Creating Space in the Band

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by DHAUS, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. DHAUS

    DHAUS Guest

    Nov 17, 2016
    Hola Amigos!

    My 4 piece alt rock band needs to work on 'listening' to each other more. There's no issue going on, we are just looking for some practice ideas for improving this. What has your band done to help improve listening to each other, giving space to the other players and getting more in sync? Games, exercises, etc are all welcome ideas. Thanks!!
    Mystic Michael likes this.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Recording gigs and rehearsals and listening as a group may give some insight.

    Rehearsing vocals with acoustic instruments is always a good ice breaker.

    During rehearsal, try having everyone turn down except for one person. Play a few tunes so everyone can focus listening to the specific instrument. Do this for each member.

    One thing to consider is to make "brain storming" a judgement free zone. Ideas are discussed without criticism. Until explored you never know which idea is worth your time and effort.
  3. One thing I did was to purchase a recorder like this one Zoom H5 Handy Recorder and record the songs we're working on at every practice. If something needs addressed it's pretty obvious and it's easy to illustrate to the others what the issue is when you can play it back to them. You really don't know for sure what you sound like unless you get an opportunity to hear yourselves playing separate from actual physical playing. Much different from a listeners perspective as opposed to the players perspective.
    Gearhead17, DHAUS and pudgychef like this.
  4. AngelCrusher

    AngelCrusher Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    Record yourselves. Send the Mp3s to each member.

    Get tempos for each tune and play to a click.

    Use the recordings to improve songs and also dial in EQs on guitars and bass
    Sartori, Philly Watts and pudgychef like this.
  5. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I thought this was gonna be about stage space ... in which case ... fire the drummer.
    swooch, FunkySpoo, jamro217 and 8 others like this.
  6. Search up The Eagles, "circle of death" I think they called it, sitting in a circle playing acoustically.
  7. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    1. Turn volume down.
    2. Record, and then discuss. Recordings do not lie. Be honest, but respectful.
  8. dtripoli


    Aug 15, 2010
    I'm with you on this idea.
    This gets everyone one the same page groove wise and 'feel' wise.
    You're much better able to work out songs without the full volume of a rehearsal
    and the noise some musicians will hide behind.
    Did this with two of the bands I'm in. It exposes strengths and weaknesses.
    After doing this a few times the consensus was, keep the drummer and fire the guitarist.
    We did that for both bands. The bands instantly got better.
    I'm not saying start firing band members willy-nilly, just that acoustic rehearsals improve a band.
    jamro217 and EddiePlaysBass like this.
  9. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Circle of *fear

    Buy the drummer some brushes
    swooch likes this.
  10. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Of course recording is an absolute must then listen in band.

    Jamming moment where you create on the spot instead of doing a cover.

    Changing the layout of the band ... instead of the classic drum in the back maybe with the bass then everything else infront ... no do a circle so each one can see eachother easier to do some visual cue etc.
  11. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Great advice right here.
    jamro217 likes this.
  12. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015
    Bass Harbor, ME

    I don't think its always obvious. For skilled or experienced musicians and those able to critique themselves, yes. In my marginally talented band, I'd like us to do this, but I don't think it would be well received. We record everything but I post I up and nobody discusses it. Some of it is painfully obvious to me but the only feedback I get is from the singer (who also plays guitar and won't learn the damn lyrics) about the clams in my leads. Yeah I'm too busy thinking about how you haven't memorize the words!!! In the context of this thread, id like our bass player to simplify a bit. We had a sub for the past couple weeks and I now have some feedback to share in that regard.
  13. If the people you're playing with arent open to giving/receiving constructive criticism you're wasting your time with them anyway. Sounds like you need to move on.
    Downunderwonder likes this.
  14. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    I thought this was gonna be about musical space…in which case…fire the drummer.
    swooch, jamro217, RustyAxe and 3 others like this.
  15. 14 posts and we already have two "fire the drummer" posts and one "quit band and walk away" post. Oh, Talkbass, you never fail me!

    I like the turn down all but one idea. Especially with two guitars it's easy to play a whole song without actually hearing what your band mates are playing. As a bassist you focus on the rhythm and the chord changes and get lost in your own little world, while a guitarist gets lost in his little lead world and so on until the whole band steps on each other. Once you actually study who is doing what, then make it an effort to work as a team to polish up the sound.
    Felken likes this.
  16. Recording is awesome if followed by evaluation and collaborative discussion.

    I realize that this is so not practical for many people, but what helped me learn to recognize and create space was learning the other instruments. Doing time behind the drums really helped my groove, playing guitar made me rethink overall arrangement. Now instead of competing for space I understand better what the other guys need and how I can support that.

    I think the fact that you are thinking about space will lead you to figure it out in a way that works for you.
    DHAUS likes this.
  17. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    California Republic
    OK, I said "fire the drummer," but it was a cheap shot. My current band actually has some problems with part density, and we're hopefully developing the listening and playing skills to deal with it. If you can't hear the problem, then there's no way you an address it!

    The current line-up is 5-piece, and everybody is in their late- 50's or older with substantial gigging under their belt, although for two of the guys a lot of that has been at a semi-pro level, and for me my gig years were mostly on a different instrument and over by 1990, albeit at a high level, including 4.5 years of stadium/arena/theater tours with platinum-selling acts…between that and studio work, I've had the most experience in well-polished productions. The material is largely original, drawing on a range of latin, caribbean, americana and rock forms - I'd call it pan-american, and we're finding our own niche - even when we do covers, we do a lot of re-arranging. The vibe is good, people feel free to offer ideas in rehearsal, and the material is getting better. But slowly; we still have a lot of overplaying.

    Part of the problem is not having doubles locked in - we have a lead guitarist who plays killer mandolin and some fiddle, and two rhythm guitarists, one on 12-string and is the primary singer/songwriter, and the other on electric, acoustic or an assortment of small folklorical string things, including some mandolin. This is not fatal - it's helped us develop some different approaches, and the spirit of open innovation has facilitated my gravitating toward fretless, which works really well with this band - but it's sometimes haphazard, although we agree beforehand on who's gonna play what whenever we gig.

    But we are having density and dynamics issues. I sometimes think that the problem emanates from each of the guitarists having a lot of folk music (American or otherwise) in their past, and a lot of experience of providing guitar density while singing in solo or small acoustic settings, so that they feel naked or exposed if they are not banging away. Early on, one of them (who also plays bass well) was really emphasizing the low-guitar range and invading my space, but we now have that sorted out.

    Recording rehearsals and gigs certainly helps, but I think we may need to listen to playbacks together (we don't currently) and talk about what works and what doesn't. I've been asking the others to pay attention to what's on the radio and to dig on how much air there is around and within parts in most pop music. I've talked about the guitarists making sure they stay out of each other's way, including the classic Motown "three guitar" model, and using tighter, three and four-string chord voiceings like Nile Rodgers and so many of the great funk and R&B guitarists. But it's not yet penetrating. Also, it's not a reading band - which is frustrating to me, but then I'd probably get stuck doing the charts and my day-gig means no time for any such thing, and they'd be Motown-style lead sheets in any event...

    Truthfully, things may never completely clean up, which will limit the band's prospects, which is a shame. Our singer/songwriter's material is often excellent - he's made his living as an actor, songwriter and performer, with other bands doing some of his tunes, and I wish we were presenting the material with more polish. But here's the list of what we are or should be doing…

    ** Recording rehearsals regularly (pretty good at that)

    ** Folks listening to the recordings on their own (mixed)

    ** Folks listening to the recordings together (we should start this)

    ** Periodic "let's all turn it way down" admonitions in rehearsals (it works for a while, then we creep up again)

    ** Periodic "let's just have two or three play together for a while and refine their parts" (should do more of this)

    ** Don't be afraid to pull the plug on a tune in rehearsal if there is a problem - like the Japanese-style assembly lines where any number of workers can halt production due to a problem (I do this a bit, and wish the others did more of it, but we're short on rehearsal time and often seeking to ensure we have the entire form and structure of a given tune)

    ** Be prepared to offer solutions, but also be prepared to do so gracefully or by some degree of indirection so as not to dictate.

    ** Be willing to work small tune segments over and over again until they feel right, and are right.

    ** Adjust the instrumentation - for example, one of the guitarists going to hand percussion on certain tunes, rather than all guitar, all the time.

    ** Build break-downs or build-ups into the arrangements, including segments where not everyone is playing

    ** Become a more active listener in general - when listening in the car or wherever, dig into what's going on - analyze song forms, tone, rhythmic patterns, space, how the parts fit to ether and how to build direction - in whatever you're listening to. Listening is a 24/7 essential life skill!

    This is very much a work in progress but in writing this out for TB, and in reading this thread, I'm getting some ideas and hopeful that we can progress and do justice to a fine body of tunes.

    But at the end of the day, listening skills are as critical as playing skills - heck, it IS a playing skill - I'd posit that the more thorough your listening skills, the better your playing will be, by yourself and with others.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2017
    covermego likes this.
  18. Nic.


    Aug 28, 2009
    I agree with lots of the posts above, and I want to add on: if you can record everyone into a separate track live during rehearsal, sit down with them and show them how it sounds with everyone's default tones, and with you selectively EQing or removing certain parts instead.

    ...If they still don't hear it, then too bad I guess.
  19. gjohnson441496


    Dec 14, 2014
    ^ Everything here, but especially turning down the volume. It sometimes increases without you realizing it.
    Felken likes this.
  20. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    In a four piece, meet with the drummer alone and jam a lot,
    maybe do a few 'games' (for example, play a rather simple 16th beat where the bassdrum pattern moves a 16th [first time, bass drum is on 1 and 3, second time it is a 16th after 1 and 3 and so on]).
    Get to know each other's styles and lock in.

    If your guitar(s) are halfway decent they will feel the improvement and step up their game accordingly.