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Is leading a band always this hard?

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(@phinnin)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 138
Topic starter  

Please tell me it gets easier?

I have been playing about 5 years now. Getting the hang of playing but trying to keep a lineup together is rough. Gone through 9 players in the last 2 years or so. They move, they get dramatic, they stop working on the material, they leave for greener pastures. It's getting to the point where I just want to grab my acoustic and play by myself.

I heard a quote once that said "A band is a disfunctional family of your choosing". Never sounded so accurate.

Singers and Lead Guitarists seem to be the most crazy...

Someone talk me down from the "screw it, I'm goin' solo"


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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 5468
 

That would be me and Greg.

Yep, I guess it is true.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

Got to laugh, haven't you.....or else you'd probably break down and cry.

So far, on my own songs, I've played acoustic (rhythm, lead and slide) & electric (also rhythm, lead and slide) guitars, bass guitar, organ, piano, harmonica and drums. Well the drums were actually programmed on my keyboard, but you get the drift - I play everything myself. The upside of this is that I can do the songs exactly as I want to do them, and whatever covers I do are my choice too. The downside is, if the bass-player (for example) keeps messing up and needs a smack over the head, it's going to hurt me as much as it hurts him!

And yes, the lead guitarist and the singer are always fighting with each other - probably down to the fact they're both Geminis!

: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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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Yeah, it's true.

In my experience, singers are the worst culprits. Because they "front" the band, they're seen as the leader in public... which apparently gives them a mandate in their own minds to direct all things musical. And there seems to be an inverse relationship between what they know about music and what they claim (i.e. a singer who doesn't know how to count will always insist you played it differently that time; THEY couldn't have screwed it up!)

But second place ain't far behind, and it's a thousand-way tie. Keyboard players who have led (or claim to have led) bands tend to be quite dictatorial. Drummers who don't understand dynamics are always a joy to work with. Good sax and horn players are often in demand; if you work with them, they'll often blow you off on short notice for a better paying gig.

And in general, have you noticed:

- anyone adjusting their amp after sound check is only able to turn things clockwise. Except for the bolder ones... they're adjusting other people's amps, and can only do that counter-clockwise.
- it's almost always the least prepared musician who wants to add the most tunes to the set list.
- the one who owns the PA thinks their vote should count twice.
- the one who imbibes in substances between sets always thinks he/she has improved as the night goes on. They are always wrong.
- if anyone doubles on accordion, your life will be miserable

On the plus side:

- jazz bassists who can play con arco always turn out to be cool guys (and great musicians).
- I haven't worked with a bad cellist yet. Of course I've only worked with a few cellists, but if you can improvise on cello you can pretty much do anything.

In all seriousness, in my experience there are three different leadership roles in a band: the stage leader, the business leader, and the musical leader. Sometimes they're the same person; sometimes you need two or three to have the right person in each job. So part of the problem in keeping a band together is simply agreeing on who's got what role, and living by that agreement.

As for the other stuff, it's part of the game - music in general doesn't pay well, so people will move on for greener pastures. The best thing to do is to play with a lot of different people, so that when things happen you have a plan B - and who knows? It might turn out that greener pastures find you!

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1225
 

Play commensurate with the rest of the band and you'll play lots of bar gigs...and have some fun while you're at it.

Play wayyyyyyy better than the rest of the band and you'll draw the best musos around.

It's Darwinian, I know...but that's a fak, Jak!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


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(@notes_norton)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

I've been in bands all my life.

This business would be great if it weren't for $#% &@(! club owners $#% &@(! agents and $#% &@(! other musicians (count me in on that one).

The best way to keep a band together is to keep gigging. People get restless when they aren't working.

Choosing the right musicians is important. Remember, they call it PLAYING music for a reason. I'd hire someone with lesser skills with a better attitude any day. Music has to be fun. If you start bickering, scolding someone who played a wrong note, refusing to give others their way or to compromise, it isn't going to be a good experience.

There is no room for someone with a swelled head - singer - guitarist - whatever. No divas (or whatever the male equivalent is called) allowed.

The last band I was in was a 5 piece private party group. We lost our drummer. After auditions we hired another. She was good, kept a steady beat, played tasty fills, and very cooperative. We got to our first gig in a country club, and it was so crowded they removed the partition between the dining room and the lounge and set the band up in the lounge. The drummer informed us that it was against her religion to be in a bar. I told her that God would have to forgive her for playing or forgive me for murdering her if she didn't play. She got the idea. The next day I bought a sequencer and started a duo with my wife http://www.s-cats.com and I haven't had a musician problem since.

Insights and incites by Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


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 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

Phinnin,

I know exactly where you are coming from. I've tried to get something together for about a year or so and already have had a couple guitar player and two drummers come and go.

Everything that Noteboat and Notes said are pretty spot on though and although we haven't even played out yet our guitar player had mentioned a few months ago he couldn't play in a bar either...come on dude we're playing rock n roll where else are we going to play. So I still have that to deal with.

If I had any interest in going solo I'd do it but I really don't I want to play with other people and just rock out but it ain't that easy.

"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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(@rahul)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2764
 

I would have to ask Phineas and Ferb. 8)

Besides, though I have never been in a band, leave about leading one, still I think leading a band is just about as difficult as being the boss of 30 employees who are running around with individual aspirations.


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(@danlasley)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 2135
 

The best way to keep a band together is to keep gigging. People get restless when they aren't working.

That about sums it up.

If it was easy to be a leader, everyone would be doing it.


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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

Yep, I agree that you've got to gig and make a little money to keep it going. This actually came up our last practice, Dmitri (keyboards) who is a co-worker of mine was talking with another co-worker Bob who plays in a regular gigging band. They have a nice club they play about twice a month. Anyway, they cannot play there for a couple of months and asked if we would like to fill in. Man, I was all for it and so was our drummer Keith.

But... our bass player Mark feels we do not have our vocals down well enough. Now, that is true to an extent, we absolutely could be better. But really we are quite good on many songs, and have just a few weak songs. We have over 50 songs down, so we could cover a gig easy. Well, I wanted to play and so did Keith, but Dmitri kinda sided with Mark. Mark said he could get us a gig at a local Firehouse. It is not the same, it is friends of the band which is cool, but it doesn't pay anything, and it is not the same as a working gig. These informal things you play a few songs, then take an undetermined break to drink and talk with your friends.

I got a little upset (but not much). I told them that sooner or later you just gotta jump in there and play. If you wait till you are perfect you will never gig. And part of gigging cannot be learned at practice or get togethers like a Firehouse jam. You have to learn how to gig clubs like any other thing you practice. You've got to get there, set up and do sound check, then you have to learn to pace yourself so you have enough music to cover the whole night. You need to learn how to talk to the people (probably the most difficult part of performing). You need to learn how to perform, you don't want to make all kinds of noises between songs (like tuning), you've got to have your act and set list together so you don't have 2 minutes of silence between songs.

You know, I love these guys, but I have been with them about 6 months now. We've got lots of songs, and the vast majority are tight and sound great. I am ready to gig. If they continue to put off gigging for another 2 months or so, I'm moving on. I do like to play, and I know you don't want it to be too much like work, but the whole idea is to get out there and perform and hopefully make some money so you can buy more gear. :D

Plus, they asked me to join in the first place because their old guitar player refused to play clubs. So I joined with the intention of gigging in clubs. These guys have always played informal affairs, they've never really played paying gigs.

I agree about different jobs too. I am pretty much the musical director of the band, simply because I am the only one that prints out the music and brings a copy for everybody to practice. I always know the new song I introduce, so I can show them how it goes.

Dmitri owns the PA, so I let him run that even though I do not always agree with the settings he uses. He likes to make us smokey sounding. I always go over and tweak my own mic quite differently. Actually, in the last month or so they have let me adjust the settings because the vocals cut through better.

But I have not been trying to be the financial boss even though I know a lot of club owners and could get us lots of gigs. These guys have been together a long time and I let them run things. Keith the drummer is kind of the leader here.

So, as everybody says, it's a big disfunctional family. You gotta pick your fights carefully. I try to be as cooperative as possible, but I will push a little sometimes.

Anyway, we are gonna do this Firehouse gig Nov. 8th, after that we better get out for a paying gig or I'm giving my notice!

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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(@leear)
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 394
 

OOOO I Love this topic....

I'm a lead guitar player I actually sit back in the corner and play my part. But I'm also the "band leader" I book gigs i push the set list i own the PA. I do all of this because the singer, books gigs, and loads in the equipment, the drummer handles the money part, and bassist helps with the soundcheck and loud out. the keyboad player is a floater.... Musically 2 of us have had music training in school, came through college on music scholarship so musically and tehcnically we know what works but it is so hard to explain to a drummer with no background how to play a syncopated rythm or play the snare on 3 not 2 when he doesn't understand 1234 counting and why it's that way.

I will admit i've left bands for better jobs, and really that's how it goes. You get in one band you practice you gig you get better someone sees you and offers you a better gig. It's like a real job. There may be some hard feelings but if you want to progress in the music business that's going to happen.....

SO to answer your question no it doesn't get any easier. Pick your fights, ask everyones opinion, and my favorite if you are out voted but you know you are right let them have their way when it blows up on them the next time they will value your opinion more....

No matter where you go.... There You are! Law of Location


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 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

leear,

Sounds like that keyboard player is a slacker I think you should find another...HA!

Noteboat said it's almost always the least prepared musician who wants to add the most tunes to the set list.

Wow that's exactly what happens with us. The guy who is the least prepared is always wanting to add new songs or move on quickly when we are going over songs because he gets ...bored

"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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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

The best bands start with a few very serious rules:

1) never recruit a "friend" to the band. Recruit the role you need. If you need a lead instrument, then find a musician at or above your level who likes your direction and get them. Business and friendship don't mix. If you want to have a band with friends then for the love of god, don't try to make money!

2) set expectations up front: when you'll practice, how hard you'll try to gig, when you'll have business meetings, who has the authority to book the band, how you coordinate calendars, etc.

3) Set roles -- if the drummer is the musical director, then the drummer is the musical director. Let him do his job.

4) To put singers in their place, have at least on full set of tunes where they get to sit at the bar.

5) No mater how good someone is, if they are a sucky person, they'll be a sucky band-mate. Check their references, talk to previous bands they've been in. Go out for beers a few times before making them an offer. If anything doesn't click, move on to the next option.

6) Common goals tops talent too. If someone is the best singer you've ever heard, but they're only interested in gigging one weekend every other month and you want to gig every other weekend, then they're the wrong choice.

All that said, leading a band comes down to being a good leader of people. It's a skill that is developed over years, and there are some people who simply aren't suited to it. Take a good, solid inventory of your own personality, likes and dislikes, and how other musicians react to what you do and say. Sometimes folks find it hard because they're not the one best suited to doing it. It's always hard, but if it's not fun as well, then just be a guy in the band and hand the reins to someone more suited to carrying the baton.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1225
 

Yes...

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


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(@leear)
Reputable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 394
 

I guess i should say our keyboard player is not a band member we are always switching between 2 people because they have jobs that require them to work odd times and shifts... so the keyboard player floats and does whatever anyone asks... I used to have to setup the PA all myself and tear down, but now i've trained them in my ways so they put it where it has to go hook up amps and speakers and i hook up FOH then I tear down FOH they roll cable and I organize it in trailer as the bring it to me...

No matter where you go.... There You are! Law of Location


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