How to tell if bandmates are better than you?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PennyroyalWe, Aug 18, 2020.

  1. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    When it comes to auditioning, there’s a common adage “always try to play with people who are better musicians than you”. Thing is, it’s not always to easy to tell, especially during an audition where they may be holding back to avoid throwing off the new person. So, what are your tricks, tips, and tells for knowing when you’re playing with a group that will help you improve?

    (this is spurred by just having an audition where I honestly could not tell what level of players these musicians were. Upside, there must not be ego issues pushing them to show off at least!)
    GlennRH and Mr_Moo like this.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Some general questions:
    How often do they rehearse? Is this your gig equipment? How many songs on their song list? How long does it take to get a song gig ready? How often do they add new songs? When's the next gig?* When was their last gig?* How much do they usually get paid? Democracy? Who's the BL? How long has each member been in the band?

    *adjusted for Covid, of course
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  3. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    All great questions. I’ve found that when I’ve asked a good comprehensive list of questions, people get a little weirded out, so I try to gradually ask them. The point of the thread wasn’t so much for help with this audition, or auditions in general, but rather this one aspect of sizing up new potential band mates and how much they might help one improve.
    RedBadger likes this.
  4. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015
    I think it takes a little while to settle in and see where the cracks are. If you played with them and the drummer kept good time and the guitar/keys players.could execute the songs, that's probably a good sign.

    Define better though. I have played in pick up jams where I knew the guys were technically better but we couldnt synch up. But I'm sure if we rehearsed it a couple of times it'd be fine.

    The most I ever learned playing bass was in a terrible band. I learned a.ton about arpeggios and runs and.such. Rather than learn off Tab.

    I could do no wrong since they were such a mess. It only lasted for a little while till I knew it was time to move on.
  5. JeezyMcNuggles


    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    If you're worried about this, they are most likely better than you.
  6. There's a lot of aspects for sizing up 'better'. Honestly, IME, bands that have their crap together and can answer those questions have some years under their belt and can play.
  7. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    Easy enough way to whittle down the options.
  8. It’s seems odd to say that someone may be holding back their best playing.
    I have always hoped that during an audition, someone is going to show me their best.
    I believe in setting your standards high, and pushing the other players, to bring out the best in them.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  9. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    If you have to put in extra time to keep up, they are likely better.
  10. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I can just tell.
    Engle, btmpancake, Eli_Kyiv and 4 others like this.
  11. Shalto


    Aug 23, 2019
    Rhythmic accuracy is a clue, not just hitting the one/staying in time but also how accurate their subdivisions are. I'm currently playing with a really good guitarist and that was one early thing I noticed, he spaces the notes more accurately than most people I've played with in the past.

    Other things can be genre dependant, e.g. a classical pianist would sound good if they play something that sounds beautiful, but you wouldn't be after beauty from a heavy metal drummer or grime rapper.
  12. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    When is the next gig, how much, and what is the song list?
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  13. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Did they execute the songs well? In other words, can they play music correctly? Was there a good feel to the band? Did you groove? Were they friendly? Was it a good hang?

    Do they meet your time investment and/or money/pay goals?

    These are the things that matter. Don't sweat over whether or not they are better than you.
  14. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    That's what I was thinking too. Is this really a "thing" at auditions -- "holding back to avoid throwing off the new person"? I don't see why anybody would want to do that. What benefit could there possibly be? I would assume that however good they seemed to you is exactly how good they are.
  15. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    never happened at any audition i've played at nor when bands i was in auditioned people.

    in fact, i've never heard of such a thing from anyone - bands i knew doing auditions, auditionees, band leaders for larger bands and orchestras - just nobody.
    Basshappi, Mastermold, Stumbo and 3 others like this.
  16. Leonid Nidis

    Leonid Nidis

    Jan 1, 2018
    Cant always tell by the music cos it may be simple by nature but I can tell in seconds by the touch and feel of the guitar and drums.The vocals skills are obvious.
  17. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    Seriously, I can tell in about two songs if someone is a decent player or not. half a song if they are either really good or bad.
  18. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Ability to sight-read or "shoot from the hip". Our guys are able to muddle thru a tune on-the-fly with a chord / lyrics cheat sheet and play-thru via Alexa. If a member says "uh...I gotta go home and work on this", that's a bad sign.

    PennyroyalWe and nuage420b like this.
  19. To add to what others have said;


    Some bands I've played in have members who like to switch instruments when playing gigs. It's fun as hell when everyone can do it.
  20. MotorCityMinion


    Jun 15, 2017
    When everyone else is more betterer than me, and I mean way better, I'm out. Fageddabout getting experience. They won't be satisfied, I can't justify holding them back nor do I like waiting for the ax to fall.
    PennyroyalWe and Eli_Kyiv like this.
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