“Hey, let's jam.”
Do those words strike fear into your heart?
Does your little internal ukulele player start saying things like,
What if I don't know the song?
What if I don't know the chords?
What if I don't know the strum pattern?
What if someone looks at me and says, “Take it!”?
Yes, there is much to fear when the jam begins. But you'll never get anywhere if you say, “No.” (See: Smothers Brothers, Folksingers' Guide Book).
Now, let's go over this fear, shall we?
First of all, in uke circles, people don't often call out, “Take it.” There aren't too many uke players who can take it, and other uke players know that. Plus, it's hard to hear a single uke in a group, so you can effectively say “no” by holding up your hand to ear and shaking your head–“No one can hear me–let's just keep playing.”
What if you don't know the song?
Well, no one can hold that against you. It reflects poorly on you upbringing and your taste, but if you don't know the song, you clearly can't play the song. People will understand.
What if you don't know the chords?
This is an easy one.
Mute the strings and act as if you do know the chords. Don't ever acknowledge that you don't know the chords, and don't try to fool anyone that you are playing the chords. Just hold your hand still, muting the strings, strum, and sing loud. The key is sing loud. You are suggesting that, of course you know the chords, and you could play the chords if you wanted to, but you're so caught up in the joy of singing, that you simply can't be bothered.
What a music lover!
What if you don't know the strum pattern?
This is the toughest one–because you can't fake it. The simple thing is to just find the beat and not worry about the strum pattern.
And you know what–that's the best way to jam.
You're not trying to play it “the right way.” You're trying to play it. When you can relax into the moment, mind-meld with other musicians, and just play–that's jamming.
And that's fun.
PS: This strumming thing is tricky. That's why I'm shooting videos this week for the Uke Strumming Intensive, which is loaded with tips and ideas to help you relax and make the strumming automatic. You can sign up for free right here: