View Full Version : Accompaniment/playing well with others

10-01-2017, 11:59 AM
Hi all, since collectively I get the best advice here, I'm curious if anyone has advice on this… I am a drummer more than a ukulele player, and feel very comfortable sitting in with a group and just playing along on the drums. I do not feel good with the ukulele that way, despite having a good handle on playing chords.

I am curious if anyone has advice on this? What are the skills required for this? I have difficulty hearing the chord that is being played, and if someone is playing a melody hearing chord changes. (Or knowing generally what chord to play...


Doug W
10-01-2017, 12:43 PM

I don't have any advice about systematically figuring out chord changes, it is something that comes with time. When learning to play chords along with the melody, one of the easiest things to do is write the chords with the lyrics to follow along. After a while, it will come to you like following changes with the drums.

10-01-2017, 01:29 PM
I can do that, and really have minimal to no difficulty when I can write the chords down, my difficulty is when I need to hear the song and pick out the chords.

10-01-2017, 01:53 PM
The only way you learn is to play with others is to play with others. There is no substitute for experience. It will come.

10-01-2017, 02:37 PM
To me, playing with others requires active listening, which enables me to find the 'groove' of the song. Otherwise the performance will sound robotic and disconnected.

In order to be successful, aka 'sound good' to both the performers AND the audience, playing with others is more of a conversation rather than discreet 'parts' just slapped together...

Small groups can do this easier than large groups and that is usually why in classical music a quartet does not have a conductor, but a full orchestra does, the conductor helps to 'keep it together'.

A drummer in a pop/rock scenario is sort of like the conductor, not only in the tempo that is set, but also in the dynamics and HOW the piece is driven along, or syncopated, or has 'swing' or how you might spread some dotted-eigth notes across the drum kit during your playing...

Having said that, if I already know the music well, an improv jam is more about LISTENING than getting the chords to change exactly on the beat, and if I do NOT know the music well, then I would always ask for lots of rehearsal time, and while doing so, I always solicit brutally honest feedback (with my own ego and sensitivity removed from the equation, otherwise the music wont work either)...

As a drummer, if you've played in pop/rock or similar genres, you know that you and the bass player need to be 'tight' otherwise the song feels too loose and sloppy...the same thing applies when playing the rhythm or accompaniment to the melody.

Practice together will eventually cause you to gel, and play 'as one, but different'. Active listening to the other player as they play, as well as good verbal feedback together will being you closer to being 'tight' and 'together', otherwise it is a competition, for loudness, glory and fame.

I'm not sure if this helps with any technique, but it is more of the mindset and approach to 'playing nice with others', but maybe what I've said here can INFORM your technique and be useful in that way.


10-01-2017, 02:39 PM
Very few people can figure out the chords entirely by ear. The people you are playing with are almost certainly not doing that. They are playing songs they happen to know, or they are playing songs that follow common chord progressions that you will come to recognize with time and practice. Here are some things to try:

Go ahead and ask people what key they are playing, and what the chords are for this song. It is OK to admit that you are a beginner! We've all been there... if anyone objects, these are not people you want to play with anyway :-)

Watch the other musicians. Maybe you don't recognize what chord the guitarist is playing, but you can at least see when she changes to a different chord.

Learn which chords are the most common chords in a given key. If the key is G then the chords are G-major, C-major and D7. Maybe an E-minor. The song might have lots of other chords, but those four are a good bet. This is where you jump into the shallow end of music theory and learn about the roman numerals. See here: learningtoplaytheguitar.net/what-are-i-iv-v-1-4-5-chords-and-why-should-you-care/ (http://www.learningtoplaytheguitar.net/what-are-i-iv-v-1-4-5-chords-and-why-should-you-care/)

Visit here: http://www.playukulelebyear.com/

Play along with recordings. Play along with any group you can find. Ask people in the group if they'd like to come over to your place and help you learn songs -- you can provide the beer (or the coffee). Practice alone, too, because as you play more songs you'll begin to hear when the chords change and also you'll start hearing when it's time for the root chord (I) as opposed to the IV or V7 chords.

I have long been jealous of drummers because they don't have to know what key it is, or what the next chord is. Welcome to the club. ;)

10-02-2017, 12:07 AM
Go ahead and ask people what key they are playing, and what the chords are for this song.

Watch the other musicians.

Exactly this.
For watching pick some fellow musicians with the same tuning* and closely watch their fretting hands.

*i.e. when playing a baritone, don't look at the soprano/concert/tenor uke but rather at the guitar - and v.v.