The story behind Kine Kool and worthwhile lessons to share

Basically, it’s a philosophy of well-performed music, featuring ukulele, excellent vocals and having fun — a simple recipe that every ukulele band can follow …

But it can be more than that, and needs to be for longevity!

Kine Kool‘s had a couple of iterations and “re-inventions”, commencing in middle of 2013, when I joined a group of exceptional vocalists, led by an experienced vocal teacher. The group became ten, and different musical parts for each song made great music. But, with unique, complex arrangements, it’s necessary to have the whole group at every rehearsal, and this is challenging.

A major lesson for every group to learn is the difference between rehearsal and practice – practice is what you do to learn your part BEFORE you turn up to rehearsal! At rehearsal you need everyone ready to play their part together.

Practice=individual; rehearsal=group.

Why no longer a 10-piece?

Other than rehearsals, it’s important that there is music to perform that every member enjoys, and in which every member has significant part. It should be challenging, and stretching, but within everyone’s ability.

With ten minds to feed, it became obvious that although the performances and music were great, there were diverging views about song choice. Some members also experienced life changes which had them re-assessing how they allocated their time. Survival for a 10-piece group is exceptionally difficult, and there is significant work in creating an interesting arrangement for a 4-part vocal harmony, bass, baritone, tenor and concert ukuleles, Cajon and percussion.

The lesson – If you have many members, some will be lost in the crowd, and probably won’t contribute, and might become a distraction. Ensure everyone in the group has a genuine part to play, and is committed to turning up – whether it’s a duo or a 100-piece choir!

The next step

A mutual separation ensued, and I was gifted the name “Kine Kool”.

After considering the possibilities I decided that it wasn’t necessary to have such a large group to deliver interesting arrangements. So I teamed up with Steve Elbourn, who has a magic voice and plays ballad-style guitar.

Jim with well known international star at SPRUKE 2015.

After a little work, we decided to add a third member – an electronic drum machine (Alesis SR18) to create a fuller sound. The SR18 replaces the veteran SR16 which has served musicians across the world for over 20 years. It’s actually a 3-channel midi device, including capabilities to prepare a bass part as well as drums and percussion.

Does this work?

We have taken the path with ukulele aficionados to ensure that we match our performance with a screen displayed “cheat sheet” that allows the audience to immerse in the song’s arrangement. Not all arrangements are suitable for this. They might have a complex section, or are simply a duo between voice and ukulele.

We’ve received amazing responses to the couple of duos that we play. At Kenilworth in 2018, we were elated to suddenly find the audience engaged with our arrangement of Song Sung Blue so much so that both Steve and Stephen Sandilands (who was playing with us at that time) stopped to listen.

Kine Kool now! Still having fun! Jim & Steve Elbourne, Kenilworth, 2019.

Why are the arrangements different?

I’m fortunate that I learnt piano from age 5, matriculated with AMEB music and theory, and was asked to join the most popular band in town at age 18. We played clubs and cabarets, backed a new guest artist every week, and grew to be a 7-piece band playing everything from Chicago to Kris Kristofferson to a Kings Waltz – I even played for a ballet school!

Living in the 70s – Jim isn’t the one with the guitar.

We even managed to obtain the score of ”2001 A Space Odyssey” from Brian May (Melbourne Show Band 😊), that I have continued to play and learn all my life. About 20 years ago I began recording my own arrangements of covers.

The lesson here is that I also critically listen to every one of my recordings and arrangements. Even if you’re only playing a simple three-chord song and singing, you should record it for your own review. If you can, also video any live performances with the same objective.

Be critical, but remember the applause you received was because the audience appreciated you, and any errors have long since vanished from everyone else’s memory.

Whilst I have the technical skills to create complex arrangements, it’s most important to remember that the arrangement should honour the important elements of the original artist’s performance. It’s essential to respect the musicians.

BUT, with the limitations of just four strings, it is sometimes necessary to make significant changes. Be aware that this might take the song far away from the original, so that it becomes quite “awful”!

The lesson – Always find the original chart, key and tempo, if you’re able. Then you should learn the chords for this key. Look for different fingerings, and extend your skill set. Whilst we can easily make key changes for many songs, simply making a change to make it easier to play may be a very bad idea!

And for the vocalists, you do not need to sing in any particular key – you have a vocal range and THIS dictates if the song should to be transposed for you. If this is confusing – talk to an accredited vocal coach.

Samples

Want to hear some of the songs I mentioned above and make up your own mind?
From 1973 “New Direction – 2001 A Space Odyssey” and a Chicago song – both live recording performed as opening act for Brian Cadd in the Silver City. 7 piece, audio recorded only from the stage mics.
https://soundcloud.com/jim-bills-475220845/2001-a-space-odyssey
https://soundcloud.com/jim-bills-475220845/does-anybody-really-know-what-time-it-is
Kine Kool – 9-piece at Stellarossa – “Walking After Midnight”
https://youtu.be/VzDdQ04Yk4E
Kine Kool – with Stephen Sandilands “Song Sung Blue”

Kine Kool – at  Sunshine Coast Ukulele Festival 2019 – “Diary”
https://youtu.be/9z13gNbSJZE

Keep on strumming and come and play, sing, dance with or just listen to Kine Kool at SPRUKE 2019 – Saturday morning 10:15 am – in The Lounge at the Sunnybank Community & Sports Club. 😊

 

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