That's the different level, how do you get there, how do you learn it? Not that it's something I get to do, but again when you see someone just join in playing with someone else, for example a great YT video of Ken Middleton playing with Manitoba Hal to Sweet home Chicago. Ken explains he had not played the song before. At what stage do you get to a level that you can just join in with someone even if you dont know the song? I understand its years of playing but to someone like me it's mind blowing how you get to that stage?

ETF :cool:

His Sinfulness
03-07-2013, 09:29 PM
Two things have pushed me out of the ruts I always fall into...

1) Playing with others. It's great if they're better than you, but even if they aren't they will likely introduce you to some songs/techniques that you wouldn't have tried on your own.

2) Playing in public. Nothing ramps up the seriousness of your practice like a looming performance date. :)

Good luck!

drbekken
03-07-2013, 10:26 PM
Playing with the lights off. (TV too!)

Yes, this is a good idea. It helps your fingers to remember chord shapes, and developes your ear.

In general, I believe that mean, stubborn determination - combined with the willingness to practise stuff that's just a tad above your current level of skill - will take you to the next level. It is also important to understand that no practice can ever be a waste of time. You do not have to end up performing the music you practise. When I studied music, I worked on a lot of heavy classical piano stuff that I never really finished, let alone played for an audience. Still, the various tecniques, fingerings and general understanding of the music have helped me immensely in my career as a musician in other fields or genres.

Last, but definitely not least: LISTEN to a wide variety of musical expression. It will make you a better player.

Stackabones
03-08-2013, 03:48 AM
To paraphrase my signature, the best way to become a better ukulele player is to become a better musician. Get beyond the ukulele-specific technique. Focus on the music.

Most people will immediately start in about scales and modes, harmonizing, etc............ but the thing that will prvide the "highest return on your investment" is to really, REALLY, work on rhythm. Most of the time, the ukulele is used to provide "pitched rhythm," yet people rarely focus on that aspect.

I like that! Pitched rhythm.Quite apt -- and good advice.

sukie
03-08-2013, 04:08 AM
I have gotten to my level by plain hard work. Fun work, but still it's hard. I just keep plugging away.
And there are still a bajillion levels to go.

UKEonomics
03-08-2013, 04:28 AM
Excellent thread here! I'm kind of wondering how many people have had this similar experience happen....

You're trying to learn a new song, new technique, etc. You keep trying and trying and trying and it's just not coming to you. You walk away from it for a period of time (a week, a month, longer) and one day you try it again and something just clicks in your brain and you've got it! I can't count the number of times that's happened to me.

I guess what I'm getting at is that we all get stuck in ruts from time to time and sometimes the best remedy is to not try to hard to get out of that rut...just let your brain tell you when it's time to move on. I don't know...maybe that doesn't make any sense. :)

sukie
03-08-2013, 04:51 AM
Excellent thread here! I'm kind of wondering how many people have had this similar experience happen....

You're trying to learn a new song, new technique, etc. You keep trying and trying and trying and it's just not coming to you. You walk away from it for a period of time (a week, a month, longer) and one day you try it again and something just clicks in your brain and you've got it! I can't count the number of times that's happened to me.

I guess what I'm getting at is that we all get stuck in ruts from time to time and sometimes the best remedy is to not try to hard to get out of that rut...just let your brain tell you when it's time to move on. I don't know...maybe that doesn't make any sense. :)
Nope. Makes sense because its true.

mendel
03-08-2013, 07:38 AM
Focus less on learning songs and focus more on learning the instrument. Best advice i was ever given regarding my playing.

iDavid
03-08-2013, 11:27 AM
I have bought a great deal of books, but find I go to the Rob MacKillop books the most. The pieces always teacher you something and they are very well done.

wendellfiddler
03-08-2013, 12:39 PM
There is actually fact to this madness. Especially in the case of kinetic learning, we learn best in small, or brief encounters repeated many times. For example, four fifteen minute practice sessions will usually result in more learning (or success) than an uninterrupted hour of practice. This has been proven to be true for other kinetic learning, like gymnastics. I'm not sure how it would apply to medical school.

Duk

70sSanO
03-08-2013, 12:39 PM
In my opinion there are two different types of "next" levels. There is the next level of strumming and singing or the next level of fingerstyle instrumental.

I can't say that my next level is proficient enough to be a next level, but here goes...

I decided that fingerstyle instrumental was the direction I wanted to go. After too many years of noodling on the guitar and feeling the same result when I started playing ukulele, I decided a few years ago to learn Jake's Blue Roses Falling. I started by watching versions on youtube and tried to replicate it.

I then went on to a couple of other Jake songs. The ah-ha moment came when I started to piece together the variations of semi open chords and other variations that I found in more than one of Jake's songs. For example the different ways a G chord is voiced. It also became evident what key or chords work best with the open chords and the melody. Now I am not saying I can play like Jake, but I am able to play well enough to enjoy it and have others think it is pretty good.... I do contribute the low expectations of the ukulele for the positive opinions of others.

About a year and a half ago I went online and found a few pieces here and there of Viva La Vida and worked out an arrangement of it using the same key/chord lessons I learned from Jake's songs. I recently stumbled across a youtube of the same song that is remarkably similar to what I worked up. Reaffirmed I was on the right path.

Finally, I have been working out Christian songs... Hosanna, Shout to the Lord, etc. in the same manner. Some work great, some pretty good, but they all are playable.

I will say that the next level from this will be really understanding the theory, but for now I am having a ball playing the uke.

John

BIGDB
03-08-2013, 01:05 PM
What really made me think I was at the next level was learning ode to a frozen boot next thing is to either learn theory or arrange my own song