What learning to play the ukulele is teaching me about patience, curiosity, encouragement, community and creativity.
I bought my husband a ukulele for Christmas because he already has five guitars and I thought he might enjoy it. I attended the first jam with him, intending to just sing along (I love to sing) and noticed how many people were learning to play. Let’s just say I got inspired.
What you need to know is I’ve never played an instrument. There was the trombone in grade nine that I never did manage to get a sound out of, so that doesn’t count. I have supervised many a piano and then string practice with our kids. But I have never played.
Back to the ukulele jam. It was so crowded that there was room only for ukulele players. I realized if I wanted to sing I would need to learn to play. How hard could it be? We discovered a long forgotten ukulele in the basement, left over from when our boys were young. We downloaded the songbook from our local ukulele group and I started to practice. I practised for a month and went to my first jam as a player. My goal for that evening was to sing and play the three chords I knew. And to take breaks and enjoy the process.
I’ve continued practising most evenings, and have also been going to ukulele boot camps and practices. Each time I add a new skill to my repertoire it gets really hard and I descend to what my ukulele teacher Bryan calls the “Trough of disillusionment”. For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to learn some strumming patterns. When I started trying to strum I found I forgot all of the chords I knew. For a while I could either strum or play chords, and don’t even think about trying to strum and sing at the same time.
Last night I had a breakthrough. I played some familiar songs and was able to change chords and strum! Now the strumming was not exactly on beat and the songs were at a snail’s pace, but what a thrill it was. I felt like a real musician.
Tonight I’m heading out to the jam. I’m setting my expectations low. I hope to hit most chords before the group has moved on to the next chord, and to sing and try my hand at strumming. And smile a lot. Because I’m doing it! I’m learning to play an instrument.
I love being part of this musical ukulele community, comprised of people of all ages and abilities. Part of what keeps me going is celebrating the small steps and taking joy in the process. I’m paying attention to my self-talk, and I’m owning the praise and encouragement that I’m receiving from friends and family for being brave and fearless.
And here’s the creativity part. “Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing.” Creativityatwork.com
When I make space for creativity in one part of my life (learning to play the ukulele) I experience an increased ability to focus on my work. I have more energy and enthusiasm to do the things I need to do. I also find that making space to work on this new skill is opening up creative ideas in other parts of my life, including my business.