In a fit of passion to improve what I consider to be a fairly good singing voice and have the nonchalant grace of musicians, I set out to buy, and subsequently learn, what many people call and think to be a miniature guitar – the ukulele. It is a fairly small and easy instrument to learn, you can play a multitude of songs, and it is a nice thing to brag about. Here is how my self-learning is going through –
- It is about the basics –
It is inevitable (if you are a normal person) that once you get your hand on any musical instrument, you would immediately want to play your favourite song. But I realized it was a very different ballgame when I actually held the ukulele as opposed to watching my friend play it. The strings? They need to be on a particular note. The knobs? They need to be turned to achieve those notes. Your hands? They will get caught up in the strings the first few time you will start to play, such that you will want to rip them off. There are major and minor chords, strumming patterns, beats to follow and diagrams to learn. Even when you are rational and know that you will have to start with the basics, it can boggle you how many basics are involved.
- And patience –
And you won’t get them all straight in one go, which is what I had naively thought. So, patience and practice became the order of the day. Again, even when you are rational about this, you can easily underestimate how much of both will be required, as I did. Perhaps it is more about overestimating your own discipline and skills. Five minutes is not enough for you to acquire the muscle memory to strum, but you’d be tempted to think so nevertheless. But it is still relatively easy to pick up the necessary basics, so I found my patience being rewarded soon enough, thus teaching me a valuable lesson – if I throw less tantrums, I might waste less time, practice more, and acquire skills sooner.
- Practice makes perfect, and thus, perfect requires pain –
As I set out to learn the chords, I would inevitably bend over to see the neck of the ukulele properly, thus giving myself a backache within the hour. Strumming meant that the flesh of my fingers suffered. My pride took a sucker punch every time I broke rhythm or caught my hands in the strings – I had honestly thought I had some musical inclinations. Maybe I do, but they surely need brushing. It is not really pain, to be honest. It is mostly discomfort. But the fact that I had to face even the latter in a thing I was supposed to enjoy is a harsh realization, but maybe an important one. No matter how much you love to do a thing, it will not be a walk in the park.
- The Internet is Amazing –
Ten, fifteen years ago, it would have been almost impossible for me to learn the ukulele on my own, without a teacher. I could have gone about collecting study materials such books and notes, but it would have surely cost money – and I would not have been confident of the results. Now, there are dedicated websites that teach me everything I can think of – how to hold my instrument, how to take care of it, what are the shortcuts and know-hows and the like. Video uploads can help me know if what I am playing is on point or not, and just the knowledge that others out there are doing what I am is an immense source of confidence.
- Don’t be Afraid to Pursue Your Passions –
For the longest time, I was really hesitant about purchasing a musical instrument – is my singing really good? Will I actually be able to learn it? What if I goof up and I am so embarrassed that I would have no choice but to drop everything and become an isolated sheep herder in Iceland? But nothing happened. I play, I learn, I make mistakes, and above all, I love the time I spend with myself, doing something I love. It gave me confidence to chase after more things that I want, to not be afraid and to enjoy something I love without the fear of judgement.