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How to deal with the aurally-challenged?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Doug Ring, Apr 15, 2005.

  1. Hi folks, I want to pose this question here amongst the seasoned gig veterans; hope this is the right place for it.

    I run a weekly blues jam session in a small bar. It's supposed to be an acoustic session because the place is so small, although we stretch a point for me on bass guitar, because there actually isn't room for a double bass (and my amp doubles as a seat!)

    A lot of the players are regulars, though we have an open door policy, and we try not to be too bothered about who plays what and when - generally the first person to grab a solo after the singing gets to run with it, and anyone who wants to start a song off can do so.

    Sometimes though you'll get somebody in who has absolutely no idea of session etiquette, or worse, is actually unable to play. Recently we've had some people who've played out of tune, at full volume, and all the time, even right on top of the vocals. I mean really disruptive, and with no sense of how they'e p*ssing everybody off. When I've tried dealing with them as one of the people charged with running the session I've had incomprehension, abuse, or on one occasion, threats of violence.

    Any of you gig warhorses had this sort of thing happen? How do you deal with it? All advice appreciated!

  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    NYC Style:

    Someone needs to take control of the session. Have sitters-in sign a list, and then you call people from the list from tune-to-tune. Each person usually gets a tune or two. Keep going through the list after you reached the bottom. To get someone offa the stage after their bit, you just thank them politely over the microphone, ask for a round of applause, and call the next person on that instrument.

    If they're too loud, pass it off on the management. "Aaaaeee -- watch the volume. The owner's been getting complaints and they're going to shut the whole thing down if we can't get it under control...."
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maybe's it's time to bring back "the hook".
  4. Thanks for that, Ray.

    Let me elaborate a bit though, because I didn't give you the full picture.

    There's no stage or microphones: it's what you might call a sing-around. We the musicians take a corner of the pub and sit down around the tables with our instruments. The regulars tend to have their places where they sit every week. New musicians fit in wherever there's space, and non-playing punters use the rest of the bar. There's no PA and no microphones, and if it gets busy and you can't get people to listen you just have to sing louder! And we're generally not talking to the audience between numbers either.

    Your advice was spot on for a place with a stage and PA, but what would you do without one? If you put up with one of these morons the whole session can be ruined, yet you risk a black eye if you try to reason with some of them. So... how to let them down gently without causing offence?

    I like the hook idea, Marcus, or maybe the Sandman from the Apollo in Harlem, but would YOU volunteer for that job in a Scottish pub?
  5. This is something that I deal with a lot.

    Music is my escape from reality for 2 to 5 minutes per song. When something isnt right during those 2 to 5 minutes, I get pissy. Dealing with any kind of musician (while playing music) is a pain in the ass. Everyone has their ego (including myself) and its heartbreaking to hear anything negative. To this day, I am trying to figure out how to deal with it. I am currently (at Church) dealing with a bad drummer and a guitarist that cant play in time or key. If you can imaging playing along to a bass drum that sounds like a jackhammer... :scowl:...........I'm trying not to be the a'hole but I just cant help it... :bawl:
  6. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    It's hard to tell people what to do and what not to do when nobody's paying anybody else and anyone's free to show up and sit in. But you can make the situation a little better.

    Some people will get much better in a session or two but some won't. Try announcing beforehand that "This is a large session. Everyone can't play as many notes as they would in a trio so please be considerate, especially when people are singing unamplified. And please check your tuning against an electronic tuner (point to one sitting on the table) before you start playing so that everyone is in tune with everyone else." Saying that management might shut you down is also a good idea. That should help with some people. Some can't be helped and you have to make them feel unwelcome one way or another. That's the hard part, especially if the sessions have been going on for a while without much organization or discipline. Who of the session's organizers is the biggest ***hole?
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    After the advice just previous, I would recommend find more musical pastures.
  8. Thank for the replies folks.

    That would be me! :D

    It's me and my buddy on guitar who've played together for over 15 years who host the session. What that means is we guarantee to be there every week and we'll play the whole night if nobody else shows up. We get a small amount of money and a couple of beers for doing it.

    We've been going for well over a year and we're getting some good players. Some times it's really rocking, and yet we still all manage to finish together! So I think we have a good reputation now and I don't want to let a few musical dead-beats ruin that reputation. The hard bit is balancing that against letting everybody who wants to play have a go. I don't want the session to be snobbish and exclusive, but I would hope somebody new would have the sense to play quietly until they had the measure of things, not jerk off the whole time at top volume.

    I hear that, Ray, and the place is so small we're often really cramped, but we might move to a bigger place and lose the intimate atmosphere. There's a sort of "after hours" feel to this pub that might be the reason we get punters in, plus it's been a well-known live music venue for years. It's a case of "don't try to move the party", and it really does feel like a party until you get one of these guys in.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    I didn't mean 'move the session', but rather meant 'just walk' if it's an unbearable scene. That was before I understood that you're the organizer.

    Just tell the loud bastards to tone it down or you'll adjust their volume with a pair of wire cutters. The hang is for EVERYONE to have a good time, and if someone is stinking it up they'll be asked nicely to simmer down. Once. And then you'll have to get Medieval on their ass. Reminder poster -- tasteful, friendly and cartoony -- might help keep the thought in mind.
  10. :D

    Or is it:

    We could do with some of your Medieval attitude, Ray. Everyone else at the session is too polite and just hopes these guys will go away.

    In fact, the last problem player we had, a fiddler, having threatened me with physical violence when I asked him to play more quietly, left after one of our regular fiddle players played a particularly tasty solo on a ballad. I guess he knew he was out-classed :smug:

    The poster's a good idea, thanks. I'll try that.
  11. There is a time for diplomacy and a time for bluntness, and unfortunately, some people will only respond to the latter. Subtle hints, posters, an askew glance, etc. will do well for some folk. Sometimes it has to be clearly said--preferably in private. I think most people with this "problem" have no idea it is a problem until someone points it out to them.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    there are a number of time honored methods

    1.modulation - this works out well with a house rhythm section. at a pre arranged signal, everybody modulates a to pre arranged key. Half step up, minor third up, down to the b6 whatever. You can do this every chorus, every 8 bars, every 4 bars til they get the message.

    2. tempo - immediately stop playing and launch into a tune that is most familiar to the house band at the fastest tempo you can play without crashing and burning. Til they get the message.

    3.key change - whatever tune they keep ****ing up week after week, learn in the most difficult key for their instrument. Only play it in that key.

    If all else fails, get the drummer to throw a ride cymbal on the floor behind them. Hey, if it was good enough for Bird....
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm sorry, I just don't think there's any such thing as a bad-ass fiddler mother trucker who's gonna beat me down. (This includes Charlie Daniels). It's like saying, "so this accordian player said he wanted to kick my ass, and I got real scared." It just doesn't make sense. Have you considered grabbing his bow, and poking him with it, while uttering, "Hey there fiddler. What's going on fiddler? Wanna fight there fiddler? Do we have to meet on the roof fiddler? fiddler fiddler fiddler."

    That might be the most mature way to deal with it. I mean, we're talking about a fiddler after all.
  14. What about Davey Crocket?? :spit:
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Count me in as a bit of a dissenting point of view here. While I hear you and what you're saying, it IS a jam session, and it pretty much comes with the territory that some will have no idea how to behave. However, it sounds like it might be the fact that there's nobody directing traffic causing the problems. Maybe if you took more charge up on the stage, and did things like point to the person you want to take a solo instead of making it a free for all, or cued dynamics with the volume of your bass, or don't let every single jammer play all at once, or things like that.

    And if you have been threatened by someone who's jamming, tell the club management and have that person thrown out and barred from participating at your jams anymore. I am not a big person, nor am I a good fighter, but I've run jam sessions before, and have taken complete charge of when and what every single person jamming does and have even had to get unpleasant before, but have never had to fight anyone over it. It is YOUR jam session, not theirs, and make sure that they all know it. They can't be a free-for-all, otherwise you get what you've got going on.
  16. mister_k


    Jul 27, 2004
    Los Angeles
    just for the record....this is the funniest thing i've heard all day.
  17. Thanks everybody for some more good tips. Including jazzbo's suggestions as to which instrument players are the hardest*. But then, he's never been to a Scottish pub late at night :bag:

    Ed, these are all great suggestions and the regulars have been coming long enough to help me out with that if we could make it work. But we're talking about players SO bad that they wouldn't even know we'd changed key. Nothing you do musically gets through to these guys - their level of competence ends with knowing whether a song is being played or not. Not even sure about that with some of them...

    Jimmy, you're right: there's probably not enough directing going on. It's not necessary with the regulars, but maybe a new arrival would get the picture faster if they saw people being asked for a solo. And I'm with you - I go out to play music, not get into a fight.

    I'll leave that to jazzbo :D

    *Bass players, obviously

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