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Band controversy - soliciting opinions

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Helifino, Jul 18, 2019.

  1. Helifino


    Dec 12, 2017
    Forgive me if this is the wrong forum.

    Five piece band, two guitars, drums, lead singer, and me on bass. Love, love, love playing music and performing. I am the newest to music - we started two years ago, have four gigs under our belts. But everyone else has prior experience and I feel at times as the weakest link in the chain.

    I cannot currently write music. I know little about music theory and have difficulty picking out what notes might fit in an arrangement and cannot recognize notes when they are played. Essentially I have to be told guitars are playing G, A, C...but once I get the notes, I can play well, am pretty much solidly in the pocket, and have even received a few compliments after our performances.

    We have been doing 100% covers. Last week the band wrote two songs - melody only. One song was led by our teacher; the other was led by the lead guitarist. Singer was not present. The lead guitarist is unquestionably the best musician with a day job I have ever met, and is generally a nice fellow, and his melody was solid.

    At the end of the melody writing session, someone said "what about lyrics?" Lead guitarist says "The lead singer will figure those out." (BTW, lead guitarist sings backup).

    I said forcing lyrics totally on the lead singer struck me as unfair. She had not voiced a desire to write lyrics. My day job involves writing, and I have been a creative writer since my youth and have in the past written poetry. Writing words on a blank sheet of paper, that have to fit into an established melody? I am all over that.

    I put out the invite for people to write words. No response, except for the lead singer, who said she'd like to give it a try. The lead singer and I got together; I wrote a lot of material for the teacher's song that I believe is really good, and the lead singer really liked what I wrote. We then started on the lead guitarist's song, and got a general theme and put down a lot of ideas and some really good stuff.

    Next session, everybody present: lead singer and I are excited about what we wrote and are briefly discussing it with everyone present. Lead guitarist: No problem, I have rough lyrics. He and the lead singer begin singing, and I cannot hear the words, so I do not know if they are great or sucky. Lead singer is happy - all she wants to do is sing. What she and I wrote is not discussed.

    We only practiced the lead guitarist's song - not the teacher's song where I wrote a ton of lyrics. End of the session, lead guitarist tells the lead singer "I'll send you some more lyrics I wrote for the new songs."

    For context, lead guitarist in the past has demonstrated a belief in defined band member parameters. Drummers do drums, singers sing, bass players play basses. He has also made a couple cracks about bassists being lesser musicians.

    When I walked out last night I was pissed. I am kind of trying to figure out why I am so angry and how to address this. I have no pride of authorship; if something is better, I have no problem using better material. But what I am getting from the lead guitarist is: stay in your f%king lane, bass player. Rhythm section is not welcome in the lyrics realm, leave that to the lead singer and me. I feel marginalized and insulted. The lead guitarist believes my only role in songwriting is to write the bass part, which I cannot do. So I am being relegated to plinking and plunking the notes I am told.

    Lead singer, who I love, had scheduled she and I writing again this weekend. But I feel like the lead guitarist is making a play to exert control by writing "more lyrics for the new songs," and my contributions are not valued. I feel as though I wasted four hours writing lyrics that will not even be considered. So regarding writing with the lead singer this weekend, I am tempted to say, why should I do anything, when lead guitarist wants you to write and has expressed clear guidance that I need to stay the hell out of lyrics?

    I recognize I am reacting very strongly and should probably tell the lead guitarist how I feel and that I want to write lyrics. If his are better, they are better. But I hate being dismissed, enough that it makes me question whether I might want to consider other options and step back from this band. It would honestly kill me, as this band has become the high point of my weeks.

    Any recommendations here? Anyone have anything like this happen in the past? How did you handle it? Am I overreacting?

    [TL: DR Band wrote two new melodies, I love creative writing, and put in hours writing good lyrics. The lead guitarist believes bass players should write the bass part and that's it, and has indicated my lyrics are of no interest. How should I handle it?]
  2. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    I think you've pretty much answered your own question.
    zontar, Wavebird, leto and 9 others like this.
  3. grinx


    Mar 24, 2003
    Raleighwood, NC
    Paul McCartney would punch the lead guitarist in his cakehole
    Wavebird, TonyRo, getbent and 10 others like this.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Who is this "teacher" you refer to?
  5. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    Sound like a communication problem. If you want to take on a role, you need to make sure everyone knows that's what you're going to do. The problem here is that three different people thought something needed to be done and all three of them then went ahead and did it. The guitar player is more proactive about advancing his ideas in rehearsal, so that's what got used.

    If you want to write lyrics, you need to choose a song, tell them you're doing it, and the singer and you need to work together to make sure your lyrics are the ones she brings to the next rehearsal to sing.

    If, at that point, someone else tosses their own lyrics into the mix you need to remind them that you'd said you were handling this and, gee, sorry you other people did extra work that wasn't needed.
  6. Who is the teacher character? Is this a school band?

    If the singer likes your lyrics, then she can say something like, "I really like his lyrics, I wanna co write with him." Or just ghost write with her. No one has to know!

    You should definately channel some of this energy into learning theory and how to write bass parts. The best lyrics in the world will not cover up a bad bass line.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
    Ekulati and Plectrum72 like this.
  7. n4vgm


    Jun 4, 2003
    SE Florida
    Go to your local public library.
    Get a library card.
    Ask for help to find books on music theory and songwriting.
    Study the books.
    Practice writing and reading music.
    If you really are serious, buy a cheapo electronic keyboard and learn how everything revolves around the keyboard layout.

    Otherwise, find a local music instructor to teach you piano and theory. Either way it will require time and effort, but my way is cheaper.

    Best of success!
  8. Helifino


    Dec 12, 2017
    We are an adult band, each have kids who took lessons at a studio, and the owner of the studio - "teacher" - assembled parents with an interest to form a band and is guiding us on this journey. He knows venues and has been getting us gigs, kind of acting as quasi-band manager. Very accomplished musician.
  9. FenderP


    May 7, 2005
    Was your band established with the idea that everyone has an equal say? If so, you have every right to say something. You're not a "hired gun" filling on on a gig where you basically shut up and play. Did you discuss who gets credit for writing the song i.e. everyone or just one person? Guitarist could have handled it more tactfully "Hey, I have some lyrics. Is it ok if we try them out and we can tweak them or change them if they don't?"

    That said, while you and the singer spent some time on lyrics and she expressed some interest, she sounds much more comfortable not doing that and just having them handed to her.

    I wouldn't make a big stink over this, but consider this a red flag for what the future of the band looks like if you do more original stuff. Speak now or forever be shut out.
  10. fretter


    May 24, 2012
    In my experience or observation, you'll find a similar dynamic in any originals band. Further, if the band makes any money, these dynamics translate into unequal compensation. If it wasn't like that, more famous band should still have their original members.
    In my opinion, you can either go along for the ride as long as you enjoy the music, or face a constant uphill battle to gain more influence but with diminishing returns.

    In the final analysis, I wouldn't worry too much about these original songs. Bands starting out at our age don't rock the world. You might as well do what I do: demo your own song ideas and enjoy them.
  11. DoctorZee

    DoctorZee Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2018
    New York / New Jersey
    I am having a great time over here, picturing Paul McCartney shaking his fist and saying, "I'll punch you in the cakehole!"
    DirtDog and grinx like this.
  12. DoctorZee

    DoctorZee Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2018
    New York / New Jersey
    Duder, grinx, TinIndian and 5 others like this.
  13. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Band has violated the group norm of inclusion. If you don't feel included, you tend to withdraw. He should have at least given your lyrics a chance and let the band react. To ignore your lyrics is a relationshp faux pas. You are not being oversensitive -- talk to the band and indicate your desire -- make sure there is a place on the agenda for the singer to sing them so everyone can hear them.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Follow Rush's lead - have the best poet write the lyrics, even if it's the drummer. Actually, there are no real rules, other than everyone should respect everyone else's suggestions - you never know where a good idea might come from. Lennon and McCartney ignored George's ideas for years, and after the Beatles broke up, the first two solo albums were from George - both released the same day.

    I once played in a duo, where the other guy wrote the lyrics - often on the spot. We'd play a song we'd played before, and while the music was the same, the lyrics (even the topic) was unknown until it came out of his mouth. Its was rather amazing, and entertaining to everyone, including me.
    Jimmy4string and rodak like this.
  15. If piano is too intimidating you can try sax or something along with the theory. Play the scales on your bass too. If your ear doesn't kick in after that you are in the wrong game.

    Up to you to assert yourself in the lyricist postion. If you are as crash hot at it as you maintain it shouldn't be that hard to prove your worth to the singer who has to get them out with style.

    Guitarist has the view anyone can write lyrics if they sit down with a pen and paper. He wants to be top dog bar the singer and if he feels he can write lyrics he will likely want to keep the singer singing his ones for the ego. Conjecture based on limited information and my personal life experience.
  16. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    you play bass. get used to people thinking it is a lesser instrument. its not true but people believe what they want
    Phud and smogg like this.
  17. zubrycky


    Aug 22, 2011
    Geezer Butler too.
    FronTowardEnemy likes this.
  18. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Let’s not leave out Steve Harris.
    FronTowardEnemy likes this.
  19. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    You've done a good job of self-diagnosing. No sense of ownership and you feel marginalized and insulted. Based on what you have written, this is not a surprising response. However, I think you need to take some ownership in the problem and establish/defend healthy boundaries. To do this you need to communicate effectively rather than just expecting people to read your mind.

    That doesn't necessarily mean the guitar player will be receptive to your desires or treat you with respect, but you have to give him the chance. Since you think he is a nice fellow, there should be a good chance for a positive outcome.

    Ultimately you need to define and negotiate for a working environment where you feel valued and important, and where you have a stake and can make contributions. If that is not possible then you will need to weigh the merits of the situation and decide if you will stay or leave to pursue other opportunities. When waying the merits of leaving or staying in a challenging situation, I think we should consider what is best for purself, and also what is best for the group. We all have potential to be toxic to others, and if it's not possible for you to be a positive and supportive, I suggest you leave even if you want to stay. In other words, don't stay in a situation that makes you a bad person.
    juggahnaught likes this.
  20. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    Possible interpretation of the events -- I'm not saying I assume any of this is right, but it might be a framework that explains the lead guitarist's responses to you:

    You ignored and went around the lead guitarist who appears to be the strongest in the band while you are, in your words, the weakest. He may feel very pissed off that you pulled a stunt like that, and maybe even justifiably so. You don't appear to be musically on par with him, so his opinion of you may have less to do with your instrument than your experience.

    "I said forcing lyrics totally on the lead singer struck me as unfair."

    Forcing? Some may say this was respecting her space in the band and making sure she had creative room to learn her craft just as you have been given space to learn yours (playing bass). Deep down she may feel slighted that the novice musician bassist immediately started trying to take over the song-writing duties.

    "She had not voiced a desire to write lyrics."

    She's the singer. Odds are overwhelming that she does want to write lyrics.

    "My day job involves writing, and I have been a creative writer since my youth and have in the past written poetry. Writing words on a blank sheet of paper, that have to fit into an established melody? I am all over that."

    One could argue that you should focus more on building your bass chops since you are the bass player, and by your own summary, you do need a lot of work in that area. Let the singer and the more advanced musicians handle the writing. Or tell the band that you only want to play bass if you can also do some of the writing and let them decide if they're ok with that arrangement.

    You can still write away whenever you want, and look for opportunities to offer your writing contributions. Over time, if they're continually rejected, the teacher will notice, the singer will notice, etc. Or you just start a side project with the singer. But why jeopardize your role in a band on bass because you didn't immediately get to be part of lyrics-writing process?

    Plus, there's this teacher involved. Ask him his opinion and how to approach it. You're still undermining the guitarist and jeopardizing the band, but at least it has a more authoritarian filter to work through first.

    It's too early to start losing your cool over stuff like this. Play bass, get good at it, enjoy the ride!

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