Playing holiday songs is a great way to keep your holiday gigs fun and fresh for the band and the audience.
The season is upon us and it’s time to play those holiday gigs that come to all working live bands. I don’t know if your band is like mine, but it seems like every year we talk about learning a Christmas song or two and we just never seem to get around to it. So the holidays come and we just play the same old stuff at our shows. That’s why I’m going to give you some tips on preparing some holiday songs for your live band so you can be ready for the season.
Obviously the most important thing is timing when to learn the song. It’s better to learn the song well before your holiday shows. So if you’re planning on playing some Christmas songs in December, it’s a good idea to start learning them in October. By learning the songs that far in advance, you’ll be able to iron out the rough spots and really do a good performance of the song when your holiday shows come. Believe me, your audience will be able to tell if you learned the song 3 days before the show. Continue reading “Playing Christmas Songs In Your Live Band”
Almost all musicians hate hauling equipment, that’s why it makes sense to downsize your live band rig.
One of the least fun things about playing in a live band is hauling your equipment around. Of course, having the right equipment is crucial to being able to put on a live gig. So it seems like the longer you play in a band, the more equipment you acquire and then have to haul to your gigs. It’s a problem that can quickly get out of hand and can leave you feeling overwhelmed when it’s time to load up and haul all your equipment to the gigs.
When I started playing in bands I had one electric guitar, one distortion pedal and one amplifier. It wasn’t bad to haul that small setup even though my amp was really heavy. Naturally over the years I added more guitars that I used onstage, more effect pedals and multiple amplifiers. When my guitar rig was at it’s biggest I was hauling 3 guitars, two amplifiers, an effects rack, multiple effects pedals, wireless guitar system, microphones to mic the amps and all the necessary audio and power cables to hook everything up. I also had to haul my vocal microphone, mic stand, guitar stands and a couple racks of lights to the gigs. Needless to say, I hated hauling all that gear even though it was necessary to my show. Continue reading “Make Your Live Band Gigs Easier By Downsizing Your Rig”
Having a band member that will only practice at band rehearsal is something that you can actually work around.
What can you do when one member of your band will only play their instrument when the band gets together to practice? I get this question all the time from friends and colleagues that play in live bands. It’s actually a lot more common than you may think to have a band member only practice when the band gets together as a group to practice. It’s something that you may have to deal with in your live band so let’s discuss some of your options.
It may seem like a no-brainer to just kick the offending member out of the band. That may seem like the easiest solution but let’s face it, this person may have other qualities that make them very hard to replace. For example, I was working with a young band that consisted of 3 brothers and it was a great marketing opportunity having 3 brothers in the same band. The problem is, one of the brothers would never practice his instrument unless it was band practice. It was very obvious that this brother was far behind the other two in terms of being prepared and also in his actual playing ability. But, it was crucial to keep this brother in the band. Continue reading “What To Do When One Of Your Band Members Won’t Practice”
If your live band is feeling a little stale, try bringing in a guest musician to liven things up.
If you’ve been playing in with the same group of musicians in the same live band for a while it’s pretty common for things to become routine. A problem arises when the doing the same old routine every time you get together starts to get boring and stale. This happens to a lot of bands over the course of their career and it doesn’t matter what your bands routine is.
Your band may be playing the same 3 clubs over and over to the point of boredom. Or you may get together regularly to create music in the studio and make recordings but never play out. The Beatles became a recording studio band and guess what? It still got stale and boring even for The Beatles! So what did The Beatles do to get some fresh ideas and some new life in the band? They brought in guest musicians to play on their recordings. Continue reading “Is Your Live Band Feeling Stale? Bring In A Guest Musician”
It’s easy to become an expert musician. You just have to complete the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
Kent, Matt and Erik Rolling Up Gig Hours
I recently had a discussion with a good friend about how the 10,000 hour rule applies to musicians that play in a live band. If you haven’t heard of the 10,000 hour rule it simply states that if you spend 10,000 hours of deliberate practice on something you will become an expert. Deliberate practice being defined as a focused study and application of a skill or subject. If you’ve been working at your job for 10 years then you’re most likely an expert as 10 years job experience roughly translates into 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at your job.
I’m sure that if you’ve been doing the same job for 10 years that your co-workers probably consider you an expert at whatever your job function is. The same thing can be said for musicians. I’ve been playing in live bands for 28 years now and I have become an expert at playing in live bands through experience. I’ve put my 10,000 hours in by practicing my instrument, preparing for live performances, setting up, tearing down and hauling equipment. I’ve put the hours in working with agents, club managers and other musicians. I’ve put the hours in mixing sound, programming sound patches and running amplification. Continue reading “How To Become An Expert Musician”
If you’re a musician, then playing any live band gig at all will help you become a better musician.
I’m a guitarist who has been playing for almost 30 years now and I’ve played in live bands almost that entire time. The reason I play is simple, I love to play in front of live audiences. Some things I love about it are the feedback I get from an excited crowd as well as the joy that comes with really nailing the music when the band is playing well.
I’ve played a lot of different styles of music over the years. I’ve played primarily rock-n-roll but I’ve also played country, jazz, pop, electronic and other styles that don’t really fit into any category at all. I’ve played in original bands playing my own music as well as backing up other artists who write their songs. I’ve played in cover bands with all kinds of lineups from two-piece bands all the way up to full size big bands. I’ve also spent time playing in pit orchestras for live stage plays. Continue reading “Playing Any Gig Is Better Than Playing No Gig At All”
Here are some suggestions to help you set your band’s volume level when you get complaints about volume.
Having played in live bands for so long I’ve been in plenty of situations where I’ve had comments about the bands volume level. Some people complain that the band’s too loud. Some people complain that the band’s too quiet. I’ve even had cases when there have been people commenting both ways right after one another at the very same gig!
Here’s a funny story for you. One night we were playing a gig at a local Elks Lodge. There was an incredibly diverse range of ages and people there that night. An older lady came up and complained that the band was too loud. We turned down just a little bit and a younger girl came up and demanded we turn the band up louder! We told this girl “The lady over there complained that we were too loud, so we turned down.” Immediately the younger girl marched over to the older lady and got right in her face saying that the older lady wasn’t the lodge manager and that the band was way too quiet. It turned into a full scale fight and somebody had to actually separate these two women! Continue reading “What To Do When People Are Complaining About Your Volume Level”
Using backing tracks in your live band will give you the ability to play a more diverse range of music than otherwise possible.
I’ve played in a lot of different types of live bands over the years. I’ve played solo with just my guitar, as a duo, as a trio all the way up to playing in a full on 40 piece Big Band. As you know, it’s great to have more musician’s to create more of a musical soundscape but it also comes with a lot more logistical problems.
Right now I’m playing in a 4-piece band that has bass, drums, guitar and keyboards. We are able to cover a lot of music with this lineup. We also do a lot of songs that would take many times more musicians to pull off live by using a computer sequencer to play the extra parts on a synthesizer module. This gives us the ability to cover tunes that there would be no way to do live with just a 4-piece band. It solves a lot of the problems associated with using a lot of musicians in the band.
We are able to play songs by Nine Inch Nails, Santana, Sting and many other artists that use large groups of musicians or layers of synthesizers to create their music. It really helps us to flesh out our live sound by using these sequenced backing tracks. Having this tool at our disposal has helped to set us apart from the local bands that don’t use a sequencer live. Continue reading “Using Backing Tracks In Your Live Band”
As you know, singing is controlled by the muscles in your throat and the muscles that control your breathing. Any athlete knows that training the correct muscles will give you stamina and greater power. This is also true with your voice. As you train these muscles you’ll be able to sing better, longer and with more vocal range.
Another truth that any athlete knows is that cross-training muscles is an excellent way to increase those muscles abilities. The same is true with singing. If you are a lead singer and all you ever do is sing in the upper ranges of your voice you’ve probably noticed that you struggle singing parts that are in the lower ranges of your voice. The same is true if you only sing in the low range of your voice. You’ll struggle when you go to hit those high notes. That’s where the concept of cross-training your voice comes in. Continue reading “Expand Your Vocal Chops By Cross-Training Your Voice”
Use this technique with a metronome to improve your ability to hold an even tempo.
One of the biggest problems I’ve seen in my years of playing in a live band is the ability to keep a solid, steady tempo. If your band is speeding up and slowing down all the time, it’s darn near impossible to keep a danceable groove going. It’s primarily the responsibility of the drummer, bass player and rhythm guitarist to keep the tempo but everyone benefits when the entire band can hold a solid tempo.
The best way I’ve found to practice keeping a solid tempo is using a metronome. The obvious way to practice is to set the metronome to a tempo that you want to work on and then practice along with it. This is a very basic way to use the metronome but it’s not the best way I’ve found to use it for improving your ability to hold a tempo.