Band Communication, Have A Meeting

The Who Need A Meeting

   One of the things I’ve encountered in my career playing in bands is the importance of keeping everybody on the same page. One thing that is constant is the fact that things constantly change. The band may have started out with one vision, one goal and a clear path to get there. As time goes on and people grow and the band gets out playing in front of people those things will most likely change. Before long, the band that started out as a rock-n-roll roadhouse band is playing a bunch of country music and not everyone in the band is happy about that. Another thing that happens to bands is personality conflicts. They’re inevitable and unavoidable. Sometimes there are hurt feelings because of things that have been said or done in the heat of the moment. You can make it through these things as long as the band keeps the ability to talk to each other openly and honestly.

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A Band Is Not A Pure Democracy – Get A Leader

The Beatles
John Lennon Leads The Beatles

   When I first started playing in bands I was very young, 14 years old actually. All the rest of the guys were about 3 years older than me. I knew nothing about playing live rock-n-roll and was more than willing to have the older guys show me the ropes. The leader in my first band was the Bass player. He was a great leader and we never felt like we had a dictator at the helm. That band was such a great experience that I’m still playing today because of it.

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Personality Conflicts and Bands

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen Personality Conflict in Action

If you’ve played in bands for any length of time at all I’m sure you’re well aware of personality conflicts. A lot of very famous and huge acts have fallen apart citing personality differences or conflicts as the reason the band fell apart. Chris Cornell of of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave cited “Personality Differences” as a major reason for leaving both of those bands. Another famous example is Van Halen, Eddie has cited several times that the reason somebody has left the band was “Personality Differences”. I’ve seen interviews with Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth where it looked like it was all Eddie could do to keep from strangling Roth.

   It’s something that you’ll never be immune to in a band. Part of the  evolution of a band is the emergence of personality conflicts. When you start a band, everyone is on their best behavior. The members are nice and respectful to each other. You all share a common vision and in the beginning you’re focused on the same things. It usually doesn’t take long though for the differences of opinion to surface. The nastiness can come out as soon as you start trying to decide on a song list. It can get even nastier when you start trying to decide on a band name. Even deciding which harmonies each member is going to sing can bring out huge clashes between band members.   Continue reading “Personality Conflicts and Bands”

A Lot Of The Time Playing In A Band Is Work

   I’ve been playing in bands for 27 years but I still remember how great it was starting out playing in a band. I remember when it put me on top of the world just to make it from the start to the finish of a song together as a band. We’d be stoked and play the song over and over loving every minute of it. We learned the songs just for the joy of playing them together. After we had some songs down then naturally we wanted to play some gigs. So we played a few school assemblies and did a few songs and had some great success. Once you’ve played in front of an audience then everything else becomes a quest to get back onstage in front of a crowd. This is where the whole process of learning songs and preparing for the show starts to become work. Continue reading “A Lot Of The Time Playing In A Band Is Work”

Get A Good Soundman

   One of the most difficult things we have to deal with as live music performers is determining how we sound out where the crowd is. It can be a real nightmare to try to determine if you’re really sounding good out in the room. We’ve tried asking wives, girlfriends, fans, bouncers, managers and they all have a different opinion of how we sound. It’s a very subjective question and the feedback you get seems to depend on who you ask. If you ask the singers wife how the band sounds, of course the vocals are too quiet. The guitarists wife wants more guitar… You know the drill. Then you get the “Pro Sound Technician” that comes up to you at a gig and gives you all sorts of advice and then pesters you until you change things that almost invariably ruin your sound.   Continue reading “Get A Good Soundman”

“Big Bends Nut Sauce” Tribute Song, by Shufflin’ Noah

   Okay, I had a request to hear the tribute song my band “Shufflin’ Noah” recorded one night for our favorite guitar lubricant:
Big Bends Nut Sauce Tuning Lubricant

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Rock Band – The Video Game

As musicians, we’ve all heard the same word repeated over and over our entire carreer…Practice! I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned, if you love to practice you’re probably not playing out very much. I personally don’t love to practice. I love it when I have a brand new instrument or when I’m learning a new instrument but that newness wears off quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I practice regularly and so should you. But don’t you like to practice when you’re having a lot of fun at the same time?
I have to tell you that the new game Rock Band by Harmonix has had a profound effect on my singing. I knew the game would be fun, whacking away on a toy guitar controller and pounding on electronic drum pads but I didn’t give the singing a second thought. When we got the game, I found the singing portion to be easy and fun. The game detects when you sing in tune, sing on the beat and say the correct phrases. Then you get scored on those abilities and if you suck too badly, you kill off your whole show. I have to admit, that’s real world when it comes to bad singing. People don’t stay at your shows very long when you have a bad singer.
Since I’ve been playing Rock Band it’s helped my singing several ways and I’ve noticed it when I’ve played gigs. These are the ways it’s helped me the most in terms of singing:

  1. I sing a lot more in tune now.
  2. I have tons of stamina and can sing a whole show without losing my voice.
  3. It’s helped my timing with getting the words into the rythmic groove with the rest of the band.
  4. I can hit high notes a lot easier now.
  5. I can hold notes out longer and keep them in tune.

That’s just how Rock Band has helped me with my singing. It helps on the other instruments as well although not as radically. The next instrument it helps the most with after singing is drums. It doesn’t help you with technique such as the proper way to hold sticks or the proper striking technique. It does really help with hand and foot coordination. In fact, it radically helps with that. It also helps you keep a steady beat. If you’re not steady, the band gets booed off the stage. Again, true to life.
On guitar, Rock Band helps primarily with rhythm and a little bit with finger coordination. You probably get the least real-world benefit from playing guitar in Rock Band.
On all instruments, it helps you as a musician to follow a chain of notes or phrases that you must complete on the beat to be able to continue playing. This does somewhat translate into reading music notation even though you don’t have to read the entire musical staff. It does help you keep your eye on the page while playing without looking at your hands all the time.
So I’m recommending Rock Band for all of those reasons. It really is a good purchase for a musician. Is it the same as playing in a real band? Kind of, but not nearly as fulfilling as a crowded room of people going crazy over a killer performance that you really played. Does it help your live playing? YES IT DOES! So get it, I put some links in this post so you can find the game easily. Have fun!

Song Selection

   “I know what music I like, and I’m going to play it!”.

Man, if I had a dime for every time a band member said that to me I’d be rich. We all have our favorite music and we’re all partial to it. But is that what you need to play to keep an audience happy? Well, it really depends on where you’re playing.

  If you’re playing in a dance club, you sure better be playing music that the audience can dance to. If you don’t, you’ll hear about it and it usually won’t be kind.

  In the Song Selection category, I’ll be discussing how to choose music to suit your audience. There are a lot of tools out there and a lot of reference material you can use to increase your chance of playing music that people are going to get out of their chairs for. Check back often, as I’ll review song collections and make suggestions as to what CD’s should be in your collection.

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