In his book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn ANYTHING Fast, Josh Kaufman describes how he mastered and performed a four-chord song on the ukulele in a very short time. I forget whether it was one week or two weeks, but his performance definitely fell under the heading ‘rapid skill acquisition’, which is his phrase for learning new things quickly.
But although Josh can learn a four chord song really fast, can you?
Well my answer is unfortunately rather vague: it depends. It depends on your previous musical background and your practicing skills. But I think the more important question is, why not go ahead and TRY to learn some ukulele in 20 hours? What have you got to lose other than some free time?
One thing Josh is definitely right about is that it matters a lot exactly how you spend your 20 hours of practicing.
Josh certainly has learned more skills rapidly than I have. But I have spent thousands more hours watching beginners tackle new musical skills than he has. So, I thought I’d offer my personal take on how his principles of rapid skill acquisition how apply to learning ukulele.
I’ve organized my thoughts by using some of the principles Josh presents in his book. You might enjoy reading the book as you start working on ukulele. But DON’T compare your progress to his. Josh was anything but a musical beginner when he started learning ukulele. He already had experience singing in a choir. He also has some practice with the ukulele’s two handed strum/chord coordination. Because he had previously played some guitar.
So here goes: key concepts numbers one and two.
1. Make time to practice
The time you spend practicing ukulele must come from somewhere else in your schedule. You will not “find” time in a big pile under a bush somewhere. We all are allotted 24 hours per day. Some you must dedicate to work, and some to caring for yourself or loved ones. The hours that remain are what you have left to learn the ukulele. You must take a hard look at your schedule. And see if you can eliminate other activities that are less important to you than learning ukulele.
Another important fact about learning something new is the more time you spend working on it each day, the fewer days it will take to learn. And the faster you get good at ukulele, the more you will enjoy it. The enjoyment will make it easier to choose ukulele practice over, say, watching TV or cruising Facebook.
2. Make starting easy
If possible, create a space where you can keep your gear set up so that you can get started quickly when practice time rolls around. Failing that, try to store your gear to minimize setup time. Concert pianist Robert Henry likes to stress the importance of what can be accomplished in short bursts of practice (2-3 minutes). But if you have to spend 20 minutes finding your ukulele and folding the laundry on top of it before you can begin, you might burn up all your available practice time before you play a note.
My sister and I think how you practice is so crucial to learning that we have included many practice tips in our book 21 Songs in 6 Days. When you’re just getting started with music, learning HOW to practice is probably the most important thing to learn. So we guide you step by step on how to master all the crucial basic skills in ukulele playing such as changing chords while you maintain a steady strum.
What do you think? Have you been able to make quick progress on the ukulele or other musical instruments? What seemed to be the key factors for you?