The dreaded Song Chart
The debate rages on in our local ukulele group. Should we live by the song
book, or should we restrict our performances to songs that we can play by ear?
Proponents for the song book argue that there is a greater diversity of material
on tap when working from the song charts, people can learn a song more
quickly and (that tired old cliché) ‘everyone is on the same page’.
Well, the big overriding argument against song charts is their addictive nature.
They are so hard to put down that people often use the song chart to play
simple three chord songs that they have been playing for years.
Let’s generalise for a bit here. The majority of people playing in a ukulele group
have never played a musical instrument before and need every bit of help. The
song chart provides them with everything they need to know, except for the
actual feel of the song. Uke club sessions are often community sing along
sessions with ukulele backing, which is good fun.
For those wanting to explore arrangements with other players however, the song
chart can be an impediment because when reading a song chart one plays
confidently without having to listen to the others in the group and the vocals for
the chord changes in a melody.
When any uke group is performing, a row of music stands presents an actual
physical barrier between the players and the audience. Eye contact with the
audience is difficult to establish and maintain and using song charts promotes
confidence and confidence often results in a repetitive monotonous strumming
technique. Not always, granted, but all too often.
Playing by ear in a session can be scary, with the result that the player becomes
tentative, listening to others around the circle and bingo! The magic starts to
happen, players who listen to one another develop a rapport that is similar to a
conversation, where they play sparingly and respond to one another musically.
That is the best feeling and the music is always better.
Get everyone in your group involved in playing one or two songs without the
song charts practice them together every meeting and you will love the results.