How many musicians would you prefer?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jswigal, Mar 18, 2018.

  1. jswigal


    Mar 20, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I'm in the process of putting together a new top-40 type group with an excellent female singer, and I have been hunting for players for about a week now (you all know how frustrating that can be). As usual, there weren't many potentially viable candidates at the start, but now I'm looking at a couple potential guitarists and keys of the keyboard players is someone I've worked with in the past, and he is quite good... One of the guitarists sounds like absolute perfection (we have yet to hold actual auditions).

    I originally envisioned having my preferred three-piece rhythm section of bass/guitar(or keys)/drums, and the vocalist, but now I'm starting to second guess myself. I will admit that the preference for a three-piece is born out of selfishness (to some extent) in that it allows me to open up and fill more sonic space (more notes!). It's also typically easier to mix (Don't you love being Bass player/Sound Tech/Band Leader at the same time?), and to my ear, can sound 'cleaner' and 'tighter' in some cases. I also enjoy the challenge of adapting certain pop-tunes to a smaller ensemble and the creativity that comes along with it.

    Now, assuming I end up with a perfect guitarist and keyboard player after the auditions, what would you do? I understand that having both can give more depth and texture to the performance, but also comes with more clutter and hassle...along with denying myself that elusive pleasure of playing in a three-piece rhythm section...

    I know this is highly subjective, and that there is no 'correct' answer; I'm just curious about the opinions of others. Three or four? Whatcha think?
  2. filmtex


    May 29, 2011
    I’d add a keyboard player any time. I worked for years with that configuration. It meant a larger split of our pay, but it also meant more gigs.
    Artman, Stumbo, EdO. and 3 others like this.
  3. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    I think there are a lot of advantages to a three-piece; it does allow you to spread out more, it's fewer personalities and schedules to juggle, easier to fit into small rehearsal spaces and gig spaces and allows you to book smaller gigs and still have the pay split be decent. In the current contracting live music scene, that helps. Unless you have really good connections, getting $100 a player for a five-piece startup cover band can be pretty hard. But it does also limit what you can play. The band I run, Six Cowards, is a three-piece but I also just joined a more classic five-piece and it can be nice to be able to just sit back and focus on being the bass player.
  4. If you have a keyboard player who knows what to do and when to do it to make the band sound good, keep him/her. They're worth their weight in gold.
  5. jswigal


    Mar 20, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    Yeah, both valid points. I hadn't thought about the potential for easier booking with both keys and guitar (I know some projects I've worked with in the past would have to hire keys for certain venues just to get in the door). $100 per player is the bare minimum I, or anyone who works with me would be expected to take, and it's pretty easily achievable in this market. We're lucky in that at least a couple of the folks involved in this project come with connections and experience, so it's a 'startup, but with known players....
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I play in a four piece band (guitar/vocalist, bass/vocalist, drums, singer/ multi-instrumentalist, and a six piece band (5 sing) that also has a paid sound guy (who has, runs and owns a PA and lights), so I've seen both ends. It depends on two things:

    1. What are you getting paid?
    2. What music are you playing?

    I much prefer having the extra melody instruments, but it's a LOT easier getting $400 gigs than $1200 gigs.
    packhowitzer likes this.
  7. duff beer

    duff beer

    Dec 2, 2007
    Agree. One of my bands is a 4 piece with guitar, bass, drums, and keys. We can do almost any song we want.

    1 guitar and keys (along with bass and drums) is by far the most versatile combination for top 40/pop/classic rock. If you can find a keys player who can play a bit of guitar or another instrument, then you've struck gold.
  8. Bunk McNulty

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

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    My fantasy: I want a band with enough members to get its own zipcode. And everybody sings in Creole. And the bass player gets to wear shorts and chains. I've watched this video often; I'm still not sure I counted everybody. I think there are four singers, two guitarists, three keyboard players, four horns, and a drummer with two percussionists. I think. Oh, and dancers.

  9. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Two musicians, occasionally three, and a drummer.
    mike o, Lobster11, mikewalker and 2 others like this.
  10. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Ideally- Hammond B-3, drums, 2sax, trombone, trumpet, bass, percussion, 2guitars. Three women singing backup.
    What I can afford- keys, bass, drums, guitar.
  11. five7

    five7 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2009
    They also can play your bass parts when you feel like only doing sound.
    CoffeeLove likes this.
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Modern Top 40? You need both guitar and keys.
    12BitSlab, Seanto, JimK and 1 other person like this.
  13. SpyderX


    Jun 6, 2015
    Costa Mesa, Ca
    I've been in 3, 4 and 5 piece bands, my personal favorite is four but the most successful was five with a guitarist/keyboardist. That versatility really comes in handy.
  14. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Drums + guitar + keys + bass + vocals = the world’s smallest symphony orchestra.

    I’ve yet to hear a trio that doesn’t start to sonically bore me after 1-1/2 sets. There’s just not enough range in the average trio’s sonic range to keep me interested beyond the first hour or so. No matter how virtuoso the playing.

    But that’s me. YMMV.
  15. TheLowDown33

    TheLowDown33 Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2009
    SW Connecticut
    A keyboard player who knows their way around creating song-specific patches will be a huge asset to the band. I love my keyboard player so much, and he takes every song up a notch by filling out the string patches, synth leads and all of the rock organ sounds. It also helps your worth if everyone sings.
    instrumentalist and Stumbo like this.
  16. madbass6

    madbass6 Inactive

    Jan 13, 2009
    I do not give consent to use any of my photos ! please respect that. thank you.
    One small detail you're forgetting to mention is the pay! most venues/ bars clubs etc.
    Prefer smaller groups 3pc vs 4! Just something to consider.
  17. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you want to be able to have useful practices, then either stick to 3 (scheduling is much easier), or have 6 or more (so you have a backup for everyone) - again, you can schedule easier - if one guitarist can't make it, you have a backup.
  18. StraffordMike


    Apr 25, 2015
    I was in a four piece cover band where the singer played rhythm guitar. Both guitarists were great about coordinating their parts, and doing it on their own time, not at rehearsals, but the singer was constantly playing catch up because he had twice the load as the rest of us.
    Currently I'm in a four piece; bass,drums, guitar, vocals and its constantly forcing me to up my game by filling up all that space.
    Ideally I'd like the classic five piece with two guitars but most guys demand that minimum $100,but I know there are two, more established cover bands in my area getting $500 for four guys because they have considerable fan bases that always turn out.
    Point is, a good band can often demand more money if they can deliver the goods.
  19. Make the band scale-able. We go from duo to as high as a nine piece, depending on situation and budget. Also, letting them know that limiting the size also limits the songs that can/will be performed. No keyboard player, means no Bruno Marrs, for instance.
    My wish list:
    A drummer that can play to a click track
    A bass player that can double on keys and guitar and play key bass lines when needed (that's me)
    A (better yet two)keyboard player that can also switch over to guitar, understands the difference between a pianist, systhesist and an organist, know how to sequence/sample
    Everybody above sings lead and harmony (specific parts only!)
    A singer that can also play an instrument
    A horn section that knows their instrument is chromatic, can play in keys other than Bb and learns the horn parts that are in the song before scattering off into left field with out there solos and the excuse "that's the way Bird would've played it". This is Caribbean Queen. Just play the line the audience knows!
    mikewalker, Oddly and TheReceder like this.
  20. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    The more instruments the more versatile a band is going to be. I'm a firm believer that if you've got keys and guitar you spend less time asking, "can we play that song?".

    If the personalities work together I'd say go with keys and guitar. In the long run you'd be happier with the sound.

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