The Learning Process - The Mind, Hands and Ears

Making the connection between the Mind, the Hands and the Ear.

Published: 24 Jun 2011 Updated: 27 Aug 2022Visits: 868Code: UL450

Topic: Basics Instruments: ukulele Subjects: Chords • Beginner • Intermediate • Learning • Basics

The Learning Process - The Mind, Hands and Ears

For music and learning an instrument like the ukulele or guitar, it's all about the making the connection between the Mind, the Hands and the Ear.

When listening to music, we enjoy it at the tempo the composer or artist intended, in real time. Listening and enjoying a song only requires the ear and mind. This is passive listening, and you're simply enjoying the music. This is what we do every day, and it's what draws us to want to learn a musical instrument.

Performing — When trying to reproduce music on any musical instrument, you're now an active participant in the making and reproducing music. The mind and ear are in control, telling the hands what to do. When performing, it's mainly the ear and the mind on a subconscious level that is driving the show and telling the hands what to do. And this is all in real time and at the intended performance tempo.

Learning — Learning an instrument is all about making and reinforcing the connection between the mind, hands, and ears. This typically can't be done in real time.

Of the three, the mind, the hands, and the ear — the ear can grasp simple melodies, basic chords and simple songs without much effort. How easy is it to hear when Auntie Marie sings Happy Birthday out of tune. We don't even need to know what the right notes are or the key. We can just hear that it's wrong or right – we've heard it before.

The Hands!

traffic_sign_SLOWOf the three elements involved, it's the hands that need the most work and the most repetition. Just as the skills required in sports — it's the technique where all the work is. Take golf, looks pretty simple on the surface. Hit the little white ball in the hole – or, shooting a foul shoot in basketball — put the basketball in the basket.

The concepts are pretty simple — it's the implementation that's all the work.

The hands take up most of the training time. It's the hands that provide the technique to actively reproduce music. This training of the hands needs to be done accurately and efficiency. This training CAN NOT be accomplished, initially, at performance tempo. Training needs to be deliberate and SLOW. Building the tempo as facility is gained.

I tell all my students that: Fast is nothing more than slow, quicker.

Technique cannot be taken for granted. You have to work on it.

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"Effortless Mastery is a book that the world really needs. It was not written by a philosopher or an academic. Kenny Werner, is one of my favorite pianists I've ever had the pleasure of working with, and in my opinion one of the best pianists living on the planet. Kenny teaches that 'The joy of practicing is concentration. The joy of playing is liberation.' Effortless Mastery teaches the seeker how to achieve both at the highest levels. It also shows how to practice effectively, promoting real growth and how to play and perform free from fear and self-judgment. I highly recommend this book." ---Quincy Jones

First Chords

Click on chord image for more info...

For Ukulele Players, taking the first chord you typically learn is the C chord. It's a pretty simple chord, requiring only one finger and one string chord. And, strumming chords on ukulele is somewhat easy, in that you can just strum all four strings. Initially, it doesn't have the strumming accuracy that the guitar requires. By itself, it is pretty easy to memorize and play simple songs with few chords. There aren't many one chord songs, so additional chords beyond that first open position C major chords need to be learned, memorized, and mastered.

A new twist is you need to use more than one finger and learn additional chords. Three or four of the most common chords you initially learn on ukulele, all come from the Common Key of C Major and are the primary chords in the key. They are C, F, G and G7. None of these first chords use more than three fingers. So, the wimpy pinky, finger four doesn't need to get involved.

Switching Chords

When you know two chords, you need to be able to switch efficiently between both chords at various tempos from slow ballads to fast up-tempo songs. This is where all the work happens. The mind, hands, and ear all work together, this is the learning process. The ear will learn the sounds of these common, basic chords with little effort. The mind can memorize them with a bit more effort — there's only two chords a t a time to keep track of — the one you're currently on and how am I going to get to the next one.

Then add G and G7. Four chords and a little more work. There are hundreds of songs that use these primary chords in the key of C. Use the recommended fingerings for the chords shown above. Although alternate fingerings are possible and need to be explored, these initial fingerings will get you started.

Then all the work is in switching chords, efficiently and in tempo. Ultimately, any chord can switch to any other chord. So try C to F, C to G, C to G7. C to C is easy. Then F to C, F to G, F to G7. G to C, G to F, G to C, G to G7 and finally G7 to C, F and G. That's all the possibilities.

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