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Picking new songs and killing off bad ideas before they start?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by 3Liter, Sep 4, 2016.

  1. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015
    Long story short: Hobby band, played out a couple of times at open mics, still building a setlist, I played bass until I quit because of the drummer, they ran him off and I rejoined on "lead" guitar. (Yes, I know this is a bass forum, but it's all about the band!). The description that follows will inevitably involve some of you saying "rage quit". I almost did when on bass, but I'm having fun with the lead guitar and challenging myself in my playing and arranging skills. All a bunch of middle aged farts.

    There are two main guys who picked much of the music before I started with them last summer. The
    one guy sings and plays acoustic guitar (and some electric). We've been paring back his role even though he's the host. It's his house. He doesn't have time to learn the songs he knows. He likes harder stuff (GnR) but isn't going to have anything prepared and thus won't lead anything new.

    Drummer is up for anything, still fairly new to the instrument, but a decent player. Bassist is a pro musician (guitar player working on bass chops, as was I) and doesn't seem to know much of any of the music but learns it for the common good.

    Main singer/guitar player.... I like the guy a lot and he brings the most to the table, but his song selection is a little off. The band has not defined itself as what we want to be. There's a mismash of classicish rock, and 90's country, Outlaw Country and Bro Country. I like the older stuff, the Bro country is such crap but I tolerate it.

    Anyhow, how do you approach bringing in new music or, more importantly, saying no to new music that doesn't fit. Main singer wants to push new stuff that nobody knows. Or that he has partly learned. We're all busy with other things, job, family, etc. I said there's a million songs out there that people already know all the words to, why bring in new stuff that you really don't know just to have us all learn it? I can sing and I will call some more "common, easy rocks tunes" and the one fellow looks at me like I'm nuts since I guess he's way down this bro country vein and doesn't know them.

  2. Playing in a band is a team sport. The operative term here is TEAM. If you're not all on board with the general musical direction (classic rock, new country, jazz, whatever) and you're not all at the same basic level with regards to coming to practice on time AND prepared it's all just a slow motion train wreck that will sooner or later (most likely sooner) go off the tracks. Which just ends up being nothing more than wasted time and effort. What you're describing here doesn't sound like very good chemistry to me. IMO figure out what type of music you want to do - it can be a mishmash of classic rock, country pop, top 40 etc, it works - and find like minded people to work with. Easier said than done, I know. Trust me, I know... Your other option is to just keep your mouth shut and go with the flow (IOW just be a hired gun sideman).

    In our band we're all constantly suggesting songs, if we're all in agreement it goes onto a "future" list that we choose from as we move forward. If any one person has a compelling reason why they don't think a certain song is a good fit it doesn't make the list. We don't always agree but there is so much good music out there that it's not difficult to come up with more than enough good ideas that fit our abilities and general direction so it's not worth arguing about. If not everyone in your group is on board with that, sooner or later it's gonna blow up. Don't waste time with people you're not sympatico with, find like minded musicians you know you can avoid hnaving those type issues with. Otherwise it's ultimately just wasted time.
    brbadg likes this.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    it can be tough. one band: 9 piece --- they're always glad to get new material (on charts, ready to play). the other band: everyone has lots of competing ideas and it's difficult to keep up with the 'strong' opinions of 7 musicians. both try to be practical, but the 9 pc. rehearses infrequently. the 7 pc. rehearses weekly. so those rehearsal schedule differences impacts the differences in tune-selection-style. but it's easier to "kill off" bad choices in the weekly rehearsals band. we discuss (head count, or vote, so to speak) whether the tune has merit for our roster. so we all get a 'say'. i don't always agree with the others on tune picks, but if we play the tune 'with conviction' on the gig set, it always works!

    but in both bands: we're always trying to 'guess' what our audiences would like to hear. so, in both cases, we're making decisions based on the venue (private vs. public, club vs. corporate vs. festival, etc.). the 9 pc. (infrequent rehearsal) likes a thick book with lots of choices. the 7 pc. (weekly rehearsals) likes a trim book with fewer 'perfect' choices.

    if it was me: i'd try to stay open to any tune and 'try it on' for audience response at a gig. i've had the experience of "that was a lame choice" as well as "damn if that didn't work!" sometimes, in either case, it was a surprise to me.

    i generally take the route: if i want the others to try some of my ideas/choices, i'd better stay open to trying some of theirs!
    EdO. and Radio like this.
  4. Jloch86


    Aug 1, 2016
    New Jersey
    I generally don't suggest a damn thing unless I get the vibe that my input is needed/wanted because the egos of lead singers/guitar players can be a real pain in the balls sometimes. An audience does not respond well to a singer who isn't giving 100% to the material he's singing.

    If you don't have final veto power, don't even bother.
    Matthew Fisher and Sartori like this.
  5. Korladis

    Korladis Banned Supporting Member

    Whoever's going to be singing it needs to be into it, agreed. It just won't come out right otherwise.
    Matthew Fisher and 3Liter like this.
  6. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    Wise words! I just made two suggestions for one band, based on what I think the singer could work with. Also told them that if ANYONE in the band does not like em, to let me know and I will look for different songs to play. I am the new kid in this band and have not made any suggestions since joining them, so I want to make it clear that they are just suggestions and they do not need to "humour me".
  7. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015

    Yeah, that seems to be along the lines of what kinda "rule" I wanna use. You either gotta "know it" or know it enough to show us OR it has to be a crowd favorite that everyone knows. I find that in learning any song in a (this) band environment, people key off the lyrics.... if you're half assing it, don't know it or they don't know the tune, it doesn't come off well and time is wasted. Selecting songs because they have a cool riff, or a neat solo isn't a worthy reason. :)
  8. Ox Boris

    Ox Boris Banned

    Nov 23, 2015
    Somebody in the "Dear Bandmates..." thread said something like: learn the difference between the obscure songs you like listening to in your bedroom and the hits that people like to listen/dance to at a pub/club.
    Sage advice.

    Of course, you don't have to play a song you don't like just because it was a hit. The beauty of living living some 60 years after popular music took off is that there are tens-of-thousands of songs available. You only need 60 for a 4-hour gig and while you may not love every single one, there's no need for anyone to play a song they hate.

    I'm in a new band picking songs at the moment and it's useful to have the following phrases in your arsenal:
    1. First and foremost start with something like: "Here's how those songs strike me, personally. I'm not making any decisions for the band, just letting you know my thoughts as I listened to them."
    2. "It's not a gig song." (Usually it's something very lyrics driven/funny/quirky and can actually be a good song, just no good for people sitting in a pub who want a groove to move 'em and aren't interested in "listening to the words").
    3. "Too hard for me on Bass." (Sometimes it will be. No point making an arse of yourself later, once everyone's done the work to learn it and you can't deliver).
    4. "Nice song, but was it a hit? There are similar songs that are better-known." (Suggest one!)
    5. If you love it, say so! People love you to love their picks.
    6. "It doesn't do it for me." (You don't need an excuse, reason or anything specific. Sometimes, the biggest, best, classic song just leaves you cold. Don't be drawn into specifics. "I'm not feelin' it!" is the best excuse and is unassailable!).
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2016
    GManfromOz likes this.
  9. crguti


    Feb 14, 2011
    Smurf Village
    or... make your own music.
  10. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    That is the issue right there - the lack of definition. If you don't define what the band is all about, then you have no criteria by which to say what songs don't fit.

    One option, which sounds like what you've been defaulting, is the band-democracy model of song selection, which in this case basically means that everyone in the band gets to pick whatever they want to play and the rest of you, wholeheartedly or halfheartedly, go along with it for the sake of the band. There's nothing wrong with that for buddies jamming in the garage, and it can be a lot of fun. If that's the case, I wouldn't worry about it.

    The other option would be if you're a gigging band or intend to be, and then you need to be thinking about what music suits the venues you want to play and for what kind of crowd. Then you can say you're a country band or a classic rock band or a top 40 wedding band with an eclectic list. In my view, the more eclectic you are, the more you need to stick to popular hits. A band that has more of a clear-cut genre and brand has more room to go off the beaten path. If you define a genre, then you need to strictly limit the number of songs that are off-genre - you can slip a couple in for variety, but more than 10% and you're sliding back into eclectic mishmash.

    Nobody in the band knows, or nobody in the audience knows? Big difference, especially, to be honest, in bands of older guys who keep listening to their CDs from the 80s and 90s and don't pay attention to more recent music. I was in a cover band with an older guitarist who was absolutely outstanding, but his world revolved around Kiss. That band was pretty eclectic and included more modern hits. I suggested that we add an Arctic Monkeys song. HUGE pushback, that I should suggest such an obscure artist that no one had ever heard of... then next week he was watching TV and found out they had just been given an award as Band of the Year or something like that in Britain, and were on the cover of Rolling Stone...
  11. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015

    I can't say whether the audience knows it. The last song discussed, must be popular, they played on morning TV outside and it popped up on another thread.

    The band has varied tastes, I think our bassist has never actually listened to recordings of some of the songs we do. He's good enough that I guess it doesn't matter. Very few have a distinct bassline. When I was the bassist, I played them a little less busy, but he's cool. Drummer suggested one artist, I knew a song by that artist and I had us work it in. He's cool. Founder has more of a "hard alternative" interest. I don't know what else he likes, but before I quit when playing bass, I pruned out a lot of the songs he liked as "dirges". Other founder is deep in the vein of Bro Country. (Country with a Cowboy Hat and Flip Flops. Margaritaville with a pickup truck). One guy won't bring any new "worked out material" to the band but seems to be familiar (as in heard them) with a lot of songs. Other guy doesn't have as much breadth in what he likes. Or, he dives deep in a genre for a few years. (I'm all over the place. Blues, Old Country, Classic Rock, I IV V stuff, Dead, 90s alternative, acoustic, etc.). Once, I called on seemingly classic Johnny Cash song and of 5 guys, I think one guy claimed to have heard it before. (I played it at an open mic months earlier and before I finished the opening lick, I could hear on my recording one of the guys recognize the song....same guy asked me if the REM songs I played were my own. LOL).

    Since I can sing as well, we had a limited rehearsal the other night (Bro Country guy was out). I brought in two songs that we'd never played before and just outlined the progression and we played them. That's how IMHO it should be. You have to put in some of your own effort (which includes learning the words) before we should even attempt it. No more of this "Hey boys, I worked out this great tune, listen to this lick....Oh wait, I can't actually sing it, I never tried). Now, I guess as the LG in this group, I should shut up and play, but I try and steer us to something we'll have some success at for the effort put in. And I do try and steer us to the less complicated and popular stuff. Any audience would be a little more forgiving and it builds skills for playing more complicated stuff.
  12. Hamish MacCleod

    Hamish MacCleod Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2014
    South America
    This struck me:
    To me his says "We're a Country band that plays a few classic rock tunes". Three of your 4 selections are in Country sub-genres. If you want more pop, rock, progressive, or whatever you might be in the wrong band. Just sayin'.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
  13. LowNloud1

    LowNloud1 Commercial User

    Jun 11, 2012
    Wilmington NC
    I am a hobbyist making stone picks that I occasionally sell but mostly give away. They made me do this anyways.
    Because I don't know the 90's that well, I leave it to the others in the band. I do have veto power.

    Everyone can nominate a song. We will nominate 4-6 songs. All listen and vote a yes or no to work it up. We meet at practice and record 2 takes, at least. Sometimes 3. No more.

    Recordings are sent out to listen to and then we vote to keep it, try it again or abandon the song. Majority rules. Each can veto but has to argue his case.
    3Liter likes this.
  14. Session1969


    Dec 2, 2010
    Hardly a big swing in terms of styles, imo.

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