There has never been a more convenient time to start recording your ukulele playing. Not too long ago, the practice of recording music was reserved for professional musicians and those who could afford to pay for studio time. These days, well — the technology to do so is sitting in your hands as you read this. Every personal device comes equipped with basic sound recording software at the very least. Plus, since we’re all spending more time at home, why not learn a new skill that will help you take your ukulele playing to the next level? It doesn’t matter if you’re a new or experienced player, a casual strummer or an aspiring virtuoso — recording can help you improve from wherever you’re at. Let’s take a look at some of the different ways you can utilize recording to improve your playing and enhance your overall ukulele experience.
Quick Note: we’ll cover the technical aspects of recording in the next article, but for now, just know that all you need to get started is your phone, tablet, or laptop. A simple voice memo or video recording is all you’ll need to make use of the ideas listed below.
CRITIQUE YOUR PLAYING
Recording is a handy practice tool because it gives you a second set of ears to listen to your playing with. Remember the first time you heard a recording of yourself talking and thought, “Is that really what my voice sounds like?” Your ukulele playing is no different — what you hear when you play is different than what everyone else hears. Unlike your own ears, a recording is honest and unbiased. Listening to and critiquing recordings of your own playing is an important step if you want to start making some serious progress.
A great place to start is to use your recordings to identify which parts of songs are tripping you up the most, and thus which parts you should practice more. Maybe you notice that every time you transition to an E chord, the song slows down a bit because your fretting hand is a little slow getting into position. So, during your next practice session, you can block out some time to focus solely on the transition to the E chord. As another example, if you like to sing while you play, maybe you notice that you keep messing up the strumming pattern when you sing a certain line. Now you know to focus on that line and practice it until it feels comfortable.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
As you practice and develop your skills on the ukulele, recording allows you to keep track of your progress more accurately than a journal or your memory can. When you’re practicing every day, it can be hard to see improvements being made, which is discouraging. However, if you record yourself playing a song that you’re learning, spend a few days practicing it, record yourself playing it again, and then listen to the two recordings back to back, the improvements you’ll have made will be clear.
Over time, you’ll build up an archive of recordings that allows you to hear how your playing has developed over the years. For example, I have recordings on my computer from six years ago, when I had only been playing for a few months. When I compare those to more recent recordings, the difference is astonishing. Your recording archive is a great way to keep track of how far you’ve come, which is super motivating, regardless of where you’re at on your ukulele playing journey.
PLAY ALONG WITH YOURSELF
Another great way to utilize recording is as a means for playing multiple parts at once. Once you have a recording of yourself, you can then play along with it. In addition to being another excellent practice tool, this is also where recording ukulele starts to get fun, and the potential for endless creativity takes off.
As a practice tool, playing along with a recording of yourself allows you to work on things that you couldn’t otherwise, like playing a solo or singing harmony parts. This can enrich your practice sessions and help you progress in new directions. It’s like having another musician to practice with, only they’re always available and won’t get tired of playing the same thing over and over again.
Additionally, being able to play along with yourself adds a whole new dimension of fun to your ukulele experience. In the next two articles, we’ll learn about recording software and how you can add multiple layers to your recordings. However, you really only need a single layer of recording to experience the joy of playing along with yourself on the ukulele.
You can try it out right now with your phone or computer. The chords and melody for “When The Saints Go Marching In” are written below for you to use as a simple example to start with. When you’re ready, open up your voice memos or video camera, press record, and play through the chord progression. You may find it helpful to count to four out loud before you start playing so that you know when to start the melody. Then, play the recording back and try playing the melody along with it.
SHARE YOUR WORK
Of course, one of the best things about being a ukulele player is getting to be part of the vast community of uke enthusiasts around the world. Once you start recording your playing, you’ll be able to share it with others via social media, ukulele forums, etc. While this can be scary at first, it’s a great way to get honest feedback that will help improve your playing. Plus, knowing that other people are going to hear your playing is a good way to motivate yourself to practice more. Working hard to practice a song and then getting a positive response from others when you share it creates a super rewarding feeling that will motivate and encourage you as you progress along your ukulele journey.
In the next article, we’ll go over the fundamentals of recording and the next steps towards creating high-quality recordings — equipment, software, tips and tricks, etc. However, as we’ve discussed in this article, the main benefits of recording your ukulele playing only require a basic form of recording technology to achieve. Now go try it out!