Leading a ukulele group performance

Leading a group of ukulele players to play and sing together in front of an audience is quite different from 1) leading a group with whom you’ve been rehearsing for awhile, 2) leading a group without a separate audience listening, and 3) playing in the group as a member and not as a leader of the group. This morning I had the first time experience of leading my West London ukulele group in an outdoor performance at a charity event in Southall. It was a last minute invitation to lead, confirmed only this morning. I didn’t have time to think but made plenty of assumptions.

What did I learn?

Continue reading “Leading a ukulele group performance”

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Guitar meets piano; guitar orchestra & ukulele club

When musicians meet, they want to play together. They exchange recordings of themselves. Playing together is a way to establish whether they are compatible, whether they want to collaborate, whether there is a future together.

Such was the case when I met a classical guitarist more than seventeen years ago. He copied a recording of his guitar quartet on CD as a takeaway gift.

The next time we met, I brought the only piano guitar piece I owned — an arrangement of Vivaldi’s guitar concerto for guitar and piano. Eager to find more pieces to play, I visited music bookshops in my travel as magazine editor. He arranged music for us to play. Before long, we had collected and arranged enough sheet music to give a concert. Soon composers started writing for our piano guitar duo.

The subtitle of our first concert at the Makawao Union Church in Maui, in December 2007, was “four centuries of music for piano and guitar” —- which comprised of arrangements, original compositions, and commissions. We released the live recording of the concert as a CD in January 2011.

Nearly two decades later, the guitarist is conductor of a guitar orchestra while I have founded my own ukulele group. How do we combine the two? Is it possible?

Continue reading “Guitar meets piano; guitar orchestra & ukulele club”

Name for a band and a brand

“What shall we call ourselves?”

Until recently, there was no need to give ourselves a name. Then, we gave our first gig. The audience was thrilled and appreciative, but they didn’t know how to address us.

Not long afterwards, some of us played in another ukulele group’s gig, for which we bought and wore T-shirts bearing their name. I felt like an imposter at that moment.

Our next gig is coming up soon. What name shall we use to play in porchfests and farmer’s markets? Continue reading “Name for a band and a brand”

Teaching piano class

Anne Ku looks forward to teaching an adult group piano class in January 2012.

Starting 11th January 2012, I will be giving a 3-hour evening piano class once a week. There are three course codes for this college-level class, each corresponding to a different level of playing. I will find out on the first day of class when I get to know the students just what their playing, reading, and hearing abilities are.

The 20 students will have to procure headphones to plug into their electric pianos, and I will teach them individually. This will be very different from the individual private piano lessons I have been giving at home in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

I can’t rule out those that are starting completely from scratch. They simply want to learn how to play the piano without having any previous music education or experience. For them, I found a blog post containing tunes one can play on one hand.

As the students are adults, I will also look for sites with tools and resources for adult piano learners.

My first step is to get them comfortable at the keyboard and recognise the 2-3 cluster patterns of black keys. Next I will get them to look for a note and find similar notes several octaves apart.

Ultimately they will want to play tunes they like. Here is where playing by ear is important.

As it is a group class, I look forward to having my students play together at some point. The more advanced players will play more advanced parts. I will get them to improvise. There are so many possibilities!!