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My bands too busy

Discussion in 'Ask Janek Gwizdala [Archive]' started by bassjamm, Jul 4, 2008.

  1. bassjamm


    Mar 22, 2006
    Hi Janek/all,

    I've just got back from a gig with my band Groove Cartel. We're a funk band doing a mixture of covers and originals etc. We're doing well as a band, getting gigs at the UK's top funk clubs and we're building a good reputation on the funk scene here. But i feel we lack something.

    I listen to your albums, to acts like The RH Factor, Jill Scott etc. You've all got so much feel and space, sometimes there's hardly anything being played, yet it sounds amazing...and when it flourishes, it's just totally awesome and moving. I feel that as a band, we lack this.

    We're a 7 piece...vox, tenor sax, hammond organ, guitar, percussion, drums and bass. Whilst we create music to a decent standard, we seem to be so busy to my ears that we miss that magic that you and the other above acts manage to create. I know a lot of this is to do with feel, and control over each of our instruments, but i was wondering what excercises, or methods you would perhaps suggest we try in order to create more space and dynamics into the band?

    Don't get me wrong, we all have a decent feel for the music, but we're all going for it a lot, especially on the covers. My thoughts are that we're just creating this wall of funk, which yeah, sounds great...but in order to sound amazing, i think we need to build the wall up more and take it down etc.

    I guess my role as the bassist is to just keep a good, solid, tight groove going with the drums. I think the other guys need to play more sparingly and then all build, but it's hard to communicate that to them.

    Anyway, i thought i'd put this to you and everyone else to get your thoughts. It's really bugging me because i know that if we nailed this, in time we'd be a much better band for it. I just think we need that R'n'B kind of thing going on, lots of chilled out grooves, some nice chords, and then get it cooking at the right times.

    Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated and i hope i've made sense.

  2. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Post a clip, that may help you get more relevant opinions.
  3. bassjamm


    Mar 22, 2006
    I can't really...all our recordings are studio ones where we've been able to mix them etc.

    Thanks for the thought though.
  4. middlebit


    Sep 10, 2005
    The problem sounds like it could either be a matter of certain band members having different perceptions of how much is just right, or simply that the players aren't used to cooperating within the framework of that particular idiom.
    I can't really give any advice on the former, but if the problem is of the latter sort, it can be mended by picking the tunes apart and rebuilding them from scratch. I'd start, you guessed it, by having bass and drums play the basic groove, making sure there are absolutely no kinks or hazy or otherwise weak spots in it. You might be inadvertently playing too much for the music yourself, so keep your ears open and listen for accents which can be trimmed and left out - it can be hard letting go of some of those. Assuming there's a definite melody, vocal or not, I'd suggest adding this to the mix next. Proceed this way and add an instrument at a time and you should be able to tell when the groove turns messy. For this to work everyone needs to be honest and willing to give up some possible limelight for the greater good. This involves realizing and accepting what role you're playing in the band and how much or how little you have to play to fulfill this role. For example, how much does the sax play - rhythm licks, theme or just the occasional solo? Does the guitar need to play chords all the time or is it pecking, muted or open strings? Is the percussion Weather Report or traditional patterns, constant or relegated to certain specific sections or solos?
    I don't know if it can help you, but I've used this approach numerous ensembles and it's worked every time - when people think about the music rather than cramming "cool" licks in every possible gap.

    Edit: I'd suggest recording yourselves too, tape, minidisc or PC will do. Just so everyone can be heard. The recording doesn't lie and is usually enough in itself to motivate people to polish their playing.
  5. bassjamm


    Mar 22, 2006

    Thanks very much for your reply.

    Yeah, that's what we were thinking of. I've had more of a think about it, and to be honest with you, our original material conveys the messages we're hoping to acheive, they have more feel and capture more magic than the covers we play. To me that's a really good thing, as our originals get a really great reception from our audiences and fans. We just need to write more i guess.

    But it is cause for concern that we don't get this across in our covers. Our demos and our live recordings come across well, but i still feel we need to capture more of a certain something when we're performing the covers.

    Thanks for the input guys.

  6. user3653753

    user3653753 Guest

    Jan 28, 2004
    I think playing some of those songs from bands you mentioned would really help. some jill scott grooves and RH factor stuff. Just completely imitate that for a while in rehearsal until it's sounding exactly like the album. Then once you get an idea of how that feels as a band you can totally turn it into your own thing. Perhaps using similar grooves but writing new harmony and melody over them to turn the music into your own.


  7. bassjamm


    Mar 22, 2006
    Thanks Janek...hadn't thought of doing that but sounds like a great idea.

    How do you approach this as a bass player? Like, just keep the groove going untill the band is cookin' then start throwing in some more expression?