What to Practice?

What do I actually need to practice?

Published: May 8, 2017 Updated: May 13, 2019 • Visitors: 5 • Page Views: 1

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That is the age old queation when learning a musical instrument.

This lesson explores that foundation needed for various styles of music and what'd need to be successful with each style.

Drawing from the The Elements of a Successful Music Program page, right here on the Learning Ukulele with Curt site. The various areas of study, exploration, practice - whatever you want to call it are:

  • Technique is the physical control and coordination needed to play an instrument or sing.
  • Theory is the body of principles behind music.
  • Ear Training is the development of the active and passive capacity to relate to music aurally.
  • Reading is the ability to reproduce music from written notation. -
  • Repertoire includes the songs within a musician's performance ability.
  • Improvisation is the ability to spontaneous create melody over a predetermined chord progression.
  • Musical Idioms Musical Idioms is the study of music and the musical styles it involves well developed categories as; Rock, Blues, Country, Jazz, Bluegrass, Classical, Folk, Urban and Fusion. It also includes subdivisions and specializations.
  • Songwriting is the creation of original music based on a single melodic line with a chord progression.
  • Arranging involves the choice of instruments, tempo, rhythmic feel, form, intros, endings, interludes, solos, harmonies, and instrumental accompaniment of a song.
  • Interpretation involves the ability to perform a song or composition in a unique and personal way.

With 1187 lessons, songs, books, playalong tracks and assets as of May 13, 2019 on LearningUkulele.com - it can get a bit overwhelming to figure out what to work on and even simply where to start.

First, a Few Practice Principles

  • Establish a long term musical goal, and keep it in mind at each practice session.
  • Focus on your weaknesses, not on your strengths. Work only on the weaknesses that are relevant to your long term musical goal (Principle No. 1).
  • Set a short term goal before each practice session so you know how the first 10 minutes will be used before you start.
  • Practice what you don't know, NOT what you do know.
  • If it sounds good, it's not practice, and it doesn't count towards your practice session.
  • Don't practice anything wrong; not one single note or one beat. When in doubt, triple check the note or beat, and then check it again.
  • Don't play pieces or songs through from beginning until end; work on parts or pieces of songs.
  • Leave your instrument out, or, if you're a singer, leave your music out on a music stand, in a place where you will see it every day.
  • Practice for at least 10 minutes every day. If you miss days, don't give up. Just get back on schedule.
  • Don't practice the same thing, in the same order, that you did the day before.

I use this line on my private students all the time when they are trying to do something too... fast.

"Fast is nothing more than slow - quicker."

Speed is a by-product of playing accurately and under control.

Getting Start Series of Lessons

Although this might be viewed as a beginner series of lessons and you might think you a re beyond that stage. I venture to guess that ever seasoned players will get something out if it. Take a quick pass through the lessons in the Getting Started Series and fill in some gaps.

Two Approaches Too Learning Music

The Song Based Approach

The song based approach is one where you pick a song and the song tells you what you need to know to perform the song. This approach really needs the guidance of someone that already knows how songs work and the components of songs in general. And, specifically can guide you in learning that particular song.

A Systematic Approach

This approach builds a solid foundation of what is needed to perform any song by building a set of chords that are required for most songs. It really benefits from the guidance of a teacher, coach , advisor, etc...

This is my approach – NOT to teach you songs but to teach you the principles that are inherent in every song. This will allow you to learn any song and develop your own repertoire and voice.

With this approach you can help the person using the Song BAsed Approach.

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!


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A Practical Approach to Exploring Scales

On ukulele there aren't many positions where you can play a one octave scale from the root to octave. An instrument like the guitar with the additional lower strings five and six allows one to play a one octave scale in multiple positions in the basic 4-fret, 4-finger position. On ukulele there might be one or two depending on the scale and the key - and whether your using a low string four tuning.

Key Signatures

A key signature is a series of sharp or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating the notes that are to be consistently played higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes. Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation. Each major and minor key has an associated key signature that sharpens or flattens the notes which are used in its scale.

Practice Cycles and Sequences

Sequences and cycles for practicing scales, intervals, melodic sequences and arpeggios.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

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A Guide to Advanced Chords Series - Chord Building Chart

A handle dandy reference chart for building fifteen (15) basic triads and 4-part chords.


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Basic Ukulele Chord Chart

A chart of the most common ukulele chords in the most common keys of C, G, D, A, and E.

Key Signatures - Cycle of Fourths and Fifths

A handy reference chart of all 15 major and relative minor key signatues.


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Movable 7th Chords for Ukulele Chord Chart - C Tuning

A handy dandy single sheet chart showing the each voicing of the four, seventh chords Big Six seventh chord voicings.


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A Guide to Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele A to Z

The Blues are at the heart of all American music. It has influenced Country, Rock, Folk, Jazz, Bluegrass and just about every form of American music we listen to today.

A Guide to Ukulele Chords

A Guide to Ukulele Chords covers the basic ukulele chords that ALL ukulele players SHOULD know. Plus, an introduction to movable chord forms, rock chords, how to transpose chords, jazz chords and more.

Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution

Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It is the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition. This analysis is then used to make scale selections for improvisation and chord substitution.

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Basic Ukulele Chords Charts

Not so much a series - but the basic chords ALL ukulele players should know.

Basic Ukulele Chords Charts - As much as I preach the need to not have to rely on chords charts. When you're first learning the ukulele and chords these charts are a real help - just not long a term alternative to actually knowng your chords, where they come from and how to create them when needed.

Core Ukulele Chords - The Big Six

Core Chords for Ukulele, The Big Six - From four F7 chord voicings or shapes, your can build your massive 4-part, a.k.a., “jazz” chord vocabulary. Beyond basic open position chords, basic movable form chords and a core set of 4-part chords. There are just too many chords shapes too memorize. Learning the principles of how chords are constructed and the ukulele fingerboard are the way to go. Then you can create more advanced chords like 9#11, 7#5-9, 13b5, 7+9 on the fly as needed.

QuickStart Scale and Arpeggio Fingering Series

QuickStart Scale and Arpeggio Fingering Series are a concise, well organized series of books and lessons ideal for any ukulele, guitar or fretted string player beginning to explore scales and arpeggios. Unlike so many other instruction books on the market, QuickStart Scale and Arpeggio Fingering Series keeps a sharp focus on the six critical scales, their fingerings and their related chords. All material is covered in every key.

Six Essential Ukulele Scales

The Six Essential Ukulele Scales series is based on the fingering principles from my series of books in the QuickStart Scale and Arpeggio Fingerings series.

The six essential scales are: Blues, Major Pentatonic, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian, and Ionian. These six can get you through a wide variety of traditional and contemporary music.

A scale is simply collection of pitches or notes, not really “this is a Jazz scale”, “this is a Blues” or “this is a Rock scale”. It’s how a scale is used that really matters.

Most music starts with a scale. The melody, chords, licks and riffs all can be related back to a particular scale or scales.

Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard

If there's one thing that has the biggest return on your time and investment to learn it's really, really knowing the names of the note of the ukulele fingerboard. This series takes a step-by-step approach to finally learning the fingerboard.

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Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

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