As a teacher, I do my best to make learning the ‘ukulele fun and informative for all of my students. But I’m not magic. Even though I am hired as the person to oversee the “knowledge transfer” process, I can’t conjure up pure skill and beam it into the student’s head. If I could I would have already made my millions. Since neither the teacher or student are magic, here’s how I feel any student can increase the productivity of their lessons, no matter who they are studying with.
Find a teacher that suits your style. Do you want a strict, 6-hours-a-day-of-practice sort of teacher or would you rather just have some guidance while strumming through Jack Johnson tunes on the weekend? Not every teacher excels at the same things. Look for somebody who plays in a style similar to what you strive for or like.
Set some realistic goals or expectations. Make some short-term ones and also some long-term ones so you can evaluate your progress. It helps me a lot if a student shows up with a clear idea where they want to be in a few months or a year. Then we can be working on specific things that will move them closer to the goal. Examples:
Good, specific goals:
- “Be able to easily add the chop strum to pop songs like I’m Yours.”
- “I want to show up at a jam and just play without needing any sheets.”
- “My goal is to get to a point where I can arrange my own solo jazz pieces.”
Less helpful, vague goals:
- “I want to be really good at the ‘ukulele!”
- “Learn lots of songs.”
- “Teach me to play like Jake.”
Make a list and see what you come up with!
Before The Lesson
Review what was covered the following week and what you have practiced. How did you do? The hope is that you have gotten comfortable enough with the current assignment(s) to move onto something new. If you are struggling with the material after sufficient practice then you might want to use part of the lesson to discuss tips, tricks, and/or alternatives to make it easier.
Prepare some questions about what you’ve been working on. Surely there is some part of the past week’s material that you could further improve. Questions let you guide the lesson to areas that you find interesting or important. It’s also a chance to solicit opinions about strings, new things you’ve been working on independently, or something your saw Jake do in concert. Just try to keep the random questions in their own section of the lesson.
Tune your ‘ukulele right before the lesson. Time is money and the minutes it takes to tune during a lesson can be used in more valuable ways.
During The Lesson
Be prompt. If the lesson is at 11am, be there. Time you miss is time lost.
Have everything you need within your reach – ‘ukulele, tuner, sheets, stand, iPad, etc… It helps keep the flow going if you don’t have to dig through your case for that missing song sheet.
Take notes or record the lesson. Music is hard to remember and you’ll thank yourself later.
After The Lesson
Practice, practice, practice. Without working on the materials or techniques presented in the lesson you won’t be ready for the next one. The more you practice, the better you get and the faster you progress.