I didnâ€™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. Thatâ€™s when I found Liz and Jim Beloffâ€™s â€śThe Daily Ukulele: 365 Songs for Better Livingâ€ť and the idea for a musical challenge began.
The foreword of the book states: â€śAlong with an apple a day, a daily allowance of vitamins and minerals and a daily constitutionalâ€¦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.â€ť 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 Iâ€™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 â€“ 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 Swiftâ€™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 didnâ€™t leave room to just enjoy playing the ukulele. If I did a challenge like this again, I think Iâ€™d play a little every day just for me, and maybe record a video a week. That would be a better challenge, and it wouldnâ€™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!