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multiple songwriters in band, differing styles. thoughts?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by led3, Jun 25, 2014.

  1. led3


    Nov 4, 2009
    Alexandria, VA
    my current band has 3 members who all write songs in various quantities/style as well as vocals for those. to some extent, it's like a showcase of 3 singer/songwriters using each other as a backing band. problem is that it leads to disjointed shows with different styles. another problem is how to show "equality" within the band by ensuring everyone gets their songs in. comments? thoughts? ideas?
  2. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    If you are doing this for fun/spending money, I don't see a problem. If you are hoping for more, the band needs to talk and look to get on the same page. Have they tried working on each others songs? Worked for the Beatles, who had 3.5 guys writing in very different, and evolving, styles.

    As to live shows, if they are that dissimilar, then do them in sets, like when bands do an acoustic set.
  3. KenHR


    Jul 28, 2010
    Waterford, NY
    How long have you been together? Sometimes, even if things start out a bit disparate, you'll start to notice styles merging over time. I've been writing with Paul in my current band for almost two years now...our earliest stuff was very compatible, but you could easily tell who wrote what. These days, it's a lot more organic; we've influenced one another to a great extent, we know one another's tastes better, and our writing process got more collaborative as we got more comfortable with one another musically and personally. It's much harder to pinpoint exactly who brought what to many of our newer songs.

    Also, when the songwriters bring a song, do they dictate parts to everyone? I did this for many years, but in the past few years I've found that it was more exciting if I left everyone to their own devices as far as writing their own parts (it helps to have bandmates whose tastes and ears you trust, of course)...it's led to far more interesting arrangements and a more cohesive sound in the band.
    P-oddz likes this.
  4. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    One of my biggest complaints about modern music is how bands are "genre-oriented," and focus their songwriting to a certain "style." My favorite albums, by Queen, The Beatles, even Led Zeppelin had a lot of variety of styles, owned by the band. Collaborations between disparate songwriters can be fantastic, and albums that do "sort of a blues thing" followed by "a straight ahead rocker," followed by "our dance song" can be wonderful, as well. The industry doesn't seem to like that type of variety, but my ears sure do.
    tbz and KenHR like this.
  5. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    Houston, TX
    My band has the same situation. Two guitar players and one keyboard player who are all writers and singers. They all write songs, and just bring them to the band, and we play them. Each guy takes the lead vocals on his own song, and the other guys sing back up / harmony. Some guys have a few songs, some guys write a lot of songs, and we pick and play the good ones that we all like. All three guys also pick covers that they do, and those have a huge range in style and quantity. All three guys have different styles, but they all sound like our band, because, well, it's our band playing them.

    Like mellowinman said,,, bands now are so "genre-oriented." Don't worry about having a disjointed show... if the band plays good, and is developed as a unit, then it will sound like your band. If you saw the Rolling Stones and they played "Girl with Far Away Eyes" and later played "Miss You" would you think the band was disjointed? No. Totally different songs, different genres, but you would think it was the Rolling Stones doing their thing. You've got to sound like your band first. Then the material will all work together because it all has a common thread running through it... your band's sound. Just be sure to work the set-list so that the show has a good flow.

    As far as "show equality", make sure everyone understands that the show comes first, and there is a time and place for all the material. In my band, if we have a 45min set at midnight at a rock club, we play the rockers, and that might mean that one of the guys doesn't get his slow ballad in that show, and gets less songs that one of the other guys. If we are playing a three hour private party, one of the other guys might not get to do his rocker because the other guy has a lot of more mellow music that is right for that gig. A band has to function as a unit where the whole is more important than the pieces. You give and you take in a band, and if you can't to that, then the band will decend into petty fights, and fail. (Unless you have a situation with one Band Leader who decides everything;))

    In any given show my band might play dance hall country, rock-n-roll, a little punk, disco and dance, slow blues, southern rock, psychedelic-freak-out music, etc, etc... what ever we feel like playing that particular show. It's hard at first because people want you to be a "country band" or a "rock band" or a "dance party band." Well, we are just ourselves, we play what we feel, and it all comes out sounding like us... we love it, have a good time doing it, and people respond to that.

    Good luck, OP!
    KenHR likes this.
  6. randyripoff


    Jul 12, 2008
    I have to agree. If you listen to Rubber Soul or Revolver there's really no consistent musical theme throughout those records, just well-written, well-executed songs. I'd worry a lot more about the quality of the material these guys are bringing to rehearsals than whether there's a distinctive sound. Arrangements can always be changed to fit a specific style, but if the song's no good in the first place, there's no putting lipstick on that pig.
  7. Lobomov


    Aug 2, 2013
    I'd much prefer your situation than just one singer/songwriter .. unless you have someone like Sting that manages a decade of great songs, you're situation to me is preferable.

    Also haven't we all seen bands, where you think they're awesome after the first song, ok after three songs, meh after 5 song and so on, cos all the song feel and sound the same?

    I'd say enjoy .. and I bet that you have a vibe and feel as a band, that unites it anyway :)
  8. Arvin

    Arvin Underwound Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    On the bench
    Listen to any 10cc album before Godley and Creme left, and it's the same thing -- four great songwriters, very different styles, making awesome records.
    KenHR likes this.
  9. Robus


    Aug 25, 2013
    Chicago Area
    If the songwriting is good, I'd roll with it.
    KenHR likes this.
  10. I automatically thought "The Beatles," as well.

    1. Embrace the diversity. As Robus said, if the songwriting is good...
    2. Put serious thought into your set lists. Sequenced the right way, what you might think as a "disjointed" show may be one that holds the audience's attention and puts your diversity of styles in a bright, positive light.
    3. Have a serious group talk about "equality." Depending on the nature of the gig and the quality of the material, it's probably not realistic for every songwriter's tunes to get equal play with every show. Egos need to be checked in the interest of the band and the performance.
    KenHR likes this.
  11. telecopy


    Dec 6, 2009
    Do the multi-part suite '70s progressive rock kind of thing? 20 minute songs with everyone getting solos?
  12. I am Soma

    I am Soma Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2013
    im in the minority there but the band im currently in (about 1.5 year) came out of the band i was in breaking up and another band losing their bassist/breaking up. i was the primary song writer in my band and the guitarist was the primary in his. we were basically writing every other song and, while i think they were good, you could def tell that it was two different songwriting perspectives. we talked as a group and decided one person needed to be the primary songwriter. this doesnt mean they get final say on everything and the drummer and myself have total creative control over our parts. there was a definite learning curve but our songs are much more cohesive and we have a definite "sound". any ideas i come up with i either try to work into this or save for solo stuff. im totally happy where we are at and i think the main thing is communicating with each other. are you happy having three different sounds ala queens of the stone age or do you prefer one approach with everyone adapting to that style?

  13. adi77

    adi77 Banned

    Mar 15, 2007
    take the time to blend the styles together.. the only band that i know which had all the band members writing hits/songs was queen.. maybe you could do some research and find out how they did it..
  14. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    I would leap at the chance to play in a band like that.
    adi77 likes this.
  15. P-oddz

    P-oddz Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    Ken had solid advice above, and that has also worked out for me in our band.

    Everybody needs to let go a little bit from their ideas and not be so rigid on "mine" or "yours". If you guys really meld with each other, there starts to become certain things that happen organically where EVERYONE wants to be part of it. It took some time for everyone to learn this, but these days when I bring an idea - I'll try to determine the essence, or perhaps even certain thing that I feel is strongest about my idea, and leave it up to everyone else to interpret. If I feel it's going in a wrong direction, or I have something I hear that is not happening, I will address my concerns and we either move on to something that's much better, or it helps us branch into a different direction with it. Either way, it's something that everyone wants to be a part of. I wouldn't really want to be in any other situation than the way it happens now, honestly. I want everyone to strive for their own creativity that lifts us up collectively.
    Bunk McNulty and KenHR like this.
  16. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    This is the case with almost every band I can think of, that I've seen in ages.
  17. I'm one of three songwriters in my band. We all have very different backgrounds and musical ideas and this can be a plus (or a big PITA) depending on how you deal with it.

    I'm not a tremendous Beatles fan - but the things I do like about them are the way Lennon and McCartney pulled in opposite directions and I don't think either of them ever wrote anything nearly as interesting on their own. The lyrics "you've got to admit it's getting better" (I assume from McCartney) answered by "it couldn't get much worse" (I assume from Lennon) --- the way they balanced each other out.

    When I write a song - to my ears it is "too much me". So I very much prefer to write the basic idea, groove, chord progression and my idea of the melody - and then I stop working on it and hope the other band members will throw their life experiences and musical background at it so it becomes a more balanced and more interesting piece of music.....

    .... often times I have to fight a bit to get the band interested in one of my ideas - and sometimes one that I had to fight for turns out to be our most popular tune - and sometimes they turn out to be a dog and get left behind... You never really know until you see how the crowd reacts. I think some of the hottest tunes were tunes that the band (and record company) never thought would be the hit. Crowded house didn't release "don't dream it's over" until it was too late - they had no idea it would be the hit song it turned out to be.
    KenHR likes this.
  18. led3


    Nov 4, 2009
    Alexandria, VA

    for us, it depends on the songwriter. i tend to bring parts or charts and dictate those, but give a lot of leeway on everything else. guitar player is similar to me in style, influences and how we introduce parts... he tends to give me a lot of leeway to inflict on his songs (as I tend to do with his leads, etc.). drummer is generally more dictative (is that a word?) about part, rhythm, style, etc. his style does stand out a bit from the other two of us, but not in small/medium quantities. some of his songs can be considered more traditional rockers and are sometime out of line with our current sound. this isn't intended to be a critique, more a general statement of the facts as i see them. however, i'd like to go to a more collaborative style rather than feeling like 3 singer-songwriters sharing a common band.

    for all of us, lyrics/melody is dictated by the songwriter only. vocals are handled by the songwriter.
  19. led3


    Nov 4, 2009
    Alexandria, VA
    great point. thank you!
  20. led3


    Nov 4, 2009
    Alexandria, VA
    completely agree. we do actually spend a lot of time thinking through sets, which is really the impetus for posting here about it.
    with respect to #3, that is exactly the conversation that i want to have. given our roots with this band, it's difficult (we formed from the ashes of a previous band that had a dictator for a lead singer. we fired him and reformed into a different band and wrote completely new original material. have always pursued a band with situational leadership, not a dictator)... but it needs to be done and we will be better off for it.

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