View Full Version : Having Fun.

02-23-2016, 02:40 PM
I have been going to a uke jam once a month in a town about 1 hour away.Everyone is playing their uke and having fun.Everybody is helpful and concerned that you get to have fun too. Good.
Local there are some bluegrass/country/old time jams. I like to go to some of these.How ever they don't seem to be helpful to each other.If you don't know the song when you get there you will have to learn on the fly.Some times they will call out the key. I am sure they are playing to have "fun".
I have been thinking on this for a while. What am I missing? I like both but they have vastly different flavors.At this stage of the game I don't think I will be a big star.I just want to play music with other folks.

I do so hope I made myself understood.

02-23-2016, 03:37 PM
I don't go to a lot of jams, but a few years back a friend was leading several different genres of jams and I went to check a few out out. They were open to all acoustic instruments, sometimes I was the only uke player, sometimes there were a few more. The blues jams - fine. Country jams - fine. Rock jams - fine. I had a blast at all of them and felt like everyone was really supportive. But the one bluegrass jam I went to - I've never sensed such disdain from a group of musicians before! Even though it was promoted as open to all instruments and all levels, the bluegrass purists made me feel really unwelcome. I have to stress that this was just one experience, and I hate to generalize about entire categories of musicians, but - nearly everyone I've told this story to has a similar story of scorn from bluegrass "purists." There are other posts on UU that address this as well.

02-23-2016, 04:01 PM
Your goal is to have fun. If you feel uncomfortable, there are plenty of other places where you can go and feel good about yourself and what you are doing. Why go to a place that doesn't make you feel that way?

Playing makes me smile. Don't let anyone EVER take that away from you.

02-23-2016, 04:45 PM
Playing makes me smile. Don't let anyone EVER take that away from you.

This ;). Life is just too short to be around people that you don't gel with. Stick with the fun :)

02-23-2016, 05:32 PM
Hi Bob, a lot of that music (my favorite) is the same chord progression. I IV V or a variation of that. Jim D http://www.playukulelebyear.com and howlin hobbit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1125378/ukulele%20docs/uke_chord_progressions.pdf are two good starting point for it.

Just playing the base chord and adding rhythm works too. Just enjoy and have fun making music

02-23-2016, 05:37 PM
I play in both camps. Mandolin and Ukulele. The two instruments involve two different kinds of musicianship. Many of the folks at the mandolin jams are professional or very accomplished amateur level musicians. Many of the folks I see at the ukulele jams are devoted amateurs. Mandolinists tend to play in folk and bluegrass groupings where they play loud and fast. They pass around intense solo melody breaks --- which from one point of view are sophisticate ) folk / country - based jazz improvisations. They usually observe a fairly rigid group etiquette. ( don't noodle between songs. Don't tune in front of everybody else. Don't carry on a loud conversation during the music. Don't hog the solos.) I might add that most of these people, if not all, find this very, very gratifying.

Ukuleles are individually quiet. They work well alone as accompaniment with a singer. They are a bit awkward for producing fluent, wide-range melodies, but they are great fun in big unison groups. The uke folks I've been around find this very, very gratifying.

They are simply two different affairs.

02-23-2016, 06:06 PM
An artist called Bill Munroe, and his band, seems to be a foundation role model for the bluegrass genre. He lived and worked through some boom times for ukulele. He would have had many opportunities to get a ukulele player on board in his band. But he never did. Authentic Bill Munroe pure bluegrass has no ukulele part in it. End of conversation with a Bill Munroe purist. It is their genre, they can have it that way if they choose.
If you go to a new jam, sit and watch a while before playing. If you don't understand what the leader is calling out, leave your instrument in its case and enjoy the noise. If you want to keep going back, get some cheat sheets and do some ground work until you can understand what is happening, then gradually join in, under guidance from the leaders. A good jam can last for years, you don't have to be perfect on the first visit. 99% of life is turning up, if you like it keep turning up and do the work to learn the material, and over time you are bound to make a lot of new friends. But if you don't like it, there are plenty of other jams. You will find jams which are complex and jams where they get your uke out of its case, despite your protests, and make you play, no matter how new you are to playing. Two ends of a spectrum. Find the part of the spectrum where you want to spend your time.

Well said Bill!

02-24-2016, 02:48 AM
Thanks for the replies. I am not complaining abut either camp but I marvel at the range of "Fun". We are limited around here for jams.Mostly the bluegrass style.The only ukulele jam that I can find is once a mouth and A hour away. So I will go back to the bluegrass jams but leave my uke at home. I jam with the computer but there some people I enjoy being around. I will adjust my idea of "Fun"
May God bless and have a nice day.

02-24-2016, 04:29 AM
I do not play bluegrass, but a friend at work really got into it. He spent hours practicing, taking lessons, went to Kaufman Kamp (at least once). He still had a really tough time trying to fit into local jams. From what I understand the atmosphere is very similar. I no longer work with him and don't know if he ever fit in or gave up. I understand the difficulty to play the music well and can imagine how rewarding it can be.

My only suggestion is to see if there are any beginner meetups or maybe there are others at a jam that are beginners. Maybe a few of you can start to put something together on a regular basis. There will always be the issue of trying to fit a ukulele into a genre that doesn't have a place for it, but I guess you can always play in the background and never take a turn. I would think you will have a tough time hearing yourself. Good luck an "have fun".


02-24-2016, 07:26 AM
70s / John summed it up nicely.

There's one more difference I'd note. Those mandolin players --- some of their instruments cost in the $20,000 range. Quite a few will be in the $4,000-$10,000 range. ! A lot of jammers might not agree, but with all this equipment, it can get very competitive. That might also be something you feel is "not fun." It's like being in a high-performance car on a race track vs. an enjoyable Sunday drive. I'm not experienced enough to join these groups at their level, but it's still fun to be involved. My strategy is to stand at the periphery. When a song I don't know starts up I simply turn my back on the group and work through the chords, usually one per measure or one per chord change. Then I turn back and chord along, upping the right hand complexity if I can. I find this a rewarding experience. Depending on the size of the group and the setting, sometimes it's hard to hear myself. I'll take a uke along next time, but I suspect it's going to be almost impossible to hear.

02-24-2016, 07:55 AM
Well, think about it this way. Suppose you and your ukulele friends planned to get together and play Hawaiian music. Then some guy shows up with a mandolin. Are you going to try to work him in?

02-24-2016, 08:17 AM
I marvel at the range of "Fun".

I do too, even after years of playing! Just keep in mind that one person's idea of "fun" may not be the same as yours. Not all groups are a good fit for every player - if you go a few times and find this to be the case, then move on.

02-24-2016, 10:47 AM
Many good comments so far. Here are a few thoughts:

Sometimes people don't know they are not being welcoming to a new person. This happens in all kinds of organizations - I've seen it when camping, in churches, at autocross events, and at jam sessions. Everyone there knows everyone else, then the new guy shows up and suddenly everything is different. Funny thing is that sometimes the people who seem to be reacting most negatively to the new person is also the one who complains most about how stagnant the group has become. Sometimes people just want to hang out with their friends, but their actions come off as a rejection to the new guy. Then there is the case of someone having a bad day. They give you the "I don't like you" vibe, but it really is not anything about you at all. It is how they handle their bad day or stress spilling over onto your parade. And for some change is hard, and they forget about when they were the change.

Defining fun is also a problem. I find it fun to figure out why a song works. I have a very limited amount of music theory knowledge. It helps me play better when I can work out the puzzle of how it all fits together. OK, in all honesty I think it helps me play better. I may be wrong. My thinking face may not be as friendly as I think it is... and the more difficult the music the more I have to think. I'm having a wonderful time, and no one can tell. Sorry about that.

Don't let "them" get you down. Smile and have fun. If any of them really don't like you then living well and enjoying life may be the best way to make them miserable. For the rest may you provide a positive example of the happy ukulele player.

Hopefully these were worth the time you wasted reading them.

02-24-2016, 12:09 PM
Sessions vary. Some are truly open and anyone can join in with whatever instrument you play (unless they are instrument specific). Others are invitation only or even just a group of friends playing together. You need to suss out whever it's open or closed before joining in and even in an open session, it never does any harm to wait to be invited in or at least to ask before joining in.

My observations suggest that bluegrass sessions tend to be invitation only and they have a fairly strict set of conventions. You really need to know the songs, they tend to be picky about what instruments they accept and it helps if you are able to solo when invited, though you can say no if you don't feel up to it. If you go to a bluegrass session with a ukulele you may just find that the people simply do not consider a ukulele to be a "proper" bluegrass instrument. It pays to check things like that in advance. The purists will say that anything other than fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass is not a "proper" bluegrass instrument. The cynics say that if no one in Bill Monroe's band played it, it can't possibly be right for bluegrass.

02-24-2016, 12:34 PM
All things are relative I guess. You folks make some great points. I will go to the bluegrass jam just to be with other folks.I will leave my uke at home and still have "FUN!!!"

02-24-2016, 04:38 PM
Well, think about it this way. Suppose you and your ukulele friends planned to get together and play Hawaiian music. Then some guy shows up with a mandolin. Are you going to try to work him in?

I would give him a chance to jump in and would welcome him. But, our ukulele group is very welcoming. If a group is more select, then I would try to respect that.

02-25-2016, 11:12 AM
Climbing Mt Everest is seen as a fun activity for rock climbers. But no-one is allowed to even start climbing Mt Everest unless they have done some ground work and have done proper preparation. Playing very technical music in a group is a very similar situation. The players enjoy the experience, but it requires a lot of ground work and preparation to be able to begin to play the technically challenging music. Maybe this is what may ukulele players don't realise.
The world of ukulele is very welcoming (usually) and is far from technically challenging in most cases. You could join the world of ukulele and not realise these things and get a big surprise when you come across an area of music which is more complex and technically challenging.

There are some musical get togethers where a player of modest attainment can join in and have fun while the more advanced players can still do their thing. Uke jams are one such as the songs are often well known and a player of modest attainment can play basic first position chords while better players can explore alternative versions of the chords. As your competence improves, you can start to do the same. In effect it's up to you whether you stick to the basic stuff or start to explore more complex material. Even simple songs can become more challenging if you look for ways to make them more interesting.