Posts Tagged ‘timing’

There is no magic pill.

July 2, 2016

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.

I need a new strum! – Part 1

August 30, 2011

“I need to learn some new strums! Can you teach me?”

This is one of the most common requests I hear from uke players who feel they have become stagnant and are not moving ahead with their playing.

And my answer is always the same: WORK ON YOUR RHYTHM!

That’s all “strumming” is – rhythm. So many people want to teach down-down-up-down… that sort of thing, but that simply teaches you to memorize a pattern. If you take the time to learn how to play with rhythm, I guarantee that you will have so many “strumming” options, you won’t know what to do with them all.

I have attached a video to demonstrate, but allow me to write out a little instruction to get you started:

Start by playing just ONE chord. Let’s make it a Bb. I choose a Bb because it uses all strings and because of that, you can dampen the sound as we go. (see video)

StrumĀ  “one – two – three – four” over and over, slowly, keeping a real even beat and knowing where ONE is at all times. Tap your foot with each count. Each time you strum the chord, lift up on your left hand just a little to stop the ringing of the chord.

This should sound like short little jabs at the chord.

Now accent on JUST THE ONE. (an accent means that you play it a little louder).

ONE – two – three – four – ONE – two – three – four – ONE – two – three – four – … and so forth. Do this evenly and cleanly. Do it until you can think of something else while doing it, like look around the room and notice what’s outside the window, yet still be completely aware of the accent and where the “one” is. (And continue to tap your foot right on the beat!)

Now without stopping, accent ONE – TWO – three – four – ONE – TWO – three – four – ONE – TWO – three – four – …

Can you guess what’s next? ONE – TWO – THREE – four – ONE – TWO – THREE – four – ONE – TWO – THREE – four – …

and finally, accent ALL FOUR BEATS.

Then, accent just the “two” and “four”: one – TWO – three – FOUR – one – TWO – three – FOUR – one – TWO – three – FOUR – …

Again, do this over and over until you can do it effortlessly. And if you’re one of those who get bored easily – DON’T! If you want to develop your sense of rhythm and learn to “strum”, then you need to pay attention to the details: listen for each stroke, are all the strings sounding nice and clean? Are you keeping an even rhythm? Can you do these exercises and keep your foot going while gazing out the window and imagining you are the best “strummer” in the world?

Until you can do all that, don’t you even think about being bored!

Have fun.

Here’s the video: