Impressions of One on One Lessons

This thread has inspired me to seek out my first in person lessons. My first is scheduled for May 22nd. I’m trying to decide if I want to start with focusing on baritone or tenor for the lessons. I’m leaning towards the baritone because there is less available for it and I’ve played it far less than my tenor. I’ve basically been using the ukulele way and some books at home since August of last year to teach myself so I’m looking forward to having someone that can critique and teach.
I told my wife about your post, and we are very pleased that this diary helped you decide to find a teacher. I'd suggest thinking about what sort of near term goals you would like to set for yourself. Of course, you will want the teacher's sense of what you need, but having some specific thoughts on what you would like to improve and what your preferences in playing (style of music, singing, strumming, fingerstyle, chord/melody, etc.) can give you and the teacher a starting point and priorities. We did this when we switched from our first teacher to our current teacher, and my wife did the same thing independently and then we merged them or at least did a compare and contrast,

In our case the specific goals or plans were never really published except here. I had imagined describing what we wanted to accomplish in detail at the first lesson, but it didn't go that way at all. However, it was a very useful exercise because it helped us clarify our own our priorities so that we were better able to discuss with our teacher, Jordan, what we thought was important and where we wanted to go. Jordan was able to assess our musical background and ukulele capabilities very quickly and they knew what we needed to work on and where to start. There have been minor course corrections for us and for Jordan, but I think that the early goal setting helped that as well.
I told my wife about your post, and we are very pleased that this diary helped you decide to find a teacher. I'd suggest thinking about what sort of near term goals you would like to set for yourself. Of course, you will want the teacher's sense of what you need, but having some specific thoughts on what you would like to improve and what your preferences in playing (style of music, singing, strumming, fingerstyle, chord/melody, etc.) can give you and the teacher a starting point and priorities. We did this when we switched from our first teacher to our current teacher, and my wife did the same thing independently and then we merged them or at least did a compare and contrast,

In our case the specific goals or plans were never really published except here. I had imagined describing what we wanted to accomplish in detail at the first lesson, but it didn't go that way at all. However, it was a very useful exercise because it helped us clarify our own our priorities so that we were better able to discuss with our teacher, Jordan, what we thought was important and where we wanted to go. Jordan was able to assess our musical background and ukulele capabilities very quickly and they knew what we needed to work on and where to start. There have been minor course corrections for us and for Jordan, but I think that the early goal setting helped that as well.
Thanks for the advice. I started to make some long term goals and had completely overlooked short term. I’ll focus on some short term goals as well!
We had a lesson last Thursday May 18. It seems like we are on an every two week lesson schedule between Jordan's travel and our travel, and we have another week long trip coming up at the end of May.

Due to scheduling issues, I took the first half of the lesson solo, and then Chris and I shared the second half hour. I spent the first half on Glory of Love chord/melody in G. I played it through twice somewhat roughly, Jordan thought the main problem was that I was rushing in areas and losing the swing of the rhythm in other areas. My own diagnosis was that I have mostly been practicing the difficult (for me) chord transitions up and down the neck, and not really playing the piece through properly. To put it mildly, I am playing notes not music. Jordan suggested practicing with a metronome, which sounds like the right thing to do--even if it swings you have to find the beat and keep it regular. We discussed some alternate chord voicings. I also asked to Jordan to play some of the chord transitions so I could see their left hand position and compare it to what I was doing. I was kind of interested to see when Jordan had their thumb back behind the neck and when/how it returned to holding the neck between thumb and first part of forefinger. I have the violin habit of leaving my thumb behind the neck more than Jordan and it changes how my fingers approach certain chord shapes. I actually think the piece is coming along reasonably well, it just needs more practice time.

When Chris joined us, Jordan had a new arrangement of La Vie en Rose for us, which I quickly printed out and we strummed and melodied our way through it. It really is very loverly harmonically. I like the way it walks down from C to C7 to C6 and I really like the turn around from C, C#dim-Dmin-G7, and back to C. We also worked on the Arpeggio Meditations and Melody Meditations duets. Chris was having some fretting issues mostly related to hand position, and a little bit due to position of her ukulele. I have fallen into this as well. If you are trying to figure out where your fingers belong there is a tendency to turn the ukulele toward you, so that is is facing upward way too much and that makes it very difficult to fret properly. She has improved her left hand position, but in difficult passages or when she is tense, her left hand position reverts to the somewhat collapsed wrist and palm, and then the fingers are coming across the strings too much and now down onto the stirngs like spotlights (I believe that was @ploverwing's phrase).

This week I finally have a reasonable start at an arrangement of Teach Me Tonight based on James Taylor's wonderful version. I am going to mail it off to Jordan for comment and critique. I We found a wonderful version of Sabor a Mi by Kris Fuchigami on youtube, and there has been a request for a transcription of chords and melody by She Who Must Be Obeyed. So that is on my to do list as well.
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I don't recall if I mentioned it here before, but I have been collecting some music theory books along the way, and I just this week received Ukulele Fretboard Roadmaps by Sokolow and Beloff. I also have Edly' Music Theory for Practical People by Ed Roseman, and Music Theory for Ukulele by David Shipway. These three books are so different, it is almost hard to believe they are speaking to the same topic. I am enjoying all three. Roseman's book is by far the most general and it covers the most ground. I think it is my attempt to look at what Music Majors studied in their introductory Harmony and Musicianship courses. In some ways it is more like a reference book or an encylopedia that I like to browse if I have a question.

The other two are ukulele centered. The Shipway book is very much an introduction and I thought it did a good job of filling in the blanks from the little snippets of keys and chord progressions that you pick up in the beginner books. Yet, I think it is fair to say that it assumes some familiarity with the ukulele. It explains basic chord qualities and Nashville numbers and shows you how and why many of the common chord progressions work. It certainly helped me recognize more of the patterns in progressions and taught me how to think about transposition. Not much there on inversions, voicing, substitute chords, but like I said it definitely plugged a bunch of gaps for me.

The Sokolow and Beloff book is new to me, but my first impression is that it is a bunch of magic tricks that I do not yet know how to perform on the ukulele. While I know what a closed chord shape, I don't yet understand why their system is based on the three particular shapes they have chosen. Perhaps, that is really the point here--this is less about theory of why it works and more about what works. I have not started to put this book into practice, but I would call the book at least intermediate if not advanced, because it looks to me like you already need some pretty decent technique to put a lot of this into action. Some of their chosen closed shapes are either difficult for me to play cleanly wth good tone, or they are unfamiliar. Their three moveable shapes are D, B, G. maj, min, and 7. For me closed D7 shape is an easy barre chord, but closed Dmaj and Dmin not so much. The B family are all OK. The G shapes are new to me as closed shapes--I'm just figuring out how to play them.
Thanks for the advice. I started to make some long term goals and had completely overlooked short term. I’ll focus on some short term goals as well!
Goals are of paramount importance I think. They make things happen.
Today, Jordan is traveling, and we are too, so there will be no lesson. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't have much to say about our lesson last week. I really should be a little more disciplined about reporting when it is fresh. It has just been a very hectic several days.

We focused on La Vie en Rose and The Glory of Love. We also played through the Arpeggio/Melody Meditation duets for the first two Arpeggios. Those duets are pretty well in our hands now. I am trying hard to concentrate on making the part that I play as musical as possible. The main issue we had with La Vie En Rose was rhythmic, there is a section that has half note triplets against strums on each beat, so it is three against two. We had a tendency to lose the triplet and fall into something closer to a quarter not plus two eighth notes. Saying "Tri-pa-let" out loud and then eventually just thinking it helped considerably.

In other news, I've done an arrangement of Teach Me Tonight, loosely based on James Taylor's version, and we are fairly happy with it. I am still not happy with my understanding of chord progressions. Much of the song makes sense to me. I has a typical AABA structure and I see some of the harmonic patterns. And then there are places where I feel like I am guessing on a multiple choice exam, and just trying any chord I can think of until something sounds right.
Not much to report this past week. We were travelling and had intended to take a video lesson with Jordan, but the logistics were too difficult and we cancelled. We did bring along two Enya U sopranos on our trip, one low G and one high G. We also brought the music we've been working on. The Enyas travelled well (we put them in our checked luggage), but they were disappointing to play, and less than inspring when it came to practicing. Some of this is do to being busy with family and other things on the trip, and when we were back to the room we were generally exhausted and looking for rest. And perhaps we are just spoiled by playing our regular instruments. But the fact is that my wife played very little complaining that the Enyas sounded terrible, and my practice time was somewhat frustrating and definitely joyless. It's funny, when we were at home and played them for a short time, we thought the Enyas were surprisingly good for what they were--inexpensive and relatively indestructible instruments. However, when we were playing them for an extended period our assessment was quite different. I think the issues for me with the Nova were the feel and playability as much or more than any issues with tone and sustain. The god news is that they play in tune, and the action is reasonable, but I find the neck and string spacing rather narrow, and the frets are not only hard to see, but they are hard to feel since they are plastic and quite low. I really hadn't considered fret height before. As I noted in another thread, now I am on the hunt for a protective hard case so I can more confidently travel with a ukulele I like to play.

Moving on from complaining and blaming the instrument for my limitations :), I have been practicing more slowly and either with a metronome app or simply more metronomically to improve the rhythm of the pieces I am playing. Even in the pieces that swing or have rubato sections, I've noticed that there are passages where I rush or slow down and places where I have burned in incorrect rhythmic figures. I think it was Jeff Peterson who said that practice does not make perfect, so much as it makes permanent. Going more slowing also helps me work on smooth transitions. I have been working on relaxing my left hand and trying to play with the minimal pressure necessary to get the notes to sound clearly. This also seems easier to practice when I play more slowly, and a bit more quietly. I guess it is one of those cliches born in fact, but if I play louder, I tend to play faster and press harder with my left hand. I notice that my left hand (and whole left arm and shoulder actually) tenses if I am coming up to a passage that I find difficult or even one that I have under my fingers, but where I had to work at it to get it down. Last but not least, I have been trying to work on left hand finger isolation usng Rob MacKillop's exercises on YouTube. It is surprisingly difficult to discover and isolate the muscles that move the fingers independently while keeping the hand and arm still, particularly when moving the fingers in pairs.

Now that we are home, I am looking foward to getting back to a more regular schedule of playing and practicing. The first thing I did after we unpacked was play my Pops Okami soprano and then my KoAloha tenor. It was like hugging my children or grandchildren after not seeing them for a while. I am typically a cheapskate, and it has taken me a while to get to this conclusion, but I think it is a good idea to get the best instrument you can comfortably afford even if you are a beginner. Of course this assumes that you have a fair degree of commitment when you are starting out. I believe that there are reasonable possiblities at different price points as long as you are dealing with someone who can assure a good set up. An instrument that's set up poorly, or out of tune, or lacks tone is frustrating to play, and an instrument that you love is an inspiration.
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We had our first lesson in four weeks! The missed lessons were all more or less travel related--a bit of a perfect storm of our travel and Jordan's travel. We had kept in touch via text and email and had exchanged some music and arrangements, but it was longest we have gone without a lesson since we started.

I will come to the actual lesson in a bit, but the long break was also an opportunity to assess where we are in our ukulele playing and also gave me insights into the difference between my approach and my wife's approach. I am much more driven (obsessed?) with all things ukulele. I am the one constantly reading and posting here on UU and exploring in general. She hasn't been investigating different instruments sizes and tonewoods and makes; she really is only an enabler when it comes to UAS. I have a definite focus on my ukulele technique while she is more focused on learning new songs. I am quite interested in music theory, and arranging she has no interest whatsoever. I prefer learning chord/melody verisons, and she finds that too stressful and is not interested. I can barely sing, and she sings not only the songs, but she sings the duet melody part while she is playing the Arpeggio Meditations. It's no surprise that our approach to practicing is rather different if we are practicing separately. I try to have relative short intense practice sessions focusing on either a techique or problem tecnical areas in a given pieces. While this can involve run throughs once I have something well under control, more usually it is a measure by measure things expanding the phrase of section I am playing until I have it. My wife has more of a tendency to play and sing a piece over and over so it is mostly playing through. When we practice together it tends to be more of a compromise between playing through and working on smaller sections. Actually, I think I make more of a distinction between playing and practicing than she does. I have always spend a bit more time playing and practicing individually, but I spent much more time playing and practicing over the past four weeks, or at least until about a week ago. For that reason, I think Chris felt like she had gotten more rusty during the hiatus from lessons while I felt like my technique continued to improve, though there is always the issue of developing bad habits without regular correction.

At any rate, we were both more disciplined about practicing in prerparation for today's lesson, but I wasn't sure what to expect. We (Chris and I) decided to focus the lesson on two pieces, La Vie en Rose and Teach Me Tonight, and we did spend the entire lesson on those two. I thought the lesson went surprisingly well. Perhaps it was the triumph of low expectations, but I seemed to suffer much less from what I'd call Lesson Nerves. I was able to play the two pieces at about the level I could play them in practice. We did some switching between playing chords and playing melody, but I had more or less improvised chord/melody versions of both pieces, so I started chord/melody while Chris played chords and sang. Jordan's main comment for me was that I needed to play more legato and work on letting notes ring out better. This is a matter of better timing/coordination between right and left hand, adjusting fingerings in places, and using care not to inadvertently mute prior notes while making changes. We also had a discussion about the diferences in how Jordan arranges a piece for chord melody vs. chords and melody, and that led to a discussion of how to adjust your playing depending on whether you are playing alone vs. in a group, even a group of two.

When playing in a group, the way the music is arranged and the way that you play it has to take into consideration how it complements what others are doing. In particular you don't want to step on what others are doing, or what your own voice is doing. This discussion was Jordan's polite and supportive way of telling me how my chord/melody was stepping on the original arrangement and what Chris was doing. The cool part is that Jordan demonstrated several different ways they would play the same song depending on the situation using Teach Me Tonight and La Vie en Rose. I particularly liked the versions with and without a drummer where Jordan put in the back beats as needed. I always thought that the rhythm in rhythm guitar was an adjective just to distinguish it from lead guitar. Now I know better.

Jordan improved my arrangement of Teach Me Tonight in real time and we worked quite a bit on when to anticipate chord changes and when they belonged on the beat. They also worked with us on strum patterns and where to inject thythmic structure whether playing chord/melody or just playing chords. All in all I thought it was a very good lesson with lots to think about and work on during the week.
In the last couple days I've come across several videos that were very instructive. The first two were both from Matt Stead. As you can tell if you have read the early part of the thread, I am a big fan of both his materials and especially his teaching technique. The first video is Matt Stead lesson called Learn the ukulele fretboard. I saw a link to this that @ZaBeth posted and I hadn't watched any of Matt's stuff in a while, so I checked it out. The moveable major scale is brilliant. I had seen that for pentatonic and of course I have seen moveable shapes, but I can't believe I never saw that before. I also know that calling out the notes as you play scales really does teach you the notes very much more quickly.

While I was there, I watched his video on Aint She Sweet. Matt does such a nice job of explaining just what you actually need from music theory without belaboring it. At the same time you get the sense that he doesn't cheat or dumb it down either. I know there is a very active thread about why folks are turned off by music theory, but in this lesson taught me several tricks that are really useful. One was about backdoor chords. The other two involved sus and 9 chords, but it wasn't a harmony class about the structure of sus and 9 chords, he demonstrated a couple easy flourishes that can be easily added to 7 chords.

The last one was this video was by Christopher Davis-Shannon about an exercise that I have know and used as a warmup for some time. However, David-Shannon explained what the exercise was designed to do and he also demonstrated the proper way to practice it. It actually fits well with my continuing emphasis to get better tone, improve transitions, and play more legato.
We just got back from a quick four day trip to Las Vegas. Having learned our lesson on the trip to DC, this time we brought two good ukuleles, in hard cases with good humidifier/hygrometer setups. We were driving, so that made things easier too since we were able to bring a proper music stand and all our music. We brought the KoAloha Tenor, and the Pops Okami Concert, both in low G. The bad news is that once again travel interferred with a lesson, but the good news is that I had lots of time to practice. I spent most of my time with the Pops Okami Concert (diary of the build here and a NUD here). I have had this ukulele for only a couple weeks, so this was an excellent opportunity to really get to know it, and also I had a lot of time for individual practice.

I have been working on The Story of Love, Jordan's new arrangement of La Vie en rose, and Teach me Tonight all in chord/melody For Story of Love and Teach Me Tonight I have been working on smoother chord changes and varying the strum patterns and dynamics. In the new arrangement of La Vie en rose, I am still struggling a bit with, what are for me, some difficult chords. Beforee I can talk about transitions, I have to be able to get the chords to ring true in time. The sequence is mostly closed shapes around the fifth fret: F6 (5555) Fm6 (55545) Em7 (4435) and then F6 (5555) Fm6 (55545) Fmaj7 (5557) G7 (4535). I like the descending pattern (a line cliche?) on the E string holding the D on the A string. Of course there is some melody going on in there too. Lots of work for my pinky in this one.

On the Arpeggio and Melody Meditations I have been working on improving my legato and keeping the notes ringing as long as possible. Even once I started keeping my fingers down on the frets longer, and worked on coordinating plucking/strumming with left hand changes, I was surprised by how often I inadvertantly muted a string right or left hand. Even for something simple, there is a lot to pay attention to, once you start to pay attention.
We had a lesson this morning, and putting it in the best light posisble, for me it is a course correction. Between all the travel (both ours and Jordan's) we had relatively fewer lessons in May and June. Chris has been practicing less, and I thought I was practicing about the same or more than before. However, I now realize that I have been playing more, but also kind of drifting. The first symptom of that was a couple weeks ago when it seemed like there wasn't good correlation between what we were doing in the lesson and what I had been "practicing." Last night as I was practicing (with music) in preparation for the lesson, I realized that I had spent almost all my time in the past month or so practicing chord/melody without music. First off, I am not actually practicing the arrangement in the music, so I am buring in something differnt. To make matter worse, not only is what I am practicing different from the chord/melody arrangment, both are different from the arrangement of chords and melody when my wife and I play together. Playing melody is different than playing chord/melody, and the chords are related but often different. Last but not least, the technical challenge with a chord/melody arrangement is such that I am often struggling to get all the right notes right and ringing clearly in proper time. This leads to too much looking at my fingers, which leads to poor position/posture, and musicality is out the window.

At today's lesson, my wife and I were taking turns playing chords or melody on La Vie en rose and Teach Me Tonight. Jordan commented that my strumming was hesitant and mechanical and my melody was very metronomic and flat, not in the pitch sense, but in the musical sense of having no phrasing. I had to admit to Jordan, and myself, that I was basically sight reading the melody and chord parts as I really hadn't practiced this arrangement, only the chord/melody. Later we spent some time on the chord changes in the chord melody that I found troublesome and worked through them.

Jordan's overall comment was that I was jumping into the deep end with the chord/melody before I could confidently swim. They suggested spending more time on the melody and the chords individually and working on the phrasing, strumming, and getting it to swing a little more by paying attention to the lyrics even if I wasn't singing.

In addition to Jordan's suggestion, I want to get back some of the focus I had in my practice sessions a couple months ago and make some changes:
  • I'm going to return to several shorter 20 min focused practice sessions per day
  • I'm going to practice with music and spend less time watching my left hand
  • In our joint practice sessions, I am going to work from a chords and melody musical score and concentrate on chords and melody separately
  • In my individual practice sessions, I am going to determine ahead of time whether I am working chords and melody or chord/melody and use the appropriate score
  • I am only going to work on a single chord melody piece in a given week, and I'm not going to let that dominate my practice time
I hope to be playing as much or more than I am now. However, I'd like to do a better job of distinguishing between noodling and practicing. This isn't a value judgement because I believe both are very important, it's just that for me it has gotten out of balance. When the balance is better, the noodling is more fun and the practice is more effective. Whenever I play, I want it to be musical and always concentrate on having a beautiful tone. This means paying more attention to my right hand.
I've gone back to keeping a practice log. I'm trying to keep it minimal with date/time, length of session, instrument played, and whether it was joint practice or solo. Everything after that is optional and freeform. I am arbitrarily only logging what I deem to be practice time.
Our lesson today really snuck up on me. I was rushing around to set up tripod and phone adapter and get the chairs and music arranged. No time to practice or even warm up.

We played Teach Me Tonight and La Rose en Vie and we started a new Arpeggio Meditation. The adjustment in my practice focus was reflected in the lesson. I was much more comfortable with playing chords or melody on both songs, and I was able to use a consistent set of fingerings and strumming patterns to get the phrasing and dynamics that I wanted. Everything seemed more fluid, flowing, and musical, mostly because that is where I had concentrated my practice effort. Jordan helped Chris to come up with a modified chord progression that was a little less challenging for the B section of Teach Me Tonight. They helped me work out some of the melody transitions where I was shifting to "milk" particular notes but was not really keeping the flow of the melody. I like Jordan's analysis as a singer and songer writer, because they phrase based on melody, lyrics and harmonic changes. I always thought that I thought in melodic lines, but not like a singer!

The contrast between the two songs is interesting. In La Vie, it strikes me that the melody carries more of the interpretation and in Teach Me, the rhythmic chords carry more of the interpretation. Part of that is the simplicity of the melody in Teach Me, and the fact that the melody is largely the arpeggiated chords in La Vie. It's also that Teach Me is richer harmonically, and especially in sections where the melody repeats pitches and rhythmic figures, the changes carry it forward. The song kind of wants a rhythm section backing the melody.

We skipped over the Roll and Pull in Arpeggio Meditations to start on Air Pudding. I guess it is a running gag that the third Meditation, Roll and Pull, is one of the more difficult pieces though it shows up early in the book. Jordan said that Daniel Ward put it there becasue of layout issues with the book. He had one page and two page pieces and didn't want to increase the page count, create dead pages, or force page turns.

I am still working on chord/melody arrangements of both songs, but I'm not letting that dominate my practice time, and I didn't go over either chord/melody arrangement during the lesson, because it seemed off topic and less urgent. If I have a particular difficulty with chord/melody on one of the songs, or want to do a new chord/melody arrangement, then I will bring that into the lessons.
Recently, Aint She Sweet (from a Matt Stead Kanikapila) and a Chopin Nocture (Op 9 #2 from Ukulele Time) creapt into the program. The first is a joint venture with my wife and the second is a chord/melody arrangement that I have started to learn on my own.

The Arpeggio Meditations and Melodies have become more like scales or studies that we practice regularly, but spend little time in lessons except when a new one is introduced or as an occasional spot check. After just a couple days the picking pattern of Air Pudding is falling into place and it's becoming more meditative and less stressful to play. I don't think there is a melody duet for Air Pudding or at least I haven't found it yet.

I have been practicing pretty much exclusively with my Wow Concert for the past couple weeks. Am I becoming a concert ukulele player:eek:? Too early to say. I think of it as an experiment, but I have gotten very comfortable with the concert scale and tone. While it wasn't love at first strum, this one has gradually pushed the others to the side, at least for now.

I still like to think of myself as ukulele fluid, and I spend a little time each week with the soprano and tenor. Although it looks like the little sister of the concert, my soprano in high G feels like a very different instrument and I play different songs and/or arrangements. Most of my soprano time is noodling or playing/singing with my wife. Practice time is dominated by low G arrangements (our tenors are low G), and with rare exception Chris is always playing tenor. So practice time would be mostly concert or tenor. It may be psychological, but I tire more quickly playing the tenor compared to the concert. I attribute it to the higher string tension and the need to reach a little more with the larger scale. My sense is that the range of possibilities is greater with the tenor, but it is also more challenging to play. Both instruments have clarity and transparency of tone that point out every poorly fretted or picked note--that's a good news and bad news story, but it is my tonal preference.
Our weekly lesson went well this morning. We were in reasonably good practice this week individually and jointly. We preempted the better part of the lesson with a Gay Spencer arrangement of Ashokan Farewell that we emailed to Jordan before the lesson. This is the arrangment that Matt Stead used in his lesson. We both love that one and Chris is willing to invest in learning it as chord/melody. I also think it is a bit more approachable as a chord/melody arrangement than some of the other things she has tried.

We discussed the arrangement and different chord substitutions, both for the chord/melody version and for chords and melody duet. I am finding closed shapes more intuitive, which is really a matter of having experienced them enough in different songs. For instance, the minor 7th - major 6th identity has started to click a little more, so that it seems more like a two for one opportunity rather than a confusion of having two names for the same shape. Also, the movement up and down between major, major 7, and dominant 7 is a pattern that shows up again and again. (Maybe that is why it is called a line cliche?) I am surprised at the extent to which the music theory doesn't stick until I play it in a couple different songs and experience a relationship several times. I think that is one of the very most helpful things about lessons. Jordan explains what is going on in the song and then will sort of off-handedly mention (and sing or play) other songs or song fragments. In the early lessons, most of this flew right past me as sort of interesting color commentary, but it didn't quite register. It is the same story for alternate chord voicings. With time, the patterns become familiar and I recognize them in songs I hear or new music that I see. I am beginning to think of music theory as a description of or way of naming the familiar chunks or patterns that musicians learn to recognize as they become more fluent. And of course it is not necessary to know the names to be musically fluent. Yet it does make it easier to talk about it.
I've been working on it for a few months. Yup it's a challenge!
Skipping over that one we've had just the opposite reaction. It seems like pima is getting easier and it is mostly learning a new patterns with each meditation. Air Pudding is setting up pretty well after a week of practice. While the first one took a while, meditations two and four have come pretty quickly. I have even taken to practicing pima scales now and then as part of my warm up. Speaking of right hand techniques, we've asked Jordan to teach us the triplet strum next week.
No Lesson this week, but we did have a lesson last week on July 27. We played Ashokan Farewell pretty decently, and also had the Air Pudding Arpeggio Meditation pretty much under our fingers. Jordan helped us work our way through Edelweiss chords, then melody, and then chord/melody. It has many chords in common with Ashokan Farewell and is a pretty song. Ashokan Farewell is a better chord/melody arrangement with more going on both melodically and harmonically. We also spent some time on triplet strumming and strumming techniques in general. Like many things, it is largely a matter of practice and making sure that our technique is more or less correct. As Jordan likes to point out, I regularly try to over analyze technique when I just need to find what works through a certain amount of trial/error/practice. I think it is partly my scientific training, and partly the way I was taught violin as a child and teenager. It's funny because there are definitely mistakes that Jordan corrects that would make things very difficult if I persisted, yet there are other areas where once they get me into the ballpark, the instruction is to stop thinking about it and just play until you find it.

The good news is that I have been practicing more consistently, but the bad news is that I haven't been documenting it very well either here or in my practice diary. I guess that is better than the other way around. I continue to play the Wow Concert the vast majority of the time. My wife flips back and forth between the KoAloha tenor and the Kamaka tenor and I will sometimes play whichever tenor she is using towards the end of a joint practice session. I have not been playing the Wow Soprano very much at all, mostly because I have been working on low G chord/melody arrangements.

I'm sticking with a more disciplined solo practice routine where I limit my time at each session and decide before the session how I am going to spend my time. I have also stopped noodling around from memory those chord/melody pieces that I am still working up. I practice them with the music and that seems to help me with consistency. I'm also trying to be more intentional with the fingerings and slides that I use. Practicing with the music, I can concentrate more on dynamics and phrasing and make notes to myself.

In solo sessions, I have been practicing Ashokan Farewell, Edelweiss, and the Chopin Nocturne in rotation. I play other chord/melody pieces that I learned earlier in noodling time, and I will move small sections of those to practice time to get the transitions smoothed out and make sure all the notes of my closed chords are ringing true in the passages up the neck. I usually try to do 25-35 minute sessions with 5 minutes of warm up, 10 minutes of Arpreggio Meditations or some other technical work, and 15-20 minutes on a single chord/melody piece. In whatever I am working on, I try not to just play the piece through from ther beginning over and over again, although I have to fight that somewhat. It is much more effective when I start with the measures or phrases that give me the most trouble and work my way outward. Also, even when a piece is getting fairly solid I make it point to start on the B section or the second or third page, as often as I start from the beginning.

When Chris and I practice jointly, we usually do 5 minute warm up, 5-10 minutes of Arpeggio Meditations (duets), and alternating chord and melody for 10-15 minutes each for a couple different pieces.
I recently picked up Graded Repertoire for Ukulele and 20 Practice Routines for Fingerstyle Ukulele from Jeff Peterson. I had seen mention of them before and I was familia with some of Peterson's online videos and lessons. I was more curious about the practice routines, but decided to get both since they appeared to be linked by the grading system used at Ukulele Corner. They are pretty clearly an adaptation of classical guitar technique and repertoire books. It's interesting and it reminds some of the violin methods, studies, and technique books that I used once upon a time. This is just an observation, not a judgement--after all who am I to judge ukulele or guitar methods--it is probably more a statement about where I am in my ukulele journey, but .... This strikes me as a classical guitarist's take on how to play the ukulele, and somehow not quite in the ukulele idiom as I am trying to learn it right now. On the other hand, actually on both hands, there is technique here that I would like to develop and many of the pieces seem like nice arrangements. To be fair, the Arpeggio Meditations and Melodies are clearly leaning in this direction as well. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, of this I can integrate into my practice.
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