I didn’t intend to start a musical challenge. All I wanted to do was learn the ukulele. In the summer of 2015, I wandered into a music store to buy a uke, and a book to help me learn how to play. That’s when I found Liz and Jim Beloff’s “The Daily Ukulele: 365 Songs for Better Living” and the idea for a musical challenge began.
The foreword of the book states: “Along with an apple a day, a daily allowance of vitamins and minerals and a daily constitutional…playing music regularly is one of the healthiest lifestyle habits you can practice. It makes you smarter. It makes you laugh. And it even has romantic advantages.” How could I resist? If I played the ukulele everyday, would I learn how to play and have a better outlook on life? Starting August 1, 2015, I embarked on 365 days of Ukulele as prescribed by Liz and Jim Beloff. As I’m not someone who does things in half measures, I decided to not only learn a song every day, but to record it and post it on YouTube.
The benefits of doing a challenge like this were somewhat unexpected. Yes – my playing got better day after day. The songs I could play became harder and more complicated. But I also felt happier. It was the creative outlet I really needed. I also roped in friends to join me in playing songs when they were visiting me, or when I traveled. No matter where I went, my camera, tripod, and ukulele went with me. I filmed episodes in London, Palm Springs, Edmonton (Canada), and Orlando. It also gave me an outlet for what I was feeling. I gave tributes to artists who passed away, picked songs dedicated to friends for special occasions, and I even took requests.
What completely surprised me is how Daily Ukulele helped me reconnect to old friends. A friend from Junior High privately shared videos of her piano playing with me. Another forwarded me videos of his daughters dancing along to my uke rendition of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. I only made it to day 222. We had a friend staying over, and I thought I could just skip a day. Once I stopped though, I stopped the challenge forever. I was more exhausted by the daily schedule then I realized. In a way I was relieved, but looking back, I wish I had finished what I set out to do.
I think by doing a challenge that was so intense, I put a lot of pressure on myself, and didn’t leave room to just enjoy playing the ukulele. If I did a challenge like this again, I think I’d play a little every day just for me, and maybe record a video a week. That would be a better challenge, and it wouldn’t be too overwhelming. The huge upside to all the days I spent playing is that now I enjoy playing my uke more than ever.
When you set out a challenge for yourself, make sure to make it realistic. Think about the time you have that you can dedicate to a challenge like this, and push yourself just a little. Most of all, you want a challenge like this to develop a love and practice of music that continues for years to come. So whatever helps you do that, do it!