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Follow the leader?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by seanm, Nov 20, 2004.


  1. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I play at a weekly jam where I usually don't know the songs let alone the chord progressions. I am told the key and any really funky chords but rely almost totally on listening. The leader is very cool about muffed changes, so it goes well. I am used to reading music, so my ear training was very weak. If you ever have a chance to do this, I highly recommend it.

    For the first three sessions it was just two of us: guitar/vocals and bass. For the fourth jam, two other guitars showed up. All are fairly accomplished musicians. I am by far the least accomplished of the group, and everybody knows it.

    So we do some songs, some work and some don't. Sometimes the others know the song and the volume goes way up :D But I am really struggling on some songs, I just cannot hear the chords. The chord will sound right compared to the others, but not feel right. It slowly dawned on me that when the others don't know the song they are following me. So if I say drop to B when I am supposed to stay in E, the other guitars will follow and the three of us drown out the leader, who is playing the correct chord.

    It seems that the guitarists are so used to falling back on the bassist, they do so even when it should be fairly obvious that they shouldn't.
     
  2. I've had the priviledge of playing gigs on the fly and you're right it is fun
    I've even had one where it was just me and a female vocalist

    But I echo ya if anyone does get the chance to do a gig like this do it ( Just make sure you know your instrument )
     
  3. waxcomb

    waxcomb

    Jun 29, 2003
    Martinez, CA
    Accomplished guitarists should be able to tell you what chords you will be playing. Even if it is "A and D for the verse and C for the chorus". Not much gets "accomplished" if everyone is lost. Take the few minutes to lay it out and you will get much more done and you will build a bigger list of songs you can play together. Oh yeah, continue to have fun with it.
     
  4. TVD

    TVD

    Jul 14, 2004
    I don't read music, use the Nashville numbers system, and play with several different bands, and play songs i don't really know on a regular basis. Having a good ear for chord changes is very important for a bass player to have i think. Bass really has control of the band, and other follow the bass, good or bad. It's one of those deals if you play a bad note they all look at you, and if you play no note they'll all look at you, you play it right, nobody notices you. lol I liken playing bass to being an offensive lineman on a football team, they only get their name called when a peanalty is called against them or they get hurt, but a good line is nessassary for any team to win. They really control the game. Now on the plus side you really do control things and can use that to your advantage, though that is a bad feeling when you have no clue of how a song goes, and don't get alot of help from others in the band. A few tips. Do you play guitar or at least know what the different chords look like? If you could just get to where you know what a D, E,A, G, F etc chord looks like when the leader makes the chords on his guitar, you can follow him that way. When i don't know a song at all, and nobody is cueing me with numbers, that's what i'll do, i'll stand where i can see what chords are being made and follow. Another very important tip is to simply pay attention and have a good memory. When listening, when the verse and chours goes a certain way, remember it, cuz those patterns will most likely repeat. A bridge is tougher cuz they often only happen once in a song. But just remember what the chords on the verse were, so the next verse you won't be so lost, by the end of most songs unless they're extremely complex, you should be able to stumble thru them at least. It can annoy me when someone still can't get a song at all by the end of it. And then if your memory is good enough, tuck it away in a part of your brain for future reference. I do that alot, i don't always remember the song 100% the next time i play it, i mean sometimes it's months or even years between playing some songs, but i try to at least be vaugely familiar with it if i played it once years ago, and after the first verse/chours it usually comes back to me. Play defensively until you get somewhat comfortable with the song. Nothing worse to me than to try a lick or something on a song i don't know, only to end up in left field as a result. I'm not knocking someone who's a good sight reader at all, kinda wish i could, but it hasn't ever really come into play with what i do, and i do notice it seems people that read do sometimes have weak ears for changes without the music in front of them. I think you're doing the right thing by trying things on the fly like that, it should make you more well rounded quickly. Trent
     
  5. cosmodrome

    cosmodrome Registered User

    Apr 30, 2004
    ****town, Netherlands
    i have a pretty good ear for that kinda stuff. playing by ear and all. but i don't read music very well (very rusty). i just wing it mostly. just like i prefer learning songs by ear. my version is usually better then those tabs you can get on the net which are mostly toecurling.
     
  6. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I am learning some :) I can now tell E :D Even when I don't know the chords, just watching his hand can help with changes. It dosen't help if it is just a small change like A to Am :(

    Thanks for the other tips. Like I said, it is really helping my ear to be doing this.
     
  7. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    like suggested, learn to recognize guitar chords

    also 3x5 cards (or 4x6 - my favorite) with the chord changes on them prior to the jam should help immensely. there is a gizmo availabel at big music stores which is essentially a little music stand that clamps onto a mic stand which is perfect for holding these. i cant tell you how many last minute gigs ive played with one of these things and some cheat sheets made out
     
  8. TVD

    TVD

    Jul 14, 2004

    Well, now an Am natural does "look" different than an A natural. Pretty easy to recognize. It can be harder if the guitarist is using a bunch of bar chords, or making chords way up the neck. Also, i meant to ask you if you know the number system? Or do these guys even use numbers? Since you can read, understanding the numbers system would be a piece of cake for you. Many a tune has been faked onstage using the numbers system. Trent
     
  9. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I don't think I was clear in my comment. Lets say the song is in A. There is a good chance the song goes A D A E or something like that. If the song goes A Am D, I will see the change from A to Am and assume a switch to D. Oops!

    I don't know the number system :(
     
  10. TVD

    TVD

    Jul 14, 2004
    Well, basically the number system goes on scales. I'm sure you could do a search of the internet, or maybe even this site, and get more info on it. But basically, whatever key the song is in is 1 in the basic numbers system. So let's say a song is in A for example. A would be 1. B= 2, C#= 3, D=4, E=5, F#=6, Ab=7. So if someone flashed a "4" at you in a song in A, you'd know right away it was going to D. It works well cuz you can read hand signals by numbers easily, and it's easier to hear if someone shouts numbers out too. I mean phonetically, E, D, C etc sounds too similiar in a loud stage situation, someone says 1, 4, 5 etc is alot easier to hear clearly. Now of course if the song was in say G, then "4" would be C, and so on and so forth depending on what key the song is in. When you write the numbers system down on paper for a song, that's what's called a chart. I have a few thousand of them, in alphabetical order by song titles, and bring my chart books along on almost every gig i do just in case someone calls a song i don't really know but might have a chart on from once upon a time. Trent
     
  11. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Ok, that explains Nigel Tufnel's numbering system from the April '92 Guitar World. He takes the idea of numbers, but loses the key independence.

    Tufnel: Yes! So on a chart, instead of writing A in music terms you go 1 for A, 2 for B, 1 for A and 3 for C. That's so much simpler.

    GW: What happens in the case of a chord like G13?

    Tufnel: Okay. This is my other theory: If you're playing that type of music, you shouldn't be doing it.

    GW: Shouldn't be doing the Nigel Tufnel Theory of Music?

    Tufnel: No -- you shouldn't be playing music! Because what good are people who do that jazzy sort of stuff? It's all too low-volume. Have you noticed that? What are they trying to hide?
     
  12. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    interesting # system

    of course, in jazz, when the leader holds 2 fingers up it means the key of d (2 sharps), 3 fingers down, key of e flat (3 flats)

    :p
     
  13. TVD

    TVD

    Jul 14, 2004

    Yes. I know that system of establishing the keys of a song too. Not many bands i play in use it, but once in awhile it comes into play. But with the Nashville numbers system, whatever key the song is in, that is "1". As legend tells it, the Nashville numbers system was invented by a member of the singing group the Jordanairs for studio use in the 1950's and went from there. It's always been the standard thing in most bands i've played in. Trent
     
  14. Hurray for tunnel vision. :meh: I don't think I could play with someone who only recognizes his own style of music as valid and denounces anything more complicated than a 7th chord as "trying to hide something."
     
  15. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Ummm, you do know who Nigel Tufnel is, right? Spinal Tap....
     
  16. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    interesting. i never quite knew what the nashville number system was. i guess i've been using it all along and didnt even know it. In fact, half the time i write out my cheat sheets like that if i'm in a hurry, or go over tune arrangements with other players calling the chords by # rather than name, esp when the key center hasn't been established due to not knowing a singer's preference or what have you.
     
  17. wish

    wish

    Nov 28, 2004
    Augusta, Ga.
    You have no idea how much simpler my pro life would be if everyone knew there key signatures.
    Trying to hear the changes on stage in a loud venue w/o the # sytem creates trainwrecks.
    But am always patient with anyone who has the will to try!