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aarondminnick
12-03-2014, 07:39 AM
My local uke society has recently evolved from jam-only to jamming and performing. For groups that perform, what are your expectations/guidelines for rehearsals?

We've had a couple of newbies ask about jumping into a performance with very little experience/rehearsal time. While they are welcome to jam and learn, some of us have started to discuss putting into place some more formal guidelines to perform in public (i.e. attend 2 out of 4 rehearsals or the like). We want to be open to the community, we want to make sure that we are well-prepared for actual performances.

Some of us have also discussed putting together a list of "must-know before you perform" chords. In other words, you need to have all these committed to memory before you can perform. Nothing too crazy -- the usual collection of major, 7th, and a few minor chords.

I'd like to get some insights from others who are part of open uke society/meetup-type groups.

Thank you!

Wicked
12-03-2014, 12:14 PM
Guidelines are a good idea.

You have come across the downside of the "user friendly" ukulele. A healthy percentage of players feel that "peace, love and happiness" is all that's required to perform in front of an audience - that the audience should just be ecstatic to listen to a hot mess, because, "hey, my enthusiasm and good energy is enough to entertain."

It's very painful.

Your only hope is to make it clear, early on, that your group has decided to offer a somewhat more "polished" performance. Everyone is welcome, assuming they can meet the standard that the group sets.

There will be hurt feelings.

ricdoug
12-03-2014, 12:31 PM
Most bands have a leader/conductor/alaka'i. The alaka'i conducts and sets guidlines. The begining and ending of each song is very important to be the same with each performer. I agree with Wicked. Feelings will be hurt when some feel they are being excluded, which will affect the number of people that show up for the jam sessions. Ric

sukie
12-03-2014, 12:39 PM
It's tough. But do me a favour -- look professional. It does matter. Also 2 people to a music stand. It looks better but more importantly the music can be heard better.

itsme
12-03-2014, 01:17 PM
It's tough. But do me a favour -- look professional. It does matter. Also 2 people to a music stand. It looks better but more importantly the music can be heard better.
I played in a mandolin orchestra for a few years... our "uniform" for performances was white shirts with black pants/skirts. Couldn't have been simpler, but it always looked good and very professional.

For a uke group, I could maybe see Hawaiian shirts for a theme.

As far as stands, definitely do two-on-one. In a confined space, such as a small stage, when you get too many flimsy folding stands in close proximity, there's a real risk of one getting knocked over and starting a chain reaction.

Also, try to keep the stands low. People want to see your instruments and hands as you play, not see everyone hiding behind music stands.

bonesigh
12-03-2014, 02:23 PM
Agree with what others have stated above and will add that you need to make the print on your music sheets as big as possible but to fit on one to two pages. Northern Virginia Ukulele Society is a performance group I belong to and I actually can't remember ever having a problem with your concern. I find that most people who can't play well yet don't want to be part of the performance. We usually set it up so there is our main leader and songs begin or end with just him playing or another experienced player for the most part.

Usually about 4 experienced members are set up in front with mics so the others are in the rear. Mistakes are not generally noticed that way. I always encourage the members who are not very experienced to join but, don't play the chords they don't know, fake it or don't play any chords. They can add percussion to the music by tapping the back of the uke, mute strumming as well.

Have lots of practices! I think our group is lacking in this area and we could be much better if there were more practice sessions. Remind people to SMILE even during practice (: Look happy to be performing, it makes the audience happy too.

Good luck!

IamNoMan
12-03-2014, 03:31 PM
I have been a performer for many years, Similarly I have been a presentor of open stage and more formal performance groups. I believe in inclusion and allowing performers to develop their skills on stage. You have a Varsity Band/Jr Varsity Band situation here. Set Your standards and require auditions to see who is qualified to meet the standards for each band. When you have a concert present the JVs for one or two numbers. After the show conduct a serious Crit for both bands.

You will have hurt feelings here. You will have Crash and Burn situations from time to time. You are playing politics; try to figure a way to avoid favoritism. Good Luck! The best way to become a good performer is by performing.

itsme
12-03-2014, 03:33 PM
Another thing you might consider for the sake of uniformity and looking pro...

Get some of those inexpensive pocket folders in the same color so they look coordinated while on stage.

Also, if you play outdoors, bring a bag of clothespins and get people to secure their sheet music. It doesn't take much of a breeze to send pages flying off a stand.

brUKEman
12-03-2014, 04:15 PM
I have a meetup group of about 70 members. We usually get about 15 people attending our meetings. Out of that 15, we have about 8 who make up our performing group. We play nursing homes/low end senior housing gigs. They are mostly during a weekday afternoon so not every one can make every performance. Whoever can show up attends. Sometimes there is 2 people and sometimes 8. We are members of the Uke2Heal community and just want to make people feel a little better. We may not be a polished group but we earn every penny that we don't charge and the people are appreciative. Some of these lower end facilities do not get much entertainment so when we do show up they are very happy. With each gig we are improving as we see what works and what doesn't. What I notice is that by playing these gigs, the people in the group get excited and want to practice and do better on their own.

aarondminnick
12-03-2014, 05:17 PM
Great suggestions, all! I will definitely share these with our steering group. Keep them coming! Thank you all so much.

sukie
12-03-2014, 06:03 PM
Oh! After you have your set list down, think about adding new songs. We have played at a nursing home a bunch of times. We always play the same songs. It's boring to me. It must be to them also. Think about your audience. What songs might they like? I asked my MIL just this past weekend what kind of music she would like to hear. She is 86. No. She does not want to hear the oldies from the early 1900's. She says big band....stuff they heard as teenagers or as adults. If you have singing? Please, oh, please start on the correct note. I could go on and on...but I will stop now.

kohanmike
12-03-2014, 08:15 PM
I belong to the CC Strummers out of the Culver City California Senior Center. We meet twice a week with about 30-40 attending. Our leader is Cali Rose and we perform for the senior center and local assisted living centers, usually 15-40 of us at a time. One of the useful things Cali does is tell newcomers to join us and if they don't know the songs well, to just mute strum. That way they can feel a part of the group even with limited experience.

Another thing she does that I think is very useful, she uses an amplifier for her uke and voice, which is a great way to "cover up" flaws (my poor voice is a great example) and the audience will always hear a good rendition of the song. Works very well.

Phluffy the Destroyer
12-03-2014, 10:02 PM
I would hope that as a group there is already some idea of everyone's strengths and weaknesses on the ukulele. I play with the North Kansas City Ukesters (((NUkesters) not to be confused with the Kansas City Ukesters) Ukesters))) once a month. When I walk in and see who's there each month I know who is going to play the solos, who is going to be a strong rhythm player, who will have the best voice for each song, etc. I'm pretty sure all the other regulars can figure that stuff out too. It makes arranging a set pretty easy actually if you have some notion of who will be able to play what and assigning people parts based on their musical strengths.

Just make sure everyone knows their part in each song. Having a bunch of people all strumming in unison sounds great for about a minute and a half. You won't get very far if you have 13 people all trying to be Jake Shimabukuro all at once either... There's no reason everyone has to play the same part on every song, though (unless you have someone with a Ubass). If you have two strong soloists, they can split the songs, or even find a way to work out a duet instead of a solo.

Spend time on the arrangements and think them through. If an idea seems like it would sound good, try it. Be creative. The NUkesters did a set at the Kansas City Ukulele Slam last October. I took in a fairly simple 2 chord song because it's a fun filking song that has about 30 stand-alone verses. My idea was to have everyone in the group sing one verse and have the crowd play along and sing the choruses with us. I was the only person who liked that idea... But everyone liked the song. So we worked out a non-audience-participation arrangement making it a 5 chord song and 5 people sang our 5 favorite verses and the whole group sang the choruses. It worked out wonderfully. Another song we did was a mash-up of two Tin Pan Alley songs.

For what it's worth, exactly none of the groups at the Ukulele Slam showed up in any kind of uniform or matching outfits. It did not detract one whit from the awesome music being played there.

You need to [THIS IS THE BOX] be thinking here.

KaraUkey
12-03-2014, 11:27 PM
I belong to the CC Strummers out of the Culver City California Senior Center. We meet twice a week with about 30-40 attending. Our leader is Cali Rose and we perform for the senior center and local assisted living centers, usually 15-40 of us at a time. One of the useful things Cali does is tell newcomers to join us and if they don't know the songs well, to just mute strum. That way they can feel a part of the group even with limited experience.

Another thing she does that I think is very useful, she uses an amplifier for her uke and voice, which is a great way to "cover up" flaws (my poor voice is a great example) and the audience will always hear a good rendition of the song. Works very well.
In our regular meetups we use a big screen and a projector to eliminate the need for any music stands. We also use amplification for the lead ukes and vocals and the addition of bass and percussion via backing tracks, to maintain a professional presentation, while still allowing people of all levels to join in.

Rllink
12-04-2014, 04:01 AM
Interesting thread, and it says a lot. Last summer I was looking for someone to play with, like a club, or a jam session. At that point, and at this point as well, I don't want to go out and perform, I just want to play the ukulele with other people. So someone knew someone, who knew this guy, who played in a ukulele band and they thought that he headed up some kind of group. Anyway, he seemed to be the leading ukulele guy around, to put it in context. So I tracked this guy down, and when I finally got to talking to him, he was very cagy. He didn't seem to want to talk to me at all. So I couldn't figure out what was going on, and when I went home my wife asked me how it went. I told her that it didn't go real well. I told her that the guy acted like he thought that I was going to ask him if I could play in his band. Ha, I bet he did think that I was going to ask him to play in his band. I guess that I didn't realize that being a part of a ukulele group meant going out and performing. I just thought that people in ukulele groups got together and played. I assumed that some might get together and form up a little splinter group of their own to do the nursing home circuit, but I thought that there was a separation of power there. Anyway, I was going to start my own group in the spring, but my plan is to all just get together at the coffee shop and play songs. Maybe go to festivals together. Nothing really beyond that. We will have to see where that goes.

Down Up Dick
12-04-2014, 09:42 AM
Rllink, as usual I couldn't agree more. In Japan I got together with a coupla guys to play. I was playing flute then, and right away they were talking about gigs at the Officers Club, etc. Well, that was the end of the group. Another time they talked me into a bowling team. I am maybe a worse bowler tha a golfer! But we won a coupla games, and they started riding and pushing me and trying to get me to practice.

Don't people ever just do things for the fun of it? For years, I've been wishing for a few players that I could get together with and just have a good time--never happened. I even bought an Audio recorder to play duets with. Ahhh well . . .


It's just me and my shadow . . . (add your own music). :old:

Rllink
12-04-2014, 11:06 AM
When I get back to Iowa from P.R. I'm going to put up fliers and tell people that if they like to play the ukulele with other ukulele players, show up at the coffee shop on Saturday nights at 9:00. Then I'll say that if you want to play something in particular, bring along enough copies to share. Then see what happens. Maybe nothing. But if anyone shows up, we can just play and have fun together. If a lot of people show up, and if some of them want to split off and go outside to do their own thing, or whatever, that is great too. Just get a bunch of ukulele players together having a good time. We will make it up as it goes along. My biggest fear is that people will show up, start passing a list around that everyone has to sign and put their e-mail addresses on, then eventually want to elect officers. I don't especially like officers. They can get bossy. But that is what I want to do. We aren't going to have a name, well, at least I'm not going to give it a name.

acmespaceship
12-04-2014, 11:30 AM
I've been involved in three kinds of uke gigs.

1. We are a club of Amateurs. No pay, no expectation that we'll act like pros. This is when we're playing background music at a street festival or some other informal gathering where nobody is a captive audience. It's a good idea to play through the set list once or twice before the gig, but really as long as we're having fun, the audience is having fun, too.

2. We are Musicians, and you are supposed to listen to us. This is when we get on stage, or we're playing in a confined space in front of a seated audience. Or, God help us, somebody is paying us money. In this situation, REHEARSE REHEARSE REHEARSE! Or die. Even if we are not really pros, we are doing a professional gig and we should act like it.

3. We are Kinda Like Pros, and the audience will be paying attention, and we intend to rehearse. But we don't rehearse. Or we hold rehearsals and not everybody shows up. Or we rehearse for a while and end up doing something different at the gig anyway.

Two of the above are A-OK with me. The 3rd not so much.

Be sure your club is setting the right expectations, then select personnel and rehearse accordingly. If you don't want to reject beginners, and if you don't think people can spare the time for rehearsal, then make sure you're doing Amateur gigs and it'll all work out fine.

UkerDanno
12-04-2014, 01:06 PM
I belong to the CC Strummers out of the Culver City California Senior Center. We meet twice a week with about 30-40 attending. Our leader is Cali Rose and we perform for the senior center and local assisted living centers, usually 15-40 of us at a time. One of the useful things Cali does is tell newcomers to join us and if they don't know the songs well, to just mute strum. That way they can feel a part of the group even with limited experience.

Another thing she does that I think is very useful, she uses an amplifier for her uke and voice, which is a great way to "cover up" flaws (my poor voice is a great example) and the audience will always hear a good rendition of the song. Works very well.

I was going to say about the same thing as you already did. The most important thing for a Ukulele Club, is HAVE FUN! Unless you're getting big bucks for your performances, worry more about having fun. Our club is in a Senior Community, we just want to have fun for the most part. We played one concert in the last year for our Community Crafts Fair. The first year in the club, we played 4-5 times. Now, the leader, who is a long-time professional, takes his "special little group" and plays most of the shows we used to play. Not that I care that there is a "special little group" I don't appreciate that people are asking for the Club and get less...or is it more?