How do you critique a defensive musician?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by lafave, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. lafave


    Jan 8, 2009
    Need some advice on a situation that I know will come up from time to time due to the nature of the business.

    I joined a band back in May that had been playing together for about 2 years, mostly doing covers with some originals. I was hired to play keyboards, and lead vocals. I am also a bassist, but had no intentions of playing bass in this band, because they already have one.

    The situation that I'm in has to do with the bassist and his, what I consider, insecurities about his own abilities. From day one, he has made comments that I'm going to supplant him as the bass player, because as he puts it, I'm better than he is. In all honesty, I feel like we possess equal talent, just different styles.

    They asked that I bring some songs to the table to add to our growing set list. The first song I decided on was The Warmth from Incubus. All the band members took a week to learn their parts on their own time before we played it together.

    Everyone with the exception of the bassist, nailed their parts pretty damn perfect. The bassist changed the bass line so drastically that, in my humble opinion, ruins the song. I let it go on for a few weeks after the initial rehearsal, but he started acting like he had figured out how to play it and was no longer learning it.

    About a month ago, I asked him to listen to the way I play the song and if he could try to play it more like that. He immediately told me that he didn't think I was playing it right, that my version was too busy, and that I'm also too picky.

    I asked the rest of the band members what they thought and they stood neutral stating they liked both ways.

    So another month goes by and I decide to shoot him an email with a link to a YouTube video of some random guy playing the bass line the same why I play it hoping that he would reconsider.

    Here is the string of emails:
    Me: Check out the way this guy plays the bass line for The Warmth. Any chance I can get you to play it like this?

    Him:'re being way too picky on that song. I'll give it a shot but we are never gonna get anywhere picking apart each person's role with a magnifying glass.
    Me:I don't understand why you can't take any constructive criticism whatsoever. What gives? Do you think the way you play it sounds better, or do you just absolutely not like being asked how to play something. I would really like to know, so that I stop wasting my time trying to get you to play it the way I think it should be played.

    On the flip side, if you brought a song to the table and wanted my part to be played a certain way, I would listen, not get butt hurt, and try to make it happen.
    Him:Butt hurt? Me? Funny. Get over yourself bro. I've told you several times that the way you play it is too busy. Ask the others. They say the same thing. The cd sound is what I'm shooting for. I give a **** what some ****head on Youtube plays. I know what I do is not perfect and it ain't gonna be. I'm not a pro bassist.

    Buy the way, I said I would give it a shot so chill out with the character attacks. You reply with such absolutism and finality. Relax MFer!

    So with that, I'm looking for advice, opinions, recommendations etc...

    I try really hard to be diplomatic and not come across as an a$$hole. I don't think that I nitpick, but in this case, it's a bass driven song and if any parts can't waver from the original, it's the bass line.

    Thanks for reading, and again, any advice on how to handle defensive band members would greatly be appreciated.

  2. nortonrider


    Nov 20, 2007
    It sounds like you and him are gonna be going "Toe to Toe" sooner or later.
  3. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    How? Not the way you did it, for sure. I'd have told you to do it yourself ... and taken the door. If you have no intention of playing bass, then STFU and play the keys. Really. I wonder how they made 2 years without you? I'm not saying the song shouldn't be played correctly, but you need to work on your people skills.
  4. totallybacan


    Mar 30, 2009
    Yea sadly, it seems like a normal reaction from the way everything was worded. Why does it matter if it isn't like the original version? If it fits, then keep it. If it doesn't, and noone else notices, find a new group that actually has an ear for music
  5. Yerf Dog

    Yerf Dog

    Jun 29, 2009
    Carol Stream, IL
  6. How do you critique a defensive musician?

    You don't.
  7. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    I found the best critique for an overly defensive musician is simple:

    "You're fired."
  8. lafave


    Jan 8, 2009
    LOL...maybe I should look at myself then. I appreciate the feeback!

    If figured that I was going about it the right way, because he is constantly telling others what they are doing wrong on other songs. I fell like he can dish it, but can't take it.
  9. Meyatch

    Meyatch Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2007
    How different is his version, and how different are the CD and live versions? I noticed your youtube video was for a live version, and he said he was trying to play it like the CD.

    Is he really that far off, or does nobody else even notice but you because you like the song, and also play bass?

    For what its worth, I don't think the version you linked is too busy at all.
  10. Reading what you wrote him, you did come accross as kind of a douche. Not a maor douche, but enough for him to get cheesed.

    That said, how he could NOT play that song is beyond me. It's heinously simple.
  11. He's the bass player, let him play bass however he wants.
  12. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Tell him:

    "I'm trying to be up front and honest, as I don't want to argue and cause unecessary tension between us. Please don't take this the wrong way.

    We are a cover band and this is a cover song. I realize that bassists, as a whole, are generally ignored by the audience, but I feel that this song is very bass driven and we should try to replicate it as accurately as possible. You aren't Dirk Lance, and I don't expect you to be him any more than you expect me to be Chick Corea, but if we're going to play 'The Warmth,' we should play it, not re-write it."

    I do like the part where you told him that if he brought a song to the table, you'd at least hear him out and take the suggestions into consideration. You just have to make sure you actually put it into effect.

    The accusations, though, are not okay.

    I've always approached a band from an honest, sincere, and very neutral standpoint. Don't name call, don't let emotion get in the way. In the end, if he can't control himself and there are constantly issues, he wont be in the band and you'll look like the better person/musician.
  13. wildhorse


    Mar 15, 2009
    Some ideas

    #1 Split your keyboard and play the bass part yourself!
    #2 Change your keyboard part to something entirely different and make the song your own.
    #3 Stay in your home studio and just record yourself playing all the parts the way you want them played. (Done that many times myself but it doesn't make a very good band environment)
    #4 Let it go and just play it the way you've all been playing it and accept it.
    #5 Learn your parts very well, take constructive criticism for yourself and don't dish out any of your own. (You'll get more studio gigs this way)

    Yeah your replies were too harsh. Not harsh enough to be called a MFer though.
    But let it go or find others you enjoy playing with. Don't expect any band situation to be perfect or you might end up like The Beatles. lol
  14. Being able to take and give criticism is a very important part of being in a band. Or doing almost anything, really. Some people aren't very good at politely giving criticism and a lot of people aren't very good at taking it even when it is polite.

    There are a few things you have to consider:

    First, people resent it when the new guy comes along and starts trying to change things; even if his suggestions make sense. This just rubs people the wrong way for some reason. I don't think this should stop you from making suggestions, but you should be aware of this effect.

    Second, this guy probably takes you as sort of a threat to his status as bassist. I think it's natural for him to be somewhat defensive of his style of doing things. I think the best way you can deal with this is by downplaying it. Don't say "I would play it this way"; say "I think it would sound better this way". Don't show him how to play something unless he asks you to.

    Third, and probably most importantly, I don't think your emails are polite. Particularly the second one.

    This is pretty reasonable, but I don't like how you've worded your second sentence. It comes off as slightly demanding and it sounds as if you're responsible for for his playing, which you're not. I'd rather see something like "I think it would sound better if you played it more like this."

    His response to your first email was a little inflammatory, but you're totally escalating the situation here. There are personal attacks and you just seem angry. A better response would've been to say that you're only trying to offer a helpful suggestion and leave it at that.

    Ultimately, if he's unwilling to accept your criticism, you'll either have to live with him doing things his way, convince the others to kick him out, or leave yourself.

    Good luck.
  15. wallshakerpbass


    Jun 18, 2009
    If he's being an a**hole about it now, that probably won't change. I would talk to the other guys in your band and give them a choice: him or you. If you go, find a band whose members you can get along with, and if he goes, find a new bassist thats not hard to work with.
    simple as dat :cool:
  16. TheVoiceless


    Jun 11, 2008
    New Jersey
    Dude, unless this is a paid pro situation I wouldn't care much. But if you are in a cover band you should play the song as written or agree that the whole song is up for interpretation, not just the bass part. I would have wrote the same email. Don't feel bad.
  17. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    There are some good, useful comments posted above, but I would like to say this...

    Don't immediately dismiss this bassist just because you guys are having a tiff over this one thing. Do the two of you often have conflict such as this?

    In my earlier days of bass playing my band took on a new drummer. He was good. I hadnt been playing all that long. I wasnt that good. The two of us often disagreed on things, especially when it came to the constructive stuff. We definitely bumped heads a few times. It didnt take long, though, before the two of us ended up becoming best friends and soon made a really strong rhythm section.

    Like Teddy Roosevelt said "Speak softly and carry a big stick" meaning, choose your words lightly, put everything delicately, and have what you need to back up your statements. Have you talked to the rest of the band about it, without the bassist around so that you can get their honest opinions? If the rest of the band is ok with the way he plays it, and your efforts to speak softly to the bassist can't sway him, then leave it at that. If you really can't stand the way he plays the bass, then suggest maybe you guys not cover that particular song.
  18. Slapmesilly


    Jul 24, 2009
    I have played guitar and sang in several bands (my main instrument is bass).
    Ive never offered advice to anyone unless I was asked.
    The reality is that anyone working in a band for Money is in a sense a professional Musician .
    Ive been fortunate enough to have worked As a session player and have been hired as a Fill-in on numerous Gigs with a few different bands.
    I can tell you that If I had gone into any of those situations Ill prepared than I would have Been told so by the people who hired me.
    If a guy is Not willing to come to a rehearsal or gig Ready to do his job he should be fired.
    I know a lot of guys who play much better than I do but, cant get a gig because of bad attitudes and work ethics.
    these things work themself out.
  19. lafave


    Jan 8, 2009
    I'm in the process of uploading the audio onto YouTube. Should be able to post it soon.
  20. Captain_Arrrg


    Jan 23, 2008
    Mountains of Colorado
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    Wait- I'm confused. Which defensive musician are you talking about? Him or you?

    Why don't you let the bass player play the bass? If his style doesn't mesh with yours, why did you join the band? He's heard your critique about his basslines, have you heard his critiques about your basslines?