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3 guitars together = mush. How to improve the group dynamic?

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(@minotaur)
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Joined: 14 years ago
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I did the chart wrong. D'oh! I put the capo @ 2nd fret (mentally, it doesn't really move), but neglected to form my chords @ 3rd fret. When I did it right, I came out with F#m and Bmaj. Yay me!

Thanks!

Btw, anyone ever see http://www.chordbook.com/guitarchords.php ? It's interactive and really pretty good.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Yes sir

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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(@gabba-gabba-hey)
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Joined: 13 years ago
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Topic starter  

Many thanks for all the replies! It's all good info. 8)

Our worship leader has suggested a rotation with just one guitarist each week, but the guys have not really shown much interest in that ... as we're an all volunteer group, it's tough to be too pushy with people and tell them to get their act together. So, we're just trying to get them to integrate better.

I think these comments get to the point we need to convey to them:

"The hardest part of learning to play in a group is learning when and what NOT to play"

and

"they will sound better if everyone makes a point of playing less"

So yeah, different chord voicings and such can go a long way in that context ... IF we can get them to step up and learn a few new tricks.

I came across an instructional video that seems to cover similar topics (geared to church bands, but applicable elsewhere); the video sample on this page shows the electric guitarist playing simple triads while the acoustic guy strums.
http://www.leadworship.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=21_29&products_id=54

I can see one guy strumming open, one strumming with different voicings or with a capo up the neck, and the third doing something with triads like that. Could be cool. I'll send them that link and plant the seed ...


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(@handelfan)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 36
 

You could always suggest one of them learn electric...hehe 8)

Anyhow, I lead worship on Sundays, and I deal with the "more than one acoustic" thing too. Usually, I will give the other player (a slightly less accomplished player) the easier open chords, and I will play the more difficult stuff, maybe with more barre chords, etc.. Say we're doing a song that is in A major, I will play in A, she will play with capo on 2nd fret and play in G major. Also, our strum patterns differ significantly: mine tend to be more busy and stylized, and she keeps to the beats, and has mostly a downstroke only pattern. You could also add arpeggiations (like others said, triads, or playing individual strings of chords) to change the texture.

Another issue is getting them all to shoosh when you need to cut to softer moments in the songs, and getting them to "feel" what is appropriate in the music at any given time.

You should check out the band Jars of Clay. They got their start with all acoustic guitars jamming at the same time. Good luck.

I am where my mind put me.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Minotaur, this is a bit of an extreme example, but it'll do to illustrate....

A friend and I used to play Maggie May - the old Rod Stewart song - in the pub. He'd play the normal chords - D, Em7, G, A, Em, F#m7, Asus4 and A7sus4. I played with a capo on the 7th fret and played the following chord shapes - G, Am7, C, D, Am, Bm7, Dsus4 and D7sus4.

Rather than have two guitars playing the same voicings, it sounded a lot fuller - my mate was playing the open chords close to the neck, and of course my guitar would sound a lot higher, almost duplicating the mandolin sound from the recording!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@kent_eh)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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This article ,called Play Well With Others might be of some help.

Note who the author is...

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


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(@minotaur)
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Vic...

Pretty cool! :)

The transcriptions I've seen of Losing My Religion do the same thing... capo @ 5th or 7th fret to mimic the mandolin. I don't know if it was Michael Stipe or one of the other guys noodling around with a mandolin and built the song around it. Much like Kerry Livgren wrote Dust in the Wind around his noodling with Travis picking.

Btw, to show that the explanations above about capoing and different chord shapes were not lost on me, I did a little homework tonight. Sundown is capoed at the 2nd fret and played with E E7 in the intro; E B7 E A D in the main part of the song. Well, it occurred to me that the capo acts like the index finger of a barre chord. I barred the second fret and made the "E maj" with middle, ring and pinkie. I realized then that I had a regular F#maj. Identical sound, barre chord or capo, different chord name. I know this is all a no-brainer to you guys. But I feel like Buddha sitting under the tree. :D

I didn't get as far as figuring the other chords without the capo, because I do play it capoed, but I think I explained that right. Eventually I'll learn to make the uncapoed alternate chords.

Take home lesson and moral of the story...

Putting a capo on a certain fret doesn't make it the same chord as uncapoed (but you guys said that ).

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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And surprisingly, no one's mentioned what's almost a golden rule for more than one guitar....don't just check that your guitar's in tune, check that ALL the guitars are in tune with each other. I know, I know, it's belabouring the obvious - but if three guitars are just a TINY bit out of tune with each other, you'll get....mush.

Check all the guitars with the same tuner.....then check them by ear. If they sound OK, they probably are - but don't be frightened of checking again. Even between songs. ESPECIALLY between songs!

This post was brought to you courtesy of the Anal Tuning Corporation - you can never be TOO in tune!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@gabba-gabba-hey)
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Topic starter  

Usually, I will give the other player (a slightly less accomplished player) the easier open chords, and I will play the more difficult stuff, maybe with more barre chords, etc..

Interesting, so you actually assign the parts ... I am hopeful our guys will take that upon themselves once they figure out how.

@ Kent - nice article! Perfect!


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(@minotaur)
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In our church band we'll sometimes have three acoustic guitarists all playing the same thing. It can sound pretty bad. I think they're all doing the same open chords but with some slight strumming variations, and it just gets "off." Mushy, muddy, etc.

...I'm not really sure how else to explain it to them.

I've been thinking about this, mostly because it's no different than any other group dynamic: business meeting, committee, etc.

How about the tried and true, direct method: "Hey guys, I have to be honest here, we sound like crap" after making a recording. Then making a suggestion about each player picking a part he or she feels more comfortable with. Hopefully they wil be different. They may just be shy about speaking up and saying they don't really want to do what they're doing. I know I would balk at playing leads and solos.

Someone has to take charge, and you sound like the guy to do it. Could you also involve your pastor or worship leader, underhanded as that may sound. He or she may carry a little extra authoritative weight.

Well, this was just a brainfart.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


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(@minotaur)
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Interesting, so you actually assign the parts ... I am hopeful our guys will take that upon themselves once they figure out how.

Short version of my last post:

"Someone has to take charge, and you sound like the guy to do it."

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


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(@frankyl)
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Posts: 44
 

I think Minotaur's right, and it's all in how you approach it. I play in a church band, and I always try to be mindful of accepting whatever direction I get, but not everyone feels that way. When they don't, it can be hard to get them to change. And it's especially hard when you're dealing with volunteers; you can't just say, "Do it this way or get lost." If you do, they're more likely to just get lost. But if you leave it up to them, especially if they don't have a solid grasp on arranging music, they're liable to just keep muddling through.

On the other hand, if you approach it from a calm, respectful, constructive standpoint, with some definite ideas to improve things, especially in a church context, it ought to work out all right. Just come to them, emphasize some particular positive that each of them brings to the band, give them the "but," and give them a solid idea of a way that you think each of their particular skill sets could fit into a better way of doing things.

"Andy, your rhythm is impeccable! Bill, you get the sweetest tones out of your guitar! Charlie, your fingering is so precise! But it's not working so great when you all play together. Not your fault, it's just the nature of having three guitars all fighting for the same space in a song - everything ends up sounding muddled and a little off, even when you're each doing a great job individually. If you're all really set on everybody playing each week, I think we could take much better advantage of our embarrassment of riches in the guitar section. If Andy could set up a nice rhythm with open chords, we could get Bill to capo up a bit and play the songs transposed to get a nice complementary effect with his sweet tones a little higher. Then Charlie could fill in some melody and really beef up the music with some arpeggiated chords or fingerpicking. With a little work focused on our guitarists, I think we could really improve worship for everyone!"

It's hard to refuse to do something to improve when you're given an example of how your own positive attributes could lead to a huge improvement. Of course, the downside is a bit more work for you in putting together the arrangements, so there's that.


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(@gabba-gabba-hey)
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Topic starter  

Someone has to take charge, and you sound like the guy to do it.

Who, ME? Ugh. Yeah, I guess I've put myself in that position ... though I'm hardly "accomplished" myself.

In the past when this discussion has come up, I've been told "Hey, we're not professionals!" That attitude is really frustrating. As Jason said earlier, if they won't take direction, there's not much I can do. But, we've had a couple of real train wrecks recently, and need to get things running more smoothly.
Could you also involve your pastor or worship leader

Aside from asking them to coordinate their playing time, WL keeps coming to me to ask how to get them to play better. She says she really worries when we're doing guitar-led songs and all three of them are playing. (She and I have a good working relationship.) So, she's definitely in favor, but is sort of putting it on me to get the message across.

@ FrankyL: You've got the right diplomatic skills; that's a good approach.

I really like the "play less" idea and will use that, in conjunction with the other things mentioned here.

Thanks!


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(@minotaur)
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In the past when this discussion has come up, I've been told "Hey, we're not professionals!" That attitude is really frustrating.

Oh now see, I have a problem with that attitude on their part. I'm a believer in the ancient Greek phrase: Ή ταν ή επί τας (ee tahn ee epi tas) loosely translated as "Come back with your shield, or on it". It was a traditional Spartan farewell before going to battle: victory or death; never surrender, never flee, no excuses. OK, I'm sure these worship services are not quite as life or death as battle, but either give it your best, or don't do it. Don't cop out like that. Jesus didn't! And whom are they supposed to be honoring???

Sorry, rant off. Today is Eastern Orthodox Good Friday, and while I haven't kept it in years, I get a little carried away sometimes.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


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(@kent_eh)
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Record a "train wreck" performance, then suggest just trying it "this way" (with "this way" being based on this thread).
Then record that.

Then play back both for them and let them decide for themselves which is better.

Hopefully the difference should be obvious to anyone with 1 or more ears.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


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