Practice makes… Semi-Decent?

This is my week 2 update for my learning project. Learning the ukulele has been easier than I imagined in some ways, but also more difficult than I imagined at the same time. It is amazing to me all of the popular songs that you can play by knowing just the four chords that I mentioned in my week 1 update that I posted last week. However, some aspects of playing the ukulele that seem so simple when you are watching other people do it such as strumming, switching chords or singing along as you strum, have proved to be much more difficult than it looks. In the multitudes of videos that I have watched, people make it look so easy! I have definitely made some progress in all of these areas this week, but I had some health conditions which limited me from filming a good update video of my progress. Next week I will be sure to include a thorough video of my progress, but for now a written version will have to do. I struggled with really bad migraines and vertigo this week among other things which kept me fairly immobile, but I still found some great resources for learning to play the ukulele that I cannot wait to share with you! I also realized I never showed you the ukulele I am using so here it is!

Hankey KUS-70

The first thing that I did this week was tune my guitar once again using the guitar tuna app. This app is great and totally does the job that I need it to. It is quick, straightforward, easy to use, and most importantly, free! After making sure that my guitar was all tuned up, I decided to try out the Yousician app. This app has a very thorough beginner tutorial that walks you through step by step of everything you need to know to get started playing the ukulele. This was extremely useful! With the free program you are only allowed to do one lesson per day, but there’s a lot of information in each lesson so this did not bother me at all. I started with lesson 1: Intro to the Ukulele. This lesson started with tuning your ukulele and I learned that turning the peg towards you loosens the string making the note lower and turning the peg away from you tightens the string making the note higher. This was very useful information as before this I was just turning them randomly until my tuning app told me that it was right. Next was learning to strum which is an essential skill to playing the ukulele that I definitely need to work on. The video showed how to use one index finger or multiple fingers to strum. For now I still prefer the single index finger method. This app includes a really great summary after each part of the lesson so you can review what you went over, which helps a lot with taking in all the information. The next video of this lesson was playing along to a song called banana boats to practice chords (the ones I learned last week). This video was great as it waited for you to strum so you had time to switch chords to play along. The best part of this app is that it listens to you as you play so you get constant reassurance that you are doing it right, which I really enjoyed. This lesson also went over the chords again and finished with learning the song row, row, row your boat. You could strum along with the video and it was really great for learning the right timing as there is a little ball on the screen that bounces along with you so you know exactly when to strum and have time to prepare before it happens. In comparison to videos where you are playing along with a real person, you have less time as a warning for when they are going to strum if you are not as confident with your timing yet. That was a recap of the “Play your First Songs” Lesson 1 on the Yousician app. It was a great step by step lesson and I definitely plan to continue to these lessons for their beginner tutorial. They also had many popular songs that you can play along with that I definitely hope to get to one day!

The next skill that I decided to focus on (as mentioned last week) was my strumming. I chose a few videos that focused specifically on strumming. I watched “Your First Ukulele Lesson: How to Strum your Ukulele” by Ten Thumbs Productions. This video showed where exactly on the instrument to strum, which was between the fret board and the head of the ukulele. This was really interesting because it was not where I saw the instructors strumming in other videos that I had watched, but it worked so much better for strumming upwards because your fingers do not get caught on the strings as easily. This helped a lot with my strumming! The video was overall really short and to the point, and extremely helpful. It also went over many different ways to strum such as using your thumb, index finger, multiple fingers or multiple fingers and thumb. I also checked out his website that had many super useful video tutorials as well. I will definitely be referring back to that website for more resources to use. I also checked out another video specifically dedicated to strumming called “How to Strum the Ukulele//Beginner Uke Tutorial” by Cynthia Lin Music. This video focused on you wanting your strum to be clear, articulated, where you hear every note and are in total control of your strum. She started with plucking your strings one by one and building up until you get to a complete strum where you can still hear every note. This really helped me get familiar with how hard to pluck and the power that you should have in your strum. She went through the notes and plucking/strumming extremely slow and thoroughly so you really could understand how to get a nice, clear strum. I also learned to use my thumb at the back of my index finger for support and more power while strumming. This video really helped with gaining control over your strumming by first focusing on plucking each single string to get a good grip on each string and then a clean strum after that. This is extremely important for clear notes/sounds while playing the ukulele. She went over strumming down and up as well, which I mentioned I need more practice on. She also went over the strumming pattern that goes: down, down, up, up, down, up, which I learned is called the “Island Strum”.

I also continued the free 10-day tutorial that I started last week by Andy Guitar on YouTube. I went over Day 2 again and continued practicing the two strumming patterns which included: down, down, up, down, up and down, down, up, up, down. He goes over these strumming patterns at a very slow pace with very in-depth instruction so that you can play along as he goes over the patterns. I continued to practice the strumming pattern for the song riptide, and I will continue to refer back to this video as it goes over the whole song in depth, step by step. Day 3 went over the four chords that I learned last week and how to use them in different ways. He demonstrated how so many popular songs can be played with just these four chords (c major, g major, f major, and a minor) and how so many more can be played just by switching up the order that you play them in, which was really cool. I continued to practice the two strumming patterns mentioned above.

I also checked out the app Tabs (the new ultimate guitar). It definitely seemed a little too advanced for me but it did have tons and tons of popular songs with the notes to play above the lyrics which will be super useful once I am better at switching chords quickly and strumming to the beat. As for my plan for the next week, there are a few things that I plan on covering. Firstly, next week I will be sure to include a video of the plucking, strumming and switching chords that I learned this week and will continue to practice into next week. I will also include a video of another one of the easy songs (similar to “You are my Sunshine”) mentioned last week, with some undoubtable improvements in my strumming and chord switching. Aside from this, I plan to do a lot more practice with switching chords. I am pretty comfortable with continuing using the first four chords that I learned as you can play so many songs using just these four chords, but I want to get really comfortable with switching between all of them and changing up the order of the chords as well. I also plan to start another free course that I found on YouTube by Bernadette Teaches Music. Each of these courses start with the super basics that I have probably already covered in other videos, but it definitely does not hurt to continue practicing these fundamental skills. Lastly, I found a common ukulele mistake video by Uke like the Pros that seemed interesting and I might look into some more videos of that nature. I plan on finding some other resources aside from primarily YouTube and Apps next week if I can, as well. If you have any suggestions for other resources for learning to play the ukulele, please send them my way!

“Catnip14_05_31” by Catnip Cat by Jeff Hoyle is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

6 thoughts on “Practice makes… Semi-Decent?”

  1. Awesome job, Caitlin. Seems like you have some great technological resources and apps to help you with your skills. I really like your thorough description of how your progress has been thus far, but I agree that a video would be very helpful for others to see, as well as for you to hear. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Caitlin. Sorry to hear about your migraines and vertigo you are experiencing. Breaks from learning are important, I have had to take a break due to my health as well. I tend to find my migraines tend to last a few days and pull at my eyes making me very sleepy and sensitive to light.
    As for your learning project. I am impressed with your dedication and how many great resources you have found! I have heard learning the song “Rip Tie” is a good beginner song…I was wondering if this is your first time learning a instrument or what other instruments you play!?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I hope you are feeling better now as well! I used to play the piano for about 10 years when I was younger but haven’t played for a few years now. So I do have a little experience with learning music but am very rusty!


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