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Band members with different ears

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by wishbasssix, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. wishbasssix


    Apr 11, 2012
    I've been running into an issue with a guitar player in a four piece band I play in. Two guitars, drums, and me on bass. Three of us have been playing together for a long time, but we've been playing with a new guitar player for the last few months.

    He's great musically. We spend most of our time writing originals, and he's very creative, often writing parts that just gel so well with what the rest of us want to do. We like a lot of the same music and mostly want to write the same kinds of songs.

    The problem is that he just hears things totally differently than the rest of us. We'll record or play a really good take of one of our songs, and three of us will be jazzed about how great is sounded, and he'll say it wasn't very good. We'll play a sort of mediocre, sloppy, half-hearted version of a song and he'll think it's the best we've done on it.

    We'll play a song that with a lot of syncopated minor pentatonic riff-heavy stuff in in, and he'll say it sounds too happy. We'll play something with a danceable groove or repeating hook, he'll sound it sounds to happy. Then we play our most major-keyed upbeat, poppy song, and it's his favorite!

    He interprets syncopation and dual-harmony lines as corny and trite, but interprets a 1-4-5 power chord riff as edgy and experimental.

    I love playing music with the guy, but it's just a bummer sometimes when his ears hear everything so different from the rest of us. Have any of you ever played with someone like this, and what did you end up doing about it?
  2. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    well, if you ask me, it's good you have different ears. otherwise i'd imagine it would be difficult to hear anything if you weren't with them and they had the ears for the night.

    sorry, i don't have anything too useful, i just couldn't resist. this sounds like something that is incurable, imo. i'd say either deal, or get rid of him.
  3. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    He might just be focusing on HIS playing as opposed to the BAND'S playing. I had the same issue with a guitarist I played with a few years back. He interpreted a good take by how good he sounded on something and not by how good the whole group sounded.
  4. This was my inital thought as well
  5. disp


    Apr 29, 2002
    We're all at the mercy of our musical background - and personal tastes for that matter. Look at it as a blessing. The last thing you need is a yes man telling you how great you sound. Nevermind, that's the first thing you need.
  6. For me it's not so much about having the band play flawlessly as much as it is about creating energy, getting folks jazzed, getting myself jazzed. But just because I'm "feeling it" doesn't necessarily mean the others are. It's not bad having different opinions as to what floats one's boat musically. Good things can come from that. However, it's really not cool spending 3 days in studio trying to perfect a single song because one band member isn't satisfied. Especially when the best take was the first take. Bad things can come from that.
  7. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    The opposite is also possible: he may be the only one listening BAND'S playing. Probably not...but possible.
  8. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Very true.
  9. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    Wow, that sounds just like my old guitar player from my last band. We would do a two track recording of each rehearsal. During play back his is comments would drive the drummer and I crazy. We would comment back to him, " Bro, are we listening to the same song" FWIW, he was also one of those "Glass is half empty" type guys too.
  10. wishbasssix


    Apr 11, 2012
    I think this has a lot to do with my guitar player's problem too. It's like he's always trying to find how things aren't as good as they could be rather than realizing how they might be much worse--musically, anyway.

    For example: I've got a tascam recording station, a shure drum mic kit and a sm-58 for vocals. This is what we use to record, and we're all amateurs. Our recordings, to me, sound really great for home studio work. He hears them, compares them to the professionally recorded albums that he listens to, and finds them unsatisfactory.

    My problem is that I've gelled songwriting wise with this guy about better than anybody I've ever played with, but we always have different opinions on the outcome of what we make.
  11. I have had similar experiences...some of them in my most recent project. I guess I'd need to know and try to understand WHY he thinks something is either good or less than good. Specifics are the key to getting on the same page in terms of, well, terms - musical terms...they are not (unless you are using the formal Italian) universal. My drummer and I are great friends, but it took some time and several discussions to really know what the other meant when one or the other used particular words to express a musical thought or goal.
    I personally have found that the differences in personalities and tastes are what make a joint effort truly great; in a situation that marries mutual respect and creativity, its the compromises made when two parties feel very strongly - often in almost opposite directions - that produce the strongest music.

    Other times, it's just damned frustrating. :) Hahaha
  12. Corbeau


    Dec 14, 2011
    I've had that experience before too, although in my case, I was the odd one out. It was just that I had a different approach to music than my bandmates at the time, and eventually we parted ways.

    What I took from that experience is the band has to have a shared idea as to the overall sound. Otherwise, the band won't work. You can work well with someone and they can be excellent musically, but if your ideas of the band don't gel, then it's better to part ways.
  13. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Sometimes he's probably right.

    Sometimes, he's probably not.
  14. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    IME, such a compromise is likely to be productive ONLY when all parties share a common opinion of what works aesthetically. If so, then the partnership can actually benefit from alternate viewpoints - mostly about "how best to get there". But if there is too much basic difference of opinion about basic matters of taste and preference, it simply won't work - no matter how hard everyone works to bridge the gap. :meh:

    ^ This...

  15. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Is he really? What exactly do you mean by "musically"? :meh:

    You mean that he plays well and he writes well. But isn't a well-developed sense of musical taste & judgment also part of makes one "great musically?" Isn't taste a part of musicality?

    I honestly don't know how one bridges such a gap. I think one's musical taste & judgment is a big part of who someone is. It's not that subject to influence from anyone else - unless the person consciously welcomes that influence... :meh:

  16. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Maybe he just likes being contrary. Does he always give his opinion AFTER everyone else?
  17. Three thoughts.

    One: I would try driving this whole thing from the other direction. In other words, have him start with a mood/feel as a beginning place in composition. THEN start writing the music together - but following his lead (no pun intended) as you go. Don't compare/contrast thoughts about the feel or.

    Two: His playing gels. That's all that matters.

    Three: He conceptualizes music in a totally opposite way. This is permanent and super-irritating. Translation: it's off limits. (which takes me back to idea one -- roll with it in a productive way).

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