Category Archives: How to practice

UD#72 Seeing With the Fingers

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Seeing With the Fingers (UD#72) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   One of my students recently put a lot of work into playing without looking at his hands. The resulting change in his playing and confidence was just so startling that I really wanted to write about it in today’s newsletter.   The Puppeteer… We were in a lesson and I noticed just how much my student was “looming” over his fingers, trying to keep his eyes on everything that was going on. He was also having a really tough time getting the fingers of the left   …Continue Reading


UD#71 Remembering Lyrics: What’s My Next Line?

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Remembering Lyrics: What’s My Next Line? (UD#71) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   One thing for sure, these days we don’t have to do as much remembering as we used to. With Google we can look up things we need to know at anytime. Our phones remember phone numbers for us. The musician standing in front of an iPad and singing songs is a ubiquitous sight. Obviously, it’s a big advantage for a musician to not need to be tethered to some kind of device to remember lyrics. There is great freedom in that. Also, it’s very   …Continue Reading


UD#67 Good Tone From the Start

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Good Tone From the Start (UD#67) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   Most players start out picking single notes with the thumb. So, one of the things that I have been trying to teach more clearly is how to get a good clean robust tone when you pick that way. I’ll talk about this technique today as it relates to picking AND to my first love on the uke. Here is a little video from the studio. I am playing “Danny Boy,” a song that appears in The Chord Melody Book for Ukulele: If you watch the   …Continue Reading


UD#66 Make Friends with your Metronome

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Make Friends With Your Metronome (UD#66) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek When we play in groups the timing issue can sometimes get a little bumpy. Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Play a little quicker. You are dragging! No! A little slower. You were a little late on that note. Hmmmmmm….You were just a pinch early.” What a nightmare! Consider this for a moment. When you are playing music with someone, the sound leaves their instrument and enters your ear and is perceived by you AFTER it happens. Same goes for the sound coming off your instrument   …Continue Reading


UD#65 Carrying a Tune!

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Carrying a Tune! (UD#65) from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek   I have a lot of students who claim to “not be able to carry a tune.” These are often people who have been labelled “tone deaf,” or have been asked to “just mouth the words” instead of singing. How heart breaking! Many of these people love music but feel that they simply can’t and never will be able to sing. The happy news is that in all my time teaching I have not had one student who couldn’t learn to “carry a tune.” Maybe there are people   …Continue Reading


UD#52 Trimming Away: How to Simplify Song Sheets

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Trimming Away: How to Simplify Song Sheets  (UD#52) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Today I want to talk about simplifying song sheets and chord charts. Sometimes it can be handy to know how to “trim down” or simplify chords on the fly. This is particularly true when you sit down to play with others. Sometimes there’s no time to look up chords you don’t know. It can help to know what your options are. I thought I would put together a few words on this subject today. CHORD CHART SURVIVAL: I often find myself saying something like   …Continue Reading


UD#50 Tablature: The Secret of the Shapes in the Numbers

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Tablature: The Secret of the Shapes in the Numbers, The Forest for the Trees (UD#50) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek In today’s article I want to talk about a common challenge that many of my students experience when they are reading tablature. Okay let’s get going… As many of you know, I am a big fan of learning music by ear. But, the reality is that we often have to learn music from the the written page. Either in STANDARD NOTATION. Like this:   Or in TABLATURE (often referred to as tab for short) like this:     …Continue Reading


UD#46 Stopping and Starting: Building Fluidity in Your Playing

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UD #46  Stopping and Starting: Building Fluidity In Your Playing from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek “I have some pieces that I know quite well but I can’t seem to play them smoothly. Especially in front of an audience. How can I work on that?” I want to share with you two approaches to practicing that I feel help with fluidity in playing. You can try one or both of these exercises. They work with any level of piece, from picking the melody of Mary Had a Little Lamb to a sophisticated solo chord melody arrangement. Remember you’ll   …Continue Reading


UD#37 Horse First Then The Cart: One String Melodies

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UD#37 Horse First Then The Cart: One String Melodies from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek LETTING THE INNER MUSIC LEAD YOUR FINGERS: I remember being amazed by this experience when I was a kid: I used to listen to the same album again and again. I became so familiar with the songs on the record that when one song finished, the next song would “pop” into my head before the song had even started. This always seemed magical. Have you ever had a similar experience?This effect is one of the most magical things about music making: When you   …Continue Reading


UD#31 The Power of Ukuless Practice? (Mental Rehearsal)

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UD#31 The Power of Ukuless Practice?  (Mental Rehearsal) from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek I’ve got a show coming up at the end of the month.  So I’ve been thinking this thought a lot: “ACK! I’ve got to practice!” For most people (and me), practice means playing things again and again until they get them right. The problem is that practicing this way can be very tiring! And when you have a lot of things to practice you may not have the energy to practice this way. (Oh, my aching fingers!) When my hands need a rest but   …Continue Reading


UD#15 Gripping the Uke too Tight?

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Gripping the Uke too Tight? from Ukulele in the Dark w/ Guido Heistek Gripping the uke too tight? Maybe this will help. 1. TO THE FRET, NOT TO THE WOOD! Let me explain. To play an A note you can pluck the A string. To get other notes on that string you place your finger in the space between two frets. For example to play a B note you place your finger where the dot is in this diagram. Right? The note changes because the string comes to rest on one of the frets and becomes temporarily shortened. A shorter   …Continue Reading