I have a really dumb question but I am not a musician so I'll ask anyway...

Eggs_n_Ham

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I realize professional players like Brittni Paiva and the lovely gents at HMS have been playing basically most of their lives. They're abilities to make an instrument speak are what dreams are made of.

My question is: As they are fretting chords and their picking hand is doing what? Making notes? Tones? They use all of their fingers and sometimes it is a fairly distinct "fingerstyle" pattern but not always. How do I begin to learn to play like that? Not to be the instant expert, no, but to begin to learn and understand; to practice that method of playing.

I prefer "fingerstyle" to strumming and practice everyday. Is it intimate knowledge of the fretboard learned after years of pactice and playing? Music theory? I understand inherent talent; I actually think I possess that but it's taken me this long to start - aka able to afford an instrument I could actually play.

I can't cancel italics!


Here we go. Better. If you're reading this and saying "it's years of practice and knowing music theory dummy!"- okay, I appreciate that and will continue in my path- it is working, just not in the direction I would like to be going in. But I have to really start working on music theory related to the ukulele.

My Millar and I thank you ahead of time. ;)

 
If you're reading this and saying "it's years of practice and knowing music theory dummy!"- okay, I appreciate that and will continue in my path- it is working, just not in the direction I would like to be going in. But I have to really start working on music theory related to the ukulele.

My Millar and I thank you ahead of time. ;)
Years of practice, intimate knowledge of music theory (either learned or instinctive), and most of all, natural TALENT! The first two can get you to the point where you can produce recognizable music, but without the talent, you're just like me, a basement picker playing for my own pleasure. :cool:
 
natural TALENT
Actually... Talent = years of effort. If you start when you are 3 or 4 and are brilliant by the time you're in your 20's, it's still a lot of effort.

I don't mean to imply that these players aren't talented, that they have no natural attributes that contributed to their current skill levels. I just mean that even if you have something "natural", your end results still come from years of effort. Could be that effort is a lot of fun, it's still putting the time in.

"Perfect practice makes perfect practice". Well. No one is perfect. But it is true that careful, attentive practice makes a lot of difference compared to just noodling for fun. Find someone that you like their style, and find someone who offers a breakdown of some of the techniques used. Start small and work up. It's possible. Will you be as amazing as those artists you admire? It depends on the quality of the effort you put into it.
 
Here’s my “basement picker” example but to answer your question, I suggest that you start with finger roll exercises.
As my UUF handle suggests, I’m an old 5-string banjo picker. Because of that background, vamping and 3- finger rolls have become second- nature. Strumming is, by a wide margin and as you can hear in this cover, my weak point. What I’m also still struggling to un- learn is the long- ingrained tendency to use the high G as a thumb picked drone.
 
Start playing when you're playing. By "playing" I mean to experiment, to explore, and to have fun. After you strum, pluck your E string. See what that does for you. Or try other things like after a strum pluck the E, then C, then A string. Or you can drop a pinky down in unusual places and see where that gets you. Or move the chord shape briefly down a fret and then back up. You get the idea. Just take your chord and gussy it up a bit. Collect what sounded not bad. Of course theory would help you predict what would sound good or help you identify what you did...but it isn't absolutely necessary. Just play around
 
They are often combining more than one technique into one song. Sometimes they are using fixed picking patterns over chords as a fancier way to play rhythm than simple strumming. Other times, they are picking the melody notes to the song as a replacement for singing. If you click on the "shop" tab at the top of this page, you can find some lessons on creating your own arrangements like this. Also, the "learn" tab at the top of the page has a lot of lessons on playing technique and music theory.
 
There is such a thing as "natural talent." I only have a deep love for music and a desire to play something hopefully recognizable. Through many years of bull-headed experimentation and practice, I somehow acquired a few passable skills that I cherish. It literally takes months to get a song acceptable.

Do I ever expect to "plug in" and sing on stage? No. Group strum-a-longs and very occasional F&F get-togethers are my only performances. They are a satisfying reward.
 
Kimo Hussey answers your question of what the right hand is doing very eloquently in this short video.


Kimo has his own somewhat unique technique, but his analysis is very interesting. I find that as I pay more attention to my right hand I play more musically. I believe it starts with trying to get every note you play to sound beautiful, particularly when playing a melody. It sounds like silly advice, like everyone knows that, but it is surprising to me when someone takes the time to learn most of the notes to a piece of music and then simply moves on. If you hear a high school orchestra or band warming up before they rehearse, you will hear snippets of famous and often difficult melodies or riffs, and it's as if they are saying, "Yeah, I could play that if I wanted to."

If yout talk to a professional musician, they will tell you it is really about what happens after you get beyond the notes, or even if you miss a few notes. I am a bit of a broken record on this, but my teacher really helped me to concentrate on sustaining notes better as I played and learned new techniques. For fingerstyle, the book that helped me quite a bit was Daniel Ward's Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele. It seemed like I was working on the first Meditation forever before it began to seem natural, but it actuallly went more quickly after that. There is all sort of good fingerstyle material on the internet. I like Matt Stead and Jeff Peterson. I also like Peterson's quote (don't know that it is original, but that's where I heard it): "It's not that practice makes perfect, it is more like practice makes permanent." Making each note sound beautiful can be applied to most anything you concentrate on whether it is a song or a scale, or an etude. Over time it has a real effect on everything you play. Sadly, i've also been able to burn in bad habits by playing thoughtlessly or rushing through things.
 
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Here’s my “basement picker” example but to answer your question, I suggest that you start with finger roll exercises.
As my UUF handle suggests, I’m an old 5-string banjo picker. Because of that background, vamping and 3- finger rolls have become second- nature. Strumming is, by a wide margin and as you can hear in this cover, my weak point. What I’m also still struggling to un- learn is the long- ingrained tendency to use the high G as a thumb picked drone.

I definitely need to work on dexterity
 
Years of practice, intimate knowledge of music theory (either learned or instinctive), and most of all, natural TALENT! The first two can get you to the point where you can produce recognizable music, but without the talent, you're just like me, a basement picker playing for my own pleasure. :cool:
I am indeed a "basement picker" as well! I just hope to get to a point where I'm not an embarrassment to myself!
 
I definitely need to work on dexterity
…and so do (am) I. My present goal is to change my right hand position to “open/ flat” as the great Mr. Hussey holds it, rather than my habitual “Scruggs- curl” with only the tips of the ring and pinky fingers anchored on the sound board.
 
I too am in awe of the players you mentioned and wonder how they do what they do. Here's what I'm doing to try to get there . . .

I daily work on a few different songs - each emphasizes a different thing. I have chosen them specifically to practice different exercises. For example, Gymnopedie #1 forces me to play in tempo and work on maximizing the tone of each note. Amis Rondo forces me to work on my tremolo. Nuvole Bianche forces me to work on pull-offs and dynamics. Libertango forces me to learn the relative spacing of the fretboard beyond the fifth fret. Etc.

The interesting thing has been to see how these techniques are then more naturally applied to other songs. My vibrato has improved because of Gymnopedie work, my picking has improved because of Amis, etc.

I have a long way to go yet, but being more intentional about the songs I work on and why I work on them is paying some dividends. I choose songs that feature a different skill-set, are songs I enjoy playing, and are challenging to my level of play. Some of them, like Amis, I've worked on for over 15 months. But I'm in no rush and the success of a phrase well played is quite rewarding.

I don't think there is a magic bullet that works for everyone. I think the fact that you are asking the question means you are likely to get there. I can only say that the above approach is the one I'm taking and as a self-taught finger-style player I'm having a ball. Not sure I'll ever arrive, but I think the journey maybe as fun as the destination.
 
You can always go to the crossroads and sell your soul, like the pros did.
 
most of all, natural TALENT!


There is such a thing as "natural talent."

I used to think that you had to have "talent" to get good at playing, but I don't agree anymore.

One of the things that helped me change my mind was this book:


The author Matthew Syed was an olympian tennis table player. If talent is truly innate as people suggest it is, can you explain the coincidence that within the two streets around his house there were more than ten champion table tennis players?

I'll give you another clue. Two streets away from him was a different school catchment area. No champions there.

Matthew Syed's table tennis teacher was also the PE teacher at his local primary school. He supported all sorts of amateur sport outside of school, but his real passion was table tennis. He started a table tennis club where all the kids who were members had a key so they could let themselves in to practice whenever they like. The kids who were at his club did thousands of hours of practice and they were each competing with the other members. It was an environment that fostered becoming brilliant!

If you want to get good at something, surround yourself with people who are better than you at the thing you want to learn, look at what they're doing and ask questions. But don't think that it's an innate thing, that you'll never develop talent. It really is just about repetition and practice and falling in love with it.
 
I agree that talent is not that important until you get to the top professional-level players. Your practice time and your enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the people that you learn from and play with makes a huge difference.
 
I wouldn't know. But my process is to just pick up the uke everyday and make noise with it. Sometimes it sounds good to me. Sometimes not so much. So, I veer toward what I like. It's the least expensive therapy I could find.
 
Your practice time and your enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the people that you learn from and play with makes a huge difference.
The point of the book I linked to is that what people call talent is exactly what you've just written! Becoming really, really good is the intersection of people trying really hard and having the right sort of circumstances to become really good at something. If it was something people were just born with, there would be no point in any kind of competition.
 
I think a lot of it is just trying things out. When I first started learning to "chuck" I was so resistent to learning because it seemed like the way people described it and how I was doing it was never going to sound good. I pushed through the discomfort and kept making small tweaks until it just popped and I had it.

This is something that I'm constantly reminding myself - after all how did the people way back 100 years ago start playing well? They didn't have youtube or anything, they just practiced, and tried things. What separates a good musican from a great musician, IMO, is being able to confront that fear of failure, that fear of looking stupid, and slowly build confidence in yourself.
 
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