Updated: May 7, 2021
If your reading this, you’re probably stuck along your ukulele journey.
No worries, beef curry!
You’re not the only one who’s experienced this. At points in our ukulele journey we all go through this. In fact, if you take part in any of the arts you will probably get stuck in the weeds at some time. I’m sure Mozart, Van Gogh, and Alfred Hitchcock got lost in the fog as they revolutionized music, painting, and film. So you’re not alone! Haha! So to help you get out of the weeds here are three reasons why you might not be getting better as a ukulele player. After reading this, I hope you are able to find your bearings, and get back on your musical pilgrimage.
Reason #1: Goals and Bullseyes
In high school I was a lean 135 pounds (61 kg, and 9.64 stone if your a Brit or Irish). I could eat whatever I wanted and not lose my six-pack. Among my brothers I was the ‘skinny’ one. Then in college I ballooned up and gained a bunch of weight. Everything changed. For the first time in my life I struggled to button my pants! So let me get honest with you. I went from 135 pounds to 205 pounds. Thats 70 pounds! After seeing the shock on the faces of my long time friends, I decided to make a change. And in order to do this I needed to set goals and commit to a plan! I followed the plan and saw progress. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to drop 35 pounds. Planning, setting goals, and aiming at targets was what I needed to move forward.
So now that your back from shock, where do you want to be as a ukulele player in a year, six months, one month, or even a week? What songs do you want to be able to play? What chords do want to know? What style of playing do you want to master? Are there any areas in your playing that you need to address and work on?
Whenever I find myself banging my head up against a wall in frustration with my skills as a ukulele player, it’s usually because I can’t answer these questions. And this is because I didn’t take the time to set goals. I don’t have targets! Because of this, I have nothing to shoot or strive for, so I tend to stay stuck in the same old place.
I’ve heard it before that sometimes it’s best to slow down. Even stop at times in order to think, re-evaluate, and reset plans. This all for progress. If we keep running forward, we may overlook areas that need attention and maintenance. Or maybe we are running in the wrong direction! Sit down and write up a plan. Set some goals and targets. Examples of this would be to learn one new chord a day, learn a new song every week, or learn how to transpose songs. Goal setting will guide your steps until your miles along in your ukulele journey.
Reason #2: I Aint Got No Time To Practice!
Now that I have a family, a wife and 3 kids (with one on the way), I feel like I have absolutely no time to invest in my ukulele playing. This is why it’s important that I carve out time in my day to spend towards music.
For you this might mean cutting some other things out of your life. For example, how easy is it to waste an hour or two (or five) throughout the day on your phone watching YouTube or stalking... I mean checking in on Instagram? It might even mean waking up half an hour earlier to strum some chords. If I can get up at 4:30 in the morning to run (aka kill my body), I’m sure you can do it too!
Though it’s not just that you find time to practice, but that you are consistent in practicing. Even if you can only carve out 15 minutes a day, it makes a world of difference. If you need some proof of this, check out this video from Elise Ecklund and her ukulele skill progression over a few years.
Trust me... make the time. Do this everyday and you will get better.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once your good. It’s the thing you do to make you good.”
Reason #3: The Missing 3 Letter Word
Enjoying the process means focusing on the journey instead of the destination. As cliche as it sounds this may be the most important aspect of getting out of the doldrums. If all you're focused on is playing like your favorite artist, you’re gonna be disappointed. Things can get frustrating when you feel your improvement inadequate.
It’s like me looking at Cross Fitters! Its like there bodies are chiseled out of granite rock! If I strive to look like them, I could lose sight on all the progress I’ve made feeling discontent. This mentality will take the fun out of the everything. In reality there is only the continuous improvement process. And wherever you are at any given point along that process is exactly where you need to be! And maybe... just maybe you could be Matt Fraser and Tia Clair-Toomey, the fittest on earth! If the journey takes you there.
Now ask yourself this question. Do you honestly ever want to get to the point where you're not improving anymore? If you want to keep improving you've just liberated yourself! You're now free from the idea of reaching that moment when you've ”made it”. Guess what? That moment doesn’t exist. Realizing this will free you up to get better, bit by bit, every time you pick up the ukulele. And really, if we're not enjoying the learning process, then why keep playing?
There are two kinds of ukulele players: professionals and amateurs. Most professional musicians could earn far more financially being miserable doing something else. So if they‘re miserable as musicians what's the point? As for amateurs, hobbies are supposed to be fun, right? So if you’re not having fun, why are you spending time being miserable?
Let that sink in...
Remember that playing the ukulele is supposed to be fun. Growing as a musician with this amazing instrument is FUN. Bringing joy to yourself and others is.... say it with me ....FUN!
So today is a new day! I really want you to succeed on your ukulele journey.
If I could summarize all this in a sentence it would be...
Set new goals, make time for consistent practice, and above all else have FUN!
Keep jamming and aloha!