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Ever play songs you don't know?! GIGGING?!

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by metalguy2, May 15, 2005.

  1. metalguy2


    Dec 26, 2004
    So last night was a pretty good show. We went in, saw some bands and then played our set. (being the headliner) So by the time we run through all the songs. We had so much time left it wasn't funny. So then the crowd cheers on.. WE WANT MORE!! WE WANT MORE!! What are we to do.. PLAY COVERS!!!
    Only that I am totally new to this genre of metal. So I do not know any covers at all. So I think we played 4 or 5 covers where I did total improv bass to these songs. While watching the guitar players in the chorus' for the notes. Absolute rediculousness.

    Any similar stories?!
  2. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I do it all the time. Unfortunately, because I don't freak out, people just come to expect it. I've done Gospel songs I've never heard before, with tons of movements, which started with the MD saying the classic words:

    "Don't worry... you'll pick it up".

    Keeps me on my toes.
  3. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    It happened to me once. I found out about the gig the day before, IIRC. The guitarist showed up around 6 pm, we rehearsed from 6 to 8 and the gig started around 10, I think.

    I think I knew about half of the songs we played.
  4. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I'm happy half the time if I've even heard a song before I need to play it on stage. Used to pull several every week type shows where we had to pull songs out that only one of us knew. Got competent at the fake it till you make it school of bass.
  5. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I constantly have to do songs I don't know, or just have a passing familiarity with (especially jazz gigs, but a lot of times that's cool). You develop instincts over time. A LOT of songs follow fairly predictable patterns.
  6. Secondhandloser


    Mar 28, 2005
    Pretty much every time I play we play a cover or a jam and I have to pick it up as I go... luckily for you, it was metasl covers you were playing, the land of one note basslines... you will develop a feel for it as you go...
  7. Made my living doing just that for years.

    It's a skill you can develop, and as Marcus points out, most genres have "typical" progressions that happen often enough that you will start to "know" what's next after a while (ii-V-I in jazz, vi-ii-V-I in 50's pop/rock stuff, 12 bar blues).

    However, the first few times the bandleader calls a tune you've never heard of and doesn't bother to give the key does have a tendency to raise the "pucker factor" a few notches. After you've survived the experience a few times though, it almost becomes fun.
  8. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    A band I was in used to host a weekly jam session, so I got a fair amount of practice winging it through songs I didn't know. We did a lot of blues, which helps, but we played all kinds of crazy stuff. I'd play a song I've never played before, with people I had never met or played with. It usually went ok, but sometimes it was pure magic (in a good way).

    The practice has certainly helped. I've done a few gigs where I subbed and had to wing it, and it usually went well. The only thing that bugged me was doing a song with a "signature" bass line, not just a groove thing.
  9. I've been hitting an "open mic" blues jam at a local club lately, and most of the songs, I have never heard before. There is usually two or more other musicians, who may or may not, have played together before, this will get your brain working in overdrive. My point is, this is really good experience. When you get to point you can hang in these circumstances, you have moved up a notch.
    A humorous note: One of the guitarist there has monster chops, but doesn't always know what key he is in. When asked by another guitarist, he will show me the chord on his fretboard and ask me what it is. But the guy can really play!

  10. CQBASS


    Dec 1, 2004
    Asheville NC
    I think of it as a sport. ;)
  11. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Last night I played for Lisa Lopes' sister. She has an album coming out, so I was asked to do her the favor. During the 2nd song, the guitarist changed the 2nd half of the chorus slightly, throwing me off. It took me about 2 measures to catch on. After the set, I asked him why, and he said, "I heard you was good, so I wanted to see just how good you were. You're pretty good." Although I appreciated the compliment, I was still pissed about the curveball. :scowl: :mad:
  12. rfalter


    Jul 20, 2004
    Pasadena, MD
    During most gigs, we will do several requests during the last set. By that time the crowd is a little more forgiving (drunk) and most of the time we pull it off and it turns out good. If it starts going south, we jump out into the next song on the setlist. Why do people think that you should answer them while you are playing ? Sheesh ... wait until the song is over, already !
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    This is where my "quick" ear really comes in handy;. I've been in situations where I've had to play unfamiliar songs with varying patterns and had to jump on the notes I needed a split second after I heard them. Yes, on some things I can anticipate but on others I have to wait to find out where we're going and play the note immediately. Works a lot better with ballads :meh:

    Again, because I don't freak out when people do this to me they think it's no big deal... and keep doing it. It definitely does take the factor up a notch or two.
  14. Yup, happens to me all the time.

    My guitarist has this weird brain problem that makes him think that if he knows the song, everyone else instantly does. He calls out stuff that neither me nor the drummer have ever even heard of :confused:

    As above, most of the time, your grasp on theory should help you along. Music is like maths - the formula doesn't change naturally. So if you know the form of the song (I-IV-V etc) you can fairly get by.

    My first music teacher also told me a good trick - if you hit a wrong note, move a half-step up or down and you will be in key, and if you do it cleverly, it will sound like a jazzy fill.
  15. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    I do my share of pickup gigs, the vast majority of which do not include a rehearsal. As Brad pointed out, if you you keep your cool, things tend to work out. I've played lots of tunes that I've only heard on the radio but acutally never played with a band. After the first time through I usually have it. It's not always the best thing for the performance, but it's given me the ability to learn quickly.
  16. If you want to increase the "factor" buy an order of magnitude, do what I do, show up to the gig with nothing but a Zon fretless 5 and an NS Design CR5M...


    ...fun for the whole family!!!

  17. I always try to at least get the chords ahead of time for any song our band is playing. We never do anything new while playing live, just during practices, which is the way it should be, IMO. Since I'm not a "working" bassist and don't play in any other bands, I don't have to worry about it otherwise.
  18. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Yup. I play some country gigs not knowing the songs. I am given the key and sometimes told if there is something tricky in the song. Get some "oops, forgot to mention that the song switches key."

    These gigs are guitars and bass only. No drummer. I am expected to keep the beat and provide the low notes. It is a bonus if I play more than roots.

    So the first verse/chorus are just roots as I learn the song structure then I might start throwing in some fifths, some passing notes, or maybe a simple walk. But above all, I must keep the groove.
  19. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    That is a great idea, I must remember this!

    I always liked Neil Young's quote on wrong notes in solos (paraphrased): "If you hit the wrong note, play it again to show you ment it!"
  20. had 4 jazz gigs, 4 sundays in a row, no preparation, well id played with the guitarist for about 6 months, drummer twice before this so i had just gelled with him....

    all 4 gigs, complete improv....joe (guitarist) recorded one of them, and you'd almost swear you'd be listening to John Scofields "EnRoute" just with joe stepping up a notch and playing a little more

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