Saturday, January 9, 2016
Band 101 - Number 4
Welcome to another installment of Band 101. Band 101 deals with the problems you may have to contend with as a member of a full band. More specifically a cover band who plays hit songs in local bars to earn extra money. I have 34 years of experience dealing with many of these problems firsthand.
Any potential member of any working cover band must realize before joining that they may end up playing, at least 1 song they may not enjoy at every gig. These songs may stay on the set list, especially if the girls get up and dance every time the band plays them. By giving the people what they want your band will build and keep a loyal following. If you're not willing to play a few of the same songs at every gig then you should definitely not start or join a working cover band.
Learning new songs is essential to keep things interesting for everyone in the band as well as the audience. It's best if all the band members agree on all the new songs that will be added. If you're easy going and willing to play songs that 1 or 2 members in the band choose then things will go smoothly. If you can't all agree on any given song it's best to take a democratic vote to keep things fair. Every band should work as a team in order to keep every band member happy. Once everyone agrees on a few songs to add it's best for everyone to learn them at home before attempting to play them at practice.
When trying to add new songs it's very important to be able to listen and realize when a song isn't sounding good at band practice. Trying to soldier on with a bad sounding song can put a damper on a good practice. It's best to drop bad sounding songs and just move on to the next song, if you can't agree on whether or not to drop any song, again, it's a really good idea to take a democratic vote to keep the peace. Any one song, no matter how much any one particular member may really love it, is not worth keeping on the set list if it sounds bad. You can't let your love for any particular song get in the way if it's not working out. Remember that the band can always learn a new song to replace a song that sounds bad. If individual egos get in the way a "even if it's bad it's good" song policy can really stifle any positive progress the band can ever make. Many songs can end up sounding bad, this is not a good thing, especially if you want to keep a following. Being flexible with a song list and smart enough to keep good energy flowing are often overlooked but these are a couple of key elements if you desire to keep a good cover band together.
It's important to recognize your weaknesses and play up your strengths when learning new songs.
A potential new band song may sound great when you're singing and playing it at home alone with your acoustic guitar but suffers when played with the entire band.
If you're inexperienced you should be open to honest and constructive criticism from fellow band members when practicing new songs. This is a good thing. It's a very bad thing if you're ego gets the best of you and you can't accept any kind of criticism from your fellow band members. Just wait until you get up in front of a hostile and intoxicated audience! They do not hold any comments back no matter how well you think you are playing and performing!
OK, back to learning new songs, if 1 or 2 band members learn the new songs and a couple haven't yet it's best to put these songs aside for next practice. It may seem like a good idea at first but you should never try to go ahead and teach the band members who don't the songs how to play them during practice, this is a bad thing. Trying to teach them can become a very long and tedious process, especially if that player isn't a quick learner. The band members who already know the songs will become increasingly bored the longer the lesson continues. They now have to find something else to do and that something will probably be interrupting you while you are attempting to teach the song. They may even leave the room and become disinterested in continuing practice altogether. If and when the lesson ends you may have to find everyone, get them back together and convince them all to continue practicing a song that the member you just taught may still not know good enough to even bother playing. If this becomes a regular thing then that member will stop learning new songs and will start to rely on you to teach them to him at practice, this is a really bad thing.
Going ahead and playing the songs without the entire band knowing them is not a good idea either.
If you play the songs the end result may be a really bad sounding attempt at a potentially good addition to your song list. Playing any new song badly over and over again is a great way to kill any positive momentum you have flowing at a good practice. It's important to develop good listening skills in order to realize when a song isn't really working out. Another result can be that if the members who haven't learned the songs play the wrong notes or the wrong groove the fluffed part will probably end up being the part they continue to play every time. Especially if everyone in the band says "that sounded great!" after the song is over. Why should that player bother learning the correct notes if playing it wrong or just plain bad "sounded great"? If a fluffed part "sounds great" then they may begin thinking that they can get away with fluffing their parts for all of the songs, this is not a good thing. If you are always fluffing parts and you can't be bothered to put the time and effort in to learn songs correctly you should not join a working cover band.
It's important to realize that the entire band should work as a team, no one's singular opinion should ever be considered more important than any another band members. If you think your opinion is better than everyone else's then you are letting your ego get in the way. This is not good thing. Stubborn egos will result in a member quitting, the band constantly changing members or a break up.
If you want to keep a good working band together for awhile it's a really good idea to put your ego aside and do what's best for the band. If you can't do this you shouldn't start or join a cover band.
Through my 34 years of musical experience I've learned that it takes at least one solid year for a new band to really gel and sound good when playing together. If you don't think the audience can hear the difference between a seasoned line-up of good players who have learned to play well together and a bunch of new members who have thrown together a set list to play out then you're fooling yourself because they can.
Experienced cover bands realize that it's a really good idea to have a ton of great sounding songs ready to play so the songlist can be a little different every time you play out. A song that doesn't go over in one bar may work well in another. Playing the same setlist will get old real quick and may lead to a member quitting or the band breaking up out of sheer boredom. If the band you're in can't be bothered to learn any new songs band members may turn to alcohol, drugs and the most dreaded scourge of any band, overplaying! to keep thing interesting when practicing and playing out.
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