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Dealing with young, know-it-all musicians (RANT)

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by tZer, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. There have been a lot of threads by older (> 40) players lamenting how they cannot get into an interesting band due to their "advanced" years. Maybe we old fogies should be counting our blessings.

    Ted, (age 45), a close friend and drummer (also a 6th grade teacher) with whom I have worked closely on many band projects over the past decade and a half, has created a band around his 13 year old daughter. He staffed it with a former student of his (now age 20) on keys and her guitar teacher (also ~20). He is the drummer and the band rehearses in his basement.

    He asked me at that time to not only participate as bass player, but also as a producer. I could not join as their bass player, but said I'd be happy to act in the role of silent producer meaning he could send me what they were doing and I could offer suggestions and opinions about what I heard. Over the course of the last few months I've reviewed a number of recordings of their originals and offered my thoughts.

    How I Got In
    Flash to last weekend - Ted called Saturday evening and explained that their bass player was not in the picture any longer, that he's booked some time at a local studio to record a three song demo and wanted to know if I could step in to help out by playing bass AND acting as arranger, producer. I agreed and told him I'd be at their rehearsal the next day ready to get to work.

    The three songs they are going to be recording include, "To Sir, With Love" and two originals that his daughter wrote (which are quite good, 13 year old or not!). The originals are in desperate need of arranging, but otherwise are really solid pop tunes.

    The Meat and Potatoes
    HERE'S the crux; I get up Sunday morning and proceed to learn and examine these songs. I arrive at rehearsal to find the guitar player there, dutifully warmed up and ready, Ted's daughter (of course) there and ready - no keys player. OK, this happens.

    We begin to go over "To Sir" and I quickly realize they've got one of the changes completely wrong. I let 'em know - they're shocked and insist on listening to the recording to verify. Fine - Verified... "Wow! We had no idea!"

    OK, keys player finally shows up and walks in attitude on full. We proceed to go over "To Sir" and I stop us when we hit the bad change because I realize Johnny come lately didn't have the benefit of our recent discovery and I acquaint him with what's up.

    He, with his wealth of wisdom and experience, proceeds to tell me that it's not possible that the change I am talking about is correct. So we have to prove it yet again to him before he'll believe that's the case. It's proved, he's still indignant and feels the change they had in place was better - (Fm as opposed to F#m) - a minor discrepancy, sure, but a minor second is a minor second...

    That was the first episode... As we went through some of the original tunes I pointed out where the singer was sounding flat (keys dude didn't like that...) - I asked if they'd be interested in adding a brief solo section since all of the original numbers were such that the vocals basically started at the beginning and were non-stop present through the entire song - in every song - no space, no interest, no dynamics - start - sing, sing, sing, sing, finish... A logical and rather obvious arrangement move, I thought... Keys dude thinks otherwise and this time needs a break to go outside and vent alone.

    The rest of the rehearsal went on with that vibe. We pause to discuss the nature of the song, what could be done to improve it or fix a problem that needed fixing, he gets uppity and snotty, etc...

    This behavior really gave me worms. I was not being personally abusive or critical toward anyone in the room. Rather, I was doing what I know to be what musicians who are serious about making a good recording do - being very detailed and focused about the songs, fixing mistakes, improving soft spots, clearing clutter and building interest.

    I told Ted afterward that I was a little disoriented by this odd dynamic, but if this is the way things are going to be in this project that I have much better things to do with my time than be the object of some know-it-all, whipper-snapper's scorn.

    Ted agrees and is taking corrective measures. It's been confirmed that this kid was indeed "offended" by my presence, comments and directness since he perceived me as a new-comer and himself as the voice of musical reason in the group.

    The Moral of this Story
    Kids, please. Now I feel old. When you are in a session with older, more experienced players, regardless of how much you may feel you are God's gift to music and music theory, defer initially to the older, more experienced players. You may not fully appreciate what they are saying, but at LEAST behave respectfully and give them the benefit of the doubt. More often than not you will probably be surprised at how good they are at what they are doing and how they can actually show you a thing or two that you'd have never thought up yourself.

    At bear minimum, your deferential and respectful disposition with be very much respected and appreciated, but even better, if you indeed ARE God's gift to music, your input and suggestions will be MUCH more well received - even sought - if you behave in such a fashion.
  2. Eh, I don't think age is the real issue here. It's ego over musicianship. Granted, it would seem that younger musicians have grown up in an environment where "everyone is a winner". I've had problems with this, too, but also with the crusty old players who will boast of how many decades of experience they have....but the minimal music education and a lack of discipline has them average-ish at best.
  3. i agree with spade.

    its an issue of ego.... i hope the keys guy gets an attitude realignment and comes to appreciate well guided criticism and learns the path of the humble.
  4. Joel S.

    Joel S. Reserved for future witty use...

    Jul 9, 2008

    Regardless of age, you should be respectful of constructive criticism. You may not like it, but even the most idiotic comments may have buried pearls of wisdom.
  5. I hear you. I suppose what I am reacting to is more the "young whipper-snapper's" lack of respect in general. I didn't expect him to treat me as the world's most intelligent musician, arranger, producer - but I did expect a certain level of respect, if anything for the fact that I am his "elder".

    Now this may be a sign of the times and maybe "kids" of today feel that respecting their "elders" is something that they need to do (and I am choking on describing myself as an "elder").

    But the way I was raised, you automatically treat everyone with respect, but especially your elders. The way this kid behaved had little to do with his musicianship and a lot to do with his lack of respect in general.

    One can have an ego AND respect others. I am a perfect example of that! I know I have an ego, but my default way to be towards others is respectful first, then if they prove to be unworthy of respect (they don't return it), then I tend to politely and respectfully disassociate myself from them.

    I was just shocked at how he came out of the gates as he did. It really made for a horrible start to our relationship as band mates - even if I am only in temporarily.
  6. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    +1 Sounds more like an ego problem, not so much an age problem. I have been in lots of bands when I was younger where I was by far the youngest there, and if someone came in and was direct AND correct in their suggestions, I would have been more than happy to oblige. However, I have run into more than enough "more experienced" people with opinions and nothing to back it up other than "more experience". So, this kid would probably act that way if he was 47 and not 20.
  7. The difference between your average know-it-all and the guy who is top notch is the ability to listen and learn. Accepting help and taking advice has helped me in more ways than I can count in several areas.

    I'm not debating that with ya. I think as the new crop of musicians arise, I think this might become somewhat common. I've found that a lot of them don't seem to hear their own mistakes because they're too busy thinking they're perfect. I mean, you can't really point out their mistakes because they honestly believe that they simply don't make them!
  8. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    I've never met a keyboard player with an ego who didn't respond positively to a pimpslap across the face accompanied by "Adults are talking--pay attention, son."

    You know, just a suggestion for the next session.
  9. Jonyak


    Oct 2, 2007
    Ottawa, Ont
    Did you treat him with respect? or did you go in firing on all cylinders, taking over forcefully what he may have thought was his band?

    to play devils advocate, I find alot of older people expect respect from younger kids without giving them any.

    its possible he viewed you coming in as a hostile takeover of the band.

    all in all he handled it badly and should have been more open to new ways of doing things.
  10. Respectfully ;) - I need to point out a bit of a contradiction in your comment. Doesn't a "new crop of musicians" imply younger?

    Now I suppose that part of a new crop can include older players who've come to the game later in life, but it seems that there is a correlation between age and how they behave.

    I WAS a part of that new crop when I was in my teens and 20's, but I was also part of a generation that was taught to show respect by default. Part of "showing respect" includes listening and responding to criticism with respect and checking attitudes at the door.

    Another part of my (and most of the musicians of my age group) that I've interacted with seem to come from a similar school of behavior.

    As for him not hearing his own mistakes - 100% dead on. Fortunately for this project, part of my M.O. includes recording everything. I let Ted know that I will not be offering up my comments as I did at our last session where I was mistakenly under the impression that all present understood how to rehearse a tune, comment on it and adjust accordingly while not behaving like disrespectful a-holes. Our process will be to play, listen to the playback and react to what we hear. Since hearing critical commentary:

    A) from some new guy
    B) some old dude
    C) about mistakes that aren't even happening

    seems to be met with such disdain, I am removing the commenter from the equation. The recording will speak volumes.

  11. I appreciate your devil's advocacy. To answer directly; no. I automatically treat everyone with respect. And even when he was behaving as he was, I was VERY deferential to him and open to what he had to say about what I was saying. I wasn't thrilled with his delivery, but I was also not going to respond in kind.

    I opted to politely accept what he said and asked if he minded if we tried my suggestion just to see how it goes. It was clear he was fuming and that just about anything I was going to say was not going to be well received, but I definitely was not going to give him honest justification for his behavior by being a jerk.

    I don't think my cool-headed, mature approach helped much. I think he more than likely felt that I was condescending at that point, but not a single other person in the room felt that way. Further, I have the tape to prove it. My commentary was generic to the song in general, relevant and not personal or heavy-handed in the slightest.

    I was performing the job I was asked to perform. I was not going to go mute during the session to coddle his dented ego. There were things about the songs that needed addressing and I was there to help them address them. I did so in a respectful and professional fashion.
  12. First I agree with everything mentioned above. I still wanna know what a "whipper-snapper" is and where that name came from, but I agree! Respect, ego, etc- it's an ageless concept and not limited to twenty year olds dealing with... how old did you say you were?!! lol! But I've got to wonder how Ted brought you into the picture. If he just said, "I've got a fill in bass guy", and left it at that and you came in as a temp player only (in their eyes) and started rearranging the furniture and throwing your wieght around, although I could have still managed respectful, I would have been more than a little tweaked. If Ted had introduced you in your full capacity as temp bassist, producer, arranger, etc., they (he) might have been a little more prepared for you in that role. Then again sometimes and a$$hole is just an a$$hole! Just throwing out a possibility as one who's been on both sides of that particular fence...
  13. Depends on when you're looking at my statement to apply it. It's kinda sorta a problem NOW, but could be much more prevalent in the future, which is how I was trying to explain as the new crop arises.
  14. I don't disagree that respect and age are directly connected and to put the idea that I think if you are young, you are disrespectful, if you are old you are respectful to bed - the other youngster is about the same age as the guy I am talking about and he was VERY respectful and a pleasure to work with.

    What I AM saying is that his kid seems to have not learned the same lessons about respecting people in general - but his elders more specifically. The idea of showing respect of your elders may be an outdated concept and if that's true, it's sad. I agree that not all older people are worthy of it, but how do you know if you don't show it? In my book, if you want respect you have to show respect (read: behave the way you'd like to be treated).

    A very good point to bring up! I think that has a lot to do with how things went down. That Ted, possibly assuming that everyone knew how to behave properly - band setting or not - may not have set the stage very well. In his defense - he should not have had to. Again (responding to the "throwing weight around" part of your comment) - I was NOT throwing my weight around at all. I was behaving as I described above by pointing out some very real issues (professionally and without finger-pointing or blame-casting). I am sorry, but a wrong chord is a wrong chord. Simply allowing it to go uncommented (as it obviously had to that point) would be very wrong in my book.

    Had I said, "Damn! Are you all deaf? Can't you hear how wrong that chord is? You, piano man! You have NO excuse!" -

    But that's not how it happened. We were playing - the bad chord hit. I wondered if I had learned the tune wrong (I was pretty sure I hadn't, but open to the possibility that I had) and paused us to see what's up. If it were I who made the mistake, I'd have owned it, laughed about it and probably blamed it on the late night I had the night before. When it was determined (after listening to artist's version) that they were indeed playing wrong chord was the beginning of his attitude issues.

    But again - I know you are getting one side of this and I tend to present myself very forcefully here - but this is not indicative of my 'in person' presentation style - especially at rehearsal. Take it for what it's worth, I always try to be light and fun even if I am pointing out mistakes or recognizing mistakes I might be making. I am not a strict task-master who berates the room. I am much more of a nice, light-hearted person who tries very consciously to maintain a fun atmosphere no matter what we're doing. If it's not fun, I don't want to do it!
  15. I would agree with the ego comments as stated above.

    In terms of the "respecting your elders" ... in music I think age in some respects becomes less relevent than hard work, open ears, and creativity. I think most musicians should be open to constructive critcism and willing to give it when they have an idea. The easiest thing to do is to try an idea and it is usually apparent if it's a good idea or not. Worst comes to worse, you tried it and it makes the song better ... and if it made the song not as good hopefully the contributor of the idea appreciates being listened to and understands what may or may not work in a similar scenario.

    I think the keys player just needs to chill a bit and appreciate contributions that may make the band better. The most disappointing thing to me when I see a band is a good song hidden by a horrible arrangement.
  16. Ha, been there, done that! To make matters worse, when you're a bassist (aka, easy version of guitar :rolleyes:) they all think they know how to do my job better than me!
  17. In an attempt to steer this discussion into my favor ;) - Please...

    1. I automatically show respect to everyone regardless of age. That's how I behaved toward him, that's how I behave in general. EVEN if I someone is disrespectful to me, I always do my best to take the high road and do NOT respond in kind.

    2. I do not equate being young with being disrespectful. I also to not believe that being old automatically means you know more or have better ideas that younger players.

    The points I am trying to elucidate are how I was shocked at his disrespectful behavior and that shock was mostly because of my personal experience both as the youngest member of a band and as an old dude. His age, in my opinion, may play a role in why he behaves as he does, but I also know from experience that it does not automatically explain it.

    My observation of how he chose to handle himself happens to take into consideration his youth (read: lack of maturity). I know fully that a 50 year old can also be immature. It just so happens that a younger person still may grow out of it while an older one is more than likely going to his grave that way.

    Hence, my commentary.
  18. slight-return


    May 14, 2007
    Boy, it can be a tough one

    Sometimes, we aren't in a great position to judge how well we are doing with the automatic respect thing we are doing for a variety of reasons -- we are IN the situation and carry our own biases, there can be communication style differences for all kinds of reason (not only generation, but basic temperament, even ncultrual/subcultural background, role int the situation, etc)

    Even beyond what we say (and what we *think* we say) , there are huge backchannels of information that get interpreted.

    It's possible some of that "uh Oh, he's a whippersnapper with an attitude" can leak across (without us even knowing it) even though we automatically treat everyone with respect -- and can hit the listener as condescension or backhanded insults, even as the speaker thinks "but I'm being totally respectful"

    and all that is open to interpretation from the speaker, the listener, even the rest of the group

    That's the thing about communication -- it's a "CO--" -- two to tango, or tangle as the case may be :)

    not saying he's wrong, you're wrong -- that there is a wrong

    just another tricky day

    human social dynamics are a bitch an a half

    [FWIW_ I'm right on the line defined up top - I'm 40. I think some of my perspective comes from having a wife that was a behavioral neuroscientist before becoming an atty...it's really given me a perspective on how crappy we are at self-evaluation]
  19. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    well the young are foolish and do think they know everything. Maturity is doubly a problem with a lot of musicians.


    I have a question. Did they all know you were the "silent producer" and arranger?

    Because if not, I would resent the crap outta someone who steps in brand new and on the first practice tries and tells me what's wrong with my music.

    It wasn't clear to me that they knew the score. IF THEY DID, then shame on them. If they don't want someone messing with their music, they don't need a producer, silent or otherwise.
  20. Points very well taken and that pretty much nullifies any further description by me of my own perception of my behavior. :p

    BUT!!! (and there's always a 'but' with me ;) ) I think 25+ years of successfully navigating both professional and personal relationships of this sort do amount to some level of credibility on my part (even if I do say so myself! :D ).

    I acknowledge what you are saying and can only say in my "defense" that I've spent many years working on my presentation style knowing that I have a "strong personality" and can be taken in ways that my not accurately reflect my intent.

    In other words, I know what it means to think you are saying "Hey buddy, forgive me for saying so if I am out of line, but do you think it's possible that you may be playing an incorrect chord?"

    and the reality being that you are coming off as

    "[Dismissive, condescending facial expression + exasperated tone of voice + hands on hips, eyes rolling] Uh, hey... what's up with that really interesting chord choice you've made?"

    Over the years I've worked very conscientiously on how I chose my words and carry myself. Not to put myself above reproach, but I can say with a high degree of confidence that I make every effort to show respect without subtext (I am easy-going, humorous and pleasant). Especially in this case where my awareness of what was happening (that he really WAS being disrespectful) didn't even sink in until after rehearsal and I had a chance to speak with Ted about the rehearsal as a whole.

    Ted started off by apologizing for this kid's behavior and letting me know that he was known for his attitude even back in grade school. After becoming aware that he really was acting that way was when my feelings about his behavior gelled.

    While I may not have had a full appreciation for how the keys player felt, I was not reacting to a perceived slight.

    I also learned that the keys player, during his break, was ranting and raving to Ted's daughter about me (thus pulling her into HIS perception of things and causing her energy level to drop significantly, post-break).

    I appreciate your take on this - that I may simply not be fully aware of how I was coming off, but the fact that the guitar player, Ted and his daughter, (prior to taking her break with the keys player), didn't feel that I was being anything other than polite, professional and even friendly and deferential.

    I also have a recording of the entire session that includes many of the "offending" comments. I listened very closely to hear if my tone or the substance of my comments could have been taken as snotty or differently that I felt and I was quite pleased to hear that I sounded even friendlier that I thought.

    So I don't think it's a case of mistaken personal presentation style here.

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