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Ever work with a bad but enthusiastic musician?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by MUSHROOMSeAcOw, Jun 15, 2012.



    Aug 1, 2010
    So, we finally got a singer for our garage band about 2 months ago, just in time for the three shows we had lined up around graduation weekend. He's a good friend of ours, a little bipolar at times but he's easy to work with if you give him the chance. Great guy, knows all the songs and has no timing issues whatsoever.

    He's easily the most motivated guy in the band; we put together a list of 30 songs we wanted to have, expecting to drop a few for a 2-hour set. He comes back the next day with the lyrics for /every song/ memorized (we were like, "uuhh... We are ready to play 3 new ones dude").

    But, and this is a huge but: he cannot hit a note to save his life. He's not as bad as when we first started out, but still the only song he can sing in tune is a song that has purposefully off-key vocals ("Maps" by the NJ indie band The Front Bottoms).

    What would you do here? Would you rather have a bad but motivated bandmate or a fantastic player who cannot get his sh*t together (like our guitarist :d


    Aug 1, 2010
    Ugh, posting from my phone sucks, but I'm in bed with a fever. That last bit should read:

    ...(like our guitarist :D but that's a different story)?
  3. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    That's a tough call as it really depends on just how much he sucks. :)

    Lots of people who can't sing have done fine because they had other gifts that propelled them to the top. Lou Reed is always the first to come to mind. I think it took Anthony Keidas 30 years to be able to sing in key, and I suspect there's some electrocis helping him to do so now. There's actually a never ending list of singers who were horrible, yet had great success.

    I'd say embrace his enthusiasm and give it a go. Nurture whatever good he's got going on, and see what develops.
  4. echoSE7EN


    Jul 1, 2010
    Balto., MD
    My originals band during my undergrad had the awesome tag team of a super lazy, but amazing drummer, and an extremely hard-working, but terrible (terrible) singer. The singer was the only commonality between the rest of us though...and he really worked hard at gigging us gigs, finding us practice spaces, etc etc etc. In the end though, he was simply too terrible and I left.
  5. bjabass


    Jan 10, 2011
    Mountain South
    Two words. Pitch correction. Why not? it works for Skankye West....
  6. I'd pass. Sad but true, most people key in on the singer. If the singer's voice sucks, and the musicianship is great, they will leave saying the band sucks.

    If you are staying in the garage, fine. If you are looking for gigs, find a good singer.
  7. 5StringFool


    Jun 10, 2011
    Greenup, KY
    If you like the guy I have a suggestion, it may sound crazy, but....

    While I'm not a big fan of the Rock Band games but there is one area of music making that they can really help with, and that is singing. The game uses a mic and if you set it to the harder levels you'll have to work hard to control your pitch. If he has one of these games he could crank up the difficulty a little and practice songs that are in his vocal range while working on keeping the pitch arrow green. It may sound crazy, but it works. I have a daughter that couldn't carry a tune in a bucket that can now sing well due to doing just that. After about two months of playing the original Karaoke Revolution game she had improved her singing drastically. Playing the plastic button laden guitars, basses, and fake drums may not be much like the real thing... but you can't fake the singing part.

    Just a thought. ;)
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    There's a drummer like this on my worship team. When he first started playing with us about 3-4 years ago I was like, "man I don't know about this guy"... he's a multi-instrumentalist who also writes music so I wouldn't call him a "bad" musician, it's just that as a drummer he wasn't up to the caliber of guys I was used to working with. A little shaky on tempos, inconsistent kick patterns (actually just inconsistent overall), etc. Just a player that as a bassist, I found it really hard to jell with which in turn made me play with less confidence whenever we were paired together. But he was really committed to the cause and a nice (if somewhat quirky) kid who was willing to take direction and had a real desire to do his best. Well we stuck with him and I just had a rehearsal with him last night and he has really come a long ways. Solid, consistent kick patterns, good timekeeping, tasty fills and a lot easier to lock with. I was really surprised and happy (for both of us) to see how far he's come.

    That being said, I also have to say... this is an all-volunteer worship team (except for the leader who is paid), and some Sundays we're taking what we can get. So I probably gave the drummer in question a lot more leeway than I would have given a guy I was working with on paying gigs. But the point is that if you have the luxury of giving an average (at best) musician a little time to develop, sometimes he/she can surprise you.
  9. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Off with his head!

    Seriously, there is nothing more cringeworthy than a bad singer. It's the one thing the audience does notice. A band with bad players and a great singer is going to go over much better than a band with outstanding players and a bad singer.
  10. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Good points on the singer. Much as lead singers can be divas and general PITAs, a good lead singer who also has good stage presence can make or break a band. In general, I'd rank it as such (going in order of importance based on what an audience notices most or least):

    1 - Lead singer. The face and voice of the band. If he/she sucks, sorry but you're probably not going far unless the singer is female, young and ridiculously hot. Then you might get away with it.

    2 - Drummer. The average schmoe in the audience doesn't know if a drummer is good or bad, but they know whether the music "feels" right or not.

    3 - Harmony vocals. This is why stellar instrumentalists who can't sing, lose gigs to average players who can. There's a guitarist/backing vocalist in my current band that drives me freaking nuts cause he can spend half the gig playing his guitar out of tune and out of time, but as long as the the harmony vocals sound good he thinks it was a "good gig".

    4 - Guitars. People watch the guitarist(s), but you can get away with pretty average guitar players as long as the singer and drummer are solid. I've got several bands' worth of experience to back this up. :meh:

    5 - Bass/Keys. Sorry, but us bassists are at the bottom of the food chain. If you've got to skimp or "settle" on one position in the band, from an audience POV it's the bass player and unfortunately a lot of BLs have adopted that position as well.
  11. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Could be worse, I'll bet. Look at these guys. They made it onto YouTube.
  12. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    let the guy take some lessons and see how much he improves
  13. jordak


    Apr 7, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I see you guys having two options

    1. give him a probationary period of three weeks or so.
    If you see improvement he stays, otherwise he goes.

    2. Play songs with more of a rapping style delivery. Less melody means key won't be important.
  14. FenderBassist


    Oct 28, 2005
    Hahahaha I remember this from a year or two ago. Truly painful!!!

    Honestly, the OP has enough info from you guys to make an informed decision so I'll just sit here laughing my butt off at Munjibunga's brilliant post :)
  15. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
    It could happen...:)
  16. Can he sing on key when he is singing by himself (like maybe with an acoustic guitar), or is he just bad when you are practicing? If it's the latter, then he needs decent monitors--and have the band turn down so he can hear himself in the monitors.

    Also, record a practice and play it back for him to critique. That may help...
  17. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    Any chance of some audio so we can judge?

    My previous band had a truly horrible singer but whenever we played gigs (which was not often because we only had 45 minute worth of material - cover band together for about 7 years :bag: ) people would eat it up and sing his praise. Seriously. Never got that but that's the way it was.

    Musicians can be more demanding than the average Joe who has no clue why your "guitar" is so much bigger than the other guitarist's ...
  18. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I think everyone who had ever made music with me could answer this question with a yes.
  19. XtheDeadPawn


    May 24, 2008
    Yeah, I see him everyday when I look in the mirror.
    However bad is generous I'm crappy.

    Edit: Reread thread. Well I'm a bassist/background vocalist/Metal growler
    Perhaps he can yell or scream instead? I am constantly reminded I suck at singing but, metal growling I can do that. If you guys can get him a couple weeks time to properly learn how to growl without tearing his throat up he maybe able to come in handy. If not hey, let him do the gigs then let him down no use kicking the man to the curb after he's trying his heart out. 20 songs is alot to memorize if he did that it shows he's commited. So let him have his Rock fantasy before you axe him if you must.
  20. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I have experienced this personally. I'm a crappy vocalist. I listen to recordings and I usually cringe. But in a live setting, for some odd reason, this ugly, out of tune, nasally vocalist gets the crowd into it.

    However in my experience, I can really only pull it off for about a set before the novelty wears off and people hear how crappy I really am.

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