Help with group

Emmjay

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Hi All,
I work in a residential centre, it has been under lock down for about 5 weeks. Understandably the residents have gotten bored. I ran a singing/strum along group which everyone enjoyed, so basically it is going to become a regular thing with the group doing performances for the rest of the community.

We have a couple of guitars, a some percussion, my uke and I picked up some simple percussion instruments, shakers, claves etc. I would really love some advice from anyone who can offer it. How do you get a group of people together timing wise? What keys are both Uke and Guitar friendly? What is the easiest way to teach a new song, do you schedule separate times with the guitarists, vocalists and percussion? Any tips or suggestions? Or any other things I will need to know?

Sorry for so many questions, I would really appreciate any help. Thanks
 
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bunnyf

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A few suggestions:
Simple 2-3 chord familiar songs w/o frequent chord changes(hey good looking, jambalaya, this land, etc); google some or check out songbooks from uke groups available online

Timing is a big issue. If you don’t have a bass player someone with good timing on percussion would be my next choice. Otherwise, a strong guitar player doing alternating bass with a loud boom-chick will keep people together. If it’s up to you on uke, play more like a mandolin in bluegrass and strum with a strong chop on the 2 & 4
 

KohanMike

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Good advice from Bunny. I would also add, when you start a song, be sure to count it in, I've been part of groups where someone just starts playing and singing and the rest of us have to scramble to catch up. A good 1-2-3-4 is very important in my experience of playing guitar for almost 50 years, ukulele for 7 years, and bass uke as well. That establishes the tempo for everyone.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 6 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 41)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

Another Ukulele

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When I play with my Blues Jam, the guitar players LOVE the Key of E — Yuck
But they also seem to like to play Blues in the Key of A — A, D, E7
Ukulele friendly and, apparently Guitar friendly.

As far as playing together, you need a STRONG Leader and players that are willing to LISTEN and play/ follow the leader, regardless of whether they agree or not with that Leader. Difficult to teach this skill if you haven’t ever done it.
I spent 9 years in school playing in the band so I can follow with my eyes or ears.
 

Kenn2018

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I suggest to get a cohesive group playing together, you start with a couple of easy songs in the key of C. Simple I, IV, V, (VI). IE: C, F, G7, (Am).

I assume you are the leader? Let everyone know what time the song is in. Then show them how fast you want the beat. And have everyone tap their feet along as the percussion & rhythm demonstrate. IMHO, it's more important for the leader to set and keep the rhythm going than it is for them to play their instrument as you start to learn a song. Play through it a couple of times to demonstrate, then establish the rhythm with your hand or counting the beat out loud.

Then it's up to you to teach them how you set the beat with your count in. Percussion, should keep a simple beat as you play through the song. Once everyone's got it and gets used to following, you can add frills. let the rhythm get fancier. The guitar and uke can get fancier with strum patterns or picking.

But you want to stick to the basics until your people are used to playing together and following a leader.

Don't forget about explaining "pickup notes" when you have a song that somewhere beside the first beat. If it starts on the fourth beat, you count in would be: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-[play].

If you can get that foundation set early, the rest is gravy.

No need to have separate practices until they all start to play together. Then you can get fancy with different parts. Melody, harmony, etc.

Get participation and ownership with everyone able to suggest a song. From a songbook or other sources. (I don't know what their access to the Internet is.) Or bring several songs to handout after they have one or two down solid. I suggest something like "The Ukulele 3 Chord Songbook" (Or 3 Chord Guitar Book) or its ilk as a beginning source.

Just explain that you're going to start with some simple songs to get everyone used to playing in a group. After a few sessions expand the repertoire. Always have fun songs in the mix.
 

KohanMike

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When I play with my Blues Jam, the guitar players LOVE the Key of E — Yuck.

See? I'm not the only one who doesn't like the key of E. It's just not an ukulele key!

A little over a year ago I started going to a Sunday noon 2 hour acoustic play along in a park of about a dozen people, which is mainly guitars, along with a slide acoustic, mandolin and a few ukes. We do a circle from person to person doing the song they choose. Of course being mainly guitars, the key of E is used often. Having come from playing guitar for almost 50 years before switching to uke, I don't have an aversion, I just worked at it a bit and got it. It only takes a little bit of concentration and practice. In my regular seniors uke group, the leader always talks about the difficulty of the Bb, I never found that difficult at all.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 6 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 41)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

Emmjay

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Bunnyf thank you, I took the Ukulele Club book volume 2 with me. There are some fairly simple songs in there, similar to what you are describing. I am just learning myself but i googled to see what you meant by the strum you described. That will be helpful. I found myself tapping my Uke like a drum as much as i actually played.

Kohanmike when i read your comment on count ins i thought of the times this has happened at Uke group. It is off putting. I will be careful not to put people in that situation. Oh, E. hmm... i used to struggle so much with E itself, i hated it, and would avoid playing songs or try and substitute other chords etc. When my Uke teacher worked this out he tortured me with E chords relentlessly. I am grateful now of course.

Another Ukulele i think ultimately I was the problem, I was not that strong leader, a combination of lack of experience and little preparation time. I went in thinking it was a one time group, just a bit of a jam before being told we would actually be performing for others. In future i will talk through the song structure before we start.


Ken218, yes I am the leader, lord help us. I am much more used to facilitating discussions. I am excited to try your suggestions. When i was first learning to play i used to watch tons of Stu Fuchs videos. He always gets you to talk though the the timing, tap your foot and speak strumming patterns out loud before playing them and i remember how much that helped. I asked the group for suggestions on songs and have already received a stack of suggestions, this is really helpful.

Beyond some teething problems it was actually a lot of fun and there were some very talented people involved. Thank you all for the suggestions, i feel much better prepared for next time.
 

KohanMike

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Kohanmike when i read your comment on count ins i thought of the times this has happened at Uke group. It is off putting.

I'm actually surprised at that response. In every group I've ever played with, the play along goes so much better when there's a count in.
 

Emmjay

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Kohanmike i agree with you. What I meant was that i thought about the times that had happened (no count in) and that those times had been off putting. Sorry i didn't express that clearly.
 

KohanMike

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Kohanmike i agree with you. What I meant was that i thought about the times that had happened (no count in) and that those times had been off putting. Sorry i didn't express that clearly.

Ah, thanks for the clarification.