View Full Version : Playing (Uke) In The Band

03-05-2009, 05:06 AM
I'm curious to hear from folks who have played uke in a group of other musicians playing other instruments. Questions on my mind.

- If you play guitar as well, when do you choose to play the uke?

- When you play the uke, what role to you gravitate to, e.h., playing the higher, mandolin-like, layer of the tune, highlighting the chord transitions?

- What do you stay away from and leave to the guitar (e.g., bass lines).

- Other thoughts/tips?


03-05-2009, 05:21 AM
Unless the guitarist plays (or capos) above the fifth fret, you won't have any problems with chords clashing. Keep a solid rhythm, be aware of the other players and don't overplay. Never noodle.

You will never have to worry about playing bass lines.

03-05-2009, 05:28 AM
Never noodle.

Why is that?

03-05-2009, 06:09 AM
Why is that?

It exhibits a disorganized mind. If you are going to play a note, mean it. Don't noodle around everyone else is working their tails off playing. :)

It's okay to noodle during the creative process, alone and out of earshot of anyone else, but to noodle during a tune or while other band members are discussing is something to be avoided.

Howlin Hobbit
03-05-2009, 06:59 AM
In Snake Suspenderz I'm often doing the "Guitar George" thing... playing strictly rhythm I don't want to make it cry or sing.

Sometimes Thadd puts down his trombone and plays guitar. In those instances I want to stay with the rhythm bit but make sure it fits with the guitar.

Why do I play uke instead of picking up my guitar? Because with ukulele I've found my niche. Despite how it might appear when surfing the uke forums, guitarists are really thick on the ground (in Seattle, you can't throw a rock without hitting one) and ukulele players are quite a bit sparser.

Plus, I can play all the jazzy stuff I like so well on the guitar or the ukulele, but it's easier for me on the ukulele.

And, of course, ukuleles are cuddlier than guitars.

03-06-2009, 01:54 AM
I play bass in the band but we add two, three or four uke songs in our sets. Most I just play rythm but at least one, a composition, I support the rythm guitar player with a riff and a middle part solo on my soprano. It blends in very well and I always get comments after the sets.

I also play 12 string guitar but the uke just fits in where it does, that's all. I also play one of my own comps that was written on uke and is always played on uke. I've tried adapting it to guitar (bass, djembe and back vocals) but to no avail; we just use the uke, my vocals and a running guitar line (sorta like a crawl).

So usually, my uke becomes the main rythm on 3 songs and simply supports and adds riffs and a lead, on the 4th song. Unfortunately, all are in 1st position (much louder) except when I can riff using higher positions (up to fourth depending on the key).

I play a soprano through a pencil condenser mike, to a tube preamp into the board. My tube preamp supplies the phantom power.

Then there's the wow factor. Uke always gets a smile...

Hope this helped.

John Kavanagh
03-06-2009, 09:07 AM
My favourite situation to play uke is in a string band. There's always guitar players, and the uke spreads out the rhythm sound and gives everyone room. Uke and guitar together sounds better to my ears than two guitars or two ukes.

I'm currently putting a string jazz band together that's either violin, uke, guitar, and bass or, if the viloin isn't available, we'll add either a (tasteful) drummer on brushes or a second guitar. I miss the fiddle, but when he's not there I play all the heads, which is also cool.

When I'm playing with a guitar player, I always watch the left hand - if they go high, I go higher.

In the swing group, sometimes we play the four-beat pump rhythm together, lock-step, and sometimes I play shots and accents like a piano player. If the guitar is playing fairly straight chords, it gives me license to play weird inversions and substitutions up the neck. When the guitar or bass is soloing, I play plain and steady, first position, and quiet; usually I just brush with my thumb up over the neck. It's good when the guitar player understands that they can solo in the low register, rather than being up where I am all the time. If they're used to playing with another guitar, they tend to think of melody-land as starting around the seventh fret. That's my turf.

I also play in a duo with a guitarist/singer. Usually, when he is playing a guitar part that's got a strong low-end bassy sound, I'll play uke. When he plays a higher part or uses a capo, I'll play bass. It's a question of where the "room" is. When he plays mandolin, I play guitar.

With any band experience, the important thing is to listen to what's going on and fit into it, find your musical space. I'll play very differently with another uke or mandolin (that's interesting) than with a guitar or bass.

03-06-2009, 08:23 PM
Uhh I actually switch between lead, rhythem, and just background. . .
I'm in my schools praise band and the songs we play have relatively easy intros/solos and what not, so I learn them on the uke, grab my wah pedal and my delay and bust out everything I got!

Misguided Musician
03-07-2009, 09:38 AM
I use a looper pedal now that I have one.
I record my guitar for the rythm and then I record a layer of the uke rythm, then I solo it out on the uke with some blues stylee to it. The looper pedal I use makes it so handy and fun. Yeah, clashing does suck, so I try keeping the guitar simples in terms of rythm, that way I can play it complex on the uke, to show it off a little, but sometimes I do the opposite and use uke as rythm and guitar as soloing with a little higher bass. It really depends on the sound you're going for.

03-07-2009, 08:00 PM
Me and my ! friend who play acoustic guitar perform together and when we do, I usually keep the tempo with my strum as well as high lighting the melody or the bass depending on what kind of song it is.

Aloha Matty
03-09-2009, 01:58 PM
I've just added the uke to our sound. Haven't yet recorded anything yet. But busted out "I'll See You In My Dreams" last week to a really great reception. A great tune for sure and my mandolin player jumped on guitar and i to the uke. Really nice blend. You can check us out at the link below. We need to head in the studio and record some better songs!

I'm learning more and more. I know I've asked but does anyone have any traditional hawaiian music to point me to? When I was in Kaua'i in Feb I was at Tahiti Nuuis (sp?) in Hanalei and they had these two guys (one guitar/one bass) and they did some lovely hawaiian tunes and I didn't get their name or a chance to ask them about their song choice. So if anyone can point me in the right direction that would be cool!

Thanks :shaka:


03-14-2009, 01:54 AM
In any band situation I see the Ukulele as a rhythm instrument supplementary to the rhythm guitar playing good clean tight strumming patterns with good tone; if you are not amplified, playing melodies may not cut through the overall mix in a live situation at the venue, however, if you are amplified, inserting the odd complimentary line or phrase may enhance a section of a piece. Play to taste and yes, do not over play, less is more as they say.

Aloha Matty
03-23-2009, 08:23 AM
You could check out my first stab at the uke in a band situation on my band's myspace page http://www.myspace.com/breezygrass. Clearly I need a little work but its a start. I get a lot of flack for the uke! I don't care though I love playing the uke!!!