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How to Play Ukulele as a Group

How To Play Ukulele As A Group


Playing ukulele in a group setting can be a rewarding experience, but can be challenging as well. Here are four tips to help you keep the good energy flowing while partaking in the fun.

Use Your Ears

Just like a good conversation, every successful jam starts with good listeners. If you don’t hear what the other people are playing, you won’t be able to respond with something that is complementary and that pushes the music forward. Use the musical phrases of others to feed your own improvisatory instinct, but keep in mind that the group is functioning as a miniature ukulele orchestra with each player contributing his or her own part.


Easy Does It

One of the great things about playing in a group is that you don’t have to do so much work! Use this to your advantage, and give yourself a bit of a break. Instead of trying to play the most complex chord voicings and harmonies, just listen for what is needed and simply play that part. Allow your ear to be the ultimate arbiter, as it will not lead you astray.


Not a member of Craig and Sarah's Ukulele School yet? Click here for free lessons.


Park It in the Yard

Part of playing only what is needed is leaving the ego at the door, and allowing room for others. When too many players try to show off at once, the result is closer to loosely organized noise than it is to smoothly flowing music. There is always room in the group to showcase one’s musicianship without stepping on the toes of others. Be the player that helps others shine, and you’ll be rewarded, too.


Let it Shine

The goal of the group is to serve song, so don’t be afraid to let it shine. Take a moment to consider the original song. Which instruments were in the original? Were there any vocal harmonies? Did the song have strong percussion or a prominent bassline? Use these questions to experiment with different ways of recreating the aforementioned elements on your instrument, thereby helping the song to stand out in each new group environment.


The more you play in a group setting, the more you’ll develop a feel for when and how much to play. One of the most challenging aspects of groups with the same instruments is finding something interesting to add.


In the beginning, don’t worry about finding an absolutely unique voice, but rather about finding a part that works. This describes the ‘testing the waters’ approach. However, the more you do this, the more you’ll find yourself not merely playing a part that fits, but one that truly magnifies the others in the group as well as the song as a whole.


You’ll also notice that groups who have been playing together for years or even decades develop a sort of musical intuition for what the other players are going to do next. They just seem to know when to crescendo and decrescendo, when to take a solo, when to take it from the top, and when to end the song, no matter how much of a departure they have taken from the original tune. This phenomenon can be observed across all genres, and is a result of the repeated, consistent practice of conducting quality musical conversation.


Good luck in your group, and enjoy the ride!


Not a member of Craig and Sarah's Ukulele School yet? Click here for free lessons.