View Full Version : Need Uke Club Advice

02-25-2009, 03:49 PM
Anyone every have this problem. We started a uke club a couple of years a go and it fizzled. The format was just to sit around and "Jam". Well last year I restarted the uke club. At the advice of others at various forums I started giving beginning classes. Attendance really picked up. Now I have some of the members who are experienced performers expressing unhappiness with the new format, they just want to sit around an jam. They even asked me to move the class to a different time so they wouldn't be tortured by it.

Last meeting the experienced ones kind of took over and we just sat around and jammed and the "pros" critiqued the beginners. Also it's supposed to be fun and the pros hardly ever smile, too serious. I had to hurry throught he class I prepared. The hell of it is the only reason the pros come now is because attendance is up. In the past they quit coming because there was no one there to "JAM" with. Now I am seeing the format ran the beginners off.

The other new members (vast majority) are beginners and were kind of upset about the whole thing. I'm getting calls and folks want to have a class, don't/can't play advanced songs and like some structure. I had one person that used to love the meetings say they felt like they had to "endure until 8:30". Other said they felt intimidated.

Now I would like to come up with some tactful way to deal with this. How do you other folks that organize groups deal with the mix of pro vs beginner?

02-25-2009, 04:26 PM
In my opinion, the best thing to do is separate the pros and beginners.. Maybe 1st half of the meeting is for beginners with structure then 2nd half is for Jam sessions with pros.. Like the workshops

02-25-2009, 04:27 PM
Are the members compensateing you for anything?

I noticed in our club (20 strong 8-11 year olds) the students that are practicing are getting frustrated with the ones that aren't. We meet twice a week M/W and I do the same thing both days b/c wednsday half the club is in chorus. I already know this ios going to turn into a problem similiar to yours so next year I am offering the class twice a week but the second day will be for advanced students only. So.....

maybe you should design a test that new students have to take in order to go up a level or get the "pros" to help with the "newbies"(Research shows that smaller ratios are more effective) or design two classes 1 for beginners and one for advanced players and let it be known that advanced classes are advandced. Now the reason I ask about the compensation is that if people are paying for your services they should get priority in your services.

Uke Republic
02-26-2009, 01:21 AM
Yeah! What he said. Stone faced uke players? Sounds like a low fiber diet.

02-26-2009, 02:11 AM
Are the members compensateing you for anything?

No the club is free, my class is free, in fact I end up spending money on copies of the handouts out of my own pocket.

I am geting a lot of feed back on various forums about splitting it up into two sessions, One night a month is Beginners class, some structure, learn one or two techniques, practice them. Keep out the "Pros" so the beginners can mess up and have some fun doing it."

One night a month is Open Jamming for everyone

02-26-2009, 03:16 AM
It probably doesn't need to be said, but I'll say it anyway because I'm a master of the obvious.

You'll need to bring your issues up at a meeting. It seems like you're kind of stuck in the middle and getting it from both sides. You need to lay it out where things are getting to be a problem. I can understand where the advanced players might get a bit antsy with a basic lesson, but there wouldn't be anybody to jam with if folks didn't learn how to play in the first place. It's a give and take. And perhaps if people have a chance to air their grievances an understanding can be reached before things get ugly.

Maybe some of the advanced players ought to give a few of the lessons. (it seems like they come as much to show off a bit as anything.) It would give them some investment in the first part of things and gently stroke some egos.

I'd also suggest that you might want to politely assert yourself as the leader of the club. You started it. You're teaching it and you're running the show. The buck has to stop somewhere and somebody has to think of the larger picture and how to best accommodate and include everybody and for better or worse, that person is you. It's a difficult balancing act and you're not going to be able to please everybody. But it does sound like you need to let some folks know that they need to meet you halfway in order for the club to continue and function smoothly. (A nice and gentle politic way of saying STFU or GTFO, "you're not helping", perhaps.) And you need to be prepared to stand up and take over again when people try and hijack the proceedings. (That sounded very unpleasant.)

Ukulele JJ
02-26-2009, 04:12 AM
Maybe some of the advanced players ought to give a few of the lessons. (it seems like they come as much to show off a bit as anything.) It would give them some investment in the first part of things and gently stroke some egos.

Genius idea, Lanark.



02-26-2009, 05:23 AM
Lots of good advice here.I'd say that keeping it fun is essential.If the more constipated members aren't getting enough attention, then they can arrange something themselves. I think that as a beginner or an intermediate player,that jamming with others is a fantastic way to learn and advance quickly.For me,if there are several people playing,I don't care if it's a simple G-C-D song.I still enjoy it and sometimes simple songs will give you a chance to practice working the fretboard, picking styles and solos.

Harold O.
02-26-2009, 06:01 AM
Beginners can be intimidated by advanced players. Not in a bad way, mind you, just in a way that may discourage them from participating.

This is more pronounced with adult groups. A beginning adult has already decided to check his ego at the door and ask for instruction. For an instructor, this is a critical time. The new guy needs to recognize that the capacity for learning is there, getting better is a real/likely possibility, and that not all good players are jerks.

Good players have different criteria. And the aforementioned jerks appear that way when exhibiting a low patience threshold for beginners. Good players want to play hard, with more stringent unspoken rules. Waiting around for someone else is not what they come for. Friendly and fun, yes. Yet competitive as well.

All of the above is generic, applying to all group gatherings where skills are involved. I taught karate for 20 years and can tell you that the stakes change at every skill level.

Let's suppose you can only have "the room" for a single two hour session per week. I suggest using the first half hour for very basic, beginner lessons. Simple chord progressions, introduction to strumming techniques and rhythms, that sort of thing. Do a similar intro every week. Let the advanced members know that this first half hour will bore them terribly.

The next half hour could go into simple 2- or 3-chord tunes. Have the more advanced players show up around this time and allow them to play along as warm up. Let the songs get more complex as you go through your time. Then tell the beginners that the beginner level work is done and you will now be moving ahead.

And take the advanced players into the high ground.

That may work for a class setting as opposed to jam sessions, which are very different animals. Either way, someone has to take the lead and, well, LEAD.

It can be a little dictatorial, but free-play gatherings are better suited to a beach than regular scheduled meetings. Since you put forth the effort in arranging the group, the room, and handouts, you get to decide (HAVE TO decide) how things will go.

Private lessons can also be arranged for those interested in additional training.

Hey, it's all uphill from here!

02-26-2009, 08:45 AM
I think Harold is on to something -- everyone seems to have similar advice. Nothing wrong with letting the beginners have some time to learn and then do the jamming later. I can understand the frustrations all around but separating the groups a bit should do the trick. Maybe the beginners will enjoy the jams but could also leave if they felt overwhelmed.
Good luck on this.

02-26-2009, 09:33 AM
My solution...

If the club meets from say 1p to 4p on a Sunday for example the first hour is for the folks that want to learn and for the experienced to help out (show off).
The last couple hours is for everyone to "jam", spend the time starting with simple songs figuring out how to "fancy" them up so everyone gets to play and the good players are challanged and the newer players are still learning something.

With a set time format those that "think" they are good know when to come and those that want to learn/be helpful know when to show up and when to stay till.

If the "good" folks don't like it tell them to start their own thing.

Walt G
02-26-2009, 10:07 AM
Sure wish there were someone in central New Jersey running a club like the one being described. I'd be very interested in group lessons for a beginner.

02-26-2009, 11:48 AM
Basically I agree with everyone else. If you divide your meetings into beginner time and advanced jam time, people can just come for the part they want and not have to stay and sit through the whole thing. Or if your meetings are too short for a division like that and can't be made longer, maybe you could alternate types of meetings and do each one every other week. Or maybe have the advanced people go and jam together in another room (or somewhere they can't be heard too much) while you give your lesson. Good luck. :)

Uke Republic
02-26-2009, 05:14 PM
I would say serve wine. Once everyone has a glass or 2 the less advanced would sound better to the advanced. Hmmm, or they may become angry or sad then you got a fight on your hands. Try it and let us know how it goes. Drinkalele

02-27-2009, 02:00 AM
I was thinking of something along the lines of what Lanark suggested. When I used to take kung fu class, our class was too small to divide into beginners one night and intermediate another night. So all of us would do the warm up and basics together. When it came time for forms, my sifu would ask an advanced student to lead the advanced group in the forms they should already know while he tended to the beginner group. He would give the beginning group something to practice for the rest of the night and then teach the advanced group their new part of the form. By the time he was done with that, it was time to check on the beginners again and see how their practicing went, give them corrections and pointers to work on at home. On some nights, he might even have an advanced student teach the beginners while he tended to the advanced group. The point of the story is, he needed an extra hand and we were only a group of 5 or 6. But it really helped to use the time efficiently.

Ohyeah, and when you delegate to an advanced student you need to be specific like "please work with the advanced group on blah blah technique while I teach these guys some new chords" otherwise it will just fall to chaos.

02-27-2009, 02:39 AM
At the Edinburgh Monday Ukearist we devote the first part of the evening from 7 till 8 to teaching more basic stuff. Everyone is invited to this part and the more experienced players are encouraged to help the beginners out. After that we move on to some simpler songs and the difficulty generally progresses a littler through the evening.

Currently we get together once a fortnight but are looking at taking this weekly with a pure jam session in a pub every other week.

You can read mine and others ramblings about setting up a uke night over on uke hunt (http://ukulelehunt.com/2009/02/25/ukulele-group/).

Best of luck with it!

02-27-2009, 04:30 AM
After reading all of the above posts,I'd suggest including karate lessons and wine at all future uke meetings.

Harold O.
02-27-2009, 05:52 AM
After reading all of the above posts,I'd suggest including karate lessons and wine at all future uke meetings.

Yeah, good idea. I'll bring my Tahitian uke - just in case.

02-27-2009, 06:11 AM
Plenty of good suggestions here on how to placate the more advanced players, but you may also want to give the beginners a few tips on how to ease into the jams so they feel more comfortable with them while they're still learning. For example, have them start out by fingering the chord changes without strumming or just strum once on each change, giving them more time to move to the next chord.

02-27-2009, 09:10 AM
Thanks so much for all the advice. I ended up calling all the newbies and found out they really liked the idea of a separate beginners uke class and strum. So I have set one up at the local library once a month and also called the Atlanta Bread Factory down the street and got cleard to use it as strumming room after the class. The manager said we might even get a discount if we don't run any paying customers off :o I am going to keep the open strum for the club, but on a separate night. I'l let you all know how it turns out.

02-27-2009, 02:05 PM
[QUOTE=Ukuleleblues;100556]So I have set one up at the local library once a month and also called the Atlanta Bread Factory down the street and got cleard to use it as strumming room after the class. QUOTE]

I'm sure this location isn't in Georgia right?

02-28-2009, 03:54 AM
[QUOTE=Ukuleleblues;100556]So I have set one up at the local library once a month and also called the Atlanta Bread Factory down the street and got cleard to use it as strumming room after the class. QUOTE]

I'm sure this location isn't in Georgia right?

No it's in Charleston SC West Ashley area.

Jake Shimabukuro is playing at Spoleto this year. He's going to be at College of Charleston Cistern Yard on Saturday, May 30 at 9:00 pm. We are in the process of organizing a Jam sessison before the show with our uke playing frieds from Myrtle Beach. I'l post the details on our public web page