August 13, 2017 at 6:13 pm #13170
I’ve been playing ukulele for a few years and I’m a fairly decent player. The problem is I feel like I’ve been a decent player for a long time now and haven’t developed much. Nothing I do seems to take me to the next level. I guess you’d say I’m in a bit of an intermediate slump.
I can fingerpick pretty well, strum complex patterns but I’m a long way from Andrew’s level of playing.
So I guess the question is how do I move on from here? I’ve tried all the usual advice and what I’m really after is someone who has been there and done that to give me a steer.
Thanks for the help!August 13, 2017 at 9:21 pm #13172
This is a great question Dave. Hitting a plateau is something that we all have felt at one or more points in our playing careers. But, I can tell you there is a way to rise above it.
So before we get into that, I have a few questions for you.
1) You said you have tried all the usual advice. What does that entail?
2) What are your goals? What do you want to be able to do? (Dig deep – let me know specifics)
3) What is your practice routine like? What do you do?August 14, 2017 at 2:41 am #13174
Hi Andrew, thanks for your post. To answer your questions…
Things I’ve tried
Very specific practice routines that focus on areas of weakness (picking techniques, transitions between difficult chord shapes etc)
Taking a song based approach and working on the sections that I struggle with.
Trying to work on playing by ear.
Mixing up the kind of music I play.
Developing knowledge of music theory.
I’m starting generic but will get more specific. I’d like to be a much more well rounded player generally.
When strumming through a progression I’d like my strumming have more embellishments that make it sound much more interesting.
Playing by ear is something I’d really like to develop more. I’ve tried ear training to recognise intervals (I’m ok in isolation with these) and can usually work out riffs and licks but struggle with chords (quite a lot).
I’d like to go beyond just strumming chords from the circle of fifths when I’m noodling around. I do know chords in multiple positions. This is connected to my first goal I guess.
My routine used to be split into thirds. One third on a particular technique or sticking point, one third on theory and a third on songs.
More recently I’ve tried to concentrate on playing with a metronome and sticking with a single song. I try and keep my time geared heavily towards the bars that are difficult for me.
Hopefully that gives you a bit more context. Thanks for your time!August 14, 2017 at 11:11 am #13176
You’ve got a great handle on knowing what to do/work on. But let’s dive deeper. We can divide improving into three steps:
1) Execution – this includes everything that you listed above.
2) Application – this is where I think you need work on. This involves applying the theory and technique you are working on to your playing.
3) Evaluation – analyzing if the above steps are improving your playing and musicianship.
Let’s look at some of the things that you listed:
A) Very specific practice routines that focus on areas of weakness (picking techniques, transitions between difficult chord shapes etc)
B) Taking a song based approach and working on the sections that I struggle with.
Let’s say you are working on hammer-ons and pull-offs. If we outline a practice schedule tied to the above 3 steps, it would look something like this:
1) Execution – running exercises, licks, phrases that involve the technique.
2) Application – putting that technique to work. Find a piece of music that is heavy in the use of that technique. Our arrangement of Amazing Grace is a good example.
3) Evaluation – record yourself performing both the song and your practice exercises. Listen closely to determine if you are executing the technique properly. Make adjustments as needed.
A) Trying to work on playing by ear.
B) Playing by ear is something I’d really like to develop more. I’ve tried ear training to recognize intervals (I’m ok in isolation with these) and can usually work out riffs and licks but struggle with chords (quite a lot).
1) Execution – you are off to a great start with recognizing intervals. One of the best tools online can be found here: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/ear-interval
Furthermore, you will want to venture off into scale and chord ear training (bottom of page): http://www.musictheory.net/exercises
I’ll give you the recommendation they gave us in college: 500 a day.
2) Application – the ears are the most important aspects of a musician. But, you also need to be able to correlate what you hear onto the fretboard. In other words, you need to not only be able to hear a minor 3rd, but also be able to play a Minor 3rd. You probably see where I’m going, venturing off onto scales: You want to be able to play them in multiple positions throughout the neck and be able to call out their formulas. Then you want to apply the intervals and/or scales to your playing.
This was the idea behind our newest course: An Introduction to Music Theory & Jamming. For example, the course has a few lessons on major and minor pentatonic. It teaches you the scales, explains the differences between the two, shows you where to play them throughout the neck, and recommends why you should use one over the other. Then it gives you a song to learn that has two solos (one major and one minor) so that you can apply the scales to a real life playing situation.
3) Evaluation – let’s look at chords for evaluation. If we look at one genre in specific: The Blues. Then we know that it only contains three chords all of which are dominant. If you have a good handle on recognizing a dominant chord you can start to apply it. Turn on any straightforward blues song and jump to a random point in the song. Call out which chord it’s on (either 1, 4, 5).
This is a great exercise for recognizing chord progressions by ear. If you can nail it with the Blues, you can move on to harder progressions.
One more point we can hit on, you said:
#3 – When strumming through a progression I’d like my strumming have more embellishments that make it sound much more interesting.
Start with something simple. For example, I get a lot of questions about my accented melody note strum technique. It’s a rather simple technique to learn, but can really help to highlight a chords Melody note. Check out this lesson: https://youtu.be/-RMlp31R5PE?t=6m18s (starting at 6:18). Here I talk about this specific strum attack. And as you can see below, one of our members used it in her performance of Aura Lee. It’s such a subtle technique, but it goes a long way in adding a unique Dynamic to the performance.
If you are down 🙂 let’s have some fun and give you some accountability. Take one thing that you want to work on and post a video of where you’re at today in your playing. Apply the three steps listed above to it and let’s monitor your progress. I’d be happy to help anyway I can as you work through it.August 14, 2017 at 11:57 am #13179
Boom! I started it: https://rockclass101.com/forums/topic/the-accountability-thread/
I’m in it with you Dave 🙂August 14, 2017 at 7:39 pm #13182
Thanks for taking the time to write such an in depth response Andrew. It’s great to be able to get direct feedback.
I spent some time with your higher voicing lesson this evening and also working on some more ear training.
I’m definitely up for the accountability idea. It was a little dark when I got home tonight to film but hopefully I can get something down tomorrow.
I guess I need to decide which area I want to work on the most.August 15, 2017 at 10:58 am #13185
My pleasure! Looking forward to seeing what you post 🙂October 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm #14015kitukuleleParticipant
Very helpful info Andrew!
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