UD#91 The Joy of the Lonely Round

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UD#91 The Joy of the Lonely Round
from Ukulele in the Dark with Guido Heistek


Row Row Row Your Boat

Gently Down the Stream

Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily

Life is but a dream


Way back in UD#32 and UD#43 I shared with you two of my favourite rounds, Jubilate Deo and Donna Nobis Pacem.

Rounds are great fun to play or sing in groups. It’s exciting to hear the harmony that is created by the melodies entering at different points. Generally, you need at least two groups to do a round. Each group plays or sings the same tune but starts at different times. Like this:



Another fun challenge is to try and do a round with just 2 people. This takes a lot of focus because you are each responsible for your own part. Please, try it!

Today, I’d like to talk about this topic:


How can you play a ROUND on your own?


This is a subject that I’ve been thinking about for some time, and I’ve been meaning to write an article about it, so here goes.

Three ways to play a ROUND by yourself:


1. The most obvious way is to record yourself. Make a recording of yourself playing or singing the melody several times and then play or sing along with it, starting at the appropriate spot. If you have never tried this, I highly encourage you to do it. It’s a great way to work on timing and listening. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.

Next idea…

This suggestion might seem a little wacky.

2. Why not sing one part, and play the other? In other words, what if you were to pretend to be two people trying performing a round; one singing, the other picking? You might think “That’s impossible. I’ll never be able to do it!” If you give it a try, you might just surprise yourself. I made a little hand out below that will help you with this challenge, and a little video to show you how it’s done.

If you thought suggestion 2 was wild, you’ll love this one.

3. Why not try to play the round in two parts on your uke? In other words, what if you pretend to be two people playing a round together? This is a real brain teaser, but very fun to work on. More on this in the hand out and video below.

But, why should I bother?

That’s always tough question for me to answer. Let me try…

Recently I’ve had a lot of students working on building independence between their instrument and singing. One of my students just spent several months learning to sing “Tears of a Clown” while playing a very syncopated finger-style backing. This was a lot of work. She had to break it down a bar at a time and learn how to perform the two parts simultaneously. It was a triumph to see her perform the song at our Spring recital this year.

Musicians of all levels are faced with challenges when it comes to doing two things at once. Sometimes, it’s a strumming pattern that seems impossible to sing over. Other times, it is a series of hammer-ons and pull-offs that need to be coordinated with a bass line in a solo finger-style piece. It’s like we need to split our brain in two. It seems impossible. A lot of students give up.

I started thinking about how it might be possible to help students working on split attention skills. What would be some simple exercises they could do that would help them to be ready for the moment when they are faced with coordinating two parts?

Hmmmm, coordinating two parts. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s where the “solo round” idea comes in.

Here is a little video outlining today’s idea of playing rounds on your own:

Here is a handout that contains Row, Row, Row Your Boat three different ways, as well as some new rounds that you may enjoy playing with others or on your own:


One last treat for you…

Here is Mike Rud, winner of the 2015 Juno for best vocal Jazz album, playing his version of Bach’s Two Part Invention No 8. He plays one part and sings the other. It is an incredible feat of coordination.  It’s called “You Have to Practice Slow, Bach Invention no.8″. Thanks Mike. Good advice!


That’s all for now,

All the best in your playing.


P.S. I am regularly adding new lessons to Ukulele in the Dark. Please subscribe to my mailing list below to receive every lesson right when it comes out. Be sure not to miss a thing!


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