How to Organize Your Chord Sheets and Songbooks

How to Organize Your Chord Sheets and Songbooks

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…

Habit Hack: Use Music to Improve Your Mood

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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!)

Habit Hack: Pause the Video!

Habit Hack: Pause the Video!

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:

Habit Hack: Play with a Metronome

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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! 

Habit Hack #4: Sing!

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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!

Introducing Habit Hacks, a New Weekly Series

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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!

My Number One Tip for Beginning Musicians

My Number One Tip for Beginning Musicians

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: 

The Easiest Way to Hang Your Ukulele

The Easiest Way to Hang Your Ukulele

In need of an easy method for displaying your string instrument? Look no further! Here's a super simple way to hang your ukulele, using just a few materials you probably have lying around the house already. Ready for the quickest tutorial ever? Let's go... 

No, You Don't Need to Practice Every Day

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. 

You Can Take It With You!

Heading out of town this summer? Don't forget to pack your uke! 

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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...

 

Quick Tip: Put It on a Stand

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. 

IKEA RIMFORSA Tablet Stand, Bamboo

IKEA RIMFORSA Tablet Stand, Bamboo

Happy strumming!

Incorporating Your Instrument into Your Decor

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.

 

Stands

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.

my desk, aka where the magic happens

my desk, aka where the magic happens

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. 

in my living room

in my living room

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!

 

Hooks

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!

Finding Time to Play at Home

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!