My apologies in advance for using the word 'workflow'. It's clumsy, but bear with me. I wanted to write a piece about getting into your stride when it comes to ukulele practice in a more ordered and efficient way.
Workflow is a term common in the IT world, often relating (for example) to a structured approach to working through tasks to get the job done. I suppose that too can apply to ukulele practice.
So I'm writing this for those of you who have mastered the key chords, and can strum fairly comfortably. Perhaps you've mastered a song or two, but want to push on. I've blogged about practicing before Here, and I'd suggest you read that first for tips, dos and dont's. This is just a general guide to structuring your practice, not telling you WHAT to practice. You can fill your time with what feels comfortable to you, just technique, song learning, theory, whatever. If you want to practice all three, all I'd say is keep it balanced. Too much of anything may well frustrate you!
Most of your ukulele practice when you start may well be at home, and perhaps alone. It may well follow on from playing with others the night or day before, but more on that later.
Think about setting yourself some goals and sticking to them. The key is to not set challenges too high. It's always tempting to want to immediately play a favourite but very complicated song on day one, but that may be too much of a challenge. Get yourself some song sheets that you feel are just a little bit ahead of your ability, but not too far and try to stick with those until you have them nailed.
There are no hard and fast rules on how much to practice the uke, when, or what you do in it. In the article linked above, obviously too little practice will slow progress. Too much could actually start to work counter productively so be careful.
Try to set your challenges to be interesting and achievable. By way of an example, let's say you want to learn two new uke songs in your week ahead. You could make a practice plan as follows
Day 1 - warm up, strum practice, practice song 1, general strum practice.
Day 2 - warm up, fingerpicking practice, practice song 2, finger stretching exercise, practice song 2, theory.
Day 3 - warm up, strum practice, finger stretching, practice song 1, practice song 2
And so on, filling the days and keeping variety.
Now that may come across all a bit rigid, and I'm not a big fan of rigid. I don't expect you to need to write a plan and stick it on your fridge door, that would be weird... What I am saying is to keep a check on what you are doing on a daily basis, what you are missing out on and try to keep an efficient balance going forward. You may find that some things come to you naturally and therefore you can practice those a little less. Some things may be a struggle and you may need to devote more time to those. Keep it fun, but keep an eye on what you are doing. I've seen many beginners practicing week by week not keeping a watch, and getting a little entrenched in, say, just one song, that they are missing out on some basic skills that they need to move on to other styles. By keeping it more balanced, your progress should be more efficient.
PLAYING WITH OTHERS
As I've said many times, I highly, highly recommend new players try to play with others as much as possible, either with friends, or better still, a uke club. This way of practicing really does help players improve ukulele skills at a fast rate. It's down to the mix of being able to see and others play, with a bit of competition thrown in!
But of course, you can't be playing uke with friends all the time, every day. Many ukulele clubs only meet once a week or less, so you need to find a way of extending and working on your experiences with your club fit in to your general home practice.
Most good uke clubs offer song sheets for the club to play along to, distributed either hard copy, or by email or via download. Make sure you keep these and concentrate on the songs the club is working on at that time. You may feel restricted if the songs in one week are not your cup of tea, but stick with it.
One 'Got A Ukulele' reader emailed me recently asking about getting audio files on the site as he struggled to remember how some songs went after returning from a club session. I've avoided doing that for copyright reasons, but he raised a good point. There are answers to that. In the simplest sense many modern mobiles offer voice recording so you could always record some songs the group play to help remind you during home practice. There are also some excellent audio recorders on the market that record to SD cards, such as the Zoom H2 which I use. These pick up recordings in high quality in 360 degrees so you really can get that club sound when you get home - just ask permission! Your other alternative is to buy the music of course. Either way, that is a really good part of your ukulele practice workflow - learning to listen. If you are practicing a new song, do make sure you have access to the song you are playing in audio. There is nothing tougher than a beginner trying to learn a song they only half know from a set of words and chords on a sheet of paper!
So fit your club songs into your home practice and again, keep it balanced.
Always remember, listen to your head and your fingers. If you are getting frustrated or sore, take a break and don't fight it.
Most of all, keep your practicing plans fresh and interesting and don't get bogged down.
What are your practicing tips and routines? I'd love to hear them!
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