Calling all Self-Taughts

KiltedUke

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I'd like to hear your thoughts on the best (easiest and quickest) way you've progressed when self taught. Do you:

  • Find songs you like and learn to play them?
  • Find an online course and follow that?
  • Find a ukulele group (not possible just now and not entirely self taught)?
  • Other?

I've only been playing 6 weeks and wondering how I get to a next level beyond playing rhythm ukulele. I'm dabbling with the idea of signing up to James Hill's course but unsure whether I want to spend the money (I'm Scottish after all :)) and would like to hear your opinions.
 
I'm a self-taught and what's worked best for me is finding songs that I like and trying to learn them. Online video tutorials of songs that I like are very helpful. The problem I find with most lessons whether video or in print is that they use songs that I would never have chosen on my own and that I would never want to play. I lose interest very quickly. I understand that one needs to walk before they can run and that skills learned can be transferred and used on other songs but I seem to be driven to want to skip that step. If I'm going to put in the time I want to learn those skills on songs that I'd like or that I'd actually play.

Finding a ukulele group might also be helpful. I participated in one for the first time this year before this whole quarantine thing started. Yes, I ended up playing a lot of songs I would never have chosen for myself but occasionally 1 or 2 turned out to be OK. I found that it kind of lit a spark in me. I wanted to improve my skills and learn new skills. I've been content with just strumming and singing for years.
 
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I'm self taught also. What works for me is just taking my time and learning all the basic chords and transitioning to different chords. After I do that, I practice finger-picking patterns to go along with the chords.

That how I learned. Good luck!
 
I'm not self-taught, but I'll chime in.

Take 5 minutes/day to keep a practice journal. Reflect upon your progress and struggles and set some short-term and long-term goals. Structure your practice sessions to make inroads toward those goals. As you learn more about music and your instrument, your self-developed curricula will improve.

If you'd prefer to avoid the constant revision that comes with under-informed independent study, enrollment in a professionally developed course grants access to a structured curriculum. Diligent practice can quickly yield results under these conditions, but a structured curriculum is easy to take for granted and can lead to complacency and procrastination. If you're considering a course, review the learning objectives and syllabus to discover your level of commitment.

Music is communal, so you might find playing in a 'ukulele group cathartic. Most groups share their repertoire freely and are lead by someone who can teach basic strum patterns, chord fingerings, etc. Personally, I don't improve much playing in the average 'ukulele social club, but I do enjoy socializing with fellow 'ukulele enthusiasts and usually feel reinvigorated to hit the practice room after going to a uke circle.

No one approach is inherently superior to the others. Regardless of the route you choose, keep a practice journal. That will help you decide what's best for your own progress.
 
First year of playing -

I first found songs I knew really well and were basic and somewhat repetitive -same verse, same chorus - such as the Hokey Pokey and other kids songs, and Christmas carols like Jingle Bells. The other benefit to that was that I could practice while babysitting grandkids and they knew the songs, too.

Then I moved on to songs I really liked and wanted to learn. I did a lot of Dr. Uke songs because he has a short clip of the songs to help me figure out the strum pattern, and many songs come in different keys.

During all this, I did the Uncle Rod Bootcamp and practiced that every day.
 
Self taught. I started out not really very serious about it. I learned a few chords and played around with it one summer at our neighborhood weekly bon fire where we sit around drinking and singing sixties and seventies songs. It just grew from there. I still don't take it very seriously, so if I did I might take some kind of lessons. I play with a couple groups and I pick up a lot there. Once you get some basics festivals are a really good place to learn some good practical and usable techniques in a weekend. If and when we have festivals again.
 
After lockdown, if normality returns, join a group or ukulele club. That is the fastest way to learn rythmn, timing and songs.
 
I played guitar (i was very mediocre, at best) for about 40 years - self taught. I learned chords from chord diagrams in Alfred's Basic Guitar Course Book 1, and then started buying songbooks with the words and chord charts for songs I knew (Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, etc.). I had always been good at recognizing melodies and progressions (I played "Name That Tune" in the car with my parents before the show was ever on TV), so I applied that to playing.

The first song I ever figured out on my own was "American Pie", and I'd been playing it for years before I ever saw sheet music for it - I had actually gotten the chords right! But I have been a miserable failure at trying to read tablature or notation... I can follow notation ( notes go up, notes go down, that's flat, that's sharp) but couldn't tap out a rhythm based on time signature ( other than 4/4 and 3/4) to save my life. (I'd been kicked out of drum lessons after 6 months because I couldn't do a 1/4 note roll, the most basic of rhythms.)

I came to ukulele after arm surgery for a torn tendon and ligament made playing guitar painful. 2 years after giving up guitar, my father-in-law gave me an old Harmony uke that hadn't been touched in over 20 years. I tuned it, and played it, (and retuned, and retuned... stupid friction tuners!) and bought a better uke. And another, and another, and another...

I don't pay attention to strum patterns. For one thing, I have problems with my right arm and shoulder now, and I can't strum as fast as some of them want you to. But mostly, if I can't hear it in my head, I can't play it. I can't hear most strum patterns, and "down-up-down-down-up-down-up" goes into my head like Charlie Brown's teacher. (wah, wah, wahhhh...)

But play it, don't say it? if it isn't too fast, I can do it. (Think of "Lookin' Out My Back Door", by CCR...)

Finger picking started out totally random on the guitar. Then, while in college, I watched a guy at the Heritage Arts Festival in Salem, WV play "Tennessee Stud" on a classical guitar. I'd already been listening to Doc Watson flat pick it, and kept getting lost. Watching someone use multiple fingers play the song... I learned how to finger pick it, THEN learned to flat pick it.

I've learned over the years to trust my ears, and how the sound translates into my mind. If I can hear it, I can generally make something sound similar. That has really paid off when playing with others, especially on songs I don't know. And everything I learned on the guitar has translated to the Uke, only I'm much better at uke.

That's another point: The best way to get better at somethings, be it music, theater, or some sports, is to interact with people who are a) better than you, b) willing to give advice, and c) not so blown away by their own awesomeness that they reject you out of hand.

Watch the Seasons, here on UU. There are some folks who are incredible! And then there are those of us who may not be that phenomenal, but have fun anyway.

And no one on this thread has given you bad advice. Use those parts that work for you, and enjoy!

-Kurt​
 
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I'd like to hear your thoughts on the best (easiest and quickest) way you've progressed when self taught. Do you:

  • Find songs you like and learn to play them?
  • Find an online course and follow that?
  • Find a ukulele group (not possible just now and not entirely self taught)?
  • Other?

I've only been playing 6 weeks and wondering how I get to a next level beyond playing rhythm ukulele. I'm dabbling with the idea of signing up to James Hill's course but unsure whether I want to spend the money (I'm Scottish after all :)) and would like to hear your opinions.

I am definitely in the "other" category. I never play other people's music; that's what my CD player is for. I practice scales and certain chord qualities in all keys. I browse the internet for chord progressions and then play them my own way. Occasionally I will also skim over jazz guitar websites and glean whatever I can apply to the ukulele. Since I am a bit older, I had music in school. So I've been reading music since I was a kid. Accordingly, if I hear a riff that interests me, I'll get the sheet music and learn the riff and then use it for my own music.
 
First off, pick a tune you like, & get to know the fretboard. :)

Then learn the basic chords, & a song or two that you like .

Then it's just down to practising, as much or as little as suits you, just make it enjoyable. ;)
 
I'm a self-taught and what's worked best for me is finding songs that I like and trying to learn them. Online video tutorials of songs that I like are very helpful. The problem I find with most lessons whether video or in print is that they use songs that I would never have chosen on my own and that I would never want to play. I lose interest very quickly. I understand that one needs to walk before they can run and that skills learned can be transferred and used on other songs but I seem to be driven to want to skip that step. If I'm going to put in the time I want to learn those skills on songs that I'd like or that I'd actually play.

Finding a ukulele group might also be helpful. I participated in one for the first time this year before this whole quarantine thing started. Yes, I ended up playing a lot of songs I would never have chosen for myself but occasionally 1 or 2 turned out to be OK. I found that it kind of lit a spark in me. I wanted to improve my skills and learn new skills. I've been content with just strumming and singing for years.

Mikelz777 wrote most of it down for me!
I also just play around with different chord shapes. I have an app to find uke chords in all positions and sometimes I'll browse and check some out.
I also pick many melody lines of songs I love.
YouTube is a great help in learning new techniques. I like Matt Dahlberg, Tobias Elof, Ukulele Zen, Ukulelecheats, Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel among others.
I have some books and a lot of tab music that I'll occasionally turn to.
I play for my own pleasure, not to go out and entertain or busk. Before the pandemic I met up with a fellow Mum and practised before school pickup time once a week.
 
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the best (easiest and quickest) way you've progressed when self taught. Do you:

  • Find songs you like and learn to play them?
  • Find an online course and follow that?
  • Find a ukulele group (not possible just now and not entirely self taught)?
  • Other?

I've only been playing 6 weeks and wondering how I get to a next level beyond playing rhythm ukulele. I'm dabbling with the idea of signing up to James Hill's course but unsure whether I want to spend the money (I'm Scottish after all :)) and would like to hear your opinions.


Your asking the dream question. I am 12 weeks in and I am always asking, "am I learning smart enough, am I learning fast enough".

While your asking the question ponder this bonny lad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uReYM-hFLVU
 
I am totally self taught. After I learned the first basic chords I just wanted to learn songs and also pick some tunes. So I usually do a search for chords and lyrics for songs to sing and tabs for finger picking. The challenge really is that for many songs there are several versions online and finding the best one. Also some songs I need to change key to suit my vocal range. So that's all part of the learning process. I only go to videos as last resort for specific technical issues that I can't figure out by ear. Again the challenge is to find a video that demonstrates it in a way that fits my level. Most of the videos are junk as they simplify too much or do things overly complicated.
 
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the best (easiest and quickest) way you've progressed when self taught.

I've only been playing 6 weeks and wondering how I get to a next level beyond playing rhythm ukulele. I'm dabbling with the idea of signing up to James Hill's course but unsure whether I want to spend the money (I'm Scottish after all :)) and would like to hear your opinions.

I found "The Ukulele Way" course by James Hill to be worth every penny. There are a number of free lessons in the course that you can sample. Then if you want an integrated and progressive course in chord/melody, pay the six Euros for a month (start at the beginning of the month, lol). You can cram all the lessons you want into that month or pay again for another month.

James is a very good video instructor (and I hope to see him in person one day) and does a great job instructing. The concepts are applicable to any music you will encounter subsequently. For reference, I signed up around my third month of playing for about five months since I used him as one of my areas of playing and learning. Sometimes I skipped for a few days or a week and then returned while finding songs from other books or online sources to dabble in.
 
Your asking the dream question. I am 12 weeks in and I am always asking, "am I learning smart enough, am I learning fast enough".

While your asking the question ponder this bonny lad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uReYM-hFLVU
Fast enough for what? It's music, not a foot race. There is no finish line and there is no end. Might as well take it easy and enjoy the ride. There's no hurry.
 
I'm a bit of a magpie. I pick bits up from all over the place. I've used youtube tutorials, online tabs, books, DVDs, paid courses, and Skype lessons as the mood has taken me.
 
For getting started, I found YouTube tutorials helpful and motivating. It’s a matter of finding a teacher who suits your style and musical taste. It depends on your musical background too. Are you new to it or have you played other instruments before? If you’re new, you could familiarize yourself with some basic music theory too.
I like finger picking so I’m often looking for tabs, but I prefer to be able to listen to the song too so I know the rhythm I’m going for. I can read it on the sheet but it doesn’t always translate properly to my uke so hearing someone else play it helps a lot. Especially since a lot of songs I like, I’ve never heard before.
 
Since I haven't read the whole thread, please forgive me if I repeat something.

I have never had a teacher, but I have read articles with suggestions and listened to recordings and gotten advice from friends who play, so I wouldn't claim to be self-taught. I think the best teachers I've had are recordings and friends and fellow musicians who show me licks, progressions. . . This is usually a trade, since I show them stuff as well.
Find someone (or more than one) toplay with and trade ideas. There seem to be ukulele clubs springing up all over the place. Join one of these and you won't have to be self taught.
 
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the best (easiest and quickest) way you've progressed when self taught. Do you:

  • Find songs you like and learn to play them?
  • Find an online course and follow that?
  • Find a ukulele group (not possible just now and not entirely self taught)?
  • Other?

I've only been playing 6 weeks and wondering how I get to a next level beyond playing rhythm ukulele. I'm dabbling with the idea of signing up to James Hill's course but unsure whether I want to spend the money (I'm Scottish after all :)) and would like to hear your opinions.

I'm about 3 weeks in; and I've been self teaching.

I think the main thing is setting a simple goal and then selecting the path that would you take there. But, if you have no experience, you can't set a good goal. Here's where self-teach methods courses can help; it's called "method" because such courses take you step-by-step toward goals they've already set for you.

A lot of self-taught instrumentalists fail in the very fundamental areas like rhythm; or if playing in tempo but not musically. I think the reason is that there is nobody there to enforce the basics or point out obvious mistakes; and so, the player move on to more and more advanced areas after thinking he's learned it... and finally the entire house collapses. This is not to say that self-teaching is a bad idea but to say that one must be careful of truly mastering before moving onwards.

Anyway, I can offer you more advice if you have more specific questions (I'm teaching my son how to play the piano for a few years now).

Oh, one interesting thing or rather resource for self-teaching these days is where you can post up your practices and the others comment for free. There's a lot of that going around at this piano forum I frequent. This solves one of the hardest parts of self teaching; getting critical feedback on your performance.
 
First you play the simple songs with chords near the headstock, eventually that gets a bit boring.
Than I learned about CAGFED (google it) which teaches you to play the same simple songs further up the neck (more variety)
Practise with another person(s) to learn about keeping time and listening, to get a polished piece of music.
If you want to sing, learn to transpose the chords within the limits of your voice's ability.
For Rythm, I found Dixiland Jazz the best, as most songs are played in F, Bb etc.
"Mastering" an instrument is similar to a physical fitness regime. If you stop you'll "loose" it.
Have the instrument nearby. Read on the forum, watch YTs.
:cool:
 
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