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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.

Our Albany Creek Jam has been through a few changes since it started at its original venue at Samuel Grays in May 2018. After a name change and a few months of new management, the Albany Creek jam required a sudden venue switch for March 2020. But a couple of things you can always rely on along with our enthusiastic jam leaders, Andrew Hunt and Blair Marks, — great songs and cold beer. Hopefully, we’ll be back jamming at Albany Creek soon.

Peter Ransom at the open mic. Image: Tim Roberts.

Peter Ransom Reports

A last-minute venue change to Fritzenburgers added a little frisson to the start of proceedings. But we then enjoyed another of Blair’s laid-back, but sometimes challenging programs. Familiar and not so familiar stuff, occasional key changes, and some really good endings meant that the interval arrived very quickly.

After the break Peter Ransom (Why Don’t You Do Right) and Caroline Haig (You Get What You Give) favoured the audience with open mic performances.

Then it was back to business with Andrew leading — more fun, hot tempos, syncopation, the ubiquitous kazoo, and great singing.

After a powerful Hotel California it was time us to leave, but from out in the car park, we could still hear them rocking!

Blair and Andrew take the lead. Image Credit: Tim Roberts

See more images from the day here on the Ibis Music Facebook Page

In line with government guidelines, all BUMS Inc activities have been suspended. Keep your eye on the BUMS Inc home page and the News & Events page for updates about the resumption of jams across Brisbane.

The Westside Daytime jam is now firmly established at Rosemount Community Centre in Sinnamon Park. After a change in venue in late in 2019, the Christmas jam and the first jam for 2020, confirm the popularity of the new location with around 50 players in the crowd.

Sue and Peter Sercombe kicked off a daytime, midweek jam in the western suburbs in 2014.  The BUMS Inc Management Committee had received several requests for a regular jam on that side of the city. After a short stint at Indooroopilly and several years at Toowong, the future of the Westside Jam is at Rosemount in Sinnamon Park.

Peter Sercombe on uBass.

Sue Sercombe leading the jam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As residents of the Rosemount Retirement Community, Sue and Peter can take advantage of their Community Centre to continue jamming with their established followers. Already, the jam is attracting new players from the surrounding western suburbs.

The Community Centre is on the first floor and has air conditioning, a café for drinks and food, and access by stairs or a lift. Jam goers are welcome to come a bit early or stay on later to sample the offerings from the café.

The jam runs from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on the second Wednesday of the month. Music is projected onto a screen as at other jams. It’s a family affair with their daughter Michelle running the computer. Sue and Peter rotate the songs on their set lists and focus on music for the ‘more mature’ player. Sue also takes requests for new songs to be added to their repertoire.

Open mic spots are available, and Lesley Allan, Noel Bowers, Salli Chmura, Chan Hoo, Angela McGrath and Peter Ransom are just some of the regulars who have taken the opportunity.

The Westside Daytime jam is at the Rosemount Community Centre, 620 Seventeen Mile Rocks Road, Sinnamon Park, Queensland 4073. Feel welcome to use the drop-off area in front of the Community Centre, but please park along Seventeen Mile Rocks Road. The jam is free to BUMS Inc members, and costs $5 for visitors.

For more info, please contact Sue and Peter on 07 3378 5938.

Thank you to Loraine and Russell Wallace, newcomers to BUMS, who agreed to provide information for this article. Loraine said everyone was very welcoming, the venue was great, the music was fun, and the Belgian chocolate slice was delicious.

 

Pluck Upz is a relatively new community ukulele group from the Moreton Bay Region. The mostly Polynesian group currently practises fortnightly on Tuesdays at Murrumba Downs McDonalds from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

The group leader, Hine, had been a ukulele student of Vic Kena. Soon she began receiving a number of enquiries from other people keen to learn to play. So Hine asked Vic how to go about starting up ukulele a group. And he said … you have the skills, just do it.

With Hine in charge, Pluck Upz got off to a flying start … and in September Vic featured the band as special guests during his Sunday morning segment on 4EB 98.1Fm.

John and Keryn visited the group in November. “Pluck Upz were very friendly, helpful, welcoming, and happy to share their music. The group has a wonderful focus on fun and a lively upbeat vibe.

Pluck Upz welcomes people of ages 10 to 65+ from any cultural backgroup and skill level. Although Pluck Upz generally practises fortnightly, occassionally there are extra practices thrown in leading up to gigs.

It’s lots of fun to play along with The Pluck Upz. If you live in the Moreton Bay Region pluck up the courage to go. Hine provides excellent support for beginners. And you never know … you might learn a new language as well.

Try before you buy — first visit is free, and to join is $10 annual membership. It would be handy to take a music stand and display folder, and arrive early to tune up and have a chat before practice starts at 6:00 pm.

Visit the Pluck Upz Facebook site for updates about practice dates and venues, and the gigs they’re playing, or contact Hine by calling 0420 647 531 or emailing .

L-R: Chris Slater, Leanne Williams, Peter Grace, John Low, Caroline Haig and Frank Buckley, John Henderson MIA.

Supernova at SPRUKE. What a blast!

When Leanne’s brother-in-law turned up at Sunnybank with  two large fibreglass aliens, we knew this would make our intentions clear.  “We’re going big on Space, fun and entertainment and you can join in’.  Our aim was to create an interactive show and our audience rose to the occasion – singing, role playing, clapping patterns, shouting and waving their little stars about on cue.

So, who are Supernova?  We are seven players from the northside of Brisbane playing a wide range of ukes, a bit of percussion, a keyboard for special effects, two male and two female vocalists and an eclectic and challenging set list. Everything had a space theme covering songs from The Church to Monty Python.

To make it happen we devoted Tuesday mornings for about 4 months. Band practice included a dedicated morning tea (can’t overstate the importance of this — playing was business with lapses of hysteria, humour and discussion — but tea was proper socialising). Thus, bonded and ready, we inflicted ourselves on our unsuspecting audience.

We all play with other bands and Supernova was designed to be a one-off event. But it was so much fun, it could re-emerge at other festivals. You have been warned.

By Caroline Haig

Congratulations, Miss Elm!

Hot on the heels of Clean Slate, Erin Harrington is keeping the dream alive. This month she’s released the hauntingly captivating folk-pop song, The Castle. Erin’s also crossed yet another item off her bucket list — princess for a day — during filming of the video for the single.

Read reviews in:

  • Happy Mag — Miss Elm signals the future …
  • Partae — Miss Elm ‘The Castle’

It’s been a year of successes. Now Erin also features as an endorsed artist on the Lanikai Ukulele website.

We’re a foursome from the north side of Brisbane, who met in early 2017 when Len put an ad on the BUMS website looking to form a group.  Len, David and Peter had already met in 2012 at a U3A ukulele class (what a coincidence).

The group comprises David Smith playing baritone (CGEA), Diane Davis on baritone (DGBE), Len Farina on bass and Peter Grace on tenor.  We all like to sing but Peter does most leads.  Between us, we also play in The CAGE (who practice at Corinda), CHUMS (from Compton Gardens, Aspley), NUMB BUMS (Zillmere), Ukulele Saints, Supernova and in social groups. In addition, Len teaches beginner uke at U3A, and Peter is co-coordinator of the Northside jam.

Until recently we had focused on preparing sets to lead at BUMS jams so most of our arrangements remained pretty simple.  We have received lots of positive feedback from jam goers for variety and song choices.  With a few performance opportunities, especially playing at SPRUKE 2019, we developed some songs to a higher performance standard with more intricate rhythms, harmonies, backing vocals and separate ukulele parts.

By the way, on the subject of parts, most jam goers who have played with us will know that we all have synthetic body components we didn’t start out with which all help to make up spare parts in Spare Parts.

The genesis of the “Hint of Rosemary” lies within the CAGE which rehearses at Corinda State School on most Sunday afternoons. The CAGE was initially formed to recruit a group of adult beginner ukulele players and to bring them to performance standard for SPRUKE 2015. While many were indeed beginners there was also a smaller group of more experienced musicians who shared a common interest in popular music from the 50s to the 70s and who wished to focus on coming together to perform as a more intimate group.

We began rehearsing and as the group developed, we needed an identity and began throwing out ideas, some serious and some more light hearted. One of these was a suggestion that we call ourselves “A Hint of Rosemary” as one of the members of the group is named Rosemary. The name stuck and the identity grew. Our backgrounds are mostly a combination of teachers and healthcare professionals. The membership is not static as some of us still work while others enjoy retirement and travel so our travellers move in and out of the group depending on their travel plans.

The instrumentation generally comprises 5-7 ukuleles (concert, tenor and baritone), acoustic guitar, U-Bass and sometimes Cajon or other percussion. There is an eclectic mix of vocal styles and ranges so lead vocals are shared around depending on the songs we are working on with the remaining voices delivering a blend of close harmonies which is something the group has become renowned for.

Since our inception the “Hint of Rosemary” has performed widely and are regulars at SPRUKE, the Sunshine Coast Ukelele Festival at Kenilworth and other local venues. One of the highlights of our musical journey was being invited to perform as the support act for Vic Kena’s “The Australian Ukulele Show” at a fundraiser for St Sebastian’s Primary School. Following our performance at SPRUKE 2019 we are taking a break to recharge our batteries and hopefully will regroup in 2020.

Rod Iffinger

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. 😊

 

Weddings, Parties, Almost Anything!

The diversity and creativity of our band Mama Juju & The Jam Tarts can be a blessing and a curse. When asked, it is sometimes a real a struggle to describe what sort of band we are, what type of music we play and what sort of events we play at … I guess the answer is we will give almost anything a go! Celtic, blues, jazz, rock, country and more!

Mama Juju & the Jam Tarts at a recent performance.

The roots of the band go back 19 years to when Julie was selling her Bodhran (Irish drum) and met Vicky. She was invited to join Irish Folk band Thornlands, who recorded 2 CDs and performed at Folk festivals from Tassie to North QLD before going their separate ways. In 2010 Julie formed a jazz/ blues duo with guitarist Sugar Cane Slim and earned the nick name Mama Juju. Fast forward to 2015 Mama Juju and The Jam Tarts original line up Mama Juju, Vicky Velour (MacDonald), Cath McCourt and Trish Rodwell (Rockwell) got together to play at a party just for fun. It was fun, the music seemed to hit a spot with the party goers and we ended up with some more bookings so we decided to keep going!

Mama Juju & the Jam Tarts tea party.

The current band line up is Mama Juju, Vicky Velour, Trish Rockwell and Connie D and between us we own more instruments than we can bring along to any one gig. All of us sing lead vocals and work on tight harmonies for many of our songs. We also tend to swap instruments between us during our performances which adds to the action and mayhem on stage.

A fact most people don’t know is that all four of us play ukulele. However, we like to have a full band sound so the drums, bass and other instruments all play a part. Juju plays tenor uke, guitar, bass and harmonica.

Trish loves to play anything percussive from drum kit, hand drums, wood blocks to washboard and lagerphone, she’s even been known to drum on tractor tyres and kitchen kettles. Other instruments Trish plays when given the chance are harmonica, tenor guitar, baritone and tenor uke.

Vicky plays flute, piccolo, guitar, bass, kazoo, baritone, tenor uke, newly added keytar and pretty much anything she can get her hands on!

Connie plays bass, drums, harmonica and guitar. This year she surprised us all by picking up a solid bodied electric uke and playing some rip – roaring solos which is a welcome addition to our ukulele band sound.

 

What is on the horizon for us next?  We are playing at a wedding at Sirromet and there are a some parties of course! We are also very excited to be at two festivals in September – Redfest  www.redfest.com.au, and as one of the headline acts for the Friday night cabaret at  Brisbane’s own ukulele festival SPRUKE.  You can find out more about us at www.mamajujuandthejamtarts.com and www.facebook.com/mamajujuandthejamtarts

Julie Minto (aka Mama Juju)