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our new bass player isn't very good

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by morgansterne, Jun 26, 2014.

  1. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    So I used to play bass in this cover band . . . after auditioning many keyboard players who were mostly deaf, or bad, or total prima donnas, the band decided to get a new bass player so I could play keys and rhythm guitar. They found an excellent young guy who could play circles around me, so all was good. He wasn't real disciplined and would sometimes go off in daydreams but generally everything was good. He played with us about two years before asking us to find a replacement.
    Our new bass player is much more enthusiastic, likes our material better, and definitely is a stay in the pocket guy. But his knowledge of theory is sketchy. He plays more by fret number than note name. He can't play anything very fast. Doesn't learn by ear very well so I'm telling him how songs go that he's had available to him to learn for months.
    His first invitation to play with the band was early april. He got access to our dropbox with all our material soon after, and has had directions of which songs to learn. He plays in another band with our drummer so they have material in common that they know, but he insists he'd rather learn our stuff. We've had about four rehearsals with him so far. He has maybe half the material down cold and we have a gig with him on friday.
    We do two to four gigs a month and make 90-100 per person each time.
    Friday I may be playing bass on a few songs he hasn't learned yet, things that don't need keyboard or 2nd guitar. The bottom line is I just don't know if I can handle being in a band with a bass player who's not as capable as I am.
    anybody else ever been in this situation? how did it go?
  2. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I switched from bass to guitar for about 10 years before coming back to bass. Only one of our bass players was as good as I was. The only time I ever said anything is if they were playing something wrong. Other than that, you gave up your spot on bass and micromanaging the new guy will just cause hard feelings. There are few things worse than having someone constantly looking over your shoulder while you are playing.

    If you can't let go, do everyone a favor and go back to bass. Just my opinion.
  3. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    2 questions: Is it a consensus that he only has half the material down? Does the band play covers note-for-note?
    The reason I asks is that if you are not a note by note band, and the the rest of the band may think he has it down good enough, he may just be differing in the standard that you're used to when you played bass.

    If he's noticeably unprepared, then I'd cut him loose. But, that's me. Lack of preparation is the biggest time waster for a working band, and I just don't have time to waste. I currently work with a Country band where we don't rehearse at all, so people have to come in prepared to make it work. We add new songs regularly to keep things fresh, and if one person doesn't do their homework, the song falls apart and the momentum we've been building gets stalled.

    In the world of covers - chops come a distant second to knowing the tune.
  4. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    it can be frustrating playing with less capable players than yourself...but you can easily change that
    scenario by making different choices and learning to say no...if it bothers you enough to do so. I've found that the older I get the less inclined I am to allow myself to stay in situations that are frustrating or irritating and the more inclined I am to call it BS when I see it. Saying no gets easier with practice. :)
  5. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    The issue is not whether he is as good as you, but can he cover the tunes. See how things go, and if there are issues, speak with the rest of the band, and make a group decision. The cover band I play in is only 4 pieces (drums, bass, guitar, singer who plays some guitar and sax). I'd rather fill in spaces on bass than have a space-waster, if you get my drift.
  6. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    This. He's gotta do his homework & learn the tunes you're covering
  7. This, this and this. From your post it sounds like the guy just can't cut it on several levels. Time to cut bait.
    hudpucker likes this.
  8. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I've played in bands that had musicians inferior to me. It was very frustrating.

    One day I joined a band that had musicians that were all better than me. It was very humbling.

    If the guy is working hard learning the tunes, if perhaps he's taking lessons, learning some theory and technique, and is easy to work with, then you might cut him some slack and see how he comes along. Eventually you will know whether or not he's going to work out. Until then, be supportive and helpful. If he starts to be a boat anchor that you're dragging along then he may be more trouble than he's worth. Only you and your bandmates can make that decision. I wish you good luck.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    How much material is "half?" Does the band as a whole have barely enough repertoire to cover a gig? Or does he know 30 songs out of a total band repertoire of 60, or what? If he has 30 songs, then you should be just fine getting through a gig with him - just play the 30, banter between tunes, and if there's still time to fill, do Louie Louie or something.

    He may not be as good as you, but it doesn't sound like he's incompetent or about to drag the band into a train wreck. He's just on a learning curve and will catch up. You made the decision to play keys, so play keys and support your bandmate till he's up to speed.
  10. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    oh yeah, definitely trying to be supportive. Trying to keep a positive attitude when I point out things like "at the end of each chorus (of reelin in the years) it goes to an F#." then we play through it again and he only does it on the second chorus, so I point out "it goes to that F# every time, actually." He has enough technique to cover the tunes we play, except probably "forget you" which has a really tough bridge part, and some of the Rush tunes we used to play ( we did subdivisions a few times and a medley years ago ).
    as of tuesdays practice I would say he knows half of enough of our tunes to play a whole night. we don't stretch tunes out much and we take short breaks, so we play a lot of tunes in a night. He says he's going over only our stuff with his teacher lately and working hard.
    an awful lot of songs he says he knows and we haven't even played through them together, which in his case makes me pretty nervous.

    sure I gave up the bass spot, so I'm not in a position to complain. I understand we can't attract world class talent with $100 per gig, but I sure feel like we could do better than a guy who doesn't have the ear to learn the tunes correctly himself. We're all expected to learn new tunes on our own and then just rehearse to get harmonies and figure out endings, etc.
  11. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    May 10, 2006
    interp likes this.
  12. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    In addition to playing bass I also have an acoustic singer/songwriter act ... and finding a bass player that I can live with is tough. My wife says it's because I want them to play what I would play ... maybe ... but really, I just want them to play well and have some knowledge of music so we can communicate effectively. I don't mind showing someone a new song, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna write the bass part and teach it to the bassist note by note. That sounds like the OP's situation, and were I in his shoes I'd be looking for bassist than can cut it.
    interp likes this.
  13. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    we had our first gig with the new guy friday night. what I've learned is that once he knows the song, he sounds quite good. In fact I think he plays more "punchy" than our previous bass player who had technique and speed to spare. New guy seems to leave a little more space between the notes somehow and the groove really works. It was very clear that he was not prepared though, there were times when he just had to stop and he'd pick up the note again the next time the phrase came around. He had a little trouble with "walk this way" that I think was just based on technique. also since he and the drummer play in another band together, a couple times they tried to play songs the way they play them with their other band, in super long jam versions.
    we filled out the night with three extra acoustic numbers including me and the guitarist playing everlong -- never rehearsed before and it went over really well! I played bass on five tunes that the new guy didn't want to try yet, so that was a lot of fun for me. Our drummer joined us about six months ago and he'd never even heard me play bass.
    learning songs might be a little slow, but I think it's all going to work out with him.
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  14. Fe911


    Apr 22, 2014
    I'm playing with a guy that's somewhat similar to him. I'm a guitar player first, I picked up the bass because no one else wanted too. It's been pretty tough for me, to stand back and watch the others. Zero preparation, ask about a song that was supposed to be prepared and the iPhones come out.... I haven't played in a group for a long time, so I have to tell myself that my level is pretty low as far as bass goes.
    Yesterday, we practiced. And we were hacking out a song and I started to just listen to the others play. A lot of it has to do with getting more comfortable on the bass, usually I'm dead focused on setting time and trying not to screw up. But, I fell back and just followed what the others were doing. Timing wasn't great, but I just listened to how the others sounded together. The one guitarist who never comes prepared really surprised me. He can really pick up a song quickly by ear. And he is pretty good at filling out a song when he doesn't know what's going on. And his right hand control is pretty impressive. Very smooth and confident. Like you said, he sounded good. He forgot his multifx pedal that he has to plug into everything. He puts a ton of effects on at a time(like the other guitarist), so he usually sounds like over delayed mush. This time he just plugged straight into my jmp50. It was nice to sit back and just enjoy making a little music. Which is why I am doing this.
    And I told everyone afterwards how much it meant to me!
  15. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    Bottom line here is that you're getting paid for a job. If you're not qualified as a musician, than you should expect to be either docked pay or fired. If this guy isn't ready to go out and work, get him out of there and find someone who can handle the gig.
    hudpucker likes this.
  16. Nateflakes


    Jul 9, 2014
    I started playing with literally no experience. We have a very talented guitarist who can play bass much better then me, but he was kind enough to take me under his wing and teach me the ropes, and that's all I can recommend. Teach him. You both will learn and he will be forever grateful!
    vasilio and jking138 like this.
  17. Joebarnes


    Oct 4, 2011
    Surrey, BC
    To me, a bad keys player is going to break a band more than a bassist who can just hit the roots, so accept the fact that although you're good at both bass and keys, playing keys is what your band needs from you. Its like a CEO that can type faster than their executive assistant. Sure, the CEO can do it faster, but their talents are better utilized playing boss.

    Either accept the bassist with their limitations or replace the bass player. Whether or not you are better than them is irrelevant. You cannot play keys and bass guitar at the same time. If you are the keys/rhythm guitar player in the band, that is your role. Evaluate the bassist as you would any other instrument in the band but do not compare yourself to them, because you're not the bass player in the band (anymore).
    GregT likes this.
  18. Dogghouse


    Jan 25, 2011
    Santa Barbara
    Bass Guy @ Seymour Duncan
    I try to play in democratic bands. The peer pressure should be put on your bass player to improve. It's for the band's image and booking potential that he get better. It's better than getting personal about it I think. What's
    funny is that this issue is bothering you all in the band way more than the audience who barely comprehend what a bass player is doing for the music.
  19. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    May 26, 2005
    Bremerton, WA
    Jive has it right...when you're playing covers - chops come a distant second to knowing the tune.
  20. mpayne86


    Aug 14, 2012
    Can you help him learn? Can you work with him to make him a better player?

    We all used to be really bad, some of us learn on our own, some of us learn well with others. I would try to work with him, after that if he is not good, then say good bye.

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