How do I be in a band?
December 26, 2009 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I love music and over the past few years have taught myself to be pretty good as a ukulele player. I'd love to get involved with a band--old-time jazz, dixieland stuff--and really learn how to make music with others. But all I know is how to play by myself. I don't know how bands work in the slightest, nor how to find others who are better than me but willing to let me "play along." How do I get started getting started? Thanks!
posted by largecorp to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd start by doing a google search for a regional folk-music organization in your area. Here in Michigan we have numerous folk-music non-profit organizations, many of whom host regular gatherings and jam-sessions where all kinds of (usually acoustic) instruments are encouraged and all skill-levels are accepted. It's a great way to meet people and learn new songs. Otherwise, hold out until there's a music festival and bring your uke. Learn to jam in all the open keys by playing along with your favorite recordings (I'd recommend the grateful dead, personally, because of how accessible their music is). Learn to chop in various rythms in various keys - remember that as a uke player in a band you'll spend quite a bit of time accompanying rather than soloing. Learn a few licks but get good at rythm. Rock out!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:09 PM on December 26, 2009

I should clarify - that as a "band member" you will spend a lot of time playing rythm - nothing specific about the uke. All instrumentalists who learn solo-style should develop a good ear for "fading into the background." Otherwise you'll end up being that guy. You know the one.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:11 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

don't know where you are, but check the bars (aka music venues) in your area to see if they do open jams or (perhaps preferably) pickin' parties. you just show up with your ax & let 'er rip.

good on you for learning the uke! have fun!
posted by msconduct at 3:29 PM on December 26, 2009

I found my first band in a local classifieds newspaper. There was an ad saying they were into music I liked and they needed a drummer. I went out, played with them and we all got along. We all ended up being good friends, and many great times were had. Another place to look for a band is your local music store: look for a bulletin board.

First and foremost, you need to like the people you play with. Being in a band can be more like a marriage than a friendship as there will be commitments (time for certain, and probably money as well) and delicate emotions involved (you'll likely have differing opinions about the music you're making at some point). If you end up touring and recording, you will eat, drink, sleep and travel with these people. You'll need to learn how to talk and listen, both with words and with music.

Second, you'll want to find people who have similar goals. Some people just want to get together on Friday night, drink some beer and play some music. Others really need to play in public to be happy. Some people strive to make a career of music. If your band mates do not agree on the purpose of the band, there will be trouble.

As for learning to actually play with others, the only real way is to go do it. Along the lines of what Baby_Balrog says, most of the time you won't be playing anything flashy. Like any good conversation, you need to do a lot of listening and trading off who is talking.

Please don't let any of this scare you off from playing with others. I've had some great times and fantastic experiences playing music that I wouldn't trade for anything.

So go find some people that share your passion and enjoy yourselves. :)
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 4:05 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could also get your feet wet with something along these lines:
posted by treblemaker at 7:30 PM on December 26, 2009

Where are you? Go to and search for ukulele meetups in your area. That's how I met people and got into bands. It's also great practice for playing with other people.
posted by bink at 8:10 PM on December 26, 2009

Response by poster: Since posting, I have discovered locally a place that has barn dances (!) with live music and a woman who runs a banjo orchestra (banjo-uke!?), so thanks for all the advice and encouragement.
You guys are the best!
posted by largecorp at 5:08 AM on December 27, 2009

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