Steel City Ukuleles: a nice session on playing by ear

It’s been three (rather than the usual two, because of the nature of the twice-a-month scheduling) weeks since my last meeting of the Steel City Ukuleles.

I was definitely starting to miss the group meeting, and was happy to attend tonight, although I have to confess I did enjoy having more time to work on my own ukulele musical projects (rather than practicing the meetup music).

Playing by ear

Renee had volunteered to lead a session including basic practice for playing by ear, a very important skill that many of us coming from the “written score” orientation of music need work on. That obviously includes me. I’m always astounded when going to jam sessions and seeing and hearing musicians do amazing things who barely read music, for example. The freedom and flexible facility is just obvious.

Anyway, we started easy, doing songs with only two chords, then moved to three, then four. We did this in four different keys. For me, amusingly, it was a good thing that I didn’t actually know most of the songs, so I had to pick them up in real time (or more accurately, partially in real time, then repair mistaken guesses after fumbling through the first repetition).

I very much appreciated the session on playing by ear. There is no reason I can’t work on this by myself at home, of course, using various techniques. I have done some of this, but not as systematically as I should, so after tonight, I decided to spend every future musical practice session (regardless of instrument) doing something without any written music. I consider playing by ear to be a critical component of what I want to get out of music in my life.


The rest of the time we had a Beatles-themed program of songs. I found these tricky because of the sometimes strange chord changes (“strange” relative to most of the stuff we play).

Ending a little early

We ended a little early because a subset of us were scheduled to use the time to rehearse for a recording session coming up. (I had not volunteered for this gig when it was announced along with the Ecofest gig that I did do.)

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