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Acoustic acts and getting people dancing

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by pklima, Apr 16, 2011.

  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    A lot of venues seem to prefer quiet acoustic bands. Can you consistently make people dance with one of those? How do you do it?

    I know we had a thread like that long ago focusing on repertoire, but what about instrumentation? Does that make a big difference in getting people dancing? Is piano better than guitar, BG better than DB etc?

    Even more specifically, does the kind of percussion make a big difference? My acoustic band recently replaced our cajon player with one who can also play drums, though he doesn't own any cymbals right now... Should we talk him into buying a hi-hat and bringing the drum kit to roomier venues, and playing cajon in the really tiny ones where there won't be room to dance anyway?

    I mean, we never really had our minds set on having a cajon in the band so it's not an artistic/aesthetic choice. The singers just mentioned the night before a gig that we could use some percussion, and I managed to get a guy who happened to play that.

    And in case not everyone knows, the answer to "what is a cajon": Cajón - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  2. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    I usually assumed that the venues that hire "quiet" acoustic acts hire them because their customers want to hang out and talk, not dance -- Coffee shops and restaurants and things, as opposed to bars and clubs. I would ask the manager about that before bringing in drums and raising the tempo - you could end up misfiring.
    G-Z and Seanto like this.
  3. Good take hrodbert. A snare on the 2 & 4 is what makes people dance. Got snare?
  4. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    We could offer venues a choice of cajon or small drum kit. That's a very good idea. We don't really need to raise the tempo or change anything else - we play a lot of stuff like Beyonce and Lady Gaga already.

    We do play bars, mostly. Talking to owners and managers I get the feeling that most of the time "we don't want drums" just means "we don't want loud", which probably is because a lot of bars around here are really tiny - like 30 people will fill them - and/or have neighbors who like to call the cops to complain about noise. Just the realities of the local market, though it seems like acoustic bands are in more and more demand in other TBers' locations too.
    Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking. Snare and possibly also kick would make a huge difference.
  5. I found when I was doing solo Acoustic Guitar gigs, using a stomp box did the trick. It doesn't have to sound like John Bonham's kick drum; just having a steady thump going seems to work.
    SoCal80s likes this.
  6. Our 3 piece is cajon/guitar/drums and we've been together for about 2 1/2 years. Admittedly, the first year was a bit of a struggle to find our groove. The guitarist and I came into this together from a full on rock band with drums and loud amps so we had a good playing balance already worked out.

    The singer that joined us had a tough time adjusting to playing things that people will dance too, it was just new for him as a recovering barbershop quartet singer (his term btw)

    One concession to the straight bass/snare sound from his cajon has been adding a pedal that will trigger cowbell and hand claps that he uses sparingly but effectively.

    Now that we've had some time and found that groove we've had some good success with being a band people can dance to that doesn't have to be too loud. The advantage of the cajon is that, like electronic drums, you can set the level wherever the venue wants.

    That worked for us.
  7. hensonbass

    hensonbass Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    My acoustic trio gets folks dancing and we only have an upright bass and nylon string guitar.

    It really comes down to how you approach the music and your arrangement. Everyone is responsible for the groove including the singer. I will admit it’s not the easiest thing to do...but it can be done.

    Mr_Moo, G Aichele and WI Short Scaler like this.
  8. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Ever since the 1960s people have forgotten how to dance unless there is an exact 120 beats per minute 125 dB bass/bass drum thump on 1 and 3 and a corresponding snare whack on 2 and 4.

    From some time before the birth of Christ to about 1960, people had zero trouble at all dancing to unamplified bands or even single musicians.

    Go to You Tuba and listen to a bunch of old country, bluegrass, and trad jazz bands and you will get a glimpse of how to swing without electrons. Or look up "fiddle tunes".

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
    Mr_Moo, Jhengsman, G Aichele and 2 others like this.
  9. bearfoot

    bearfoot Inactive

    Jan 27, 2005
    Chittenango, NY
    +1 for fiddle tunes, even if just to have around as reading practice.

    Almost no one dances to 3/4 or 6/8. Use those very sparingly. Like even just one, near the end of a set. Exceptions exist, like Tourdion, the medieval dance in 3/4 that is the tune that decided what natural minor would be. Great mug stomper, that.

    Anything with that 5-beat cinquillo works - you know, the "Bo Diddly" beat.

    other good acoustic dance-friendly tunes I have used:

    Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
    Mrs. Robinson
    Anji (instrumental)

    Bird Song, Fire on the Mountain, Franklin's Tower (if Hippies are present)

    El Quarto de Tula (instrumental)

    the Israel, Hawaiin guy version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" is lightly danceable, as a strong 2 & 4

    from the truly obscure Bowie catalog, "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed"

    Mr_Moo likes this.
  10. Our band is acoustic guitar/singer, clarinet, mandolin, and electric bass. No percussion. We play mainly vintage jazz and early rock. People dance when we play, especially when the tune is lively and familiar.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  11. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Every "acoustic" gig at venues I've played was engaged for one reason: Music Wallpaper. Only a few oddballs tried to dance, and that was after 3-4 glasses of wine.
  12. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    My 4-piece rock group (2x electric guitar, drum kit, electric bass) also does ‘quieter’ wine bar/coffee house gigs using electric guitar, acoustic guitar, djembe/cajon/shakers, and DB. We’ve never had issues getting the audience moving. From my perspective, it’s all about playing catchy songs that people know. We also throw in a lot of our original music, but we make sure to play upbeat only.
    hensonbass, Mr_Moo and G Aichele like this.
  13. IMG_1227.JPG
    bearfoot likes this.
  14. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    The whole concept is a terrible attempt to jam a square peg into a round hole.

    Dance bands are for thrillin'.

    Acoustic bands are for chillin'.
    saabfender likes this.
  15. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    you realize this thread is over 7 years old, right?
  16. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011

    The Monroe Brothers started getting people dancing with an all-acoustic band about 85 years ago, if I remember correctly.

    Johann Strauss got people dancing with an all-acoustic band about 110 years ago, if I remember correctly.

    Barn dances in rural North America, getting people dancing with all-acoustic bands, began sometime around 1600, if I remember correctly.
    Mr_Moo, G Aichele and WI Short Scaler like this.
  17. I was also wondering why the age of the thread was important at all? If you have something new to add you should feel free to it.

    IMO, it's all about giving the audience the feel of a groove or a beat to move to in how you play. It can be accomplished in lots of ways.
  18. Some of my most enthusiastic dancing audiences have been with all acoustic music, including with no drums.

    On the other hand, who dances to heavy metal?
    G Aichele likes this.
  19. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    Sure, while you're crying your eyes out.
    Reflecting the groundswell of support for a now-burgeoning nascent genre.
  20. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    Just learn some of this stuff...
    Mr_Moo and G Aichele like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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