Ukulele potential

MentalAtom

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I sometimes think that the fact that the uke is so "easy" to learn is also its biggest disadvantage. I'm no pro, not by any means, but I was playing a couple of years now and can play some basic fingerstyle pieces, use my barre chords, start to find the notes up/down the neck, do scales etc. and I love that there's always more to learn.

The thing is, I know/have met several people who proudly declare to me that they can "play the uke" because they can play open C/D/G/Am/F or whatever, but if you actually give them music to play they're stumped! Now, I'm not trying to be discouraging, obviously you have to start somewhere, but I feel like because these chords are so easy to play, a lot of people get that far and never feel the need to go any further, and it's such a shame!

The uke has so much potential - beautiful fingerpicking arrangements, wonderful other tones from the more complex chord shapes, low G - all of these things and way more, but so many people get "stuck" because they can play something so easily there's no motivation to go further.

Thoughts?

(I'm a weirdly driven person and when I do something I do something, so maybe it's just my weird thoughts ;))

To clarify, because I seem to have a touched a nerve with some people: I'm not trying to discourage or disparage anyone, if you just play some basic chords and you're happy, be happy!

It's just that to me, personally, there's so much more potential and I'm curious why you think so many people stop there. Lack of resources? Just having what they need to enjoy it? Whatever else?

Like I say I'm a very driven person and I always want to know more, so I'm just curious about your thoughts.

😎 Please don't be offended, it's not my intention at all! I'm happy for anyone that can play the uke and if it brings you joy then go for it!
 
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Part of the problem is the lack of easy-to-find and easy-to-understand intermediate-level ukulele tutorials. There are thousands of YouTube videos and even books for ukulele beginners. These all focus on 3/4/5 chord songs in the easiest keys, fixed strumming patterns, and singing along with your strumming to fill in the melody. Tutorials for advanced-beginners and intermediate players, like incorporating riffs and fingerstyle melodies into your songs, is very thin. There are pay websites like UkuleleUnderground.com, of course, but the price and effort required for beginners to even get started at those sites is too much for most 4-chord beginners.
 
The uke has so much potential - beautiful fingerpicking arrangements, wonderful other tones from the more complex chord shapes, low G - all of these things and way more, but so many people get "stuck" because they can play something so easily there's no motivation to go further.
Isn't it the same with the guitar?

I can also play some fingerpicking but I'm not very good at strumming. I'm a little envious of those who can accompany voice with nice strumming. to each his own, I think.
 
…a lot of people get that far and never feel the need to go any further, and it's such a shame!

But why is it a shame? They want to be able to strum some chords and probably have a nice sing-along, either on their own or with some like-minded friends. The uke is great for that. There are also some incredibly talented uke players (a good number frequent this very forum, and I’ve even had the privilege to collaborate with a few of them - see my sig below) - people who devote a lot of time and energy to perfecting their knowledge and their technique, and even earn a living from it. And that’s pretty awesome too. And there are plenty of us somewhere on the spectrum between those two extremes. Nothing wrong with that either.

You can take from it (or give to it) as much or as little as you choose, which is a big part of its wide appeal. I understand why you want others to experience the same journey (and the consequent joy) as you have with the uke, but we don’t all play for the same reasons or have the same opportunities to do so. Let’s celebrate the fact that it can be so many different things for so many different people. :)
 
But why is it a shame? They want to be able to strum some chords and probably have a nice sing-along, either on their own or with some like-minded friends. The uke is great for that. There are also some incredibly talented uke players (a good number frequent this very forum, and I’ve even had the privilege to collaborate with a few of them - see my sig below) - people who devote a lot of time and energy to perfecting their knowledge and their technique, and even earn a living from it. And that’s pretty awesome too. And there are plenty of us somewhere on the spectrum between those two extremes. Nothing wrong with that either.

You can take from it (or give to it) as much or as little as you choose, which is a big part of its wide appeal. I understand why you want others to experience the same journey (and the consequent joy) as you have with the uke, but we don’t all play for the same reasons or have the same opportunities to do so. Let’s celebrate the fact that it can be so many different things for so many different people. :)
It's true. Like I say, I'm not trying to discourage anyone or pick fault, was just a random thought I had so I'd see what people think.

It is of course also a huge advantage that's it's so easy to pick up, because it means we get more ukulele players 🎉 regardless of how far they go
 
The thing is, I know/have met several people who proudly declare to me that they can "play the uke" because they can play open C/D/G/Am/F or whatever, but if you actually give them music to play they're stumped! Now, I'm not trying to be discouraging, obviously you have to start somewhere, but I feel like because these chords are so easy to play, a lot of people get that far and never feel the need to go any further, and it's such a shame!

Thoughts?
So, are you saying they shouldn't be proud for accomplishing this, or they're not actually playing music?
 
So, are you saying they shouldn't be proud for accomplishing this, or they're not actually playing music?
Neither! Of course they should be proud of learning something and of course they are playing music, I just personally find it a shame that a lot of people get this far and don't unlock more of the potential of their instrument, you can do so much more! If you're happy with it though, then be happy 😊 spread the joy!

I'm not trying to disparage anybody, really...
 
I agree with @Kermit80. It is pretty easy to learn a collection of "cowboy chords" on the guitar or ukulele and people can sound pretty good strumming a few chords with very little experience on the instrument.

Contrast this to violin or trumpet, where it may take a new player some time to produce a single note that sounds good. That is one reason there are a lot more casual ukulele and guitar players and far fewer casual violin or trumpet players. Hardly anyone can manage to get anywhere with the oboe ("the ill wind that no one blows good") and players of that instrument are vanishingly small.

For both the ukulele and guitar, it is fairly common experience to learn the basics fairly quickly and then hit a plateau that is hard to overcome. The more casual players are going to simply enjoy the view from whatever plateau they land upon. Those that really get the bug will push for greater heights.

In your case, the ukulele bit you hard and has inspired you to go further with the instrument. All the instruments are waiting patiently for other hands and hearts to fall in love with them too; even the oboe.
 
and never feel the need to go any further, and it's such a shame!

Thoughts?
Why would folks be ashamed about their progress in a fun hobby?

Could be more driven to convey your obviously inoffensive meaning in a more clear manner! I read your real question as: Why do some people settle in life for mediocrity when others feel stressed all the time, beating themselves up that they are not as amazing as they wish they were.
 
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Why would folks be ashamed about their progress in a fun hobby?

May we could be more driven to not look down on others!
I never said they should be ashamed! Not at all! And I'm not looking down on anyone, I'm definitely not an expert and many people play infinitely better than I probably ever will.

I said I find it a shame that there's a lot of potential of the instrument that people don't uncover - and I was just thinking about why that is. Simply being satisfied with what you can do is a perfectly acceptable answer.

I'm not, and never would, say that people should be ashamed of learning anything!
 
I'm very content and to strum my ukulele, have no desire to finger pick or do chord melody... just strum. It was the same when I played rhythm guitar for almost 50 years. Having that rhythm focus actually prepared me for playing bass uke in mid 2014, a year after taking up the uke. I play bass uke with two fingers not my thumb, which has brought me into the finger picking world, but I still only want to strum my uke. I would never say it's a shame that people don't go further, I think that statement in itself has a negative connotation.
 
MentalAtom, I honestly didn't sense anything negative or "pompous" in your original post, and if some of our friends had a different impression, that's okay too, I can see where that might happen; but it's clear from your respectful followups that you intended no harm. I think I see your point-- that if some folks learn the simplest basics of the uke and decide to stay at that level because it satisfies them, that's great-- but it would be kind of a shame if the reason they "stayed there" was because they didn't realize that there were additional doors to open and avenues to explore.

I took up the uke in 1967, and switched to guitar after a few years of playing the uke in very basic fashion. It wasn't until I re-discovered the uke about ten years ago that I was introduced to artists like Jake, James Hill, John King, Samantha Muir, and so many other virtuosos. So, it actually took me many years to realize how high a level could be reached in ukulele playing. And in my case, even when I had that realization, I've settled on a pretty basic approach to the uke-- using it as a rhythm/chording instrument to accompany my singing (which is also pretty basic!). That's what satisfies me musically, and I try to be the best I can be with that approach.

And as I read your posts, you agree that this is absolutely fine, as I'm settling there with full awareness of the greater technical heights which are out there should I ever choose to pursue them, correct?
 
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I never said they should be ashamed! Not at all! And I'm not looking down on anyone, I'm definitely not an expert and many people play infinitely better than I probably ever will.

I said I find it a shame that there's a lot of potential of the instrument that people don't uncover - and I was just thinking about why that is. Simply being satisfied with what you can do is a perfectly acceptable answer.

I'm not, and never would, say that people should be ashamed of learning anything!
I don't think it's a shame that some people plateau in their ukulele learning, but is it really a plateau if they continue to play the same three chords for years or the rest of their lives? I would think that their timing and ability to switch between the three chords might improve. What do you think?
 
MentalAtom, I honestly didn't sense anything negative or "pompous" in your original post…
… and neither did I, so please let’s not give @MentalAtom a hard time here guys. I think he/she is getting such a kick from the progress he/she is making, and just wants others to realise and experience the same level of achievement and satisfaction, that’s all. :)
 
I will agree that the notion, that a lot of people being content playing "cowboy chords" is just as common for guitar as for ukulele.

One difference is that advanced guitar playing has more exposure in popular music. So if you ask said casual guitar player if he/she plays guitar, they will be quick make the disclaimer " only cowboy chords!". They know they dont want someone to expect a solo or jazz arrangements from them. It is more commonly known that there is more to be learned.
Their are advanced technique ukulele players like Jake, James Hill, etc, but though they are superstars on this forum - they are virtually unknown to most people. A random person who buys an ukulele in a shop will not now that they can be compared to those people and look like a newbie, because they dont that stage exists.

That being said, you can haver a lot of fun with cowboy chords. And some people have paid singer-songwriter gigs where they only use the easy chords of the easy keys, at least on guitar. Those are people who perhaps dont spend a lot of time developing as instrumentalists, but develop themselves as songwriters and singers in stead. And perhaps work on their strumming technique.
Its is not always what is most advanced to play that gets the audiences attention.
 
It is a hobby/pasttime and people will find the level of involvement that suits them well. It is true that some are constrained by their lack of exposure to other possibilities that they might embrace to increase their enjoyment of playing, but with today's media, this is likely less common than before.

What truly is a shame are those who never play or consider playing an ukulele at all. These include family and friends that know that I play and have other exposure to it. They don't even reach the "Try it, you'll like it" stage.
 
I will agree that the notion, that a lot of people being content playing "cowboy chords" is just as common for guitar as for ukulele.

One difference is that advanced guitar playing has more exposure in popular music. So if you ask said casual guitar player if he/she plays guitar, they will be quick make the disclaimer " only cowboy chords!". They know they dont want someone to expect a solo or jazz arrangements from them. It is more commonly known that there is more to be learned.
Their are advanced technique ukulele players like Jake, James Hill, etc, but though they are superstars on this forum - they are virtually unknown to most people. A random person who buys an ukulele in a shop will not now that they can be compared to those people and look like a newbie, because they dont that stage exists.

That being said, you can haver a lot of fun with cowboy chords. And some people have paid singer-songwriter gigs where they only use the easy chords of the easy keys, at least on guitar. Those are people who perhaps dont spend a lot of time developing as instrumentalists, but develop themselves as songwriters and singers in stead. And perhaps work on their strumming technique.
Its is not always what is most advanced to play that gets the audiences attention.
Excellent point, UV. The late Gordon Lightfoot is a prime example.
 
Although I'm still learning and expanding my horizons, I know full well that if I get to grade 8, I may well then decide to shelve a lot of what I have learned and devote my time with the ukulele solely to chord strumming and singing the standards and other popular songs old and new, which is where my happy place is. Whatever anyone's ability, it's lovely to see everyone enjoying playing, and even better simply to enjoy making music together.
 
This is my reflection. Strictly me and not meant as advice. In my guitar days, I always wanted to play with people that were more advanced, as I felt it helped pull me up a bit. I wanted to be surrounded by what I felt were better players.
Recently I asked a buddy if I could sit in on uke with him as he played guitar and sang. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the songs he called, I had heard them but never played them. Some were in strange keys, and a few had some tricky jazzy chords as well. I made it through the 4 hour gig, but I was constantly on my toes. And I loved it! He would ask me to solo, which on guitar I’m really weak with, but I forged ahead and gave it my best. Total fun and real excitement.
However it’s not every bodies cup of Java. My feeling is, if what you’re playing brings you joy and happiness, then you’ve won! 3 chord songs, or Steely Dan jazz stuff. It doesn’t matter. Enjoy the music! That’s what it’s all about, right?
 
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