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

I don’t consider myself a great musician. I am able to play fingerstyle from playing guitar, but I never played melodies on the guitar.

Most of the dexterity comes from the right hand, but being able stretch with the left adds that extra up the neck.

I have two thoughts on playing melodies. You can be talented and learn to play complex shapes or you can cheat. I’ve elected the latter.

Almost 15 years ago I set out to learn some of Jake Shimabukuro’s songs. As I went through each section I realized that he sometimes plays in keys that allow for open shapes up the neck. With re-entrant tuning you don’t always need to fret the G string, sometimes not even the C string.

The other rule is that the melody is in the chord by playing individual notes and lifting off notes or adding notes. A song like Blue Roses Falling is a great illustration.

Typically I’ll find a song and move it to G, or C, or F depending on the melody range. I don’t “perform” much but the times when I’ve gone through some selections, I’ve never had anyone say, “Aren’t you just playing the same stuff?” Basically I am. But many songs can be sung with the same chords and most people listening are oblivious to it.

John
 
All you need for a great song are three chords and the truth
 
Here is Billy Strings humble presentation about practice. Helpful to those of us who have come a long way in our journey and need some vindication and inspiration.

Thanks @ttim3, I needed that. I'm terribly insecure, even when fully aware of how far I've come. I've never been a "good" student but have developed a way to figure out the chord voicings I need to support the melody line. Because of that it often takes me hours or days to work out a song. That is my obsession and that's OK.

My "plateau" right now is strumming rhythms. Sometimes I find a happy place, but when I take it to a group session, the strumming makes it impossible. I don't want to be a loner (I am, by nature), but the constant chaotic down-strums, without feeling, drives me crazy.
 
Last edited:
Here is Billy Strings humble presentation about practice. Helpful to those of us who have come a long way in our journey and need some vindication and inspiration.

Humble dude, which is rare today.
 
Thanks @ttim3, I needed that. I'm terribly insecure, even when fully aware of how far I've come. I've never been a "good" student but have developed a way to figure out the chord voicings I need to support the melody line. Because of that it often takes me hours or days to work out a song. That is my obsession and that's OK.

My "plateau" right now is strumming rhythms. Sometimes I find a happy place, but when I take it to a group session, the strumming makes it impossible. I don't want to be a loner (I am, by nature), but the constant chaotic down-strums, without feeling, drives me crazy.
Thanks @ttim3, I needed that. I'm terribly insecure, even when fully aware of how far I've come. I've never been a "good" student but have developed a way to figure out the chord voicings I need to support the melody line. Because of that it often takes me hours or days to work out a song. That is my obsession and that's OK.

My "plateau" right now is strumming rhythms. Sometimes I find a happy place, but when I take it to a group session, the strumming makes it impossible. I don't want to be a loner (I am, by nature), but the constant chaotic down-strums, without feeling, drives me crazy.
I hope part of your learning experience is to cut it loose, too!
 
I’m a music educator, with a PhD in music. I taught high school choir, music theory, music technology, guitar and music history, middle school choir, and now elementary music.

I started teaching ukulele in 2016 to middle school students and still teach it to my 5th graders today.

I teach music because everyone can make music for their own enjoyment. Not everyone will share as a soloist, but anyone can play in a group or by themselves.

Everyone has the ability to make music; some people do have the natural capacity to take it to another level. My job has always been to take people as far as I can—which is limited by time, age (in my case, the youth and abilities of my students), resources (program and socioeconomics), and attitudes of my students.

As for what they are doing: ultimately, it is all advanced chord melody with advanced techniques laid over; melodies are played on the top string, supported by chords played along the way, either strummed or with a fingerstyle pattern, and then other advanced techniques are used such as harmonics (I think Four String Boy is the current “champ” in this territory), pull offs, hammer ons, and string bends.

I know of musicians who quit because they see master players and say, “I’m done because I’ll never be that good.”

People can do what they want, but that’s a ludicrous statement. If they want to quit their job and practice three to four hours a day for years…they can be that good, too.

But the other side of it is that you don’t see the financial side of the performers or the industry as a whole. Hopefully they aren’t starving artists (old stereotype), but they are having to hold many jobs to make ends meet and hopefully save up for retirement (the same with the ukulele industry as a whole).

There’s a reason why the players at The Ukulele Site work there, have other businesses, gig locally, teach at conventions, and tour. I am sure if there was enough income with one job, they wouldn’t do all of them—but paying for life is essential, too. So my hat is off to them for working their tails off.

I just mention all of that for perspective—playing at that level could be a possibility but it would require sacrifice. Most of us aren’t willing to do that, so let’s just enjoy the process and take ourselves as far as we are able and willing to go.
 
Top Bottom