Pep Talk Advice and Cautions

What a mysterious title for a post: Pep Talk Advice and Cautions…

First, let’s have what I wish to call, “The Pep Talk”.

I started this blog some time ago with the idea that we learn to understand music and rhythm, while doing it with the knowledge that we do it with patience, hence the name, “All In Good Time”. Like planting a garden we select our seeds, germinate them, plant them, take care of them, and while doing so go about our day. We needn’t hover over them with a ruler to measure them every day, but rather observe and be confident that some plants will grow rapidly while others won’t. Radishes are often planted alongside other plants to mark planting areas, as they are super fast growers and are often matured before other plants.

I talk about plants and gardens because I often get the idea that some people think that they have special musical seeds that will magically grow overnight into the ability to play like they have been playing for years. It doesn’t work that way.

But think back a few weeks or months. Do you notice that there were some things that were giving you trouble when you first tried them? A certain chord, or rhythm? Perhaps you’ve adjusted the way you sit or stand while playing, or are able to play AND listen better at the same time?

You see, these are all types of learning that are important to notice from time to time. Yes, your ultimate goal may be to sit down and play a song from beginning to end flawlessly with flourishes and you will, but please take time to remember that you have been learning and improving!!!

Now here’s the caution part:
First of all, let me take the emphasis off of the word “caution”. I don’t like to live life afraid of anything. I don’t like warnings, so let’s change the word “caution” to something more like “before you begin”… or “let’s start with the basics”.

If you knew absolutely nothing about building, would you jump in and build a two story house?

Of course you wouldn’t. You might start by learning to identify the various types of lumber: 2 by 4s, 2 by 6s, etc. You would learn how to measure the lengths of the boards needed and learn how to use the saw properly. Nails or screws? What type of nails? What size? How do I read a blueprint? You get the picture.
And you might want to start by learning how to build something much simpler – like a box or a bookshelf.

I hear of many players having frustration with not learning fast enough, or thinking that they are not learning fast enough.

I want to ask people to consider some of the things that go into playing a song: first, there is having in instrument tuned up. Then, can you play the 3 or 4 chords that make up the song? Don’t even worry about playing them in the right order or in time, but just being able to easily transition from one to the other without too much trouble. Then you have to sing at the same time?!!! And listen to others while playing?!?!

No wonder you are frustrated. You are trying to build an entire house!

Start with a box. Learn to play those chords by themselves. Four beats on one chord, then four beats on another – back and forth until it’s second nature to you. Then try two new chords. Learn how to build the elements of something bigger.

Once you learn those elements, you will have everything you need to build anything. Any song will come to you with ease.

Now here’s the good news:
Go ahead and try building that musical “house” without knowing how it’s done. That’s okay. It won’t fall down on you. You won’t get electrocuted, or cut your arm off. That’s the joy of being creative and playing music. Just remember that it’s a process… it takes time to get it to look like the picture of the house in the magazine. But if you remind yourself that you are, and have been, learning the parts that make up the whole, then you can feel better about your progress.

Remember that while you are trying to learn one thing, that you are actually learning other things at the same time. You may not learn that fancy rhythm in one sitting, but you are absorbing information about how it sounds and where it goes in the song.

All in good time. Remember that.

(By the way, I love analogies.)



10 Responses to “Pep Talk Advice and Cautions”

  1. William Kelly Says:

    I shall do that, practice, practice, and more practice!!! that I don’t mind doing at all. I need to get in as much as I can as trailer season is fast approaching and I want to be able to accomplish something before that as I will no longer have internet access other than my weekly trips back home for yard work, laundry, catch up on emails etc.
    As soon as I am able to switch back and forth, no hiccups I’ll be back!
    You really have no idea how much I appreciate you help.
    Thank You,

  2. Susette Says:

    Analogies are good. I heard of a book that’s a #1 all-time best-seller that uses a lot of analogies, but I think they call them “parables”. I haven’t read that book yet, but I’ll continue to read your blog. You’re #1. Thanks for all you do in the world of arts.

  3. Steve Brooks Says:

    Hi Rhan,
    This is just to let you know you have an appreciative readership down here on the Monterey Peninsula. The Monterey Ukulele club has an email list of over a 100. I occasionally forward your tutorials to the active jammers (about 30). I really like your emphasis on rhythm and strumming but I find value in all your suggestions.
    I hope to get up to at least one of your band-chorus classes. I’ve joined 2 of James Hill’s “ukulele band” workshops and playing tablature in four parts helped me to feel comfortable sprinkling some single notes into my strumming.
    I missed the last Burning Uke but my friend Bill West told me about your rhythm workshop. Hope you’re coming to Smoldering Uke.
    Steve Brooks

    • Rhan Wilson Says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for spreading my words around with your group.
      I do hope that you make it up to the “All In Good Time” get togethers. Unfortunately, I won’t be attending Smoldering Uke.

  4. nige Says:

    Rhan. I Have no memory.Hard to believe, but true.
    I can’t even remember words to songs. I have been trying for 2 years now, off and on. I know C F G D chords. My other problem is strumming and changing chords as the same time. I know – practice.

    P.S Am thinking of learning the triangle.

  5. William Kelly Says:

    HAHA, you win, again! check it out. I really suck. But will listen. cover your ears lightly, don’t want any blood squirting out onto you screen or keyboard.
    Commentary is more than welcome as usual. Found another learning sight.

    • Rhan Wilson Says:

      You’re so dramatic! Blood squirting…really! Actually – you have a very sweet, smooth sounding and pleasant sound to your voice. I have heard a lot and on the I-want-to-run-away-screaming scale… you don’t have to worry! lol.
      Here is a suggestion for a practice.
      This song is in C, I think.
      I’d like you to practice playing a C chord – strumming in groups of 4. Very evenly. Strum 2 sets of 4 then switch to a G (or a G7 – your choice) for 2 sets of 4. Back and forth. Real evenly. Get it so you can switch between the 2 chords at regular intervals without a hiccup in the pace. Then we move on.
      Let me know when you have done this.

  6. Humble Uker Says:

    Garsh Rhan:

    We just don’ wanna be patient! We wanna play awesomely now. I notice that sometimes I push myself to play stuff that I’m not ready to do and get frustrated. Then I simplify and play a few of my favorite songs and notice that they seem to be coming easier. I am trying to do some of that old country blues where they use a steady bass beat with the thumb or pinches. I am also studying with a ukulele fingerstyle course by Pekelo that has 2 books and 2 cd’s that help develop timing skills: 1e+a stuff. These are my challenges to myself that I mix in with my comfy songs.

    Are you still watching American Idol?

    Your bud El Jeffe’

    • Rhan Wilson Says:

      Well, to that I say:
      Push yourself, go beyond your means, AND remember that it takes time. Do it all.

      No AI for me right now. I don’t want to get hooked.

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