Happy Valentine’s Day! Take the opportunity to sing to (or with) a loved one! Here are five love-themed songs you may want to strum today:
Keeping a steady beat is your primary goal when making music, but it can be a challenge! Beginning musicians often start out playing at a moderate pace, then gradually increase their speed over the course of a song. It’s only normal—one of the skills we must develop is the endurance to play for longer periods of time. Playing with an even tempo is just one more aspect of your playing that needs some attention, and playing with a metronome is an effective way to improve your consistency. Download a free metronome app on your smartphone or open this free one in your web browser. Enter in a reasonable BPM, put in your earbuds, and get strumming!
Ukuleles are quite portable as far as musical instruments go, but there’s another instrument you’re always in possession of— your voice! So why not sing while you play? Every time you sing, you’re training your ear to hear the melody (even if you’re stumbling to find the right notes) and paying closer attention to your tempo. My own experience has taught me that a voice is like any other instrument—just as your uke playing can improve, so can your singing. So give it a try. You’ll probably have more fun if you do!
Having trouble carving out time to play your ukulele? Maybe you’d feel more motivated if playing it wasn’t a solitary activity. Here are a few ideas to help you make your practice a more social experience:
One of the biggest challenges beginning ukulele players face is figuring out how to get in the habit of playing consistently. Tomorrow I launch a new weekly series to help with this issue. I’m calling it Habit Hacks, and every Thursday I will post tips to help you build and maintain a consistent ukulele practice (and I’ll explain why I refer to it as an ukulele practice). Check back here tomorrow for Habit Hack #1!
I've noticed that the most important part of music making tends to get overlooked by new players. And I get it. Beginning musicians have a lot to keep track of. It's a challenge to learn how to play chords, strum, and sing all at the same time! But if you want your playing to sound smooth and skilled, you will have to . . .
Keep a Steady Beat!
Many beginning musicians start strumming a song at a moderate tempo, then speed up as they play. Another common mistake is to play quickly but slow down for chord changes, zig-zagging the tempo up and down for the duration of a song. These are dead giveaways that you are a new player! So what can you do about it? Here are five tips to help you improve your ability to strum at an a consistent speed, no metronome required:
Most music teachers will encourage you to practice your instrument every day. But why? Are you rehearsing for a public performance? Are you a musician by trade? Assuming you're learning the ukulele for fun or as a new hobby, I'd much prefer you played what you want, when you want. I truly want the ukulele to be a source of joy for my students (and everyone!). And when was the last time you felt joy completing a homework assignment?!?*
Your relationship with your uke will be happier and more sustaining if you play when you feel intrinsically motivated to play. Even if that means you're only playing once in a while. I pick up my uke for any number of reasons— to provide entertainment for my kids, to create with others, because I want to try out something new, or (most often) because it's fun. What motivates you to play?
* For the occasional student who insists on assignments, I tell them to simply pick up their instrument every day.
Heading out of town this summer? Don't forget to pack your uke!
One of the ukulele's best features is its portability. It's perfect for hotel rooms, the beach, the campground, and almost anywhere else you might be heading to this summer. Road tripping? Perfect. You'll almost certainly have room for it in the car. Traveling by air? Bring it on the plane. Your ukulele qualifies as a carry-on item.
If you're worried about keeping your ukulele safe on your adventure, you may wish buy a cheap one (affiliate link) to keep as your designated travel uke. You'll enjoy your vacation more if you're not too concerned about keeping the elements (or children) away from your instrument. Just don't forget to pack your tuner (affiliate link) and Musical Mama binder. 😃
Jam in the Car
If my husband's driving, sometimes I'll even play on the road. We also hold in-car family jam sessions where we take turns picking songs to stream via our smartphones. Egg shakers and jingle bell bracelets (affiliate links) are easy to pack and a simple way to liven up a long day of driving— I have a feeling we'll be jamming to this earworm all summer!
Jam at your Destination
When you're out of town and away from the usual to-dos and responsibilities, you may find yourself with a bit more free time. Won't it be nice to have your ukulele on hand? Just having that vacation mindset may positively impact your playing.
Even if You're Staying Local...
Having a dedicated travel uke means you can keep it in the trunk! Taking the kids to the park? Maybe you can strum while they play in the sandbox. Or, if your kids take lessons of any sort, why not play in-between chauffeur duties?
Where will you be playing this summer? I'd love to hear...
Just a quick post today about how to improve your sheet music viewing and, therefore, your overall playing. In short: buy a stand! Many uke players set their sheet music on a flat surface and look down as they play. But that's really hard on your neck and negatively impacts your playing (and singing!) posture.
I bought this cute little tablet stand from IKEA a while back, and it's been so useful. It easily holds my Musical Mama Foundations binder with all the lesson materials and song sheets, and I've even been using it during private lessons. This stand is portable, so it works well on a table top and is easily repurposed for random kid projects and as a recipe/cookbook holder in the kitchen. You can find it at IKEA for $15.99.
If you keep your ukulele in its case, it's likely to stay there. But that's not where you want it! If your ukulele is out and ready to be picked up at a moment's notice, you will be so much more likely to play it. So, let's talk about the important stuff: how to display your instrument when you're not playing it. There are two basic options— stands and hooks— and they're both easy.
An ukulele stand (affiliate link) is an easy way to display your instrument. There's no installation required and it's portability makes it great for those who are unsure of where they want to set-up their instrument.
I have a home office where I prep for lessons. I'm also working on an exciting new project, so I'm constantly playing when I'm working at my desk. It only makes sense for me to keep an ukulele available for strumming here.
This pineapple uke sits on a stand right next to the TV. We also keep a banjo, a guitar, and a banjo-lele in the same room, on floor stands. We spend a good chunk of time in this room, and I keep all of our kid instruments in one of the fabric bins in the bottom of the picture. Having multiple instruments out and accessible makes impromptu jam sessions easy. The TV might get turned on once or twice a week, but the instruments get played daily!
The age of your children is an important consideration. If you have very young children, you may want to keep your instrument up high!
There are a variety of wall-mount hooks (affiliate link), and they are pretty simple to install. If you're handy, you can even make your own! I love how the instrument hooks in the picture above have been painted to match the wall color. My only concern with a room like this is that you don't want things to look too precious or perfect. After all, the goal is to play, not just admire!
I love how these instruments were able to fit in this living room. They're so cute stacked vertically like this!
Doesn't the guitar look great against that grey wall?
This last room looks like heaven to me! If you can pull off a wall of instruments, go for it. Think of the family jams you could have in that home!
Before you buy: Identify when and where you're most likely to play. Then do your best to keep your uke in that room— whether that's the play room, the living room, a bedroom, or even near the kitchen. If you're unsure, or if you're having a hard time making time for your hobby, experiment by moving your uke around. Sometimes the simple act of relocating your instrument is all it takes to get you in the habit of playing more frequently.
How are you displaying your instruments at home? I'd love to hear about it!
I love hearing the brilliant ways my students are finding time to play the ukulele, and I thought I'd share a few of those ideas here on the blog. After all, what's working for them might work for you, too! Here are a few ideas for incorporating your new hobby into life at home:
Do you have a child who's a picky eater? Mama H plays her ukulele to entertain her toddler at mealtimes. Isn't that clever?
What about after dinner? Mama C has a nightly jam with her sons. How fun is that? I love that it's become a ritual in their home!
Mama S plays with her daughters in the morning before heading to work. What a fun way to start the day!
Mama E takes her son to preschool in the afternoon and sometimes ends up having some time to kill before pickup time. I suggested she bring her ukulele and Musical Mama binder in the car so she can jam on the go!
Another mom has a toddler who really wants to play her mama's ukulele. In instances like these, I recommend having a few kid instruments on hand. Or even a second (cheap) ukulele so your child can feel more involved in the music making.
When my children were 1 and 3, my most successful time for playing was right after breakfast. Now that they're 4 and 6, I can usually fit in some time in that narrow window between picking up the kindergartener from school and dinnertime. And if I'm honest, my current favorite time to play is probably after bedtime— my kids sleep soundly enough that my playing doesn't wake them and after a long day, it's a nice way to remind myself that I have an identity that extends beyond "mom." :)
You may find you have to adapt your music habit to your children's evolving rhythms as they grow but as with most other aspects of parenting, a little flexibility and creativity can go a long way.
How are you finding time to make music at home? I'd love to hear about it!