When you play a cover song in a live band you can just play a song, or you can play a song well. The difference is in the details.
I remember back when I was in my first live band how awesome it was just to make it through an entire song from beginning to end. We would get a chord chart and the lyrics and just play through the songs. It was fun and it sounded pretty good. As time went on and our ability to listen to the individual parts that make up a song increased, we realized that we were missing a lot of subtle nuances that made the songs we were playing go from good to great. It’s true when people say “The difference is in the details.” That’s what I’d like to talk about today.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will have your live band working together like having a gig scheduled. When you have a deadline for a performance the whole band will suddenly become more focused on creating a great final product to present at the show. The constant tweaking of parts will stop, songs that just aren’t coming together will be dropped and the songs you do well will really start to get tight. Having an upcoming gig will give your band a sense of urgency that really will help you to polish things up and make them presentable. Continue reading “Get Your Band Focused By Scheduling A Gig”
Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame as well as the supergoup Asia is one of my favorite rock drummers. He is a highly skilled live musician. He has a light touch and he’s amazingly accurate and fast. Carl was hailed as the rock-n-roll equivalent of jazz great Buddy Rich. I personally like to watch Carl Palmer using the classic jazz grip on the sticks. You don’t see it a lot with rock drummers. Another thing I really enjoy is Carls sense of showmanship. He knows how to put on a good show while playing the drumset. He is truly a great example of a good mix of musicianship and great stagecraft.
I previously wrote an article called A Happy Crowd Means A Happy Band, in this post I’ll discuss the opposite point of view. It’s true that the band feeds off the audience, that being said, the audience is the most unpredictable part of your gig. We as live musicians would like to have a pumped up, excited audience every time we play. We can’t control the audience mood but we can control our mood. Or at least how we appear when we’re playing. Whatever your mood appears to be onstage, it will carry over to the crowd. So even if you’re having a terrible night, keep things light and keep a smile on your face.
The “rock band plays acoustic gig” format really came to popularity when MTV introduced the “Unplugged” concert series. The series began in the ’89/’90 season with a concert by Squeeze with Elliot Easton (of The Cars) and Syd Straw. From there the series took off, soon every live musician was working up an acoustic set of their music that they could play in smaller, more intimate concert settings.
When you’re preparing to play a gig, it’s extremely important to prepare for the unexpected. Murphy’s law seems to always rear it’s ugly head at a gig. Here are a few basic essentials every live musician can do to prepare for equipment problems and breakdowns at a gig.
Make sure you bring some basic tools. At the very minimum you should have a Leatherman Multi-Tool and a flashlight. It’s a really good idea to have a soldering iron as well. You can fill out your toolkit with the following:
I don’t know who originally wrote this but I’ve seen it on a few forums and Blogs. If you’re the author, leave a comment and I’ll give you credit. It’s just so funny I had to post it on Live Musician Central.
How To Request A Song From The Band…
When requesting a song from the band, just say “play …. my song!” We have chips implanted in our heads with an unlimited database of the favorite tunes of every patron who ever walked into a bar and all songs ever recorded so feel free to be vague, we love the challenge.If we say we really don’t remember that tune you want, we’re only kidding. Bands do know every song ever recorded, so keep humming. Hum harder if need be… it helps jog the memory, or just repeat your request over and over again.
One of the most common problems I’ve seen playing in bands is the fact that bands don’t change their set lists often enough. Having a good set list and maintaining it is essential stagecraft. There are two common problems that arise with set lists. First, a band will learn 40 songs and then play them for the next 5 years without ever changing them out with new material. Second, bands will play the same songs in the exact same order every night for 5 years. The reason I say 5 years is because that’s the typical life of a band, especially when you don’t change up your set list. So how do you avoid these pitfalls?
As a musician have you ever heard the saying “Playing The Song Instead Of The Instrument”? I was having a discussion with some fellow musicians the other day and we were discussing the problem of musicians overplaying during a song. It’s something that I guarantee you’ll have to deal with at some point if you’re playing in a band.
Let’s define what overplaying is: Overplaying is when you play too much to suit the song. Let’s use the drums as an example. A blatant example of overplaying would be changing the beat deliberately to 5/4 without the rest of the band, just for a measure or two to show you can do it. Blatant overplaying would also be putting a drum break in every bit of extra space in a song. Continue reading “Playing The Song Instead Of The Instrument”
I’ve been playing in bands for 27 years now and have been to lots of band practices and rehearsals. Today I’m going to talk a bit about how your band sets up for practice and gigs. I want you to think about how your band sets up during a standard band practice. I’ll bet you that you stand in some kind of circle or oval facing each other with all the amplifiers and speakers pointing at you. That’s really the standard setup for a regular band practice.