Lockdown Learning – The Ukulele!

I’ve always loved the island vibe, and the chilled surfy culture that comes with it.  Probably has a lot to do with growing up in North Devon, and solidified in my couple of trips to Hawaii, which were both amazing.

I’ve also always been fairly musical. I grew up playing wind instruments, the piano (badly!) and singing in choirs.  As I’ve gotten older I don’t do much of it any more, but a good car karaoke session certainly makes my soul feel good.

I’ve vaguely thought about playing the ukulele for a while, and somewhere in the high-fever early days of coronavirus and lockdown in March I decided now was the time!  I felt like if ever there was a time to transport yourself to somewhere else through learning and music this was it!   Thankfully Amazon came through and I had my very first Uke and was raring to go.  Learning Uke over the last 3-4 months has honestly been a real joy and I’m so glad I did it. 

Watching how I learn

I’ve always been interested in learning and recently my job changed to leading our Leadership Development function, so now it’s my job too! There’s a few things that I’ve come across over the years that I could so clearly see playing out in myself as I learn which I found pretty fascinating! Do any of them sound familiar?!

  1. The Dunning Kruger effect is real. This is the phenomenon where people who are doing something new or who aren’t highly skilled at something will often vastly overestimate their ability – Illusory Superiority. The opposite is also true, those who are more skilled, but also know there’s a lot more to learn, will often underestimate the amount of skill they have.  The first day I played for hours and hours. I thought I was a Ukulele genius.  For sure, I can learn a new instrument more quickly drawing on my musical background, but I’ve never played a string instrument before, and really I was just playing one chord at a time and relying on decent vocal skills to be able to put a song together.  I thought I was so awesome I happily videoed myself and sent it to pretty much everyone I know!    A few days later I was so frustrated by my ability, I realised just how shit I was and I didn’t want to do it anymore! I then had to find a way out of that frustration so that I could start really progressing.  It really amused me to see something that I know happens play out so literally in myself.
The Dunning Kruger Curve

2. Sleeping on it really does help. Your brain needs daily repetition practice and sleep to be able to form new neural pathways.    I took a Coursera course last year called Learning how to Learn which I learnt about this in.  I found this particularly with learning new strumming rhythms that I can practice over and over and still not get it. Sleep on it, and the next day I could just do it!  I love how clever our brains are!

The importance of sleep in learning
  1. Don’t over-think it.  I literally have have a post-it thats permanently stuck to my monitor that says “What would happen if I just trusted my brain?”. Well, I guess I’m still learning that lesson.  I have found that if I try to over-analyse the strum or rhythm I’m trying to learn, by counting too much or worrying about getting it wrong, it really doesn’t help.  Turns out when I just trust my musical ability and my brain to “just play”, it comes out just fine.   It’s a good reminder on something that I’ve been working on for a lifetime.
What would happen if I just trusted my brain?

Learning to play the Ukulele in Lockdown has been a real joy and has provided structure, purpose and reminded me of my love of making music. It’s also great escapism, I can pretend I’m sitting on a beach in Hawaii in the sun and ignoring being in the middle of a pandemic. And I think that was just what I needed.

If you are interested in beginner Ukulele resources: