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Auditions: Whats more important, playing or backup vocals?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jonas_24112, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. jonas_24112


    Jul 11, 2011
    I just auditioned for a popular regional country band yesterday. Their current bass player is leaving end of the year. He is a good bassist and sings good high clean harmonies.

    I was given 6 songs Thursday night to learn by Saturday's audition. I already knew 2, so I concentrated on learning the other 4 and mostly mentally rehearsing vocal harmonies.

    The audition- I'd say I was 95% on top of playing the material. I gave a spot on vocal harmony to the one song I sing lead on with my current band. The rest of the songs I just hit parts I felt I could comfortably hit the harmony while playing a new tune. Maybe 5-10% of the time I did harmonies on the other tunes. One particular change to a bridge I missed because I was trying to hit a falsetto harmony to mimic the female part. I explained it afterward cause I saw the drummer flinch when I missed the change. Darn slow songs!!

    Anyway, my question is that If you were the band leader looking for bass/vocals, how would you feel about the above described performance?

    Yes, I'm sweating it. Lots of guys are auditioning for this position and I knew my vocals were what could probably put me at the top of the list.
  2. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    If the band is looking for a bass player/vocalist, both are important. Most of the time it is better to not do a falsetto. Very few people can pull it off. You shouldn't be expected to nail every harmony when trying to sing with someone for the first time. If your bass playing is what they are looking for and you have a good voice, they will recognize that and should be willing to work with you on your vocal parts during rehearsals.
  3. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    Ultimately, it really depends on the band and type of music, but both are important.

    If you are a very good bassist that can't sing, they will probably overlook that, but if you are a mediocre bassist that can't sing, that won't be overlooked.

    Based on your description, and if everything else checked out (i.e. you were not a douche), if I were the band leader I'd say you would probably at least be discussed.

    Also, I really have to agree with Kmonk and his statement about staying away from trying to do a falsetto..stay within your natural range and your abilities.
  4. svtb15

    svtb15 Commercial User

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    If i were the leader.. I would not judge you on a one shot 1st meeting performance.. EVERYONE screws up at one time or another.. I would take the overall performance of all songs into account and see if there was a good vibe... I wouldn't expect you to be EXACTLY like the previous guy simply because you are not him... He has his strengths and you have yours...
    If you missed one change, just as long as you are aware of it,, then you can fix it for the future.. But if you are playing a minor second and not noticing, then i would be saying to myself . WT# is this guy thinking?

    Almost more important at times is the Hang factor. Does it gel?
    Mistakes and ideas, That is what rehearsals are for.... and this was your first time. dont sweat it....

    When i lived in NYC i would go on auditions of Adds listed in the Village voice .. just to keep my audition chops up , and network and for fun for when a real gig came by i would be smooth and ready to do anything asked of me..

    Just my opinion,, but i would take a tight smooth bass player over the signing , simply because in live settings, the feel and groove is very important.. Vocals are too. but to me its the lead vocal and second harmony.. once you get past that its all spice... and the average joe or jane wont know.. but if the bass and drums isn't happenin, EVERYONE knows.. They may not know why they aren't tapping their toe but something isn't right..

    it happens that every gig i get i wind up the guy singing the notes that only a dog can hear... which is good..
  5. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Any player in my band has to be spot-on with backing vocals, as we are a four piece, and the biggest we would ever get is five.

    So vocals are equally important to playing ability, for the most part.

    I really don't need that much help in the high range, though; just someone who has a good voice and is on-key.
  6. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Well, unfortunately it all depends on the vocal abilities of the other guys who showed up. You see, to me, preparedness is the most important when I have auditioned band members in the past. You can have all the talent in the world. If you show up to an AUDITION not being ready to go when we gave you a list, then I can't expect any different when you show up to a SHOW. That being said, everybody gets a case of the nerves at an audition so more than likely the other guys flubbed some parts as well. Next time, spend equal time on both. Expect that you will be asked to sing if the audition is for both playing and singing. And know the parts. Good luck.
  7. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    I've never hired a bassist, but I can say I get called for certain gigs specifically because I can jump into a harmony part on the fly, even if I've never sung the song before. I also sing lead in my own band, so if the singer needs a break I can take over for a song or two.

    I'd say that all other things being equal having vocal skills definitely tips things in your favor.
  8. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hopfully you will get called back for a second audition.

  9. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    I don't disagree with anything that's been said so far.

    How you're ultimately rated will depend also on:

    1. How openly they communicate at rehearsals. If they DO communicate openly and you pull a boner like a falsetto harmony [1], they'll tell you not ever to do that again, and you won't, and the problem will never resurface. So, that audition mistake will count for little. But if they don't, i.e. if they prefer to avoid any/all conflict, then they'll see the falsetto as insurmountable, and it'll be a major ding on you.

    2. What system they're using to pick a bass player: whether it's an open-ended (time-wise) process and they'll keep at it until they get someone who meets some (unknown to you) minimum criteria, or there's a set time limit and they need to choose the best of the bunch after X weeks have gone by.

    Typically, at least in my experience, 1 and 2 are rarely knowable, and so it's not worth "sweating it."

    Note 1: You can get away with falsetto in certain songs (e.g. There She Goes by the LA's, or harmonies to Amy Lee's [Evanencence] lead vocals), but never in country. It just sounds lame.
  10. jonas_24112


    Jul 11, 2011
    OP here, thought I'd give an update.

    After audition, I sent BL a text thanking him for the audition. He said I sounded great and had a couple more guys coming to try out, then they would make a decision.

    Another friend of mine had auditioned the week prior to me, but was not supplied a song list beforehand. It was more like a jam. After I auditioned, he met up with the BL to get CD's of all the songs and he got a call back this past week to play again. He went to the jam with only listening to the songs and not actually learning them, but he is pretty good at improvisation, so I'm sure it went well. BL told him he was the most "solid" of the auditioners, but I (meaning me) had great vocals.

    I texted the BL earlier this week to ask if a decision had been made and if he had any tips or advice for me in doing future auditions. He said they hadn't made up their mind yet, that I did great in the audition, that he will let me know asap, and we may even have another get together.

    Without giving my opinion, what do you guys think?
  11. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    I think you should pop open a beer and relax :D .
  12. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Sounds to me like they consider your friend the better bassist and you the better vocalist. They're likely debating amongst themselves which is more important and that -- along with the "hang factor" -- will determine whether or not you get the gig.

    FWIW I have never lost an audition on my bass playing ability but I have lost out due to my vocals. So if you're the stronger vocalist and you felt the vibe was good I would have to think things are looking good for you.

    In any event I would lay off communicating any further with the BL unless it gets to be 2 or 3 more weeks down the line... as it is you've handled all the follow-up well but any more and you'll come off as pushy or desperate.
  13. dhomer

    dhomer Commercial User

    Apr 9, 2009
    Hickory Corners, MI
    Owner, Gigmaster Soundworks, Auth. greenboy designs builder, MI
    I have no vocal abilities whatsoever.. It has never stopped me from getting a gig around here.. Over the past 5 years my job has had everything to do as for why i'm not playing, but I'm working on that, too...
  14. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    I am another that has lost auditions due to pre-existing friends of the band being chosen and for vocals but never my playing ability.

  15. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    Can't sing a note- tried to sing one song with current band, and was told "don't ever worry about singing"-on the other hand auditioned and was chosen for at least 4 different bands in the last year (so my playing is very strong) I learn the hell out of songs, and really play the bass with some feeling, restrained, and throw in my fills here and there for flash, but never all over the place.
    No backup vocals hasn't hurt me at all. I'd say your main job is to play the bass but that is jsut me....
  16. Corbeau


    Dec 14, 2011
    Good luck with it. I think success really depends on how important the vocals are to the band. Some bands want occasional vocals, other bands view backing vocals as integral to their show. Sometimes I see ads here where they specifically are asking for a bassist/whatever who can also do lead or strong backing vocals, while other bands might say that vocals are a bonus but not required. So, without knowing their priorities, it's hard to say if you'll get the slot.
  17. jonas_24112


    Jul 11, 2011
    Update- OP here. I guess you can say I got the gig, but they started getting some label interest, so the bass player is going to hang in there for now to see what happens and help the BL in his bid for a Record deal. They have my number just in case and whose to say what will happen next year, lol. Have three other possibilities right now and still playing with my current band, but so ready to leave. i guess we'll see what happens. Thanks TB!

    And as for the playing vs vocals, I guess it's dependent upon the gig. I would have replaced a bass player that did a lot of harmonies, therefore vocals were important. I beat a great player for the position cause I could sing harmonies.
  18. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Singing is a plus for most gigs, even if it's mostly 3rd part. Since no one brought it up, I'd continue your work on singing and playing flawlessly at the same time, something that takes many of us a whole career to master, if we ever do.

    Good luck!
  19. jungleheat

    jungleheat Banned

    Jun 19, 2011
    So in other words you would intentionally waste people's time auditioning for bands you had no intention of joining? To keep up your "audition chops"? That's kind of a douchey thing to do. Chops are chops. Either you can play or you can't.

    Anyway, to the original question... how much of the time are you singing but not playing bass? Now how much time are you playing bass but not singing? There's your answer (generally speaking).

    Now, the variation comes where you have more extreme needs in a particular band. In a country band where the bass lines are simple to the point of boredom, if you are a smokin bass player but a lousy singer, you probably wont get the job. On the other side, in a fusion band, nobody probably cares if you can sing, but your bass playing is extremely important. Then there are bands like Yes where you need to be a smokin bass player AND singer AND be able to do them both simultaneously most of the time. And then there's punk where you don't really have to be good at anything.

    So there's variation, but in general, unless it's for a bass and LEAD vocals role, bass playing probably takes precendent, especially if the band has other people doing backing vocals already.
  20. duff beer

    duff beer SUSPENDED

    Dec 2, 2007
    Exactly. How can anyone who has not heard the band, heard the OP's audition, heard the other auditions, and have absolutely no idea how important vocals are to the band expect to answer that question??