Have you listened to the Satellite Sisters podcast? It’s hosted by a trio of real-life sisters who cover a variety of topics, including pop culture, current events, and travel. Their website refers to the show as “a pep talk for modern women,” and it’s a fun blend of news, conversation, and humor. While listening to a recent episode, I laughed out loud when I heard co-host Liz Dolan refer to her physical fitness mantra as being “Operation Sea Turtle,” and I immediately wanted to steal it for myself and my ukulele students! I think it’s such a good mindset for beginning musicians (or anyone learning a new skill). In my book I mention that there is no real mastery of an instrument— no matter how proficient you become at playing the ukulele, there will always be more to learn. Isn’t that liberating?
While I hope you’re finding time to play regularly, there’s no need to rush things or feel frustrated by the rate at which you’re progressing (and there’s certainly no need to compare yourself to others). Play when you can, appreciate all that you’ve learned so far, and—please, oh please—play for the joy of it. This is not a race. This is Operation Sea Turtle!
Why do you play ukulele? Is it to fulfill your creative side? Are you role modeling for your children? Is being a musician an important part of your identity? When we fall out of the habit of playing regularly, sometimes we can get motivated to begin again by reminding ourselves of why we started playing in the first place.
I first started playing the uke because it was a creative outlet I could enjoy while hanging out with my young children. Now I play for a whole host of reasons, but I’m curious— What’s your reason for playing?
There’s a lot of tedious work involved in running a small business, and it can be easy for me to let the mundane administrative and bookkeeping tasks take up all the real estate in my brain. I sometimes need to remind myself to tend to my creative side. I think musicians can fall into similar ruts, so today’s Habit Hack is your reminder to not get stuck playing the stuff you’re always playing. Sometimes we need to up the ante. What sounds totally scary to you? I dare you to do it!
Here are some ideas to inspire you to be bolder with your uke practice:
Have you been to a BollyX class? BollyX is a high energy, Bollywood-inspired cardio dance workout (similar to Zumba) and, at my age, these classes are the closest I get to a night out at the club. I found the music video for my favorite BollyX song on YouTube, which has over 122 million views. “Gallan Goodiyaan,” from the movie Dil Dhadakne Do, was shot in one take (!) and features an all-star cast, including an adorable and captivating Priyanka Chopra. Please watch it:
I had quite the a-ha moment when I heard the saying comparison is the thief of joy for the first time. I was a new mom feeling envious of all my mom friends who seemed to have their acts together better than I did, and it became a maxim I repeated to myself often. I still sometimes need to remind myself of the perils of comparing myself to others, and occasionally I find myself sharing this piece of wisdom with my students (usually in group lesson settings!).
Today’s habit hack will work well for folks who enjoy using a calendar to manage their productivity— Schedule time to play! Make room for fun, and make sure you’re not letting your week get swallowed up by work, chores, errands, and other obligations. Ensure your progress as a musician by setting aside time to play your ukulele regularly, whether it’s by setting up recurring “dates” or by finding windows of time between the more mundane moments in your week. Then send me a video of what you played over on Instagram. You can find me @musicalmamasv. :)
Yesterday I suggested you put all of your song printouts and handouts into sheet protectors and stick them in a three-ring binder. Today I’m offering four free printables to help you keep your music organized and looking pretty. There’s a beach scene (for your island music), a geometric option (for your modern tastes) , a watercolor floral design (for pop music), and a beautiful meadow (for your folk tunes).
Close friends and family members know that I love to tidy. I read organizing books for fun, I enjoy cleaning out closets, and I get energized by finding new homes for the things my family no longer needs or uses. An organized life makes for an easier life, and an organized music system makes for easier playing. There’s nothing more annoying that trying to find a lost song sheet or not being able to find your beginner’s handbook!
Make playing your ukulele easier by taking a little time to organize your materials with these tips for organizing your printed chord sheets, songbooks, and digital files…
Here’s a quick hack for you today: Listen to your favorite songs and try to figure out what makes them appealing to you. What can you apply to your own playing? If you keep yourself open to inspiration and are willing to experiment, you may surprise yourself by creating something brilliant!
This week’s habit hack is one I use a lot. If I’m feeling grumpy, annoyed, or sad, I can usually lift my spirits by playing my ukulele or listening to some of my favorite songs. Music’s ability to impact our emotions is one of its most magical properties— why not take advantage of its power? The next time you’re feeling low, pick up your uke and play (and sing) for a few minutes. Or listen to some of your all-time favorite songs (maybe even a guilty pleasure or two!). Dance or sing along, and see how you’re feeling after a few songs. I’m willing to bet you’ll perk up a little bit!
PS: This also works as a parenting hack! I will have my kids choose songs for us to listen to when they need a mood boost, and it never fails to cheer them up. (Will it still work when they’re teenagers? 🤷🏻♀️ Parents of older kids, let me know!)
As I was compiling a list of some of my favorite guilty pleasure songs, I realized that “Baby” by Justin Bieber and “YMCA” by the Village People have the exact same chord progressions. So I made a mashup video because why not? Here’s how you can play along with me. . .
A guilty pleasure is something you enjoy against your better judgment. I started thinking about songs that fit into this category after hearing a Fergie song while I was in the grocery store. It took all of my self control to continue shopping like a normal person and not start crooning in the cereal aisle! I’m trying to embrace my musical tastes a bit more these days, and that—for better or worse—includes the awful songs I’m ashamed to admit I love.
Here’s a round up of five of my guilty pleasures, including the original music videos—all of which are special in their own right— plus links to uke tutorials and/or chords and lyrics in case you want to play along. Are you ready to cringe? :)
If you’re a new ukulele player trying to play along to a Youtube video, you may have been frustrated by how fast-paced some uke tutorials can be. That frustration usually stems from the fact that you’re comparing your abilities to someone (the Youtuber) who’s been playing for a lot longer than you! The ukulele has a reputation for being an easy instrument, but after you experience the high of learning your first few chords and playing your first few songs, you start to realize that there’s a lot more work to be done if you want to develop as a musician. So pause the video. Allow yourself the time and space to work on the techniques in the video at your own pace. Then try playing along with the video at a slower speed. The fabulous Katie from One Music School has a video that walks you through how to adjust the speed on any Youtube video:
Earlier this month I got to do something new—I taught a group of parent educators who lead music classes at their kids’ parent-participation school. The music classroom is already stocked with ukuleles, and the parents who lead the K-3 music program wanted to learn how to play the ukulele so they could share the fun with their students.
I led a beginner’s ukulele workshop designed to address their specific needs, covering the basics of how to play chords, how to strum, and shared tips for teaching ukulele in a classroom setting. We had a great time playing through six songs that will be fun for them to share with their students, and they knocked my socks off with their singing! I wish I had a recording to include in this post—they were harmonizing by the second song!
Here’s a review from Rosa, one of the women who attended the workshop:
A few other Moms and I took Melissa's Ukulele Workshop. Our children attend a Parent Participation school and we all teach music and were looking to pick up basics to better understand how to teach the uke. What a lovely experience! Melissa was thorough, concise, kind, and best of all, made learning a new instrument feel easy. We played several songs made up of just a couple of chords and troubleshooted basic hand shapes and positions that made playing chords so much easier. I highly recommend taking any lessons from Melissa, she's incredibly capable and was made to do this!
If you’re looking for an easier way to teach ukulele in a classroom setting, or if you’d just like to take a lesson to see if the uke is for you, contact me and we can plan a workshop just for you!
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!