1. What is the biggest mistake you see beginners making when learning to play stringed instruments? What should they do instead?
The biggest mistake that I see is a beginner (often times a young child) that wants to learn how to play guitar. His mom and dad get him said guitar for a birthday or Christmas and he now possesses an instrument which is too big for his/her hands. Being a stringed instrument enthusiast, I've often been asked the question "what kind of guitar should I get for my kid". My response is almost always, "Don't get him/her a guitar. Buy that kid a ukulele!". That's one of the reasons I love these little instruments. They can be used to play intricate arrangements, but they are so incredibly versatile that even a child can pick one up and begin to play.
2. What bad habits or mistakes do you see most often with professional, or very experienced players?
Obviously, with players of this caliber (of which I am not, I might add), mistakes are few and far between and bad playing habits are hard to be found. Their worst habit is probably letting the pursuit of perfection overcome their love for playing. Especially on the professional level, when playing an instrument is tied to your livelihood, it can quickly become more of a chore than an activity of enjoyment. It happens. I love my career, but I definitely have days where I don't feel like doing it and get very little satisfaction out of it. Thankfully, on days like that, music can be a form of therapy and escape. I guess I feel bad for people who play music professionally and don't have that particular escape. Maybe they do something else cool instead? Create fake facebook profiles? Try on over sized clothes at department stores? Read? Go on ukulele forums and criticize noobs? Go to an actual therapist?
3. What advice would you give a beginning musician on a budget trying to decide between free materials and spending on paid courses?
I'm pretty frugal, so my advice is DON'T PAY FOR COURSES! There's such a wealth of information on youtube that I don't see courses as being more beneficial. While learning proper techniques is very important, I think that there's something to be said for teaching yourself things too. You're an individual. You're unique. You should feel free to create, explore, and discover the ukulele on your own (with a little direction, of course).Maybe I'm wrong...maybe that's what I still suck.
4. Is there a piece of advice that is commonly given to beginners that you feel is bad? What would you say instead?
Nothing that comes to mind specifically. Probably information overload is the most detrimental. If you're being bombarded with too much advice, I think it can leave you feeling discouraged...like there's too many things you have to learn and you'll never be able to figure it all out. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Worry about what you can do today to get better and don't even think about tomorrow. Just try to enjoy each little step and embrace the feeling of awesomeness each time you figure out something new. Seriously, it's like a high! And remember, even the seasoned professionals are still learning too.