How Long to Start Seeing/Noticing Progress?

KyRo

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Just bought a ukulele and still very new to the instrument. Was wondering how long does it before one can start seeing/noticing progress? How often should one practice a day/week (like 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) before being able to play simple songs (like Somewhere Over The Rainbow) that sound decent?
 
Everyone will progress at different paces and having prior experience playing other instruments helps. I find that playing around 10+ minutes everyday has helped me incremental advance over the past year (my first year playing the ukulele). Keep working on transitions and strump patterns and a metronome is a big help too. You can either buy one or just download a metronome app. There are plenty of YouTube teachers that will help you through the basics.
 
I don't know if this even makes sense but I didn't get better by practicing for "x" amount of time per day or per week. I got better by trying to play what I wanted to play when I wanted to play it. Sometimes it was every day, sometimes it was multiple times a week. I never wanted to practice but I always wanted to play. I've never practiced scales and I never learned chords for the sake of learning chords. I would pick a song I wanted to learn and then I would learn the chords needed for that song as I tried to play it. Sometimes the songs would come along quickly and other times it would take a long time if there were tricky chords, tricky transitions, tricky rhythms or a combination of those things.

Everyone is going to be different because they are going to have different levels of musical talent. If you have average musical talent and are playing or practicing regularly I would suspect that you should see progress over weeks rather than months. Just keep in mind progress is improvement and it is bringing you closer to where you eventually want to be. For some that path is short and for others it's a longer hike. If you want it, keep at it!
 
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Unlike mikelz77, I did learn chords "for the sake of learning chords." I discovered there were chord families (chords that get used together a lot) and was amazed when I could play some chord progressions in keys C, D, and G. They were the same progressions, just in different keys. Then I would look for songs I liked in those keys.

Right away, I found that I could not sing along (that was my original goal) unless I was comfortable forming the chords. Once I could play the chords 'sort-of' in time with the song, I started humming along while strumming and it started to work. Words soon followed.

Here are some progressions. Just start with the C and G progressions and work from there. You'll recognize them:
 
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Welcome to ukulele! There are going to be as many answers as there are people that provide you answers on this one. What kind of music do you want to be able to play? If it's not chords, then learning chord progressions isn't going to help. If it's not fingerstyle, then learning arpeggios isn't going to be your thing. I think you'll get a lot of really great suggestions here, so pick the ones that will work for the music that you want to play, and keep the others for future reference.

I do agree, though, that a little bit every day (or as close to every day as you can possibly manage) really helps a lot. If you feel like playing for two hours, then go ahead and do that, but if you only play once a month, that probably won't result in much progress very soon.

Things that have helped me to progress:

1. Playing in a group at a jam session
2. Having an in-person teacher
3. Obtaining a high quality instrument that sounds excellent and is physically easy to play
4. When I'm really struggling to find improvement, I switch stuff up and try something else; or I go back to something I am very comfortable with and have some confidence in

I don't mean that you have to do any one of those things. This is what has helped me, a lot.

The big takeaway: enjoy what you are doing, and you will want to keep doing it.
 
It depends on your goals. I came from the tradition of baroque music. So of course my goal was to be the concertino (the Eddie VanHalen of the ancient world) to be accompanied by a ripieno filled with workmen-level strummers. I have been practicing for almost a decade and I still suck.

Another aspect is how often you check your progress. Your progress report will differ if you check daily versus if you check weekly.

That being said, don't let any of us encourage or discourage you. Be Zen and just play your uke daily (even if for 10 minutes) and enjoy yourself.
 
Just bought a ukulele and still very new to the instrument. Was wondering how long does it before one can start seeing/noticing progress? How often should one practice a day/week (like 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) before being able to play simple songs (like Somewhere Over The Rainbow) that sound decent?
"Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is not an easy song if you want it to sound decent. I've seen some arrangements of that song with 15 or 20 different chords. The rhythm and strumming change from section to section of the song. The song is longer than most beginner songs as well and that is not even counting the "What A Wonderful World" medley. If you're having trouble getting a handle on this song, my advice is to start with a song with a simpler rhythm and no more than 5 chords. For example, "This Land Is Your Land" has only 5 chords and a simple 4-beat rhythm for the whole song. Once you're comfortable with a couple of easier songs, you can start on a harder one.
 
Just bought a ukulele and still very new to the instrument. Was wondering how long does it before one can start seeing/noticing progress? How often should one practice a day/week (like 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) before being able to play simple songs (like Somewhere Over The Rainbow) that sound decent?

I am not sure that you’re asking the right question and likewise uncertain about how realistic your expectations are. Nearly anyone can play a Uke but only a small percentage will ever play one to a high standard (‘cause that’s a very hard thing to do), so temper your expectations. To improve at something involves regular and frequent practise plus some talent. I’ve been playing music for decades and still suck but I suck less than I used to, some others would have either made better progress or given up.

The important thing is to enjoy playing - focus on that first - and with playing comes improvement over the mid and long term. Playing skill can’t be bottled and picked up again, where you left off, in a month’s time. Improving on an instrument is like paddling a boat up-stream, if you stop paddling them you drift backwards. How much to practise and how often? Try to play something every day but don’t get too hung up on what and how long for. When I was a child my music teacher said to me “give me fifteen minutes of practise each day”, I tried to do that and I did improve, it’s as good a guide as any that I’ve come across and, of course, once you’re playing you might find that time happily flies by and your fifteen minutes ends up being much longer.

What’s on your music stand? You’ll only improve by playing harder material but it’s all a pragmatic compromise, you won’t practice if you’re not enjoying it and pieces that are too hard will defeat you. I try to play stuff that I enjoy and set my challenges low enough for me to get somewhere with them. Don’t forget to revisit the simpler stuff too, enjoy it and strive to play it more perfectly.
 
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Welcome to UU @Kyle Poston. Lots of good advice already. I don't have any idea of you musical background or tastes, so I apologize in advance if my advice sounds in any way condescending.

I have to agree with @man0a, Over the Rainbow is beautiful, but it is not easy to sing or accompany. It's hamonically complex, and has tough intervals to get in tune. On the other hand, with a bit of instruction, whether it is group or individual, and whether in-person or via youtube, I believe you can see progress from the very beginning. This is one of the reasons that the ukulele is popular--the relatively quick return on the first efforts makes it a lot more fun. After you learn a couple strums and the first few chord progressions, you are able to play a great many songs. Then you have to think about what your goals are. Playing any instrument well takes time and effort, and you question about practice is a good one.

I make a distinction between playing and practicing. Both are important, but they are rather different. To me, practicing is a very focused activity where I am trying to work out a technical or musical challenge. It requires really paying attention to small details, and I work on small sections at a time, like a bar or two at a time. Then as I figure it out, I will extend to a phrase or a verse. I actually can't do it for more than about 20-25 minutes before taking some kind of break, or else my concentration wanders and whatever I am working on starts getting worse rather than better. I often see more improvement after a break or even the next day than I do during the practice session.

When I am just playing, I tend to play entire pieces and run through things for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more without break. It is more relaxing and feels more like playing in the sense that a child plays. Unlike practice which is very goal oriented, playing is just exploring and seeing what happens. It is much more fun. I could just play all the time, and I can learn new songs up to a certain point just by playing them, but I am too goal oriented for that, and there are always things I am trying to improve in any new song, so I also practice.

I try to play every day, even if it is just a few minutes, and I would rather have a couple short sessions than one long session. I also try to practice everyday, in sessions lasting from about 10-25 minutes. I believe that 10 minutes of practice five times a week is vastly superior to an hour of practice once a week. If I manage to practice five days a week, that is a good week. If I miss practicing for three or four days, I feel like things start to slip away from me a bit. But as long as I am playing the ukulele regularly, I am enjoying it regularly.
 
My initial reactions are covered elsewhere in this thread:

1) Over the Rainbow (assuming the IZ version) isn’t easy, and in fact, requires strumming mastery (chucks & single strings in a strumming pattern) and a Low G to sound like IZ.

2) Progress should be immediate. If you aren’t playing at least 5 chords with relative ease after two weeks of daily playing, something is going on (C, F, G, G7, and Am).

As a music teacher, I see many players that try to learn too many chords too soon; as well as those that try to add too many techniques—including strumming patterns. I would be focusing on smooth chord changes and a steady strumming pattern that doesn’t freeze (all strumming is some variation of Down-Up).

There are SO many resources out there, free and paid; I would encourage you to find a few that you are interested in and then ask the forums about the resources.

But do be aware that even the “happy” ukulele has some players (and teachers) who are unhappy, full of themselves, and can even be wrong. The danger of the internet is that everyone can have the same voice, even if they are not correct or aren’t very kind. Everyone is an expert. So you’ll have to determine for yourself which voices you want to listen to, and which ones to ignore (which may even be mine).
 
The way I learned and continue to is unconventional and no one else seems to like it, but I'll share my unsolicited advice anyhow :D

The first rule for me, no matter what with ukulele, is that I am having fun. I can force myself to do an unfun hobby or task for a bit, when then I will run out of steam and stop doing it. What keeps me going with this instrument is I always do rule number one first. What that also means is that productivity, the pace of learning a song, music theory, can all come pretty ad hoc. Maybe I won't learn any new songs for 2 months, then suddenly learn 3 in a week because I cracked a new technique. The road less traveled I guess.

Most importantly, please consider the words of the great Tomo Fujita when considering yourself, your goals, and your expectations.

Don't worry
Don't compare
Don't Expect Too Fast
Be Kind to Yourself
 
The way I learned and continue to is unconventional and no one else seems to like it, but I'll share my unsolicited advice anyhow :D

The first rule for me, no matter what with ukulele, is that I am having fun. I can force myself to do an unfun hobby or task for a bit, when then I will run out of steam and stop doing it. What keeps me going with this instrument is I always do rule number one first. What that also means is that productivity, the pace of learning a song, music theory, can all come pretty ad hoc. Maybe I won't learn any new songs for 2 months, then suddenly learn 3 in a week because I cracked a new technique. The road less traveled I guess.

Most importantly, please consider the words of the great Tomo Fujita when considering yourself, your goals, and your expectations.

Don't worry
Don't compare
Don't Expect Too Fast
Be Kind to Yourself
Pretty much what I said, but expands on what I was thinking in a few more words . ;)

and When I said Days or Years - it is both humor and also some truth.

Your progress will vary . Keep it fun , don't turn it into a task or job. Leisure is supposed to be fun. There will be ebb and flow.
 
I think that if you play for an hour every day and you add something new like additional chords or right hand techniques then you should notice progress every day. However a song like over the rainbow is quite complex and I don't think I would have been able to play it well in my first year or two.
 
A lot of this is all about you, your goals, and the intermediate steps you establish. If you have unrealistic goals, then you will of course not see much progress. If you have modest goals with reasonable milestones, then you will achieve them.

I don't practice what I preach. I have the unrealistic goal of self-expression on the uke. I have had some set-backs such as when I learned clamhammer or campanella arrangements. I moved onward but not toward my goal. There are other times such as when I overcame my aversion to dominant 9 chords. I'm always moving. Sometimes it isn't progress but rather a lateral movement, but I am enjoying my time.

So as long as you have a plan, you should see some changes. Since we all play a stringed instrument, we have to trim the nails on our fretting hand. I always see some change in between the nail trimmings. That change isn't necessarily a daily change, but over time I see a difference.
 
I guess if I think hard enough about this, we’re really only talking about tone and rhythm. Try playing with a metronome, for the rhythm part of the equation. For the tone aspect, that’s going to depend on how you attack the string. @Brad Bordessa has a variety of resources specific to the strum/attack hand.

I feel like we’re only talking about tone and rhythm because if you’re don’t have rhythm and the notes sound muted and sloppy, then nothing else you’re trying to improve at really matters. For example, if a person can hold a ukulele excellently without a strap or is able to discuss a variety of theory related to the fret board, those things don’t really matter if when they go to play the ukulele they’re incapable of keeping time and all the notes are dead and buzzing.

Once you have reliable tone and rhythm, you can begin to worry about whether you think you need to be able to improvise on the ukulele in order to be confident that you “know” how to play. In my experience, it is helpful to keep that concern in perspective — if you never play with anybody else, it isn’t a real concern in the sense that you will need to actually do it. Maybe you like the idea of being able to do it. It’s a good goal to work toward, if so.

Along with this, you will also want to increase your speed and accuracy when it comes to chord changes — this is so you can have good rhythm and tone throughout a piece of music. It all really comes down to rhythm and tone.

In any case, here is a link to a PDF of songs that Brad created that are all arranged to be played on a single string. Focusing on this will allow you to prioritize tone without worrying about jumping from string to string.

Here is a link to James Hill’s Booster Uke course that, if nothing else, will give you the feeling that you’ve learned a lot. It will also be true, if you’re like me, and didn’t know much before taking the course.
 
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When I'm completely satisfied with my uke playing I'll quit.
 
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