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Getting irritated with building a song list

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hrodbert696, Apr 11, 2010.

  1. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I'm a pretty new bassist, started getting together with some guys to play a few months ago. Power trio of bass/drums/guitar. A couple of us can sing but not really sing lead and play well at the same time, so we went to CL to find a singer and found a guy who seems to blend in pretty well, has rhythm guitar too.

    Yesterday's practice I started to get irritated. I thought we had a system going to add songs to the repertoire and build up to a giggable setlist; everyone nominates a tune they want to play, we all go listen to it, find chords or tabs or whatever we need, come together next week to work on it together.

    This last practice basically nobody had looked at my nomination (Smashmouth's "All Star," not that obscure of a song to find...) so we flubbed around with it for about one run-through and that was it. I had also nominated "Suffragette City" a while back and it still sounds like nobody had really tried to get it down.

    Meanwhile the singer, who had been in another band before, will jump in during the pauses and just start playing some song he used to do before, the drummer will jump in, and me and the lead guitar are left sitting there wondering what the chords are and when we're going to get back to the songs on the list that we had actually prepared.

    Any recommendations for how to handle this? I like these guys to play with, they're about my speed and age, but I want to feel like I'm making a contribution, playing things of my choice, and not just supposed to learn the root notes to stuff the singer already knows while he doesn't bother to learn new songs.
  2. This is classic time wasting behavior.

    My suggestion is:
    1) It is important not to flip out and get angry
    2) When they all jump into something spontaneous, put down your instrument and take a break
    3) When they ask what's up with you, explain that you feel that it is unproductive to do the spontaneous song thing because it forces people to just improvise their way through the song.

    From that point in, you'll need to be very diplomatic. If they spontaneously played Song A, then ask the singer, "Are you nominating Song A for next practice?" Make it clear that you have no problem playing the song, but you DO have a problem with the spontaneous jam thing. "And while we're at it, I nominated Song X and Song Y three weeks ago, and you guys still have not learned it."

    That should spell out the situation pretty clearly. One thing to always keep in mind is that you cannot control how they react. If they enjoy the spontaneous improvised jam more than being productive, you won't be able to change them.

    I've been in this situation too many times to count. The only way I've clued the band into the how much time was being wasted is with the approach outlined about - just put down your stuff and step outside until they're done. If you stumble along with the improvised jam, they think you're OK with it.

    Good luck.
  3. jakelly

    jakelly Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2009
    Better get used to other band members not wanting to learn your song suggestions - happens to me all the time. If you really want to do a song of your choice, it may be easier to get the song accepted if you are prepared to sing it yourself.
  4. baalroo


    Mar 24, 2008
    Wichita, KS
    Who in your band is currently "leading" practices? IMO, every band needs a conductor for learning and working out new material. It doesn't have to be you, but it needs to be someone.

    In my band, I fulfill this role, but each person has a say on how we operate at practices and how new ideas are brought to the table. I'm just the guy that says "STOP! We're getting off track here... is this song ready?... what? you're having problems with the transition to the second chorus? OK, let's start 1 bar before the transition 1, 2, 3, 4..." I'm not making any important decisions without the band, just making sure that things are getting accomplished. Since I have a lot more experience with playing in more structured groups (highschool and college jazz ensembles and such), I just had a much better understanding of how to keep a group of musicians on track at rehearsals. OTOH, we allot time at each practice for randomly jamming about, in order to "get it out of our system" and because many times magic will happen when you allow a little chaos in and just "shut up and play."

    So maybe, what your band needs to do is have a sit down and discuss exactly what your goals are for practices (and as a band as a whole), and what the best ways are for your particular situation to get those goals accomplished. Just remember that every band is different and just because YOU have a way that you feel is "best" doesn't mean that they necessarily agree with you, for better or worse. If you've already had that talk, then obviously someone is feeling frustrated with how things are currently being done, or they wouldn't be breaking from the structure you had decided on and it's probably time to sit down again and try to pinpoint what is and isn't working FOR EVERYONE and not just for you. If you keep it civil and everyone understands that there are 3 other people in the band who all have their own reasons for being there, you should be able to come to a decent compromise. If not, then maybe you're not all quite right for each other. Either way, no reason to beat around the bush about it, fix it or throw it away.
  5. slaps76


    Jul 10, 2008
    Medford, MA
    Is your band policy, "everyone picks a song, and you HAVE to play it," or do you suggest songs, and everyone has to agree to it? Maybe they don't like your songs picks.

    One thing I did in a cover band, is we'd all pick a few songs, and put together a list. Then everyone would vote on their top few songs, and you couldn't vote on your own. That way nobody's feelings get hurt, and these are the songs you have to learn. If they still don't learn them, that's another issue.
  6. Stumbo

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

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    Everyone needs to be on the same page for the the band's overall goals and operations.

    When you call your band meeting, discussing the overall direction of the band is probably the most important issue along with another issue that may not be discussed until it's a problem: how much time (in hours per week) can each member put into the project?

    Maybe it would be better if the person picking the song provide the tab, mp3, chord chart, etc to every member of the group instead of everyone doing the same task on their own.

    Another thing to think about is: what audience will you be playing for? What songs do they like? Go online, visit clubs, check out TB's set list threads: Cover band setlists or whatever you think is appropriate for your band.

    Many bands drop songs from their set list if no one dances to it, even if it's the band's favorite tune. You're being hired to entertain.

    You might want to check out If I only knew then... that covers many of the issues you'll be running into.

    Also, my "Being in a band" link below in my sig. might have some info you can use.

    Let us know how it goes.
  7. XXL

    XXL calm seas dont make skilled sailors Supporting Member

    Jun 14, 2007
    All great advice. I have been down this road before and by following the advice given , its made things much easier to navigate.
  8. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    From my experience with cover bands is that one of the biggest points of conflict among band members is the material you are going to play.

    This is what I have done to eliminate this.
    Come up with your entire songlist together as a band all at once. All of you guys sit down together and make 2 lists. The first list is the immediate list. It should be about 30-50 songs depending on what kind of gigs you are playing. Then come up with a future list, which will be about 10-20 songs that you will learn later to add to your basic act.

    Here's the advantages of doing things this way.
    1. If someone is dominating the songlist, or being ignored you see it immediately. You also get to negotiate it immediately. Sometimes the guy who says they never get to choose any songs, but they actually have more input and are just mad that their 1 or 2 songs aren't picked or are the guys who never learn the songs they suggest. You get to deal with these issues before they fester and grow, and flush out the potential personality conflicts early in the game when the stakes are low.

    2. You have a road map to follow for your next practices. Now that you know what you are going to do, you have your agenda for the next few weeks, months, whatever set in terms of material. Now you can spend more time learning the material, as opposed to deciding what it is.

    3. You have something for your promo pack. The songlist is usually part of the promo pack, and by doing this you have it out of the way and can use it to market your band. Take a good look at your list and see how and where to market your material. It will also help you decide on a band image that will fit the material you play.

    4. Less squabble. Don't end the meeting about the songlist until everyone is in agreement on the list. If there are objections, make them now. Otherwise, everyone has agreed to the material, so now you are good to go. Any future issues about the material can be addressed with a simple, "we agreed to this back when". Any future songs can be added after the 2 lists are complete. I must emphasize, this meeting cannot be completed until the list is done and everyone is in agreement. You don't have to agree to like the songs, just to learn and play them.

    My rule is that the singer has veto power of songs since it has to fit their range and style. For cover bands, I like to go with a consensus whenever possible, since IMO there are 100s of songs that can work for a given situation.
  9. Beginner Bass

    Beginner Bass

    Jul 8, 2009
    Round Rock, TX
    A&R, Soulless Corporation Records
    Sorta reminds me of our Middle-School Jazz Band (Yes, a few exist), and there was one song (You'd laugh if I told you what it was) and between songs some trumpet/sax would start playing it from the top, then someone else would hop in, and by the time the teacher had found the score he was looking for, and, I'm not joking, the entire band would have started playing it. It was pretty funny. Back to the situation at hand, tell them what's going on isn't working. Try and put it as calmly as possible.

    And for the song list, try this. Each member picks 1 song to have down by next rehearsal. So say there's 4 people: by next practice, everyone has learned person A, B, C, and D's song. That way no one can complain "I never get a chance to choose a song!"
  10. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008

    As a bassist, your ability to have any power in what songs you want the band to do is basically nonexistent. I`ve suggested quite a few songs to my band that fit our style well and that would be fun for everyone, and yet no one seems to like them. At the same time, however, the guitarist and keys player can never seem to suggest enough Phish tunes to jam on :scowl:
  11. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
  12. blockinlay


    Feb 21, 2009
    Phila Pa
    Sounds like jam nite when my buddy calls me out of the blue to sub. I never know what we're playing, so I always try to bring about five new songs. Some get jammed, and some don't. Probably about all you can do until they decide to get serious is be practiced and ready yourself. You can help. Whomever is lacking, e-mail them the MP3'3 or make them a CD so they can listen to the music. Make a copy of the lyrics and tab to give to them.
  13. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    Come up with short lists ( 5 songs or so) that everyone can agree on and then insist it be adhered to. If there is a song I really want to do, I learn all the guitar parts too and show them to my guitar player before practice.
  14. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks thank thanks, great advice, guys! It's really encouraging to hear how common this kind of thing is and ways you've all dealt with it.

    The drummer is as close to a band leader as we have, he's more experienced than most of us and he has the keys to the rehearsal space. It was part of the frustration last rehearsal that he would jump in on the singer's stuff like that, though eventually he would say "ok, ok, what were we supposed to be working on? Let's stay focused!" :meh:

    When we first got together the drummer tossed out four or five songs for us to start with. Since then the theory has been that we'd get to a full list by adding 8-10 songs a month; everyone would nominate one new song every couple of weeks, and we agreed that everybody gets veto power if there's anything they just don't want to play. So far nobody's openly used it, but like I say, there are some songs (and not to whine, but generally my suggestions) that nobody seems to have prepped.

    I like the idea of charting out the whole prospective set list from the start rather than bits-and-piecing it. One of the things we had said was that we wanted about three-quarters or more of the list to be danceable for bars and parties, but the individual nominations that come in keep being mellow things. I also emailed the singer to ask if he could circulate his whole list of songs so that I could work on them -- hoped that would be a polite way to avoid the ambush jams. Waiting on a response.
  15. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Welcome to the world of being the bass player. :)
  16. H2ODog


    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    This is the reason why i stopped playing with the last guys i was with. Everyone would agree to the songs and i would work on them and learn my part, next week comes and 2 of the three guys "I did not have time this week", ok i can see that happening as we all have things going on in our lives. Second week, "No, i didn't get a chance to look at them", getting pissed now. Third week, "No i didn't listen to the new songs" they start learning them at rehearsal, the drummer and i sit and watch.

    This went on for a few months and i could not take it anymore so i left. These guys just did not have the drive to be serious enough to get beyond the jam session and that's ok if that is your goal, but if you say you want to gig and you put that kind of effort then you are dreaming.

    In the end you have to decide if the guys you are with are serious enough to want to achieve the goal you all set or they are just satisfied talking about it.
  17. I believe your new singer is the main problem. Because he is doing the leading, you just don't know it, since you'all aren't focused on any specific song or list, it's a jam. Maybe it's a passive/agressive way to see what clicks, but it doesn't sound like it to me. I guess it's a good thing you asked him for the list of songs he knows...:meh: Did you all agree to do them when he came aboard? It seems to me he thinks so. That's why he keeps jamming on songs and sucks the drummer...:scowl:

    As far as ignoring your song suggestions, as Joe said, welcome to the Bass World! :cool:

  18. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    +1 to doing setlist as a whole band. Set a rehersal aside for it.

    My group tries to come up with a few new songs to look at every rehersal, and by next rehersal at least one has been looked at and we try it out.

    Personally, I'm not that attached to songs. I'll play whatever works for the group. There isn't really any song I would throw a hissy fit if we didn't play....cause I'm not singing them. If I like it that much, I figure I better start singing. Now, if I was in a group, and could sing an upbeat song, and they refused to learn it, then I'd get mad.

    Personally, I really dislike learning a song at practice I haven't had a chance to listen to. If I hear "its only four chords" again I'm gonna :bawl:. I need to listen to the structure and the bass part for myself...... I also don't like when everyone else starts playing a song they know that I've never done and don't know, and plays all the way through....meantime I'm sitting on my butt for 4 minutes of wasted practice space feeling dumb. It's a lot harder for me to relearn something than to learn it right the first time so I don't want to just throw something in....grr.

    But yea, welcome to the bass world. Singer gets first right of refusal. You......get hardly any right :). Only time i protest a song is if I really don't like the message of the song on a moral grounds (i.e. lots of cursing), because that's really the only reason I can give thats legit.

    Learn to sing one of your favorites, then you'd have something to fuss about :) :) :)
  19. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    Through the years have learned the first to get it on paper is ahead.. then having lyrics, marketing materials and mp3s finishes it.

    Write the marketing materials (plan and brochures etc)
    Establish a list that works.
    Get lyrics and mp3s posted to a private website
    then recruit new members - then request they record their suggestions for when something needs to be swapped out..
    Swap out tunes when something better comes along or something bombs.
  20. Marko 1

    Marko 1

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    A pretty new bassist, in a new project.

    I’m in a similar position, and I feel the best thing to do is not assert myself too much.

    So long as they’re not doing something flat out crazy, just go with the flow for now.

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