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Thread: "Big picture" Ukulele learning method?

  1. #1
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    Default "Big picture" Ukulele learning method?

    Hi all. This is my first post. I've been playing (with) the ukulele for about a year and a half but haven't found a way to practice or learn that has "clicked" yet.

    I'm a grad student/lecturer and it turns out different people learn in different ways. I think this is the source of my blues. Most people are "sequential" learners. They do great by learning details. A procedure here, an idea there. And eventually they build them up into a big picture. Or not. It doesn't really matter because they can learn the details without a big picture.

    I'm the opposite: a global learner. I need the big picture. Once I have it, details follow fairly quickly. But without it I can't do much (ok, anything).

    The thing is, ukulele instruction seems like a sequential learner's world. Ukeminutes, youtube lessons, and most books I've encountered tend to focus on isolated details: strum like this, play this song with these tabs. I'm looking for help putting it all together.

    Does anyone know of a book or method that begins with more of a big picture? For example: This is what music is, this is how you create it with a ukulele, when you change this this happens, etc. I'd imagine that you'd only get to actual notes and songs near the end. I once found something like this called The BanjoHero manual (which was great but seems to have disappeared from the web. Also it was for banjos).

    Thanks!

    p.s. If you are interested in learning styles, you can find a real account of them here (just skip past all the stuff that's not global vs. sequential). You can even take a quiz to find your own style here

  2. #2
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    How big would you like to have the picture without losing focus?

    Playing the ukulele is a fair bit of pure mechanical/physical training - if you can't move your fingers precisely to the right spot on the fretboard you'll never come even close to anything like playing music. Having all kinds of (theoretical) knowledge doesn't save you from practicing the details over and over again.
    Get a decent starter uke that stays in tune and sounds ok (in case you don't have one already), set yourself some goals and off you go. And bear in mind that some people simply don't like playing ukulele - don't force yourself into it if you belong to them

    I found Al Wood's "Ukulele for Dummies" quite helpful - have a peek at Amazon to see if it fits to your learning style.
    Soprano Concert Tenor Bass
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    more about all my ukuleles on just.4str.in

    Every artist was first an amateur (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

  3. #3
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    Welcome Alligator!

    I find your post intriguing and will follow up on your links. I am having some serious discussions of ways of learning these days as my Mom does not approve of our choice to unschool our children. So your topic is huge on my mind in the non-uke realm

    As to ukes, though, I find I am also a big picture type and please let me know if you find what you are looking for.

  4. #4
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    Ah, it seems there's a typo in your linky

    try this:
    http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/u...dir/styles.htm

  5. #5
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    I can certainly relate to your question. After 4 or 5 failed attempts to learn the guitar over the years, I feel I never got beyond the introductory "details" that you discuss. This was particularly true with respect to chords and what they are and how they relate to one another. In the few months that I have been learning the ukulele I have made much more rapid progress because of a quicker introduction to what you have described as the "big picture." The sources primarily responsible for this for me have been Aldrine's UU+ class on Music Theory and the Ukulele for Dummies Book. There are also some really great YouTube videos dealing with chord relationships, music theory as it relates to the ukulele, etc., but your searches will need to be a bit more specific to find them. I have usually stumbled onto some of them after viewing a YT video for a particular song on the uke or a stum technique so be sure to look at what YT suggests at the ends of their clips or along their page margin.
    Just an old dog trying to learn new tricks . . .
    =======================================
    ddanner SOTU VIDEOS: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...wjRMd7fqE9vEv2
    ddanner ORIGINAL SONGS: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...h4b1ScxqSX_UGP

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddanner View Post
    There are also some really great YouTube videos dealing with chord relationships, music theory as it relates to the ukulele, etc., but your searches will need to be a bit more specific to find them. I have usually stumbled onto some of them after viewing a YT video for a particular song on the uke or a stum technique so be sure to look at what YT suggests at the ends of their clips or along their page margin.
    Links, please!

  7. #7
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    This is a tricky topic. I totally agree with you that different people have different learning styles. However as Louis alluded to, learning to play uke has nothing to do with understanding as does most learning; it is a hard, mechanical skill, physical training or kind of body learning. You can understand how to play an E-major chord, you can know its harmonic function and where to put your hands, but the first time(s) you try to make the hand shape, you are going to have difficulty.

    It might be worth thinking about the learning of the actual physical movements involved in playing as something akin to practicing a sport or a martial art. Anyone can watch these, learn to understand the rules and the techniques (with enough time) but to actually play/compete, you need to spend time doing the actual activity not just thinking about it and understanding it intellectually.

    I don't want to burst your bubble, but, even once you understand the global picture, you will need to spend hundreds or thousands of hours practicing the actual movements and techniques before you achieve a high level of skill.


    Music theory, on the other hand, is something that you'll likely be able to learn with a more global approach. I'm not too sure what books would work for you. If possible, find someone who really knows there music theory and spend a few hours chatting with them. Maybe there's someone at your college who you can approach.

    I said at the beginning of my diatribe that this is a tricky topic. It is made more problematic by the fact that understanding of some of the music theory concepts will be predicated on having musical skills (particularly listening and ear training abilities) that often only come from playing.
    MP Redwood/Koa Tenor with SouthCoast Heavies (tuned FBbDG), Loprinzi Mahogany Tenor with SouthCoast Mediums, Lute-kulele with Worth Browns, Mahalo "Les Paul"

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    I need the big picture. Once I have it, details follow fairly quickly. But without it I can't do much (ok, anything).
    Music is an abstract language. It does not translate well. I don't think there is prose that explains the big picture (possibly Effortless Mastery).

    Playing along with others is the primary way a musician gains knowledge about the One Big Instrument. No one starts out with this knowledge. Maybe you could join a social group of players? Take up singing, and let the uke support that effort (and not take priority over singing) Those two things might do more for you than another year and a half on your own.
    Last edited by Cooper Black; 07-31-2012 at 08:02 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by pootsie View Post
    Links, please!
    I wish I could just go to my bookmarks list and cut and paste a nice long list of links, but after trying to do so I see just how horribly disorganized my Ukelele bookmarks are.

    I primarily wanted to convey the point that most of my YouTube visits are from what I believe Alligator would term the "small picture." In other words I went there to see a performance video, song cover, or song tutorial; and, after jumping to the poster's Channel or one of YT's suggested links, I often found what I think he (or at least I) would consider part of the bigger picture.

    For example, when I visited Brittni Paiva's YT Channel after viewing one of her wonderful performance videos, I discovered that she also had some videos of a seminar she had given along with some other tutorials. The links:

    Her channel: http://www.youtube.com/UkuleleBrit
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvIDmoeEMN4&feature=plcp
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGTF3...feature=relmfu

    I believe this was also the path that led me to the UU Forum and the UU+ University both of which I consider to be part of the "bigger" picture - first clicking on a small picture link from a search such as "chunking" can lead to a "bigger" picture discovery by a perusal of the poster's channel or exploring some of the videos YT suggests.

    A couple of link examples that I found this way include:

    Fretboard Toolbox:
    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...E&feature=plcp
    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...0&feature=plpp

    http://www.youtube.com/HawaiiMusicSupply (has some chord theory videos for the Baritone Uke)

    http://www.youtube.com/SeattleUkeLessons

    Some of the theory section links at: http://liveukulele.com/lessons/

    Obviously, at this point in my ukulele journey, the big picture for me is a greater understanding and appreciation of chord theory and that can easily be considered to only be a very small portion of a much larger picture to many. (I guess one person's big picture can be someone else's trailer.)
    Just an old dog trying to learn new tricks . . .
    =======================================
    ddanner SOTU VIDEOS: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...wjRMd7fqE9vEv2
    ddanner ORIGINAL SONGS: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...h4b1ScxqSX_UGP

  10. #10
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    Well, you could try Uncle Rod's Boot Camp since he encourages learning chords and progressions before learning songs. I realize that may be only a small part of what you may want to do. Cooper Black points out that music is an abstract language; I agree. Remember that there are music majors on college. How much time do they spend learning point-counterpoint, modes, harmonics, etc.? I know folks that don't even read music and they are fantastic musicians for the venues they play in. Whatever key you want to use, they can do it without even thinking. However, if you want to "master" music theory before you begin to play an instrument, you may be waiting many years to get to that point. I think most of us actually want to make sounds come out before we think of learning harmony or what diatonic means. I'm not a music educator and I've had to learn in segments/building-blocks. There was no "Aha!" moment for me even with the circle of fifths. I tried to start with the guitar, but my fingers would not cooperate. I guess the smaller uke fretboard was what I needed. My encouragement comes from learning the chords for songs that I like so that I can strum along. I'm not very far along and 7 chords is about my limit for now. Making those chord changes at the appropriate tempo is my biggest challenge and focus in my uke playing. I play another instrument and am in some bands and ensembles. I enjoy playing with others and our uke club, too. One main thing I really like about playing the uke is that there's no stress since I'm not playing in public yet. Just relax and let the music flow. YMMV
    Stan

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