Updated: May 7
The first post by me to come in under three minutes! This post will be short and sweet... I promise. Though it will be an easy read, prepare to hear something crucial to your ukulele journey.
Practice ain’t easy! I get it. When I was a wee little lad at the age of 7, I decided that I wanted to learn the piano. Who in their right mind puts down their baseball bat, leaves their friends back at the field, and sits alone in front of a piano for hours?
Well, I did!
Ok, as I’ve started to write, I’ve been inspired to take you back in time... I thought this was gonna be a short blog but strap in. I promise this story will have relevance for you!
So when I was 7, the idea of playing ‘The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera on the piano gave me delusions of grandeur. The musical came to Hawaii and everyone was excited to experience this block buster musical. Me included. I thought I was gonna pick it right up like playing soccer. Run, kick, and run some more. I soon found out that learning how to play soccer was 1000x easier than learning the piano. And what I didn’t factor in was the practice.....the hours and hours of practice! I practiced everyday of the week and took private lessons on Saturdays. Oomf!
To be honest, I scorned every second of it. My poor dad paid for two years of lessons and all I knew how to play were “Indian songs”. The simple thumping of chords like the beating of Native American drums. These songs were fun to play but they were simple rhythmic patterns. And they were for beginners (2-4 month skill level). The play level equivalence to glorified Chopsticks!
After two years stuck in the mud, I went back to playing sports. I went on to do well in sports and played through high school. I figured out what made the difference in me finding success in sports rather than piano. It was my enjoyment of practice! Playing the piano alone in my house while fully knowing that my friends were outside riding bikes, playing at the park, and enrolled in sports made practicing miserable. Being able to have fun while practicing made all the difference.
So how would I recommend you practice to make it more enjoyable?
I recommend you start recording yourself practicing. That’s it! When I was practicing the piano in the 90’s, digital cameras didn’t exist. Only a few people had camcorders and recording on blank VHS tapes wasn’t cheap. So doing this in the 90’s was a no go for me. Contrast that with today when everyone walks around with a phone/camera/camcorder/computer/GPS/music catalog in our pockets.
By simply recording ourselves, we are able to experience our playing in a new way. And its exciting! Normally when we practice, we tend to be over critical. Making mistakes in the moment can be very discouraging. This can blind us, making it difficult to hear (or see) our actual progress. When we record our practices, we can take a step back and experience it as an audience member. Most times we sound better than we remember. This can be the encouragement to keep you grinding through.
Recording your practices is also a way of critiquing yourself constructively. You can see your posture, finger positioning, and body mannerisms as you play. This can help you make physical adjustments that can aid your playing. Now if you are also a singer, this will help you truly hear yourself. The way you hear yourself in your head is different from how others hear you. I remember giving a speech once in front of my freshmen class and when I heard my voice through the gym speakers it threw me off. To me it didn’t sound like me. So hearing how you actually sound, whether it be ukulele or voice, will give you an enhanced self awareness.