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Anyone swap instruments with the guitarist for some songs?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mexicanyella, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. mexicanyella


    Feb 16, 2015
    Troy, MO
    I am in a just-starting-out three-piece band after a long hiatus from band playing, and it's my first time playing bass in a band after playing guitar for most of my life. I am having a blast and feel like I'm getting the hang of it quickly enough and all that...but I still think in guitar when it comes to contributing song ideas (we're working on original material).

    In a past band one of the guitarists and the bassist would swap instruments for some songs, and I always thought in that setting it was kind of jarring; while both guys could play in time and in tune on either instrument, the whole vibe and feel of the ensemble changed and I was never entirely comfortable with it. Now when I come in with a guitar idea and show it to the guitarist, chances are good he'll want to just swap instruments rather than take my guitar part and run with it.

    Do any TB members have good/bad anecdotes or advice to share on swapping instruments while maintaining momentum through a set, and not turning the whole band dynamic upside down after the swap?
    BurnOut likes this.
  2. Hahaha


    Sep 26, 2003
    Olympia, WA USA
    I do with one of the bands I play with. It's a four piece with two guitars. We mostly host jam nights so one of the guitar players and I will switch it up sometimes to make it interesting. He's a good bass player and I have no trouble playing guitar, although I prefer bass.

    There's no real trick to it in our case. We just switch instruments and launch into the next song. We're not going for any particular vibe, we're just playing songs. The Edgar Winters band did it also back in the early seventies.
    portpc likes this.
  3. Maybe switch with the drummer too! I think different vibes are good as long as the people are dancing.

    Or you could switch instruments, rename yourselves as a different band, and 'open' for each other at the venue :D.
  4. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    There was a band called Switch with a couple of DeBarge brothers in the late 70s and that ability was part of their show. They had an album or two on Motown before the brothers joined their other siblings and DeBarge became the big hit making act
  5. portpc


    May 31, 2011
    One of the trios I work with (keys, bass, drums, all vocals) has me switching from Bass to Guitar & Harp on some numbers.
    The drummer is also a fine guitarist & does a few songs on 12 string Acoustic.

    I find that folks like this show of versatility, (if it works!) to keep continuity it's very important to keep a conversation going with the crowd,
    jamro217 likes this.
  6. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    I was in a band back in the '70's that used this as a gimmick. It got some attention, but wore out it's welcome after a couple of personnel changes and some expensive instruments not being handled with respect. It definitely is impressive to watch the ol' switcheroo three or four times in one set, especially if you're efficient at it and don't waste time. It also helps if you're playing more advanced music with fiery solos.
    Bassdirty and portpc like this.
  7. portpc


    May 31, 2011
    We do it out of necessity as this act was setup to purposely try to sound great without having a full time guitarist.
    The material is a lot of Keyboard-centric stuff, Billy Joel, Elton John etc..
    To change up instruments is a big challenge, it does make you think about arrangements and I like it as you are forced to be more musical in general.
    jamro217 likes this.
  8. I occasionally swap up with my rhythm player, who is a rockabilly plank-spanker from way back. He has a beat to death old upright, autographed by a whole bunch of famous players...very cool instrument and conversation piece with a lived-in look. He'll break it out for some vintage blues and acoustic-style tunes, because while I can play some basic stuff on upright, I'm hardly proficient at it. I am, however, a pretty competent acoustic guitarist with pretty good fingerpicking technique. So that's our switchup. We don't do it every show, but once in awhile when the mood strikes and the audience seems receptive, we'll work it into a gig. We have a version of Black Water, for instance, that we do with me fingerpicking acoustic, the lead player doing slide on either his acoustic or a resonator, our rhythm player on upright, and four-part vocals. It's a big sonic departure from the band's usual sound, but some audiences really appreciate the variety.
    jamro217 likes this.
  9. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Eew, no.
    BurnOut and BrewsterRooster like this.
  10. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    I would love to be in a band where this could happen. I'm comfortable writing on guitar or bass, but writing to basslines can be an interesting thing. Most guitarists don't like to do it, though some bands have made their mark doing so. The Minutemen, for example, clearly have songs that started with Mike Watt's basslines.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Nothing wrong with it,as long as it doesn't slow down the set.

    I remember Asia's first tour - the keyboardist was on a platform over the drummer. They started the second set with all four musicians up there playing keys. One by one Wetton, Howe, and Palmer came down and picked up their primary instrument to add to the song. Very well done.
  12. One New Year's Eve the cover band lost the bassist to girlfriend problem. The lead guitarist took over on ''bass'' but he was out of his depth. I jumped up and saved them.
  13. I never do it. Never liked guitar nor could I play it very well I can shred some bass as many ppl have told me. I could not do what my guitarist can do and neither could he do what I do. Btw we play technical death metal so your mileage may vary.
  14. mexicanyella


    Feb 16, 2015
    Troy, MO
    Thanks for the responses so far! Interesting variety of takes on the subject.
  15. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Occasionally. . but years ago, I used to think it was a cool thing to do.. have guys swap instruments..
    In the venues I play, I've learnt that most folks could care less about who's playing what and it's something of a stage-ego thing..
    As long as the band sounds good and plays music they like + wanna dance to, they could care less if you play bass, drums AND guitar on different songs.. or not o_O
    2cooltoolz and Arion like this.
  16. Maureen M

    Maureen M

    Nov 5, 2016
    I've never swapped instruments with anyone onstage. I have played both bass and acoustic guitar in the sane set though.

    I mostly write on guitar and our guitarist at the time couldn't play the clean parts well so I did.

    Didn't really like doing it though...I know my limitations. I played better than he would have, but not nearly as well as a "real" guitarist would have.
  17. Audible Vibes

    Audible Vibes

    Dec 4, 2016
    Minot, ND
    Slightly Stoopid does it regularly, and it doesn't disrupt the flow of their shows. Usually whoever is singing is playing guitar. I think it's interesting to watch and compare their styles and tone to each other.
  18. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    Nope, not me.

    But I did play in a band once, The Now Things Taste Kind of Bitter, where we would swap instruments every now and then and where I got both to sing lead, play guitar, bass and even drums depending on the song.

    These guys, some friends of mine, did it a lot too, when they were still around as a band:

    I also know Tortoise does it a lot:

    Last edited: Dec 25, 2016
  19. sm49341


    May 12, 2013
    I pick up a guitar for about 5 songs a night. The keyboard player plays bass. We do it because some songs just need 2 guitars. It was also started just to allow musical exploration and fun. I am allowed to play lead on these. It's pretty cool for me, because I play a support role all night, so it's nice to get a handful of lead and a few short solos. My advice would be, know your part on guitar, play it well, and remember not to be any louder than the regular guitarist.
  20. el jeffe bass

    el jeffe bass

    Nov 22, 2013
    New Mexico
    In my old R&B, soul and blues band I used to hand off my bass and play frontman, harmonica player for a few songs. It always went over well.

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