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how are decisions made in your 3-piece bands?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by pcake, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    My band is now a singer with a guitar/bass/drums trio. She has favorites, so we play those. But most of our book is the result of one of us presenting material to everyone else. If at least two of us are enthusiastic, we'll rehearse a song for a bit and see if it takes. If she's happy and we're happy, it goes on the set list. Whether it stays there depends on whether the crowd reacts positively. It's not exactly democracy, but at least everyone gets to say their piece.
    Mr_Moo, ObsessiveArcher and RustyAxe like this.
  2. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    thank you :)

    we're here to discuss stuff, so if a thread naturally goes in a different direction, we'll go with it :)

    not cocksure bravado. what you say is what i've felt in some bands. there are better things to spend time and energy on than one player's idea that you should, as an example, stream all your shows live.
    Mr_Moo and charlie monroe like this.
  3. I currently play in two 3 piece bands. In one I am the BL. I take input from the other two members, who are both flexible and mature musicians. I rarely have to flex my “BL muscles”, but I generally make the decisions. I am a very organized person, and don’t mind putting in the extra time to make sure things run smoothly. I also realize that these guys are good musicians with options, If I don’t keep them happy, I will be looking for new band members
    In the other band it is more of a democracy. I intentionally avoid taking charge in this band, and try to play more of a support role. The guy who should be the BL in this band is not very assertive. This has mostly resulted in things not progressing very quickly.
    The band I am the BL in played 30 gigs this year. We averaged making $94 a man per show.
    I have been in the other band since August. We have played 3 shows. 2 of the shows were because my other band could not cover them. The other show was booked by me because the venue liked my other band so much that when they found out about this band they asked to book them. The democratic approach has not impressed me so far. I imagine it could work with the right people though.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
    Mr_Moo and ObsessiveArcher like this.
  4. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Richmond , Va
    I find that odd numbers in bandmTes members are much easier to deal with than even number.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  5. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I make the decisions in our trio -- but my ear is ALWAYS to the ground, my finger is always on the pulse of the band, so my decisions are heavily influenced by the personalities and foibles of the people I work with.
    JRA, Mr_Moo, ObsessiveArcher and 2 others like this.
  6. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    In the 3-piece I play in singer/guitarist also writes the material so is effectively BL, and drummer is her partner. I tend to go with the flow but then that's the kind of laid-back chilled-out person I am. :)
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  7. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    If I'm a backing player for an artist, I 110% agree with you. If I'm truly in a "band," though, and not backing a solo or duo project, etc., it's generally going to be an equal collaboration. We're all the "artist" in that case, and I'm no less a part of that just because of the instrument I play. This is the situation I'm in with my two current bands. I've been in a lot of situations like you describe, though, especially while I lived in Nashville.
  8. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    I'm probably not anything anyone should emulate, but just to give a dooshie's perspective, I have been in 3, 4 and 5 piece bands and the odd numbers are usually easier. In the last 10 years I have mostly been in three piece aggregations, sometimes with a floater* (rhythm guitar, voc, etc.).

    "Romantic" relationships inna band have never turned out well, for anyone, IME.

    And the bands almost always come down to me as BL. OK, they always do. Somebody's gotta be organized, gotta have inspiration and idears and write, etc., and that's almost always me. Type-A with Class-B people skills, yeah.

    It's probably also why my bands exist for 6 months to mebbe 3 years (currently at 2, and the drummer is moving on) and then destruct or just fade when someone finds a better gig - usually the drummer.

    And I'm OK with that. I always feel like everyone's the better for the experience, we always have pretty good recorded results, and if half the time we split because someone decides I'm a poopie-head, well, I can't say they are wrong, and I do at least try not to be.

    * "Floater" = that muso who hangs for a while but obviously can't keep on due to personal obligations, or too often laziness or incompetence, or personal problems like drugs, temperament, etc.
  9. With the trio I'm in currently it's a democracy, but it's a tad loaded. I've been playing with the same guitarist for 11 years off and on so when we started this project we had a very clear and specific vision for the direction of the music and imagery associated with the band. That being said we still take a vote on things just to allow the drummer some input on matters at hand, but generally the guitarist writes a majority of our music the drummer and I lay down the rhythm, guitarist and I share vocal duties so we both contribute lyrically, and I handle all the business (i.e. booking, promotion, merchandise). There isn't much any of us disagree on being as we put the band together to be exactly what it is and the drummer hopped on board knowing we do what we do and that's play nasty, heavy, music and drink beers whilst doing so.
    Mr_Moo and vvvmmm like this.
  10. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I call myself the band coordinator. I don’t make all the decisions but I make sure decisions are made and followed through on. Only very occasionally do I just put my foot down. I did insist we add some Motown and it goes over great. I learned a long time ago to pick my battles.
    JRA, Mr_Moo, Trevpunt and 1 other person like this.
  11. I'm in a trio. We don't make decisions. Well, maybe what songs to play next.
  12. juancaminos

    juancaminos Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    USA, Phoenix, AZ
    The Fools went from a four pc (drums, bass, guitar, singer who plays blues harp on about 30% of our songs) to a five pc with two guitar players, then back to a four pc. The bass player and singer (founders) gave the orders. Why? Well the singer had to be able to sing the songs, I owned the pa and lights, the singer and I got the gigs and paid for everything that needed to be bought. For the last 1/3 of the life of the band our guitar player started going around me and convncing the singer (this was the singers first foray into live music) to do things that I thought were newbie ideas. Things like playing a song that we had never played before. For instance the two of them would go set at a table and map out "Stand By Me" and with out saying a word to me call it out half way thru the set. Luckly it's an easy song but man did that piss me off. Our mantra was to never do that! THis same guitar player also kept bringing in songs that fit his guitar hero mantality regardless of the rest of us. He would convince our singer (on the sly) that it was good for him to sing. Being much more experienced I knew better. This eventually led to the hiatus of the Fools.

    That said, the best run bands I have ever been a part of were run by one person.
    Mr_Moo and pcake like this.
  13. Rayjay

    Rayjay If that’s even my real name.. Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    Lahaina, Maui, HI
    My preference is always to be in a band with a strong leader, who likes how I play and trusts me to make decisions but also gives clear directions when needed. I despise democracies - someone needs to take the reins.

    At the same time, it's nice when people are allowed to bring songs to the table, and in this case I prefer them to be the MD for that song. Whosever song it is, they should be the MD.

    It's all about TRUSTING your fellow bandmates - trusting their decisions and trusting they will bring their A game and be part of the team. And, it can take forever to find people who's musical instincts you trust.

    I've found - that the best leaders - are not people who necessarily "nit-pick" every detail of everyone's playing, but rather build a team of people who can be trusted in the above sense. That's not an absolute statement, such as when someone is building a cool arrangement or during songwriting, but generally speaking that's mostly the case. Take leaders like Miles Davis - they surround themselves with players who can bring it. When you hear the outtakes, Miles was often pissed when Tony or whoever would get too experimental but many of those ended up on the albums because of the magic that happened. They certainly were not reading scores - but Miles was also leading by explaining what he wanted.

    Its kind of like handing a blank canvas to a painter and explaining your vision - they're deciding the details, you're directing the overall vision. And if they can't bring your vision to reality, you don't nit-pick, you find someone else who can.
    Mr_Moo, REV and instrumentalist like this.
  14. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    I work with a few Bands, several of them are trios. The longest run for me right now is four years this month. I replaced the bass player, though he still does occasional sub work for me since he’s familiar with the material. Pretty convenient, though he doesn’t sing. We are a pretty democratic band but with some minor adjustments. The guitar player, who’s really the BL, books our “in town” shows, deals with the venues, follows up and verifies dates, acts as the BL at those shows and collects and distributes our pay and tips. He also does as much promotion as he can for them and provides the PA. All the rest of our shows are “out-of-town” and I book them. Acting as the BL for those shows and providing the promo and PA. Our drummer has a longer commute to shows and gigs, and takes care of his drums and helps with the PA’s as much as he can.
    It’s been working pretty well for us this way. Any decisions regarding calendar, pay, split, and/or availability/subs is discussed by the three of us and we usually don’t have any difficulties. I must admit, these are pretty good guys and all of us have been working players for many years. We enjoy playing together and have a lot of fun actually. We have four shows this month, and have worked two or three shows a month pretty much all year. NYE is kind of an unexpected bonus this month.
    Sorry for the longish post, but I enjoy sharing my experiences with these guys. Here’s a silly selfie from a few weeks ago. Pretty off the cuff...
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  15. J-Bassomatic


    Mar 30, 2017
    Canton OH
    I played in a couple of 3 piece bands, they were democratic to a degree. There was a band leader with the ultimate say BUT, in both instances, the BL deferred to the individual player on most occasions and stepped in when the 'vision' went astray. Worked for us, we had no personal issues and always had no qualms with the BL's vision. Easy peasy. If you trust each other then there is no problem.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  16. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    Everybody has veto power. However, it has to be backed up with a compelling reason. They way we figure it is the world is full of music we can agree on; so, why get bent out of shape over material we can't agree on?

    FWIW, a BL is judged exclusively by how well he/she provides gigs for the band. Otherwise, he/she must operate under the title of 'Creative Director'. A BL is about the business. Only after the business end is nailed down can that person have anything approaching a final say on repertoire matters. Anything else is a power grab that will not stand.
  17. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    Depends on the situation:
    Depending on issues(s), who had the previous experience with a given problem/issue?
    Who writes better lyrics?
    Does the song deserve a better rhythm, BPM, or guitar chord/lick?
    Family ALWAYS trumps gig/venue etc.
    Does the issue deal with art/layout?
    Typically, it's "democratic," but other situations dictate logic/consideration/maturity level.
    Currently in a post-hc/punk/alternative trio and it's fluid regarding choices/input ranking. We all have similar tastes etc., but come at it from different experiences. Drummer is from UK and has lived in Japan. Guitarist is from Boston, but has lived in Chicago and SoCal. I come from D.C., and have lived ALL over and have travelled abroad. It's give/take on a multitude of issues. It works pretty darn good too.
    Other bands I have been in, well let's just say, there is never a shortage in Napoleonic complexes or whinners. C'est la vie. Don't be the glass, be the water and it works out better.
    Good luck!
  18. I’ve done everything from acoustic duos, to trios, my main band is a 4 piece rock band, I’ve even played in with 15-20 members of you count all the horn players playing big band and swing.

    If its a small group of people we don’t just vote on things and if you lose you lose. Basically we talk about it until there’s an agreement. For example our guitarist lives an hour north of me. There have been gigs near his home that I didn’t want to play because we have no draw there and shows near my house where he’s tired of playing because we get gigs here regularly. Instead of us getting outvoted in a vote we just come to an agreement that I’ll play the show he wants to play if he plays the one I want to play. Kind of like how politics should work if everyone would take the stick out of their butts. Now this isn’t something that happens every time a decision needs to be made. Lot of the time we are all in agreement. But just voting on decisions usually doesn’t work long term in bands. I’ve seen a ton of bands break up over the years over petty stuff. What normally happens is eventually someone will get tired of being the one that always gets outvoted and they’ll either quit or even worse they’ll stay in the band and have a crappy attitude.
    Mr_Moo and pcake like this.
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    This thread is giving me nightmares.
    Jakeman, JRA, Mr_Moo and 3 others like this.
  20. This thread gives me a feeling that threepiece is the way to go. :)
    lfmn16 likes this.

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