Ukulele Cross Training

(this one should be sub-titled, “or… Don’t Give Up!”)

I often read on the ukulele forums where someone feels they’ve hit a plateau and aren’t making any more progress. I’ve had the feeling too but just the other day something happened that made me rethink that whole scenario.

When busking season starts to ramp up I’ll go back over tunes I haven’t played in a while.

It’s always nice to have some extra tunes when, like me, you’re playing in a public market setting a lot. The folks that are set up near the busking spots appreciate a change up occasionally.

In any event, I was brushing up on the I’m Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody medley I do when it hit me. One of the difficult chord changes in the tune was suddenly quite easy, even though I haven’t worked on this particular change in a long while. I call this phenomenon Ukulele Cross Training. I have been playing other tunes with tough (for me) changes in them and my finger flexibility and general “chord grabbing juju” has gone up. The juju transfered over beautifully to this chord change.

I’m sure this cross-training thing works for other instruments as well.

So the moral of the story is… if you feel you’re not making any progress, you’re probably wrong. You are making progress, it just may not be in the area you’re currently working on.

So don’t give up.

Oh, and in case you’re curious the chord change—with lyrics—is: [F]There will [Fmaj]come a [F7]day… as in “There will come a day when youth will pass away.” The chords look like this:

F major in C tuning F major 7 in C tuning F7 in C tuning

I finger the F major with my middle finger on the 4th string, second fret, and my index finger on the 2nd string, first fret, and leave both in place for the next two chords.

The problem arose because on the Fmaj7 I need to use my pinkie finger on the 3rd string, fourth fret and my ring finger on the 1st string, third fret, which is the exact opposite of how I hold the F7 (pinkie on 3rd fret, first string and ring on 3rd fret, third string). I use that F7 shape all up and down the neck—huzzah for movable chord shapes!—and my fingers fall into it without much thought. Suddenly having to go to the other shape, and only holding it for about a beat before going to the “normal” shape, caused me all sorts of grief.

But not anymore.

Lastly, just because I have to do it that way does not mean you do. That’s just the way I can comfortably grab these chords with my broad, square paws. You work out whatever’s best for your hands.

Now go practice. You are getting better!

(Note: originally posted on April 20, 2009 on the old version of my personal blog)

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