Thursday, April 25, 2019

Starting a Ukulele Club/Session/Meetup, Part 0: Introduction

There are any number of books and web pages offering advice on forming a ukulele group. One reason for so many is that there's no one right way to go about it. It's subjective opinion, not objective fact, which is what prompts me to offer my own opinions and maybe, dare I say, insights.

Rather than do it all at once, I'm breaking these comments up into a series of notes, each addressing a different aspect of establishing a group.

  • location, location, location
  • leadership
  • songbook
  • types of groups, conduct of the sessions.

Starting a Ukulele Club, part 1: Location, location, location!

 [I am not a lawyer.  If this post raises questions for you, seek legal expertise locally.]

If there is to be a club, then it has to have a place to meet, preferably without having to pay a fee.

If I were in a new town and wanted to start a group, the

First place I'd try would be the local library. Libraries have always been supportive of small arts organizations. And that's what a ukulele club is--a small arts organization.

Second is a religious or community center. Churches often have community rooms that they make available to local organization.

Third is a bar, sandwich shop, or any other place with a public performance license. Any business that regularly offers music is a good bet.  However, be considerate. A business may be eager to support music groups, but if it doesn't know about license requirements, it may get a visit from ASCAP or BMI resulting in a fine, and threat of a lawsuit if the fine is not paid. If you do find a business that will host the meeting, it's a good idea to support them by ordering food items before, during, or after the meeting.

Public performance licenses are one reason why libraries and churches are excellent places to hold meetings.  A club meeting that is not open to the general public is not a public performance.

Important!  NEVER run over your allotted time, especially when the space is being provided by a business. Be sure the room is returned to the condition in which you found it and everyone is OUT THE DOOR by the time of the meeting's scheduled end.   A good rule is to never start a song within 15 minutes of the end of a meeting.  This allows plenty of time for conversation, stacking chairs, and doing whatever else is necessary to restore the room to order.  Nothing builds up resentment faster than keeping staff past the time they are being paid to work. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

How To Restring A (Soprano) Ukulele

Old joke:
Q: When should you change your ukulele's strings?
A: When you won't need to play it for 10 days!

It's been said that all jokes have a basis in fact. This one is no exception. New strings can stretch for up to 10 days. You'll find yourself retuning almost every time you pick up the instrument (and sometimes while you're still holding the instrument) until the strings settle in. This is NOT due to a fault in the strings or the instrument. It's the way new strings behave.

For soprano ukuleles, I have found that tugging on the strings before I tighten them helps them settle in a LOT faster, BUT
  1. Don't overdo. The ideal is to have about two winds on the peg once the strings have settled in and
  2. Do NOT tug on the 3rd string (the thickest one). Make it as snug as you can without raising its pitch before tightening.
Finally, if you play in GCEA, tune the uke to ADF#B. Both the uke and the strings should be designed to handle the increased tension.  The strings will slip but keep at it, checking every so often. You'll retune. The strings will keep slipping.  That's okay.  The idea is to get them to the point where they don't slip below GCEA. Make a final ADF#B tuning before going to bed. In the morning, the strings will have slipped a bit but will go into GCEA just fine. (As a further demonstration of the perversity of nylon/flurocarbon/nylgut strings, when the strings are dropped into GCEA, they will remember that they were tuned higher.  They will go out of tune sharp(!) for a short time until they settle in for real.

That part about going to bed is another way of saying let the uke sit for a bit.  I've used this technique to restring a uke in the morning and take it to a jam in the late afternoon.  Eventually, you should be able to, too, but see (1) above. Don't press too hard the first few times you try this.  With practice, you'll figure out the right amount of tugging needed.

Something like this technique may work for concert and tenor ukes, but I have no real experience with them except for the occasional concert uke. So, I'm afraid you're on your own here.