Saturday, September 16, 2017

Setting Goals

It sometimes helps an activity to have defined goals. Not always -- go-with-the-flow and see where it leads is valid, but a sharper focus can be useful, and achieving various platforms on a long climb, helpful.

In martial arts, there didn’t used to be colored belts. They came to be many-hued in judo, primarily because the creator and head instructor, Kanō Jigorō, looked up and realized he had so many students he couldn’t keep track of who knew what. With standardized ranks denoted by colors for each, he could walk into a satellite dojo with a hundred students and know at a glance where, within a certain range, each student was.

If you are wearing that purple belt to keep your gi closed, then you know katas x and y, but not z.

Later, other arts adopted the scheme, and the secondary reason wasn’t long in coming: Breaking a two- or five-year arc into shorter, recognizable segments via belt colors was encouraging. A student looking at the long journey of a thousand miles might find several segments of much smaller distances easier to essay.

Six months to get that yellow belt was achievable; five years to that first black belt could seem daunting.


This brings me to my musical education. On my current instrument of choice, the tenor ukulele, I have in my repertoire a couple hours’ worth of material I can play from memory. Thirty songs, plus maybe fifteen instrumentals. This gets revised and adjusted — some songs I used to know I don’t play often enough to do so without looking at the words and tabs. Some new ones I am learning will replace older ones I don’t find as interesting. The set list evolves.

But the goal thing: I am going to crank up the Blue Yeti microphone and the QuickTime video recorder and see if I can’t get a recorded version of each piece I have. 

That’s the goal. Not planning on cutting any albums, but I have been dabbling with this kind of thing off and on for years, first with the guitar, now the uke, and a couple of times, it has come in handy. Seeing how you do a thing is a good way to learn how to do it better.

I had a pretty good version of “Dixie,” on the guitar that I recorded and stuck on YouTube. Still holds up, though I can’t play it on the guitar now. When I saw that the Ken Burns Vietnam thing was about to air, I remembered that I used to play “Ashokan Farewell,” which was the main theme for The Civil War series, on guitar, then ukulele. I let it slip away. When I went back to revisit and relearn that one on the uke, I had a video reference of me doing it, so I could look at the tabs and see where I held my hands when I could play it. 

No long-term use for these videos comes to mind. Probably I’ll put the best ones up on YouTube, though I don’t expect much of an audience, but that’s the point. The point is, it seems like a good idea in this moment …