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Nobody knows how all of the songs go except me. (long)

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Adam Bomb, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Adam Bomb

    Adam Bomb

    Mar 26, 2008
    Bezerkely, CA
    I’m trying to figure out how normal/predictable/bad my main concern about my band is: Nobody knows how all of the songs go except me.

    Everyone has been in the band at least 6 months. I am not the band leader.

    At a gig last week, we were playing a set, going strictly by the set list. We had just finished the 5th song. The bass starts off the 6th song, so I did. And my drummer asked me what song that was. Two things could have answered that question for him: (1) it was the next song up on the set list, and (2) I was playing it right then. They even all had cheat sheets. The gig went well, but at that moment I was wishing I wasn’t involved with somebody like that.

    Let me emphasize: The gigs (we had two last weekend, our first with the current lineup) went great. We had fun and the crowd loved us. My bandmates cover pretty well. When there’s a change I cue everybody, but a cue can only tell you that the next part is coming, not *how* that next part goes. Sometimes at the gigs this weekend, when there was a change, they would stop playing and listen to me do it for a few seconds, then join in, like, “Oh, yeah!” That happened maybe half a dozen times in four hours of playing at both gigs. No more than 10 times. It seemed to fool most of the people most of the time. There were 1 or 2 train wrecks (IMO) too.

    I broached this subject most recently this weekend, between gigs, with one bandmate. (Not the drummer.) He responded with two points: that jazz is loose, and that he doesn’t get paid enough to bust his butt.

    For one thing, Coltrane knew how the songs went. Dizzy and Louis and Tito and those cats would fly when it was time to fly, sure, but, structurally, everybody was tight. And they played jazz. Second, precisely because the pay sucks, I like to sound good. Because I do this for fun, and it’s funner for me when we are tight. I did say those things to my bandmate, and he accepted them, and that was that, and then we killed at the gig. People really dig our scene, and nobody seems to mind all the mistakes but me. I made mistakes too - less than my share, and wrong note mistakes as opposed to "not on the same page" mistakes. My bandmates make both kinds.

    As a former stoner, I identify with stoners, but lately I have really been feeling the “former” part.

    I have read enough of these types of threads at TB to be anticipating the usual “If you are not happy then move on” thing. And I get that. But I want to be realistic. Here’s the thing. I don’t want to tour. I want to - I will - end each day in my own bed with my wife and kitten. My actual bosses, like, at my day job, respect this about me, and do not expect me to travel. I will not rehearse on a school night and go to my day job sleepy. I don’t want to try to “make it”. I don’t *want* to “make it”. I've got things pretty much how I want them.

    I want to listen to myself on my ipod playing bass in my band two days earlier as I ride the commuter bus in on Monday morning. If there was only one reason I was in a band, that would be it. Seriously. That is what I am in it for, and I am getting that.

    So I get that I could find other players who are as serious about the material as I am, but they are also almost certainly going to want to take the project further than I want to. And, yes, somewhere out there are some serious, professional woodshedders in need of a bass player. Cool. But they ain’t here. And I am aware that I can start my own band.

    Maybe part of my contribution to this band is that I know how the songs go, and they rely on me for that. If it is normal that some people in a band just don’t have the brains or the motivation or whatever to ever get a firm grasp on the material, I need to know that, so that I can be realistic and appropriate. That’s really what I am asking in my incredible longwinded way. TY for reading!

    --Bomb :bassist:
  2. Lazylion

    Lazylion Goin ahead on wit my bad self!

    Jan 25, 2006
    Frederick MD USA
    Why don't you take the band into the studio? You would (eventually) have perfect versions of the songs to listen to on the bus, and you wouldn't have to obsess as much about the others' mistakes.
  3. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Hmmm.... This is one of those rare situations where you have answered your own question. I think your question turned into venting (not that there is anything WRONG with that). The ONLY thing I can even think of that MIGHT help is to ask your bandmates if there is anything you can do BEFORE you go out in public to help them get the order of the songs better. Maybe offer to help with the format of the cheat sheets. Other than that I think you are stuck my friend. If they have NO MOTIVATION then there is not a whole lot you can do. You may want to try to bring up the topic to everybody else (other than the guitar guy you already talked to). You may get a better response from them. If all of the players but that guy tighten up, then maybe he will come around. Good luck!
  4. Well Adam, I have found that alot of "players" want to be in a band but don't want to put forth any effort; i.e.: "I don't get paid enough to bust my butt". :rolleyes:

    I hear what you are sayin' and I guess I'm telling you: Yeah, you are going to run into ALOT of players who aren't interested in "nailing" the parts, they just want to have FUN! :eyebrow: You can try to tell your bandmates how you feel about the performances, but if you'all "Killed" at the gig, it's gonna be hard to get them motivated to be "Better". BTDTGTTS.

    I will also say that there ARE musicians who do want to get parts right (like you) and are also not interested in "Makin IT" (like you). But that will take time to find them...

    Good Luck whichever way you go! We are all pullin' for ya! :bassist:

  5. Low Tone

    Low Tone

    Feb 7, 2004
    St. Joseph, MO
    Are you original or covers?

    If it's covers, cut a CD with all the songs on your set list and give a copy to each band member. Have them listen to it over and over so they can hear how the songs are supposed to go. Sometimes a person can get too focused on playing and not hearing. Just hearing the songs over and over without having to concentrate on how to play them will give them a chance to learn the structure of the song as a whole rather than just each person's individual parts.

    You can try to do the same thing if you're playing originals as well but you will have to get recordings of all your songs that are exactly right in order for it to have the same effect and that may take a little longer.
  6. Adam Bomb

    Adam Bomb

    Mar 26, 2008
    Bezerkely, CA
    Thank you all for your feedback! Our current body of work is 14 originals and 4 covers. We have a 7-song demo, and I think that everybody is pretty strong on those. Live and rehearsal recordings of all of the other songs get circulated, but maybe *too* often. I can try getting a definitive recording of each of the songs that at least one person "winged" at the gig, and circulate only those. They would still have to listen to them, but it wouldn't hurt to try. They are all really confident off of those successful gigs. I want to be careful not to mess with that.

    --Bomb :bassist:
  7. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008

    Isn`t that the thing though. You`re going to start off not making much, and you`ll only continue to not make much unless you bust your butt to make it sound good and tight to those who are paying you.

    It always suprises me how many people don`t notice this when it comes to playing in a band, hell, with life in general. You`re not going to get anything for free, that`s why you have to work your @$$ off just to cut even. But maybe, and with a little luck, you`ll be making enough to make a bit of a living off of it.

    Oh well, just my 2 cents.
  8. butchblack

    butchblack Life is short. Do good. Find and do what you love.

    Jan 25, 2007
    Waltham Massachusetts
    Other then maybe spending a little more time in rehearsals on the form of your songs there isn't much you can do. One positive is that the longer you stay together as a unit the tighter you'll become. Practice may not make perfect but it almost always makes better. You may try to take some of the positive feedback you've been getting and using that as a motivational tool to get the others to work a bit harder at tightening up, but ultimately the motivation must come from within.

    Good luck
  9. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    You know how they always say- in order to better yourself, play with those better than yourself? That's what your bandmates are doing... :p

    Hey, someone has to be the strong player. Like you said, maybe that is part of your role in this group. At least your gigs are working for you, that's a big plus. Good luck and have fun!
  10. As long as they are using cheat sheets, they will never learn the songs.
  11. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008


    Get them off those cheat sheets!:bassist:
  12. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    IMO you said it all right there. If all the bandmembers have recordings of the songs and they can play decent there is no other excuse then them not being preparded and plain lazy.
    I cant stand being in a band with anyone who will not do the homework. It shows in a gig or practice if everybody is tight and if someone is all over who isnt doing the homework. I would address those who are slackin on knowing the music and why.
  13. Mo'Phat

    Mo'Phat Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2003
    San Diego, CA, USA
    You might consider having a 'dress rehearsal' where you play through the setlist like it's a show; ie: short breaks, no BS'ing, audience banter, thanking the bar, song segues.

    Don't use cheat sheets, don't call out the song names, don't use anything as a crutch...just like you'd be onstage. You'll know pretty quick where your weak spots are.

    /sorry if somebody already mentioned this.

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