First of all, a good uke player needs some good strings, that’s why we wrote a guide on some great soprano ukulele strings if you’re interested in that. But what sets a good player apart from a not-so-good one is the knowledge that he or she has, how that knowledge is applied, and the mental attitude that the player shows.
Understanding the theory
One of the things that separate good ukulele players from mediocre ones is the fact that the best players always know the theory before starting to perform a song. You can’t have a complete playing experience if you don’t put the notes and the chords together. There are some people that play without having any knowledge of how music works, but those are really talented people that have a lot of playing experience behind them.
However, you can improve a lot faster if you’re a beginner and know how music works. Furthermore, if you know the theory, you are also able to start writing the music on your own. With experience, you will also be able to pick up the sounds of songs and then perform them yourself only by hearing the music.
Playing the ukulele, like any other instrument, is like answering example questions in an exam. You can memorize all the answers and then put them out on a piece of paper – that’s like playing the violin without having any knowledge of the theory behind the song. Or you can learn why those answers are true and how they can apply in other situations – that’s learning the music theory.
Fortunately, you have a myriad of sources from which you can draw your knowledge in the art of playing the ukulele. You can find books that teach you how to read music and understand chord progression, but you can also use the power of the internet and find almost everything there, including personalized lessons, if you need them.
The scales and chords are important
Closely tied with the concept of music theory is the idea of understanding the scales. Because the basics of music are the same no matter the instrument you play it on, scales are also the same on all instruments, so if you have some background knowledge of playing a guitar or piano, you will have an easier time practicing.
Some good ukulele players are also those who played a different instrument beforehand. But that’s not necessarily the case. However, if you want to be a good player you must know the scales. The uke has separations called frets that each constitute a half-step, and that means two frets make a whole-step or a musical note.
These notes go from A to G, and between them, for each half-step, you have sharp and flat notes. A sharp A means you’re a half-step above A and a flat A means you’re a half-step below it.
Players that consider themselves good should know how these scales work, as they help in understanding everything else and they make playing the uke easier.
If you want to be a decent ukulele player you must also know how chords are created, as that is the basic thing you’ll be doing when you start. Although there are maybe 5 main chords that songs usually make use of, there are many other chords that you will have to master if you want to play more difficult songs.
There are different ways in which a chord can be formed and that’s why some chords can get really complicated, but you shouldn’t worry, as the basic variations are major, minor and 7th chords, and they aren’t that hard to learn. You have to memorize each chord and each of these variations for the specific chord.
When you also know where each musical note is placed on the ukulele, learn all the chords within each note, and practice by changing them while strumming. Switching between chords is most often the more complicated part, and some chords require more patience to learn well and change perfectly.
People prefer learning these transitions by playing fun, well-known pieces of music, so you can do that as well. However, having a strong music theory knowledge will help you greatly in these situations.
They have a practice schedule
Good uke players know that they can’t just practice once in a while; that way they never learn more. So in order to get the most of your uke, you need to have a practice schedule. While some beginners think it’s alright if they sit in one place and strum for an hour or so, that’s not the best solution.
Improvements only come when you get yourself organized and start practicing day-by-day. You can get to know a few songs if you play for an hour once in a while, but you won’t be able to truly understand the instrument. Good players focus on 2 separate things – the technical aspects of the practice, and the attitude.
While we mostly discussed the technical part, we should now put more emphasis on the attitude and how it influences if you can become a great player or not. Although you can theoretically set yourself a schedule, to play 2 hours each day, for example, the way you approach those 2 hours are what matters most.
It’s not enough to make a plan, you also have to stick to it, even if sometimes you don’t feel like it. If you only play songs that you enjoy and only when you’ll enjoy them, you won’t be playing too much at all. You will eventually get a habit of it and the practice time will become a pleasure.
The first few weeks are more difficult and probably frustrating if you don’t see any progress. But if you give enough importance to your practice sessions you will see you get better every time. To become the best uke player that you can be, stay true to your plan and set practice sessions when you’re least likely to be interrupted.
If you feel you’re losing interest, remind yourself that constant practice is what sets good players apart from mediocre ones.
They were patient
Taking all of the above into account, you may wonder how good players keep their composure, how they are able to do the same thing over and over again. The short answer to that is that they look for the greater goal and keep being patient until they reach that goal. When you start playing the instrument, you can’t expect to become the best uke player on the planet.
You should, at first, focus more on improving gradually and doing that in the right way. And if you rush things up, you won’t be able to do that. Take everything at your own pace, and if you feel you’re progressing much slower than you would expect, keep calm and don’t get frustrated.
Beginners often struggle with theory and scales, so if you can get those learned, you’re almost there. Understanding them is the key for every successful ukulele player. Good players know that and that’s why they take enough time to learn every new thing that the music sheet throws at them, so you should do the same if you’re a beginner.
Even if practice sessions don’t seem to bring any improvement, good players will be pleased that they did the best they could and that will eventually lead to great results.
But don’t forget that you don’t want this thing to become a nuisance. As we said, the first weeks can be hard, but after that, you should find joy in playing the ukulele, and if you can’t do that, it might be best if you don’t set your ambitions too high. Instead, play what you like and don’t struggle too much. That won’t make you the best, but it will let you enjoy the instrument while you play it.