UkeTok Online Ukulele Club - History

The UkeTok Story

I'm Chris, a ukulele player and software developer from Staffordshire.

And this is what happens when I have enough spare time to over-engineer a songbook!

UkeTok evolved from a system I wrote to try to encourage my village ukulele group to "go digital", in order to organise their song sheets and eliminate excessive paper copies.

To begin, it was used to manage songs as both PDF pages and Chordpro files, ensuring that members always had up-to-date copies of songs, whichever format they preferred.

The goal was to make sure everyone was "on the same page", without actually needing... you know... a page.

Then Covid-19 happened and, like so many others, our meetings moved online. Better than nothing, we all agreed.

The problem with video chat is that there's just too much lag for everyone to play at the same time. One person has to lead a song, with everyone else muted - and entirely at their mercy!

It quickly became obvious that typical lead sheets with lyrics and chord are too easily open to interpretation, particularly where timing is concerned.

You really need to know the structure of a song in order to be able to play along with it. Even just strumming along with simple chords can be frustrating for someone who doesn't know our version of a song.

That's when I started to look for a way to enable people to play along with songs they hadn't learned yet, without needing to guess when the chord changes actually take place.

The first app I wrote simply presented lyrics in time with a simple click track.

Ukulele, plus tick-tock: UkeTok.

That did the job, but it's not the most inspiring. And if you're just playing by yourself, practising with a metronome feels a bit too much like... practice.

It was once I started adding synchronised drum tracks that the whole thing came alive!

Being able to play songs away from the group with an interactive songbook that can teach you the arrangement means you don't have to worry that you might be "learning it wrong". It can show you exactly when to change chords, and how the lyrics fit the song.

And trying to lead a group playing a song online becomes so much easier when you have the ability for everyone to follow along precisely.

Once we discovered that Jamulus allowed us to play online with everyone able to be heard, suddenly online meetings were no longer "better than nothing". They were actually really great!

Playing with a drum track by yourself makes you feel like a rock star! Doing it with a bunch of friends - all keeping perfect time, first time - is pretty euphoric.

Even now lockdown has ended and local groups are returning to normal, we still meet regularly to play online. It's such a fun thing - even without enforced isolation - that we decided to declare UkeTok a ukulele club in its own right!

Our club is open to all ages and skill levels, and you don't even have to leave the house! New members are always welcome.

I'd be delighted if you would come along to one of our club nights and play with us!