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Managing types... Giving 'the talk'.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Silas Martinez, Aug 23, 2007.

  1. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    This is a lengthy post. I apologize for that - lots of background.

    Background... About a year ago, I played briefly with a drummer and guitarist. Shortly after getting started, the guitarist started going through some personal drama.

    I told them, at the time, that I was not into dealing with a lot of drama, and respectfully requested that we look at getting back together once the drama has passed. At the time, I was the 'newbie' to the group, and didn't really think about bringing the drummer with me.

    Well, time passed, I kind of forgot about it, but recently, I was contacted - first by the drummer, then the guitarist. They were starting a new project, was I interested?

    Sure, I said. I was frustrated by my current project, and looking to do something different anyhow. They had a singer, they said, and she was good (this was a problem for us the first go 'round).

    So, I after some logistical hassles, we finally play together. They provided a small set list, which I got down, and so I walked in prepared. First hint of trouble.... Guitarist is far more shakey on the set list than I. Watches me closely, and is trying to follow what I'm doing.

    Singer is good, but has been working with another band, and says she's a bit iffy on leaving them behind, particularly one of the guitarist. Drummer has worked with her band, and knows the guitarist, and asks her to bring him to next practice.

    Next practice, second guitarist shows up. Comes in knowing most of the set list already, and for elements he's unsure of, watches me play through once, and plays them back. He's good, we invite him to join. First guitarist is still shakey.. Muffs some of the leads he has 'claimed', some worse than others, and is making excuses related to being really busy.

    Singer and guitarist decide to leave old project, and join us. We work together to identify a set list, and set a learning schedule.

    A couple more rehearsals go by. First guitarist is still shakey, and some songs are skipped because he hasn't even had time to listen to them. First guitarist misses fifth rehearsal. He has notified us that he will likely be missing the next two rehearsals as well. We talk about it during rehearsal, and agree that we need to talk to him about the situation.

    By this point, I am doing all of the work of settling the set list to everyone's satisfaction, and everyone turns to me to call next song, and watch me when they forget a change. So I volunteer to discuss the situation with first guitarist. Drummer says he'll join me.

    So last night, we go to first guitarist's house. We talk about changes to the set list, and discuss rate of learning and advancement. I find myself doing most of the talking, while the drummer kind of lurks, and gets fidgety. I finally get to the point, that he needs to keep up, or we will have to replace him. It is very difficult, because the guy is going through a pretty rough time of things, and music is his solace - but the rest of the band wants badly for the project to be successful, and we learned quickly that things sounded a lot tighter without the first guitarist.

    So, for the talk, I was pretty roundabout. I felt bad, I hate being the bad guy, and it was hard on me as well. I didn't exactly deliver the message straight, but emphasized how important it was to everyone to keep up on learning the material, and how important it was to meet our goals. We talked about our previous discussions about practice vs. rehearsal, and reminded him that practice is on your own, where you learn the material, and rehearsal is where we work on arrangements. We don't want to spend a lot of rehearsal time practicing - it will do nothing but bog the project down. All of us should be good enough, have enough experience, to learn things without needing to have someone show us how to play them.

    I finally suggested that for some of the songs that feature a guitar intro, we'd have to drop them if he continued to play them as he was, and as the picture became clear to him, he said he might be able to find a way to make it to next rehearsal. I basically told him that, unless he could show up knowing the latest material, and the previous material we had skipped due to his not having time to review, his time may be better spent reviewing the material, and getting up to speed for the next rehearsal he could make it to.

    So, my question is.... Was I too roundabout? Could I have made the same point in a way that was somehow less hurtful (he looked pretty hurt when I mentioned dropping the intro parts, and more so when I told him to take the time and practice)? Should I have just gone the complete hard *** route, and directly told him to get his parts together within X amount of time, or we're replacing him?

    The galling thing about this is that this guitarist also teaches guitar. He should know better. We all feel he should be the most professional, and to have him flaking is frustrating to say the least. He shouldn't have to look at me to transcribe and transpose all the material.

    Oh well. Thanks for listening to me vent. Reassurances, rebuttals, constructive criticisms, and any other feedback are more than welcome.

    Thanks people. :)
  2. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    It's always tough. Our band has gotten pretty good at firing drummers, though.

    The first one came in, couldn't keep a beat, had equipment issues. The singer told him, "I don't think you're good enough to be playing with us."

    It was like seeing someone else get hit by a truck. Not good. Your way is much better. You will always feel awkward when someone asks you to join and then you have to tell him it's not working.

    (Actually, this happened to me. I was playing lead at the time, and me and a close friend who plays bass recruited a really talented guitarist to join us. After a couple of gigs, the guitarist decided we weren't good enough to suit him and fired us!)

    The singer, bless him, learned from the experience. We had another drummer who was very good, but didn't want to join another cover band. The third drummer played with us from October to April, but had erratic time, didn't remember song intros, and missed gigs...so she was replaced by our current drummer.

    We are still on good terms with the one who didn't want to join -- he subbed for the lady a couple of times -- and, for that matter, the lady too.

    If nothing else, you have put the guitarist on notice, and if it is necessary to get him out of the band, well, he had due warning. It sounds as though you covered all the ground relevant to the issues.
  3. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    it's a simple issue IF you want to get out and play. Tell the guitarist, "You are here"....."We are here"......you need to get up to speed in the next 2 practices or your going to be replaced by someone who can.

    A band is a business, and it takes dedication, if someone is dragging their feet, it defeats the purpose of the band, and holds up the other players from getting out and making some money.
  4. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    In Cali, you can always find a better guitar player if you have paying gigs and your music isn't tepid.
    It seems like you guitar player was under the impression that he was doing you a favor by playing in your band. Well, that is an unhealthy relationship, if I've ever heard one.
    I would tell that piece of @#$% to go back to "teaching" and just give up the playing field, since he is obviously "better" that that. LOL.
  5. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    The trick with arbitrarily booting him is that he is a 'founding member' (along with myself and the drummer) and basically a really nice guy ...

    But as far the 'doing us a favor bit' .... I think you may have nailed it.

    He actually said, at one point, "If I'm the worst flake you guys have in the band, the band is doing great."

    I replied to that with.... "A band with any flakes is in trouble. Busy once in a while, understandable - hell, I get busy once in a while. But no flakes. We can't afford them."
  6. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    So, it seems as though 'the talk' has brought out the worst in this guitarist. He has sent a couple of emails to the group address, tearing apart the set list, complaining about this and that, and at the same time saying "don't change anything else (except what I want you to change)".

    I want to drop him now. Were it just up to me, I would. However, this band is a democracy, and while I know the other guitarist would support me, and the singer wouldn't particularly care, I'm a bit unsure of the drummer's response, as he does have a standing friendship - and the drummer is GOOD, I don't want to alienate him.
  7. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I can't disagree with your approach. A lot of red flags there. Founding member or not, you either have to get him in line, get him out of the band, or leave yourself. Pretty simple.
  8. I think you handled it quite diplomatically.

    I guess with the new drama you need to confirm the drummer's feelings. If he can see the issues with this guitarist though he should be on your side.
  9. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    Yup, definitely chat with the drummer about how he feels about the situation.

    You definitely handled the initial conflict much more diplomatically than I would. If it were me, I'da just said, "Shape up in the next couple practices or I'm droppin' yer ass."

    But then again, I'm a jackass. :D
  10. I agree that you handled it about as well as you could. Only a total doorknob wouldn't understand what you were getting it.

    Unfortunately, after hearing what you wrote about him e-mailing the band and demanding all kinds of changes, it sounds like he's going into the total defensive "I'm not the problem, the set list, other band members, etc" are the problem, type of thing. Probably time to cut ties with him.
  11. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Well, as I mentioned, drummer and he are fairly good friends, or at least have played together for quite a while.

    Drummer is convinced he'll be up to speed within a couple of weeks (I have my doubts, but I don't mind a little catering to the drummer in this case). I figure a couple of weeks is a small enough price to pay to keep the drummer happy, as long as the drummer is totally OK with dropping him should he fail to come up to speed - after all, it would take more than a couple of weeks to replace the drummer, if he bailed due to dissatisfaction with the handling of his friend.

    I guess I'll have to get some clarification there - a firm line and commitment, rather than a "I'm sure it will work out". I don't want to drop the drummer, but I'd rather replace guitarist and drummer than live with a liability of a guitarist.
  12. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    It's a tough situation, but I can't see anything wrong in the way you've handled it so far. As long as you stay focused on the issues, it keeps the pressure on him to perform or depart. I deal with this in my company at least once a month. Stay firm, but try to avoid letting it get personal.
  13. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    We had another practice that this guitarist failed to make it to. Again, he was aware that we'd be discussing the set list. Again, he was aware that, if he couldn't make it for whatever reasons, he would lose a chance for feedback.

    So we made some revisions to the set list. I brought it up on the internal band mailing list, basically spelled out what the changes were, and why we were making them.

    He had a royal fit, saying again, that those changes were (in a nutshell) really stupid. Picked apart everything, and managed to take a tone that everyone else found offense. After a couple of days of talking about this, the rest of us decided unanimously that he was a poor fit. Ultimately, it ended up being more than just sloppy playing - it ended up being a negative attitude that got him canned.

    I feel bad about letting him go, but it is a great weight off my shoulders, and I think our band is stronger for not letting drama overwhelm us, and for being able to make a rough decision effectively as a group.

    As we are developing this group, we've all felt that it was important for everyone to be on the same page. We all need to share the same goals, and be willing to put in roughly equal amounts of work to get there. We've all recognized that this guitarist was a potential weak link, and after speaking with him regarding that, his attitude took a nose dive. At that point, it was scrap everything we four planned on to accommodate one guitarist, or let the guitarist know as gently as possible that it had become obvious that we were no longer a good fit.

    We chose the latter. *sigh*
  14. Never an easy situation. I think you managed it well. Good luck with the band.

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