Dealing with disconnects in a band (long rambling)

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Just J, Dec 28, 2007.

  1. Just J

    Just J Guest

    Jul 27, 2007
    I'm in a bit of an iffy spot. The band I'm in is a collection of friends, mostly older guys with too much money/time on their hands. They're average players, at best, and that's being nice. The lead guitarist has the most band experience, but he put the guitar down for years and is just now getting up to speed (his solos are pretty jerky and don't really flow, we're starting to give the singer more leads as he can play), the drummer hasn't played since highschool but can manage simple lines with some flash, and the rhythm guitarist... well... let's just say he left his guitar and amp in his car for a solid week... in the winter! The singer and I are easily the top musicians in the band, both technically and knowledge wise.

    They're all great guys and friends, but the problem lies in the direction and aspirations of the members. I see this as a fun experience, people to play with and a way to improve myself as a player. I'm not one to quit on people, so I plan to see this thing through to the end. The other members of the band see it as something they're just doing for fun, however the lead has visions of granduer. Most of our gigs have been private parties, which is all well and good, but our name is starting to get out there. Which is where the problem comes up.

    The lead is starting to drive up our asking price and wants to go all out adding songs (he's also the type who only wants to play what he likes), getting lights, smoke, etc, etc. He really wants to live out his dream of being a rock star. On the other hand, the drummer is getting better and is having fun, but doesn't see this lasting more than a few years. He's told me many times if we wanted to go a different way he would support us 100% (he's been a big part in the singer and I getting gigs as an acoustic duo).

    Then there's the rhythm guitar player. He's loving the limelight, however he does not practice and is seriously holding us back. He leads a very busy life, which we understand, but he also very regularly pushes aside band responsibilities for social functions (dinner with the neighbors, lunch with some friends, etc, etc). He loves the band as it's a break from his regular life, but he is not making the commitment to get better, and it shines through horribly in his playing and when we practice. It'll take an hour to work through a 12 bar blues song because he doesn't understand the progression.

    Then there's me, I'm the band leader in that I'm trying to keep everyone in check musically, but it'd probably be easier to teach my bass guitar how to land a jet on an aircraft carrier.

    My problem is trying to deal with the disconnect in direction between the lead and the other players, as well as getting the rhythm guitarist in check (or kicking him out.) I'm not the loudest most demanding guy, but I'm getting frustrated. We're all friends, but it seems like the lead just doesn't listen and does his own thing (he has no shame at all, so being loud and terrible is better to him than being soft and awesome), the rhythm doesn't seem to understand his problems (always says "the band sounds off" when it's him), while the rest of us are just looking to have a good time.

    I'm really lost as to what to do/say here. The Rhythm has talked to us already promising he would practice (twice), and he clearly is not. He's a social guy, so I think offering him the manager spot and letting him chat on the mic and sit in on the occasional song would keep him happy, but I'm not sure it would be wise to switch up guitarists like that. Also, how the hell do I get a guy with no shame to understand his shortcomings and bring him down to earth? They're all great guys, so my biggest fear is sore egos and hurt feelings.
  2. Sounds like there's no consensus on the band direction. But with a new year upon us, maybe this is a good time for a heart-to-heart on that subject. I'm a corporate drone during the daytime, so this may sound a little corporate, but....

    Consider having a meeting, an email thread, whatever, to get everyone to voice where where they think the band is at (musically speaking) and what they want to get out of it in 2008. Don't finger-point -- don't say "the rhythm guitarist sucks", just say "the rhythm section isn't grooving yet". Try to get some consensus around some goals for the year, especially around YOUR goals. (You're the bandleader, so your vision should count for more).

    If people understand what the goals are, they'll either get with the program or they'll figure out that they're not a good fit for the band.
  3. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Well, band-leader, it's your call! What do you want with this band? If it's a job, unprofessional behavior like not practicing (or not being very good in the first place) means you get fired. If it's just for fun, then you have to decide if the fun is worth the headaches.

    I would never permit someone who doesn't practice to be in my band. I would also never permit someone who is no good to be in my band. In my opinion, that's like letting your buddy be the navigator on your airplane because it's "fun," even if he has no idea what he's doing. Do you want to go anywhere? Yes? Then drop the dead weight. If the answer was no, then suck it up.

    I'm not trying to be harsh, so please don't think I'm being insensitive, because I understand where you're coming from... and that is the reason my band is a 3-piece instead of a 6-piece (like we were 4 years ago). You have to have mutual goals or the whole thing is a waste of time, for everyone - the people who are just doing it for fun aren't having fun anymore, and the people who are taking it seriously are being held back.

    Rhythm guitar players are everywhere. You don't even really need one - look at Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Cream, Rush, Led Zep, etc. If you want this band to go somewhere, and he's holding you back, drop him (cordially, of course). If you don't care about the band going anywhere, don't worry about it.

    There is no need/room for ego, hurt feelings, etc in a working band. I'm not saying you can't be friends with your bandmates, but if you are making money together, you need to be businesslike and mature (read: realistic) about it.

    My 2 cents,
  4. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Record everything you do, or maybe shoot video. If the guy's confronted with the brutal truth and still doesn't get it, punt.
  5. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    I completely agree with having mutual goals. I completely DISagree with not being 100% up-front about the problem, and addressing it as soon as possible. If the rhythm guitarist is the problem, don't be shy about it, and don't beat around the bush. Honesty is the best policy, IMHO. If it's nothing personal, tell him that, but don't let the problem snowball, and don't say "the rhythm section isn't grooving" if it would groove just fine without the rhythm guitar player :smug:
  6. Sounds like you need a change of scenery.

    Unless you're hellbent on sticking it out and trying to rehabilitate your gui****s. I'd suggest finding another gig.

    If those issues are causing you stress now, they'll cause you more stress in the future if you know those guys won't change.

    So instead of doing what is fun for you (i.e. playing bass and music), you end up using all your energy trying to get those guys in shape week in and week out, gig to gig, rehearsal to rehearsal.

    You said it yourself:

    "Then there's me, I'm the band leader in that I'm trying to keep everyone in check musically, but it'd probably be easier to teach my bass guitar how to land a jet on an aircraft carrier."

    That shouldn't be your job. Your job is to play the bass, keep the groove and by doing so inspire your bandmates to play at their tops. And most of all TO HAVE FUN!! You shouldn't have to keep everyone in check. They should be mature enough to do that themselves and feel inspired enough to want to grow on their instruments or at least get to a competent level in which they won't embarass themselves or the band.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but it sounds like that gig could kill your passion to play. You need guys that are into it and as competent on their instruments as you are.

    Just my .02...slow day at work..:)
  7. My take is that a good leader can be vocal about general problems in public, then follow that up with one-on-one conversations that are specific to problems with that person. A good boss won't talk about your specific performance problems in the middle of a team meeting. For example, he'll say "we need to improve our record of being here and starting on time", then talk one-on-one with individuals that are the source of the problem.
  8. Just J

    Just J Guest

    Jul 27, 2007
    ok, the internet gods don't want me typing up a reply, I've had 2 freezes, so I switched to my laptop only to accidentally hit the "page back" key and clear the damn reply right before I clicked "Post." :spit:

    Anyway, thanks for all the advice.

    I am looking at joining another band, but do not want to quit this one.

    The more I think about it, the more the rhythm needs to go (we'll spend whole practices covering songs he should already know, and take a month to learn a single song because he doesn't practice it or listen to it on his free time and he's told us TWICE he's practice to get better.)

    Problem is I'm an outsider, the drummer and guitarists are long time friends. I've only known them since the band started, and the rhythm is the guy who brought me in. I can't help but feel like I'd be stabbing him in the back.

    We do have recordings of us, you can hear the lead missing solos, being too loud, or sounding flat. His response "I sounded awesome!" We try to keep him from singing as his voice is terrible, but people jokingly compliment him and it goes straight to his head. Now he ad libs during instrumental breaks. :spit:

    As the leader, I'd like to see us play at least once a month around town. I don't think right now we have the talent too, the potential is there, it's just getting everyone in line. The lead is totally gung ho about it, which is good, but I think he's over stating how good the band actually is.

    ugh... it started out as a blast... The gigs are still fun for the most part at least.
  9. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    This is why I was very specific in what I wanted as far as playing out and practicing in my band. We're on the same page as much as anybody can be (one guitarist works an hourly job that is slow so he wants to play more, but he understands eveyone else can't).

    In your sitution I would sit down. Everyone say if it was thier band, where would the band go. Then I would try to compromise somewhat to make everyone happy. If this can be done, I would then write it down and have everybody sign it. It will be a hard meeting, but it will lift the weight off everybody's shoulders and you'll start to have fun afterward.