In my last post, Can You REALLY Learn Ukulele in 20 Hours?, I talked about some of the principles of ‘rapid skill acquisition’ presented by Josh Kaufman in his recent book, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn ANYTHING Fast. I looked at how important it is to create time to practice by weeding out other activities that are less important, and the importance of making it easy to get started practicing.
In today’s post, let’s look at 3 more key ideas about learning something fast, or at least in the most efficient way possible.
Plan Ahead to Block Distractions
After you’re done creating a place where you can store your ukulele and associated gear for easy access, put some attention on how to block distractions before they start. It’s best if your space can be free of noise (if that distracts you), and requests for attention from family, pets, and electronic family/pets such as your smart phone, tablet, or computer. Since the ukulele is portable, maybe your practice space can be physically distant from potential distractors. If the distracting items have on/off switches or volume controls, use them! Unfortunately this doesn’t work on cats, but I do have Clare the Cat trained to curl up and sleep on the chair next to me when I am practicing. When necessary, I reinforce training with additional dried bonito flakes. See Clare in action with ukulele playing here.
Maybe you can do your practicing when family members are away, concentrating on their own activities, or asleep. You probably can’t train them with dried bonito flakes, but there might be other “treats” that can be negotiated.
Plan How to Overcome Emotional Blocks
In my almost 40 years of piano teaching experience, adult music learners often have unrealistically high expectations of how fast they ‘should’ progress. (Children are used to beginning new skills and tend to be less judgmental.) Adults also sabotage themselves by comparing themselves to others (sometimes real, more often imaginary), who are of course doing better than they are.
Finally, everyone has a different learning style and background, so things that are easy for one person may be difficult for another. As a teacher, I can definitely say I have NEVER had a student for whom everything is easy. Even the most brilliant players had to work hard at something, and the ones that improve the most quickly are those who work the hardest and who are the most patient and positive.
Tell the negative voice in your head to be quiet so you can concentrate. It is irrelevant whether you are learning faster or slower than someone else, because learning is not a race: hopefully it never ends, and you’re not in it for the prize money anyway.
Sometimes it is helpful to find a supportive other; maybe there is a friend or family member who can cheer you on. There also are a lot of great ukulele groups on Facebook and Google+ where people encourage each other and ask for help and advice.
In the final post of this series, we’ll talk about how to approach any discomfort or tension that might show up while you’re practicing.
I’d love to hear from you. What is your practice space like? What do you like about it? Have you had to overcome any emotional blocks on your path to ukulele ninja-ism? How did you do it? Any tips for others?