Do you really want to be a better player? Really?
Often, I am approached by someone who claims to want to improve their playing. We schedule a lesson, and I “hear where they are at” regarding their playing.
Sometimes it’s easy to help them immediately – I can see that they need a better way to shape a chord, or I write out a clear chart showing where chords actually change in a song.
But more often, I hear that they need to work on their rhythm. A chord is easy to learn: you look it up and play it. But rhythm is what makes a song sound right. It is the pulse of the song – the very element that keeps it together. So I start them from the very beginning and explain how to count and I give them some very basic exercises to work on. I even assure them that it’s okay to continue to work on their song, play, have fun, but to spend a little time on this exercise. Very few do.
Some of these extremely eager students suddenly disappear – having gotten “too busy.” Why?
Yes, it occurs to me that it could simply be that they don’t like my teaching style, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they were hoping for some magic pill – a lesson where I disclosed “the secret” to playing great, and that they would leave an amazing player.
“I want a new strum,” they ask me, but when I start to teach them how, they lose interest.
“What can I do to make this song better?” they ask. But when I tell them that the song is pretty good, except for the timing and feel, they move on to another song, as if that was the problem. (Perhaps they thought I would suggest sitting differently, or that they should wear a different outfit.)
There seems to be the thinking that the ukulele is an easy instrument to learn. Sure, it’s small, only has four strings, and is easy to begin to make music on, but the actual playing of music is something that takes time – on any instrument.
It takes commitment to think about what you’re doing, practicing the individual elements of a song, observing, listening…
There is no magic pill, ukers. If you want to get better, then work at it. It can still be fun.
By the way, I do have several students who are committed and work at what I give them and you know what? They’re AWESOME! Every week they improve, and every week I get to show them new material. They are getting what they asked for.
That’s the real magic.