Do you get this from your band?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by mrWr0ng, May 24, 2004.

  1. My band has a message board on our website which we use to communicate thoughts and ideas when we're not at practice.

    This week it has all been critiques of my bass playing. At our last practice, we were playing one of our newest songs which we'd been playing for a couple of weeks, and the singer turned around and told me to stop playing so many fills. I got miffed because he always complains but never offers anything: "Don't play fills" not "Could you try placing a fill here and here but leave it out here so that we don't have possible tone fights if I do a vocal bit here?"

    He turned around and said I always play too many fills and that makes it difficult for him to sing melodies. I told him I never play any fills, and besides that I only had one solo which he decided to start singing over, which now reduces me to having 0 solos, even after I spent hours working on the perfect solo for the spot. We fought about that for a while, at which point he said if i was so sure i never played any fills that he would post a critique on the website. I said fine.

    The next week he posted about 2 pages of critique that was all about the "busy-ness" of my bass playing, hardly even mentioning fills. I replied, and it's been a massive fight page after page about my bass playing, how he says that i need to change my "approach" to bass, and that I should play like all these other people because he likes them, that again my approach is wrong, my technique is wrong, what I'm doing is wrong, etc. It really steams me because I've been playing just fine, I've been happy with how I've been playing (even though I could improve, we all can), and I do not want to change my "approach" to writing music because I think it's a really fundamental part of my enjoyment of playing bass as it stands.

    I call up the rest of the band, and their response is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Your bass playing is fine. Your tone could stand to be improved, however."

    so, i consented. I said that this coming friday we will work on my bass playing.

    My singer then returns with "oh i was at guitar center and this guy was playing these walking basslines on this equipment and it sounded great, you should play that style and you should play that equipment and one of those basses." the guitarist said "i saw this other band and their bassist's tone was fantastic, you should try to sound like him."

    again, the critiques came down to them wanting me to play and sound like other people. I start to take this personally because I don't want to *be* other people, I want to have my own sound. I have ALWAYS received compliments from other bass players and other musicians at our shows about how great my tone is and how unique my style is, but I keep getting told by the band that I should try to sound like other people who, while great, play much more straightforward styles, which, while that works great for the band and what they want to do, just don't appeal to me as a musician.

    Now everyone is pissed at me for getting mad about this whole thing, and I think it's only going to get worse. I'm trying to be open to ideas, but I am also standing firm about my style and technique - I will take suggestions, and whenever we write songs and someone wants me to try something, i ALWAYS work something out, i have never once ignored a suggestion.

    But I feel like I'm being pigeonholed. I am the primary songwriter - when the band wants a new song, they ask me to share some basslines. So it always *starts* with a bassline, and then the guitarist starts coming up with guitar riffs, then the drummer starts playing and after we get some music going, the singer comes in and starts singing. After the song is going, I often re-adapt my bassline for what is going on, so that the song itself flows better as a whole. But then I get all this "you need to change your approach to music and play more long sustained notes and simpler basslines" then they turn around and want a brand new song from me.

    I feel like I am at the end of my rope here. Does anyone else get this? And how do you deal with it in context of the band? I love the music we are creating, but I can't stand being told what to play, who to sound like, and what gear I should be playing on. I am never asked what _I_ want out of my bass playing or my tone or technique, it's just "I don't like this, change it."

    What would you guys do in this situation, or what did you do if you were *IN* this situation?
  2. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    Look for another band. If your fine with how you are and they are not, it may be time to move on.
  3. I feel like that may be the case, but I don't want to walk just yet because I've invested three years into this.

    I often wonder, though, what Les Claypool would sound like today if he had the rest of primus breathing down his neck to sound like other "traditional" bass players
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The key line for me is:

    "straightforward styles work great for the band and what they want to do but just don't appeal to me as a musician"

    Then you are in the wrong band.

    Before you kiss it off completely, try to cool down a bit and look at it from their perspective. 99% of other musicians expect pretty simple support from the bass. If you want to be "busy" you have to do it in a way that adds rather than detracts from the band, at least the way they are hearing it.

    It's easy to love a busy bass player if he can generate a monster groove...but any bassist who SPOILS the groove is going to be criticized. Make sure you aren't losing objectivity about your own playing.

    Good luck however it turns out.
  5. TxBass


    Jul 3, 2002
    Frisco, Texas
    3 years or no 3 years...if the attitude is what you say it is there might be some issues worthy of looking for another group. I love to get some constructive criticism about my playing from my band-mates and we suggest stuff to each other about what might sound good, but a band is meant to be a collaboration---and you should be a contributing member to that.

    good luck with it! If all else fails and you hang around for a while, just turn up so loud that they can't hear anything else but you. and smile. :D
  6. incognito89x

    incognito89x ♪♫♪ ♪ ♪ ♫&#983

    Sep 22, 2002
    Royal Oak, Michigan
    Next practice play the most boring lines as you can. Just play root quarter notes the whole time with no expression. Ask the singer (saracastically) if he has enough work to sing now.

    If they all say it was great that time quit the band :)
  7. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I'd say if everybody in the band wants to you change, then change. Quit. It's not worth playing music you don't feel good about.
  8. i have a feeling that friday will be a pretty big day for deciding whether or not i stick with this band. however, it's not so much this band, it's the singer who is constantly trying to get me to be something else. the guitarist is happy with me, and the drummer is fine with my basslines but thinks i'm being a big prick about this whole thing

    honestly, i get a LOT of criticism about the vocals in this band, that they're not in tune, the melodies aren't interesting and the lyrics don't fit with the style of music that we play. i've been wanting to try out other singers for a long time now, but being that we practice at the current singer's space, and the PA is all his equipment and he's not a *bad* singer (just not a *great* one, but people say that our music is so good that a mediocre singer is actually holding us back) has made it so that we haven't gone looking for another singer.

    worse case scenario, i think i will probably talk to the guitarist and maybe even the drummer about just starting over with another singer.

    i am very hardheaded about my music, and i am often told that i try to "fill all the gaps" with my basslines (although that's not really possible since i write the basslines before any of the other music is written, so how can i fill in gaps that don't exist?), but aside from lack of low end I never get complaints from anyone about my music and i never *HEAR* about complaints, hell i never heard anyone complain about my lack of low end, but now my singer wants me to change and suddenly he says people are climbing out of the woodwork to complain about my bass playing and tone. but every time we play, all i get are COMPLIMENTS from tons of people about my bass playing and tone (especially from other bassists who want to know what equipment i'm using and ask me for my presets)
  9. listen to the critiques and determine if there is any validity to them. is there something in the critique that you can learn from and get better?

    make sure your playing is appropriate for the song(s). sometimes a simple, well-played root note is the best sound. holding some back is nearly always better than laying it all out. use the fills sparingly and they'll have greater impact.

    counting your solos? again, i don't know what kind of music you're playing, but...get over it. how about "I have a groove solo on ALL of our songs." The guitarist in my current band is a really good soloist, but for him to sound good, the rhythm section has to carry it for him. period.

    it IS aggravating for others to tell you what, how and when to play. but, maybe this band is not a good fit for you.

    one other thing; people at gigs nearly always tell you that you sound good, even when you don't. It's practically an art to decipher what they are saying and get anthing near an objective opinion.

    they may say "that was a real interesting bass line." when what they mean is "i've never heard those notes played together that way."

    when they ask "how'd you get that tone?" they may mean "did you pour water directly over the speaker cone".

    so be careful judging your playing based on the compliments from a gig. people lie about stuff like that.
  10. fastplant


    Sep 26, 2002
    Playing bass and playing in a band are two different things. Playing bass on its own you have total freedom. Playing in a band you have to make sure the total sound is good. Your bass lines have to compliment everyone else. That's what makes a great bassist.

    I went through a similar experience a few years after I had started playing. I thought I was awesome so I threw in all kinds of fills and licks. And my band members used to say I was doing too much. I brushed it off and ended up leaving the band. A few years later and after alot of reflecting my attitude and style both changed and I began writing simpler yet more intricate lines. The band needed a bassist to fill in after they fired their last one and I stepped in just to help out and it was strange to hear them say that my bass lines now were actually adding to the songs rather than getting in the way like they used to say.

    Sorry for the book there. But just keep in mind that your playing is only half of it, the other half is making it fit with the band. If you think that your lines are fitting with the band, then it's more likely that the singer has ego problems and that's a cue to leave and do something that you really want to do.
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Mr. Wrong,

    Do you record your rehearsals, or your gigs? I think you should sit down and critically listen to the music, and see what's going on. A band is about people playing together, and if that is what's happening, you should be fine. Sometimes people can play "too many fills". Sometimes people can have bad tone. What's weird about this is that you say that you've been in the band for 3 years, and this is just coming up now. It's also possible that these people have a very misguided idea of what bass should be. Could you post some songs, and we can give you some independent feedback.

    Also, a band communicating through a message board is not a good sign. You guys should be able to sit face to face and discuss this. If you do decide to leave the band, which sounds like it's probably the best thing, then I would suggest to do so on good terms. San Francisco ain't that big a town, and you don't want to burn your bridges.
  12. we're a rock band. but 'get over it'? I had one 4 bar solo in a song a long time ago, the singer decided to sing over it. Fine, I said, i let it go, and i moved on even though it upset me that while I may get to play the bassline on its own without the additional instruments, i never really got to do a 'lead' style solo. i have to fight for them. then the guitarist and i wrote this song, we made it clear there was going to be a bass solo after the guitar solo, and it was fine for 2 or 3 weeks, then he started singing over it. my solo got completely buried.

    it isn't the end of the world, not at all. it bugged me, but i got over it - until he started complaining that i play too many fills, at which i had to remind him that i rarely played any and my only solo got stolen from him. THAT'S when it became a deal for me

    that's one of our latest recordings. i had no control over the tone of the bass in this recording, the singer does all the mixing and recording, and put my cabinet out in a van with a microphone and recorded it that way.
    this is still a work in progress, but is one of my 'busier' basslines, i guess. that's the one he says i was playing too many fills in. this was recorded plugging my bass straight into the mixer at san francisco state's recording studio.

    as for this just coming up now, the singer has only been in the band for a year and a half, the drummer under a year. i've been playing and writing with the guitarist for 3 years, and he's fine witht he basslines. also, we talked about me 'toning down' the business of my bass, and after that we hit a creative slump and stopped writing new material for 3 or 4 months. i took that as a sign that trying to fight my style is a bad move, although the newer stuff i write still has their earlie rsuggestions in mind.

  14. i'll listen to these later (when i can DL 'em). but from all this, I have come to a completely subjective and ill-informed opinion.

    The singer is a tool.

    that is all.
  15. fastplant


    Sep 26, 2002
    Actually, my band communicates quite a bit through our message board. We have a private forum that only we can get into and it helps greatly. We get so much more accomplished this way. We still talk face to face, but in the meantime it's easier this way.
  16. we comunicate through the messageboard because the singer lives in san jose, the drummer in fremont, the guitarist in berkeley, and i live in san francisco. we practice 3X a week in fremont, but that's an hour drive for me and the guitarist, and he and i live ~40 minutes from each other. so nobody's really close to anyone else.

    i try to respect the singer's opinion as much as i can. but the problem he's arrogant and a prick. he patronises me with comments, and thinks he knows eveyrthing because he's a music major at school. i mean, you can get a degree in music theory but you can never get a degree in having the right opinion.

    i still play busy basslines, and i think i always will. but i try to work in sustained notes when i think they fit - the issue is that i don't really think they fit as much as i'm told, and i don't want to force myself to believe something else will sound good there when my inclination is to disagree.
  17. people are always looking for bass players in the city. screw driving to fremont. i say quit.
  18. I listened to the second song you linked. It's not really my type of music, so I can't say a lot about whether it's too busy. I actually couldn't hear the bass very well. But if you want to talk about "busy", the guitar does this tapping thing a few times. What's up with that?

    Anyhow, I'm not a confrontational person, so here's what I think: it doesn't matter if you, factually, overplay. If that's the impression that people get, and you have to work with them, I would wonder why you'd want to stick around anyway. I've heard that creative tension can make good music, but since music is fun for me, I try to work with people that dig what I do, and avoid those who don't. It's just not worth it for me to set up all my gear, make music, and not enjoy being around the other people.
  19. fastplant


    Sep 26, 2002
    I listened too. If anyone is busy in that band it's the other guys. I could hardly hear any bass. I think they all just want to be in the spotlight and don't want you taking a piece of that. FInd a new band.
  20. Exactly what I was thinking; that tapping is more annoying than anything I could hear you play. Bass needs to come up in the mix or be clearer, and vocals need to go down...I'm not sure if it's the mix or just his voice, but your singer makes me cringe. :spit:

    As for your band situation, Mr Wrong, I was in a very similar one myself not long ago. I was hearing more and more "just lock in with the kick", "play fewer notes", "less is more", etc...all of which are often good advice, but not hard and fast rules. My problem was the guitarist, who was the frontman's dad and thus held in higher esteem than he deserved by the rest of the band. Great guitarist, usually nice guy, and certainly more experienced in the business than the rest of us (perhaps combined), but his views on bass were outmoded, and frankly, insulting. The situation came to a head with the introduction of a new song which, when played solo by the frontman sounded like a perfect funky pop-rock song to my ears. Guitarist decided it had to be boring, straight and mid-tempo, and my bassline "bounced" too much. Argument erupts, extends in classic fashion to my playing as a whole, etc etc. FWIW, the drummer was on my side; everyone else kept their mouths shut or fell under daddy's spell. Long story short (-ish), I was kicked out of that band a few days later. Shame; I have no doubt that that song would have been their best with my production...I heard it performed with their new bass player (also a relative of the frontman, natch) a few weeks later and it sucked, plain and simple...boring as hell. :rollno:

    Apologies for the vent/novel, but I saw a lot of myself in your post. Unless your band is a commercial success, I would say do something immediately; your situation sounds even more volatile than mine was. I would've stayed if they'd let me because there's a good chance I could've made a career out of that band (they had financial backing and whatnot, albeit from the frontman's uncle...see a pattern?), but it wouldn't have been worth it otherwise. In your case, it sounds like your problems could be solved by ditching the singer. If you feel the same, do so without delay...things will probably only get worse if you don't. :meh: