I've been feeling keenly aware of how long it has been since I last posted! Lately, I've been putting most of my skill points into finger-picking. I haven't been focusing so much on learning songs for the sake of performing. While spider drills are very helpful for leveling up, they don't make for very compelling Cat Smash videos. I did manage to put something together, though. I finger-pick the melody at the end, instead of strumming the chords. This is "You Are My Sunshine", as arranged by Hiram Bell.
It's been a busy month! I attended the San Francisco Uke-tober Fest. It was fantastic! I learned a lot and ran into some folks I hadn't seen in a long time. I feel really lucky to live in the East Bay and be a part of the vibrant Bay Area ukulele community. I always love the vibe at community events. I can't think of a better way to grow as a musician and be inspired than to surround yourself with people who have love for the instrument.
Here's my cover of "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers, as arranged by Cynthia Lin.
Edit: I completely forgot that I played this same arrangement about a year ago and posted it. I was wearing a panda suit. You've come a long way, baby panda!
On September 19th, 2015, I married the love of my life. I've been dating Brad Hubbard for 15 years. In not too long, I will have known and loved him for more than half of my existence. He has promised me one human lifetime. If we're both still alive for the Singularity, we'll have to reassess. Until then, here's to the time we've spent together and the rest of the life we'll share in this corporeal form.
This is "Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan, which I have dedicated to my lifelong love.
I recorded this song a few weeks ago. At the moment I'm in a pickle. Under a new instructor's recommendation, I'm learning an alternate fingering for the G chord. Now I'm kind of stuck in the middle. It feels weird to play G the old way, but I'm not consistently getting the new fingering correct either. And G is a very useful chord, so it's a hard one to feel spotty on! It's one of the first chords most uke players learn.
Oh well. Back to being a n00b I guess! Still, every day gets better and better!
Learning some songs feels like more of a milestone than others. This is one of those songs. I found the riff to be really challenging because of the finger-picking. Now it’s a favorite for idle noodling! I love thinking back to where I was a year ago. I wonder how I'll sound a year, five years, ten years from now, if I keep plugging away. Learning to see things with a growth mindset has been so integral to my musical journey - effort is the path to mastery!
Anyway, here's "Imagine" by John Lennon, as arranged by Ukulenny.
Say hello to my new friend! I bought this uke from Julia Ramirez of SF Uke Jam in the parking lot at an ukulele festival, 'cause that's how we do. It's an Ohana solid mahogany concert ukulele. This instrument is unique in that she had a luthier install a pickup. I am always thrilled to find treasures with stories and a lot of love behind them.
This uke is named Marty, because its styled after the classic Martin. I kept the name Julia gave him. As with my kitties from the shel...ter, I just don't really believe in renaming things that already had an identity. I am so enamored with the sound and feel of this instrument. Marty, like me, is aggressively loud. This makes finger-picking especially fun. It's been my pleasure to give Marty a loving home.
Anyway, all this is to say that I'm loving my new uke and want to share that love with you! This is "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King, as arranged by Ukulenny. The finger-picking intro and falsetto range presented some fun challenges. I hope you enjoy!
I take Ukulenny's intermediate ukulele class at the Albany recreation center. On the last day of class for this session, he recorded a livestream!
The one time I didn't wear my cat ears!
When I last visited my parents in San Jose, I brought my ukulele and laptop with me. (Both of which are indispensable to daily living.) My dad and I decided to throw together a quick recording of "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan. All the fun of performing, without the hassle of rehearsal! I hope you enjoy.
Wow, has it really been that long since I posted a video? Last month I started working as a student advisor at UC Berkeley. A transition is bound to take time and energy from other things before settling back into a good groove. I'm still making tie for uke, though! Right now I'm putting all my skill points into finger-picking and left-hand muting. I'm still at proud noob status, on both fronts. It's harder to tell if I'm improving than when I'm trying to pick up a new chord. Every now and then I see a glimmer of progress peek through, which keeps me excited.
Here's "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, as arranged by Ukulenny. Getting to sing along to this ridiculously fun chord progression was kind of like a sweet reward for making it through the intro. I hope you enjoy it!
My ukulele and I were recently going through a rough patch in our relationship. After a year of musical bliss, the honeymoon was over. There was a time where I couldn't keep my hands off my uke. Now I felt like I was forcing myself to spend time with my instrument. I was committed to making it work, but I didn't know what to do!
I got a lot of solid advice from friends of mine who are musicians. The overarching theme was to just keep playing, and that this was just a natural ...part of my musical journey. That's just what I did, and it worked! I'd say there were a few key things that really helped me get my groove back:
1. Community - Taking classes and going to events in my local uke community made it a huge difference. Seeing my friends, learning new skills, and being in a room full of musicians helped rekindle my passion.
2. And Now For Something Completely Different - After I hit my plateau, I felt bored and uninspired. Practicing chords so I could learn new songs suddenly wasn't cutting it anymore. I switched to focusing on a totally different skillset - finger picking. Struggling with something new reminded me of why I loved learning the uke.
3. Be Kind - I stopped beating myself up for not practicing as hard as I did before. As long as I put a little time into working on something I enjoyed, I considered that a win. I figured the impulse to practice would return as long as I kept with it. And I was right!
Here's "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey, as arranged by Cynthia Lin. All that picking is challenging, which is just what I need to keep moving forward as a musician. I'd say my ukulele and I have rekindled the spark in our relationship. I knew we'd get through it!
Disney Ukulele Challenge
1. Sing any of your favorite Disney song stanza and chorus (full song if you want)
2. Challenge 3 of your friends...
3. Hashtag #DisneyUkuleleChallenge
4. The one's challenge will have a day or two to reply.
I'm skipping Rule #2 and already broke Rule #4. I had a great time making this video. Right when I think I'm losing steam, my uke community pulls me back into the fray. Thanks Ukulenny for the challenge! I've got so much love for this vibrant, creative, and encouraging community that I've fallen in with on my musical journey.
Song: "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story
By Randy Newman, arranged for Ukulele by SF Uke Jammers Rudy Ramirez Jr. and Cynthia Lin for the Movie Madness SF Uke Jam
Something happened recently without my noticing. I've gotten a lot of compliments on my music lately, particularly since playing at the assisted living facility. The connection with my audience and the applause felt great. I felt more confident and thought I was improving faster. Then for the first time, practicing started feeling like a chore. The idea of practicing was anxiety-provoking. These kinds of thoughts started swimming in my head:
"You need to sing better!"
"It has... to sound good!"
"You need to improve faster."
"You're not good enough to play out yet."
"You're not a beginner anymore! There's no excuse."
Up until recently, playing my uke was my best emotional outlet, not a stressor. Now suddenly I felt pressure to be more than what I am. Between that and crossing the one year mark of playing uke, I was putting a lot of expectation on myself. No wonder I've been in a funk!
I need to get back to the roots of what it means to be Cat Smash. I started playing the uke as an exercise in growth mindset. This musician page was created to track my progress to invite people into the joy of my learning process. It was never about being "good". It's always been about the love of my instrument and pride in my progress.
I need to start playing just for the sake of playing again. Time to start smashing! For any musician or performer reading this, how did you shake off this malaise? Inquiring cats want to know.
In the meantime, here's "Blue Skies"!