One of my musical mentors Danny used to practice drums early in his career every day for eight hours… or until his fingers were bleeding.
“You’re kidding me,” I laughed the first time he told me this.
He wasn’t kidding.
I’ve learned a lot from Danny and his work ethic. For him, he wanted to be a career musician and his discipline allowed him to do just that.
But, if you’re anything like me, chances are you don’t have eight hours a day to practice or the desire to play until your fingers are bleeding!
Fortunately, there’s an easier way.
Playing ukulele is about experiencing the joy of making music.
If playing ukulele is about experiencing joy, then, why does practice sometimes feel so overwhelming?
Here are the most common reasons I know from my own experience and from talking with you.
See if you relate:
- I don’t have the time. Life is busy. Family, work, children, grandchildren, traveling, home projects… it’s a lot.
- I don’t know what to practice. When you actually find the time, you ask yourself, “Where did I leave off? What do I even practice next?”
- I’m frustrated I can’t play a certain song or technique. When this happens, the tendency is to think there’s something wrong with me (i.e., I don’t have natural musical talent).
Let’s get beyond these frustrations and find a better, simpler way to practice.
A Simple 15-Minute Ukulele Practice Method
No one learns how to do anything without dedicating time. This is true for learning to play ukulele.
Fortunately, It doesn’t take hours a day to get better at ukulele.
15 minutes per day is all it takes.
I’ve talked before about finding your reason, your place, and your focus when it comes to playing ukulele. I also gave some practical tips for finding time in your busy schedule to play ukulele.
If 15 minutes is all you have, then, I recommend making the most of it and breaking it up into three 5-minute parts.
First 5 Minutes – Pick a Familiar Song
Don’t start off your practice session by taking on the latest Jake Shimabukuro arrangement!
For the first five minutes, take the first minute to stretch the wrists, hands, and fingers by opening and closing the hands and fingers. While doing this, focus on your breathing.
After that first minute, start with a familiar song you already know how to play and that you love to play. If you’re brand new, start with the most basic chord and strumming you can muster.
This gets the fingers and mind ready to go!
Next 5 Minutes – Pick One Exercise
Next, select one new exercise or one you’ve already been working on perfecting.
Just pick one!
The biggest mistake new ukulele players make is trying to focus on too many different things at once. Don’t try to do it all at one time! You will get there.
To be effective at practice in a short amount of time, just focus on one thing.
This could be a scale, strumming pattern, fingerpicking pattern, chord change exercise, metronome exercise, music-reading exercise, rhythm exercise, memorization exercise, etc.
If you’re scratching head wondering how to come up with these exercises, then, I’d recommend having a teacher give you exercises to practice based on your current skill level and interests. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to tackle an exercise that is outside the scope of your own capabilities.
Where in the last step, you warmed up the fingers and mind, the goal for this part is to challenge and stretch your fingers and your mind.
Last 5 Minutes – Pick a New Song
Lastly, pick a new song to learn.
Ideally, this song should be one that uses the new skill or technique you’ve been practicing in the last 5 minutes. Again, it’s important to learn a new song that is challenging but isn’t too far out of reach based on your current skill level. This is where a good ukulele teacher can help you.
As you practice this new, more difficult song, you might break up the song into micro-goals, such as:
“I’m going to learn all the chords positions for this song,”
“I’m going to learn the first four measures of this song.”
The goal isn’t to be able to play the song perfectly in one practice session but to chip away at in small chunks.
Learning harder songs like this is ultimately what helps you improve your skills as a ukulele player. Plus, playing songs and making music what it’s all about!
It’s Your Turn to Make Sweet-Sounding Music
Practicing ukulele isn’t rocket science, but it helps to have a plan.
By practicing this way, you avoid getting caught up in playing difficult, unfamiliar material, but you also find new ways to challenge yourself to help you play the songs you love on ukulele.
Remember it’s better to play for a little bit of time each day rather than doing a marathon practice session once in a blue moon.
Don’t try to learn it all at once. Learning to play ukulele is a journey.
Embrace and accept where you’re at and know that you are improving each day!
Why not join me in the Strumming Tricks or Fingerpicking Tricks online video lesson courses now? You have the exact steps, exercises, and songs leading the way.
Everything in Strumming Tricks and Fingerpicking Tricks is designed to go at your own pace and make the music that you love.
Remember, it’s better to pick up your ukulele for just a few minutes each day than never at all.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing the immediate results you want right away. None of us are immune to these challenges.
You can do this!