How long should the "new guy" take before the band is up to full speed again?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by rockdoc11, Oct 12, 2021 at 5:23 PM.

  1. rockdoc11


    Sep 2, 2000
    Over the past three years I've been fortunate to have been in a VERY stable and regularly gigging covers band (classic soul and rock, funk, and more than a bit of disco). We've had no lineup changes at all until this spring, when after the COVID lockdown year our guitarist decided to step away. No issues at all; he's a great guy and has filled in this summer for us on occasion.

    So we added the new guitarist in April, and it it's taken until now (October ) for me to feel like we're getting back to where we were. But I just learned the keyboardist is likely stepping away after our NYE 2021 gig, and I'm down. It feels like I/we are looking at another three months of running through the same old tunes with the new keyboardist before we're back up to speed.

    When your band replaces a significant player, how long do you expect it to take before the band feels up to full speed again (say a master song list of 60-80 tunes, mostly well known)?

  2. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    There's usually some pain involved in replacing a player, unless the replacement is a lot better than whom he replaced. After six or seven months, you feel like you're "getting back" to where you were. I'd say that's not unusual for a repertoire of 70 songs. You would be pretty fortunate to find someone who knew most of your stuff, and for sure s/he wouldn't play just like the old guy.

    You use the phrase "same old tunes." Replacing someone can represent an opportunity; replacing your keyboard person may be an opportunity for the band to have a frank discussion about renewal, just to make sure everyone's happy and sufficiently challenged. But you must realize that nothing is forever, especially music groups. It's part of the deal.
    JRA, bdplaid, kobass and 14 others like this.
  3. Gluvhand

    Gluvhand Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2014
    Rockland County, NY
    I guess you could also try finding someone now and work him/her in so by the time your keys leaves new guy/gal has been working with the band. I'm sure the leaving keys would understand, or they should.
    DirtDog, SoCal80s, JMGiraffe and 2 others like this.
  4. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    I only know from being on the other side of it (always the new guy), and I imagine it just depends. What are the band's performance needs/schedule? What are their expectations. On one end of the spectrum, I got a call six years ago late on a Saturday night from a touring tribute act that fired their bassist. "Do you want the gig or not? Great, we'll see you at the airport in six days." Expectation was "know the show in a week, here's your plane ticket."

    On the other end of the spectrum is a local band I'm in (that never rehearses because of various reasons) with a master list of about 100 songs. In four years with them, we've never touched more than half that list. I get the next show's sets a couple days out and if there's something new, I have to just learn it. Probably was given a few weeks to initially learn/polish that first gig's list. No way I'm going to go waste time on the other 40-50 songs unless we're doing them.

    So, I guess my answer to your question of how long? A few weeks? Depends on the band's needs and the skills of whoever your new player is. I just look at it as my job is to be up to speed as fast as possible, no excuses.
    rockdoc11, DirtDog, 31HZ and 3 others like this.
  5. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    IME - anywhere between 2 rehearsals and never...

    How many from your list does the new guy claim to know already ? (Get a list...)
    How many from that list does the new guy think he knows but will be shocked to discover you do it in a different key than s/he's used to?
    What are the chances that the reason your perfect candidate is available is some horrible personality trait you won't discover until after the first show?
    Do you have a subset of 'easy' songs you can gig with while the more difficult stuff is still coming up to speed? Or is your show 'all or nothing' ?
  6. You didn't say if you are getting up to speed through rehearsals or just steady gigging. Either way, as previously mentioned, while your asking the new guy to learn songs, why don't the rest of you learn some as well? I've done that before when breaking in a new person. I figure if the new guy is learning 5-8 songs for the next rehearsal, at least one can be new for all of us. You don't HAVE to learn all the old songs first (or ever)
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    It depends. If you guys are a dad band that plays out once a month and mostly does this for fun, a couple months should do it.

    If I were joining a band that plays every weekends with some good wedding/private/corporate gigs, you could hire me on Tuesday and I'm ready for you to call whatever song you want by Friday night's gig.

    If you're the latter you should have never allowed the guitarist to take so long to get up to speed. If you're the former, and the gig isn't a large part of one's income, you get what you pay for. Not much you can do to rush them along because the incentive isn't there.
    12BitSlab, rockdoc11, pcake and 8 others like this.
  8. ewarren88


    Nov 21, 2002
    Medina, OH
    I believe it’s less about calendar time and more about number of repetitions. Just to hazard a guess, I’d hope to see the new group clicking well after 4-6 shows, while making steady continued progress along the way.

    To reach the same level of comfort you had after 3 years? Well, I guess it will take about 3 years. ;)
    rockdoc11, bobba66 and bassface69 like this.
  9. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    It all depends on how much time people put into preparation. In my world (church gigs) we form ad hoc bands every weekend - a lot of times someone new (that none of us has worked with before) is in the band. Once in a while, I am that new guy. EVERYONE shows up practiced - that's part of the deal. We have 2 hours from the time we get together until we play a "show" - there is no negotiating this in our world - the congregation will be there; we can't cancel or put them off a week.

    You'd be surprised how often it feels totally natural in that time frame.

    Of course, we play 3 to 6 songs in our set - you're doing 10x as much. So, 20 hours. ;-)
    rockdoc11, QweziRider, five7 and 2 others like this.
  10. TexasThunder


    Mar 4, 2018
    Honest question…do you have to have keys to keep playing at full speed? Could the new person just merge as his/her comfort allows?
    rockdoc11, DirtDog and 31HZ like this.
  11. joelns


    Mar 10, 2014
    There are way too many variables to make an answer to this.
    rockdoc11, 57pbass, BobDeRosa and 3 others like this.
  12. kevindahl


    Aug 21, 2006
    Vancouver, BC
    If you practice once a month then 3 months is reasonable. If you practice 3 times a week then 3 months could seem long.

    Having gone through the process twice in our current band I feel for you. The second time we decided to change up the songs so everyone was learning new stuff.
    rockdoc11 likes this.
  13. P A U L

    P A U L

    Oct 18, 2015
    Los Angeles
    yes - this...

    especially, since the keyboard player has given you this head's up & is on good terms. Have the new guy start coming to rehearsals & check things out. If he has any questions, he can ask the soon to be former player.

    This will be the most seamless transition.
    rockdoc11, 31HZ and mrcbass like this.
  14. DrewD

    DrewD Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2020
    Vancouver Island
    I never played in a band with that many songs on the playlist - always set shows - but in my experience from both sides of it, a matter of a few weeks to be happening and very tight, definitely not months.
    But that said, so much depends on so many variables. Do you play straight covers off the record (easy to get up to speed quickly) or do you have your own arrangements of the cover songs (takes more time)? If there's a horn section, their parts should be charted so it should be really easy for one of them to be replaced quickly. Lots of vocal parts?
    In the last band I played full time in, the keyboard player laid out all the vocal arrangements (extremely well) and would have taken a very long time to replace and get the band back to full tilt.
    rockdoc11 likes this.
  15. Dynacord


    Jan 1, 2005
    It so depends on the respective levels of the player(s) who left and the replacement.

    Played for 10 or 11 years in a 9 piece band doing mostly 60's - 70's soul - horn section, arrangements. Remembering one gig where the drummer got really sick the day of the gig and we called a sub, great drummer, June Core, who had never played with the band but is a fantastic player, knows the genre and has huge ears (and was, amazingly, free on a weekend night). No rehearsal, not even a chance to run through anything at soundcheck - sounded like he had played in the band forever - hit every break, ending, etc pretty much perfectly. 4 hour gig. Some other replacements never fully captured the spirit of who they replaced even after years - so, the band was just somewhat different at different stages.
  16. First off: ALL of the players in my band are "significant".

    Okay. That's out of my system.

    Slotting in new people is a bear, a lot of times. Bands are like a four(/five/six/seven ...)-marriage (sorta). You get used to peoples' skill level and their propensity (or not) to "free lance" a little bit.

    Then, she finds a new lover(/band) and leaves you and you want to go find a new gal. Okay. That's not a direct analogy, because you don't need a new lady/wife, but if the band is going to continue, you need a new player.

    I wish I had the answer for ye, but it just stinks on ice and you have to suck it up and drive on.

    We've been trying to replace a drummer since before the scamdemic shutdowns and it is proving to be an arduous journey.

    Chin up. Stand fast and reach out if you think I can help in any way.
    rockdoc11 likes this.
  17. themickster


    Oct 4, 2015
    60-80 is a lot to learn. How long did it take you to learn them? Start with any the noobs already know and bring in others at a speed they can handle. Let them choose which songs and when.
    DrewD and rockdoc11 like this.
  18. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    It all depends on the skills of the new guy. If he's familiar with the genre and knows the tunes coming in the door then it shouldn't take but a couple of rehearsals to nail down the intros and endings. If he's an all genre player who knows his instrument and has a deep understanding of music in general, then you should be able to take on a gig with no rehearsals and expect great results. If not either of those, then it's going to take a while.

    I've hired sub guitarists and bassists for gigs and played the gig with no rehearsal without any issues. All it takes is good cues from the band to cue the endings. But the subs I hired are high level players who can walk in and play anything on the set list. They just need to know what key the songs are in.
    rockdoc11 likes this.
  19. I found out that it isn't always just the new addition that has a bit of a learning curve. Sometimes a new arrival will change the direction of the band (either intentionally or not). For example: If the new guitarist is more of a jazz player than the old country guy he replaced the differences in how they play the set list may rub off on the other members. You might get to play different material the former members wouldn't/couldn't play. Not always a bad thing. The time line for all of this depends on the people involved, the type and difficulty of the music and the pace of the work/practice schedule.
    rockdoc11 likes this.
  20. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Two things from my own experience come to mind:

    Example 1: The band did a good job of fairly complicated material. Reggae/Funk/Jazz about 50/50 originals and cover. 7 piece with horns, keys, guitar, bass and drums - all cover songs at least slightly rearranged.
    All posts manned by competent people. I usually was the worst musician in the room.

    We had a big gig lined up. I lived about two hours outside the city, all the rest lived within. In the night before the gig a snowstorm hit my place and in the morning, the strong winds had snowdrifts piled up 10+ feet on basically every road. Your normal plough did not get through because they were packed so dense and there were two vehicles equipped with specialized snow cutters for a 50 mile radius. I was stuck. In my desperation, I packed my stuff to hike ten miles to the train station on foot. I had everything set up and was ready to leave when the radio told me trains were not getting through either.
    It was around noon when it became apparent that I'm not gonna make it.
    A friend of the drummer was in town, a semi pro who studied bass guitar abroad.
    This guy received a briefing that could not be more thorough:
    1. The setlist
    2. Sheet music for every song
    3. Recordings of my band playing each song.

    It was short notice, but my band played the gig and that guy subbed for me and did well.

    We swapped out some of the musicians during our time. The new ones received all that material and all the recordings. It was more or less expected that the new person is up to speed and gig ready after a maximum of three rehearsals.

    Example 2:
    I subbed for a band once. One gig, just a few songs. It was quite the train wreck. For sentimental reasons of friendship, I stuck around with these guys to try and get them on track. 100% original material where a lot of improvisation was called for. Weird musicianship that came from the steady neglect of all music theory over decades of playing together. Some of it was unique. Some of it was plain bad.
    That band took in a second guitarist. I think we took about half a year to get the new guy ready to play a set of a dozen songs live.

    So the answer should be 'between 6 hours and 6 months, depending on the quality of the band and the quality of the musician'.
    rockdoc11 likes this.
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