My brother once said that professional musicians make it look easy to play music because for them it is—they’ve practiced the songs that they perform enough where they’re unlikely to make any mistakes.
Two days out from my first in-person-before-a-crowd ukulele performance (as musical guest for Democracy Burlesque this Tuesday), I’m not to that point yet. I think I’ll do a perfectly credible job, but flawless? Unlikely.
That’s not self-dissing. In fact, I’m pretty impressed with myself. I’ve only been playing for six months, and had never played another string instrument before that, so I did not expect to be performing live by now. I didn’t actually expect to be performing live at all, but I’m not complaining.
What’s helped me to get a base level of adequateness that makes me feel okay about performing in public?
Factor A would be FAWM, the write-14-songs-in-February challenge that I attempted (and succeeded at). It consumed a lot of time, but a fair amount of that time was spent with the ukulele in hand. I wrote one of the songs on the three-song set-list during FAWM, and I learned a fair bit about the composing part of songwriting (well, I got introduced to the Circle of Fifths, which I hadn’t really comprehended beforehand) which made composing a second song that I’ll be performing way way easier.
Factor B is CHUG, the Chicago Ukulele Group. Now, I’ve only made it to 2 of the monthly jams—I’ve been out of town or in rehearsal for the other three—but the first one I attended was when I had had the uke for just about three weeks and didn’t have a clue about it. Going there gave me some direction in how to proceed when I really had none. Plus, they made me do a solo, sight-reading, of “I’m a Believer.” Surviving your first one of those is always a big confidence boost.
Factor C… well, you can’t get away from it. Practice. I’ve been reasonably diligent, if I do say so myself. And the past couple weeks, moreso. I’ve probably been annoying the neighbors, though, since I’ve been doing the same three songs over and over again; I’ve actually taken to playing in the closet* in hopes of minimizing that.
So that’s my strategy toward becoming a ukulele hero in three easy steps. Follow them to achieve fame and fortune, or at least a one-off performance for a political sketch comedy troupe.
*This isn’t as bad as it sounds; I live in a small studio apartment, but the closet is relatively huge. You could use it as an office if you didn’t have to hang clothes up.