Notes On Playing Kids Music Live

[Read to the very end to find out a cool announcement about a Phoenix-area show.]

Unlike some of my Offsprung colleagues (Dr. Flea, Erica Perl, do stop by), I'm an amateur practitioner of music, kids' or otherwise. I enjoy playing, but my audiences are rarely any larger than the 3 other members of my immediate family.

So, remember the Singalong Saturday that my local record store, Stinkweeds, was going to host with my help? (Humor me and say yes.)

Yeah, it was lots of fun. Lots of people -- maybe 40 -- for something that was publicized at close to the last minute. I brought some rhythm instruments (shakers, Casio drum machines... OK, no drum machines). The weather cooperated -- wonderfully mild.

And the music? Well, it can be viewed in one of two ways.
1) Dario's Magic Bus was a nifty little trio of Dario on guitar and Jason and Justin playing upright bass and a single-drum drum set.
2) I played, too.

That's right. In the corner stood me and my lime green Dan Zanes ukelele, playing along with "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Old MacDonald," and the like.

There's just an itsy bitsy problem.

My current chordal knowledge on the uke is limited to 5, maybe 6 chords, much less if I don't have my chord book in front of me.

And so, if the band wasn't playing in the key of the chords I was familiar with, I was forced to strum idly with a silly grin on my face. Which is a not uncommon expression for me, but typically I'm not looking that way in front of three dozen strangers.

I really don't mind improvising, but if I were going to do that, I'd much rather pull out my violin, where my ability to transpose is crudely competent.

But when I'm asked to lead the crowd in "Pay Me My Money Down" (Dario, while very cool, didn't have a setlist long enough for the full hour) it's, well, a lot harder than you'd think.

It's not just skill in playing music, there's a definite art in working the crowd, and one that I've got a lot to learn about.

That's why I'm very excited that Stinkweeds will have the Jellydots' Doug Snyder at their next Singalong Saturday, on June 9th at 10 AM. It'll be the last Singalong before the summer break, so come early as I think this free event will be even more popular than the first one.

Don't worry, the owner and I are already thinking about events for the fall. And, as far as I'm aware, I'm not on that calendar of events.

By the way, Doug's now living in Phoenix, and so if you or your kids are lookin' for guitar lessons (you've always wanted to learn how to play "Bicycle," right?), drop him a line through his website.