How can bands practice in “iso”?

If you’re an individual uke player, now’s the time to work on your playing, singing and performance skills. But if you play in a band, it’s impossible to practise properly without the other band members.

BUMS Inc community bands, The CAGE and NUMB BUMS, have been trying different ways to keep their band communities together. Both have used ZOOM, which has been good for seeing familiar faces and sharing experiences. But due to time lags, it doesn’t work if you want to play as a group. The best we have managed is for one person to lead a song, while every else is muted. The lyrics and chords can be displayed so you can play along with the leader, but no one hears you.  And of course, open mic is another option.

Band leaders, Ian Phillips and Bec Lochel from The CAGE, have recorded their ZOOM sessions and made them available to CAGE members via their closed Facebook group, so they can practice along with the recording. Whilst it’s better than nothing, the sound quality is poor.

A YouTube Solution

NUMB BUMS have tried a different solution.  It started with a request from Chris Slater, the bass player in NUMB BUMS and Ukulele Saints. He wanted a recording to play bass with. We initially tried using an audio recording on a phone but have now come up with a better solution using YouTube.

We have set up two private YouTube channels for NUMB BUMS and Ukulele Saints. Members of the band then make video recording on a phone or tablet and post them on YouTube site. So far 15 songs have been added to the practice pool and these are available to financial BUMS members who are playing in NUMB BUMS.

The process works like this. A band member or a combo chooses a song and records on their tablet or phone as a video. This is the same as performing a song to lead at the BUMS Online jam. Videos are often over 200 MB in size, and they are usually condensed (for example, using free software called HandBrake) so they are easier to move around and upload. John Low has been editing the videos by tidying up the beginnings and ends, adding titles and so on.

The songs are uploaded to the relevant YouTube channel and tagged as “Unlisted”. This means they are not searchable by the general public and can only be accessed by people with the logon/password details.  But we can provide others with the link for an individual song without providing login details for the YouTube channel.

The recordings are for practice purposes only, but enable the band members to play performance songs in the usual key and tempo used by the band and with a similar arrangement. It’s not as good as the real thing, but hey, what is at the moment?

Using a private YouTube channel was developed as an interim solution during the COVID-19 restrictions. But it seems like one of those ideas that might have legs after the crisis is over.