Members’ area: news

NEWS updated Thursday 24th August 2017 

Tuesday Groups through the summer – The last Tuesday session will be on Tuesday 1st August, then we have a break for holidays and start again on the 5th September.  The last Tuesday session on the 1st August will be a ‘party night’ and players are invited to perform a party piece.

Thursday sessions will continue as usual, except on dates when there is a gig on a Thursday night.

We’ll meet Again DVD – This is a composite of both performances and these are in the final stages of editing – if you’d like a copy of the DVD, or the Welton / Christmas 2016 DVDs please email and a copy will be reserved for you. 

Am I ready to perform with the band?

Ask anyone’s opinion about ability (their own or someone else’s) and you’ll get a wide variety of answers! As a guide, you are ready to join in with care home and gazebo gigs once you can comfortably

  • feel the beat and keep in time with the musicians around you – this is probably the most important skill of being in any band. You need to be able to feel the rhythm, strum the rhythm, hear the pitch of the vocals and & synchronise tempo with a metronome and the song leader! This is a natural skill, some have more natural affinity with pitch and rhythm than others but whatever your starting point, skills can usually be improved with group practice or by playing along to a metronome or decent recording eg youtube or riffstation.
  • Know instinctively when NOT to sing or play. Being in a band is as much about listening as it is about making a decent noise by yourself.
  • Your fretting hand can make the shapes of the simple chords C F G D A Am E7 D7 (Hawaiian /open) Dm, Em7 G7 A7 C7 on the fretboard without hesitation AND move comfortably at your command to make the shapes of the commonest turnarounds. These are practised a lot in Tuesday sessions in all the familiar songs that we’ll be doing in the care homes, for example (C, F, G7, Am) or ( G, D, A , C, Em) (D, A, E7)
  • If you want to perform, of course! This band was set up with the aim to bring fun, enjoyable live music into the community. Sometimes for whatever reason, people feel this sharing is not for them- if this is you, then don’t feel any pressure to perform.
  • If you’d like to join in but don’t feel ready to play at a care home / gazebo gig just yet, you are welcome just to come & listen or singalong.

Things which (in my opinion) seem to have very little impact on performance ability & readiness so don’t waste time comparing yourself with others when it comes to:

  • How long have you been playing. Some folk with natural rhythm, listening ears and self – discipline can work hard and in just a few short weeks of tuition & rehearsal be more performance-savvy than others who have been playing ukulele for many years. It is not the longevity of experience it is the quality of experience that counts.
  • How many instruments you own and / or how much any of them cost. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain famously state on their website that their instruments were all bought for pocket change. Some ultra-cheap (£50 or less) wooden ukes are badly set – up and don’t sound good. These won’t help you learn or play well. Some of the Chinese factory – made plastic £30 ukes are ideal for beginners as the frets are moulded and therefore intonation is much more consistent, they come with uniform geared machine heads and top- quality Aquila strings fitted as standard and they stay in tune whatever the weather. I have used my Korala explorer (concert size) and Alic 3D (soprano size, bowl back) plastic ukes every single day for over a year and they are excellent value for money. Have a word with your host – If you feel a better quality uke would help your playing, we can lend you a decent concert- tuned band uke just ask. Borrow other members’ ukes and have a go, you’ll soon find your favourite brand, size and shape. Hey, I could spend $$$$ on one of Madonna’s famous “used stage costumes”, but that won’t make me magically move like Madonna!
  •  How many famous musicians you have seen or heard. I have been to a lot of big old arena rock concerts in my time, but I’m still not Mark Knopfler or Glen Frey.
  • How many chords shapes you have memorised. Rhythm, timing and feel in popular chord turnarounds are what is needed in community band gigs, so unless you are doing a prog – rock – jazz -fusion solo on a concept album or making eye-test charts of complex finger diagrams, stick to the simple stuff and put the work into doing that well.
  • “Is ukulele easy to play?” – I answer that it is two – thirds of a guitar, going by the number of strings frets to master. It is an accessible instrument, sure, but that is not the same as “easy.” Like any new skill, it works as long as you are prepared to listen and put the time and effort in to practise. It needs the same skills as learning guitar. That’s a bit like saying golf is easy because it is just hitting a ball with a stick, or running is easy… that ain’t gonna make you Tiger Woods / Usain Bolt, there’s a bit more to it than that! Unlike a violin / recorder / saxophone / brass instrument, it doesn’t take as much finesse or tuition to produce a nice sound from the start – as long as the instrument is in tune and your fingers are in the correct spots. However, unless you plan on just strumming the same chord all night long by yourself to your own imaginary rhythm…. you’ll still need to work on your band skills!

A word about gigs & setlists

To de- mystify for newer, less experienced members to save you asking Wennizzitt / Wottizzit / “What songs are we doing?” which books do I bring? etc. etc.

Advice & tips from regular performers in no particular order –

  • Bring your own chairs unless specifically told otherwise. Gig chairs are available in most DIY / gardening / camping / outdoor type stores. Choose carefully and make sure you can play your instrument whilst seated. Bar feet are better than pointed feet on soft grass. If you have a vehicle, bring a range of different chairs and if you leave most of them in the car, that is better than having no chair or trying to use an unsuitable venue – supplied chair. Esther can rustle chairs up occasionally from St Barnabas Hospice warehouse, just email the band address with your requests.
  • Bring your own soft drinks – one of those sports water bottles with the non-spill  drinky cap is ideal at outdoor summer fete gigs beware of sipping from non – diet cans during performances, the sugary scent attracts wasps which may then try to join in with your vocals.
  • Write your name on EVERYTHING because one gig bag / tuner / water bottle / black RAT music stand looks very much like another and it does help keep your gig gear together.
  • Bring all the song books unless specifically told otherwise. You never know when a particular song will be requested or an encore.
  • When performing, song Intros and endings are really important. Take notes at Thursday rehearsals (with your special band pencils!!) and if in any doubt, mime it because you don’t want to be that one person “doing a Corporal Jonesy” twanging away oblivious when the rest of the band has done a crisp finish (eg Da Doo Ron Ron) or gone acapella (eg Amazing Grace) or the vice-versa, giving it the full Freddy Mercury flamboyance when there is a tacet or soft fade – away ending. (eg return to sender, Spiderman, Glory of Love) If in doubt, leave it out / Fake it til you make it – even professionals do this.
  • Follow the leader. Learn to keep your eye  & one ear on their timings of chord changes, tempo and phrasing, it’s what draws us together as a band and makes a real difference to the audience experience.
  • Have fun and look like you are having fun – the audience does not want to see your personal doubts / hesitation / shyness / self – conscious fiddling, pre – performance twanging, fluttering with kit etc, they want to be entertained with a good show and some nice music. All good performers behave with commitment. Practise playing at home looking up and smiling at the mirror while playing / singing all the way through as you would in a performance. Confidence is an act, so sing like you mean it!
  • No negative chatter, internal or vocal, please – in this life there are plenty of opportunities for mistakes and self- doubt. Leave them at the door in rehearsals and performances! There are always people ready to mock, ridicule and belittle; usually these are people with issues of their own; give them a wide berth. In the world of music as in everything else there will always be other people more experienced / skilled / showy than you, and there are usually also lots of beginners around or those whose whose skills are not yet so well developed for whatever reason. Don’t waste any time fretting or explaining or justifying where you think you are on the skill spectrum or what you believe others’ perception of your skill level is. The only player you should work at bettering is the player you were yesterday. This is especially important when new people join rehearsals and before a concert and during the interval when an audience is present or could overhear you. Let them enjoy their experience by being the best you can be, don’t try to be “modest” by talking your own (or anyone else’s) ability down. Let them listen & make up their own minds. How would you feel if you had paid money to see a recital and the leading dancers walked onstage with a dejected stoop & started the show by mumbling an apology that they aren’t as “good” as Rodolph Nuryev / Anna Pavlova? Or you’re going for an operation and a nurse jokes that today’s part – time surgeon isn’t as steady – handed as the one they usually employ ?! One flippant quip out of nerves or ‘modesty’ can destroy someone else’s confidence in expectation, so please leave your negativity and destructive banter at the door. Believe in yourself and your bandmates, focus on the performance and be the best you that you can be.
  • Make sure you can read / see your own music or share with a regular buddy / buddies. Everyone’s eyesight and reading preferences differ – so you may find it helps to use highlighter pens / different colours and clip-on battery lights etc. Experiment and see what works for you. Lighting can vary at different venues and some are virtually in the dark so have everything you need to hand so that you can read what you need to read easily.
  • It is better to bring equipment and not need it than to have left it at home , especially sturdy clips for outdoors, battery lights for indoor venues / evening performances etc, ask any established performer about wedding gigs where the couple’s first dance is under a spotlight and you’ve been asked to play in the dark…. or that village fete where your music blows halfway across the cricket pitch, scatters into the bouncy castle shoe reclaim area and interrupts the judging of the giant vegetable competition….
  • Before you part with money, ask other band members & other musicians what kit they use and why they prefer it. Most will be happy to let you borrow their kit to try out during a rehearsal etc. Trial and error you can benefit from someone else’s experience and see what works best for you.
  • In rehearsals, there will be time (tea-break / after the session)  for questions, social chat and mingling. It may be fun and relaxing for you to keep constantly strumming away gently to yourself in the belief that you are doing it quietly so won’t be disturbing anyone. Maybe you cannot hear yourself, but for other people with more acute hearing this can drive them to distraction so please resist the urge to twang. Resist the urge to twiddle and fiddle during rehearsals. When we are all playing together or the host is talking, some people can really struggle to hear clearly or absorb information when there is any other significant background noise so please stay focussed on what the group host / rehearsal leader is saying & doing during the session and play your part. Please keep chatter and twanging to a minimum, this allows others to enjoy the session, learn the arrangement and it also reduces stress for everyone.
  • Allow your strings to come to temperature for a few minutes before tuning up or you’ll only have to re-do it when they do reach ambient temperature. This especially important when going from indoors to outdoors, shade to sunshine to shade, bringing  your uke in out of the car, busking in winter, if you have a padded insulated case etc.
  • At the seated concerts, tune up discreetly then leave your uke alone. This is not the time to start re-rehearsing your ‘bit’ or twanging your way through a song you’ve not seen for a while and just spotted it coming up in the set, or to start asking your neighbour “what’s G minor seventh again?” in a loud whisper etc. Of course we are a community band and the audience are not expecting Pink Floyd at Battersea Power Station / U2 at Wembley or Eric Clapton Unplugged at the Albert Hall, but neither do they want to feel they have stumbled in on a chaotic rehearsal or the aftermath of a riot in a music / tea shop!
  • It takes time effort and resources to run the band and the people with these responsibilities receive no added rewards. You are very welcome to step forward and take over full responsibility of a role (treasurer, secretary, projectionist etc) at the next committee meeting in January 2018. Until then, please listen & pay attention when these people are giving out information and ensure you have first checked the website – it is almost certain that the information you seek is already on the website. If you are reading this on any kind of electronic device right now, then you know how to do the internet. You are already looking at the website.

CARE HOME / DAY CENTRE / ELDERLY CLUB daytime gigs,  perfect for newbies, always led by experienced performers, usually Will our band leader. We turn up with our own chairs, all our songbooks and work through books with all the old favourites. These are designed for easy playing including ALL band members and for the audience to sing along. If you still find certain songs or chords tricky, don’t worry, just sing along and don’t touch your uke for that song. What matters most is your enthusiasm and energy to bring happiness to the audience. THERE WON’T BE A PRE -PUBLISHED SETLIST so please please do not phone me the night before every care home  gig asking whether or not we’ll be playing You Are My Sunshine / Lamp / The Glory Of Love. We will.

BUSKING / GAZEBO gigs – these are also informal & very suitable for newbies. Led by experienced performers, sometimes in turns depending on the songs. We’ll work through songbooks picking out favourites and depending on length of set / audience reaction, these may get repeated. This is also a good time to try out your duets / solos / party pieces, as the audience are mobile and flexible and you can see how things sound in performance mode and get constructive, supportive feedback. Depending on numbers, these are sometimes played standing but bring your own chairs for rests between sets. again, NO PRE – PUBLISHED SETLIST

Seated Concerts – these are more formal performances with a seated audience and we try to give our most polished harmonies, intros & endings. These will have setlists in advance and often narratives and slides so you’ll know what songs are coming up. You may find it helpful to use sticky notes to mark pages and make sure you can see your own music and the performance notes you will have made during rehearsals. Dress codes (if any) will be stated on the bookings page. Black & White: Gents, black trousers, white shirt black bow tie (no jacket required) . Ladies all in black. BRIGHT – usual Hawaiian style shirts or bright patterns, plenty of colour. Newbies are welcome, just tuck in at the back, follow the leader and remember, if in doubt – leave it out.

Stage Performances – Think of this as a local mini – Glastonbury, audiences may be seated or up and mingling, and there is usually a marquee,  tent, lorry or stage that we haven’t had to set up ourselves (yay!) and some sort of riggers / sound engineers / DJs / roadies etc. They are usually dressed all in black and often heavily pierced / tattooed. They know their stuff and are very efficient. It is usually best not to speak to or distract them unless they ask you to count from one to two repeatedly into a microphone. Even for the most experienced ukulele players, these sound stages are like a magical wonderland. People often get up and dance at random, this is all part of the magic. Absolutely no mumbling into your feet, this really is the time to be loud and proud! Enjoy yourselves and smile for the cameras because you never know where this is going to take you.