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playin with people that are better n you

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    got a call 2 nites ago and was asked if i could fill in for 3 shows next week with a band that's here on tour from europe (www.thebelgiansinger.com), and desperate. their bass player had a problem at the last minute. i was once advised that when given such an opportunity, just say YES, and THEN figure out how the hell you're going to do it later. these guys are entirely out of my league, the music is not my style, their bassist plays standup, and i'm nervous - yet more excited and thrilled that they asked me to play.

    the very next day i read "practice like the pros" in the Nov. B.P. Oscar Stagnaro (who i never heard of) talked about playing with musicians that are better than you. it got me thinking. just about any time i ever grew as a musician it was because i was lucky enough to hook up with others that were out of my league.

    my very first band was going to be with some drummer i idolized at the time. he gave me a whole bunch of songs to learn that i thought i never could - i learned them, the band never happened, but the fact that i was going to be playing with this guy got me to an entirely different level.

    i once stayed on top of this other guy who is probably the greatest guitarist i ever heard in my life (www.bumblefoot.com). finally got to play with him. can't tell you how much i learned. never made it to the stage with them though - broke up right after 9/11.

    played in a rock band with some jazz musicians for a year or so. learned all about my position in the beat - on top of, behind.... countless other things too.

    i could go on and on. i've been fortunately able to play with lots of people who were better than me.

    i'm gonna put an ad out. bass player looking for band he's not good enough for. :D

    just thought i'd rant about all that and see if anyone had experiences, thoughts or whatever that they'd like to add.
  2. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Joe I agree with you to a point. Unfortunately I've found some of the "uber-musicians" I've worked with are also poor excuses for a human being. I don't know if it's ego but they're usually nasty at worst but no fun to play with at best.

    I'd rather play with guys who may not be brilliant, but can still play well and are fun to work with. These guys tend to give you more room to "play".

    But don't let that put a damper on these upcomming gigs of yours. These people could turn out to be nothing like my generalisation. Try to enjoy yourself and hopefully the experience gained will be valuable to you.

    We want reviews!
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    IME, playing with musicians who are better than you is the ONLY way to go! You improve at an exponential rate. I'm lucky that in my jobs, I've been able to move from one level to the next, playing with better and better people as time goes by. I usually know when it's time to move on - when the guys on the bandstand next to me aren't as good as they used to be :)
  4. Pet

    Pet Guest

    Mar 8, 2003
    all over
    oscar's my teacher. he's really awsome(berklee faculty).
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I found the exact opposite to be true in my case. Perhaps I've been really fortunate. All of the groups I've played with that were one up on me were ultra patient, friendly, let me do my own thing, go at my own pace. They were kind in pointing out things I didn't know, and even really nice and friendly about finally kicking me out of their bands when they realized the colossal mistake they had made. Just kidding. :) Well, one band did that.

    I will own a Bongo, the universe is bringing a bongo in my direction now. A bongo is coming to me. Bongo. Mine. Bongo. (sorry, gotta keep affirming)
  6. I just joined a band that's really technical. they play metal. and the two guitarists are insanely good. when asked to join in on bass, I jumped at the opportunity. and now I cant wait to practice, because I am gonna learn so much.

    I was worried that maybe I wouldnt be able to keep up with them and that it would take forever to learn. but hey, their my friends and their cool with me.
  7. fallon


    Jul 6, 2003
    I do not think that there is any hard and fast rules here.It all depends on luck.You could rehearse with a band of professionals and be told to f*** off,or rehearse with an equally professional/proficient group of musicians who 'will'tolerate' a subordinate...It does raise the question however,how professional is the band that holds onto a lesser quality bassist? Constantly bringing down the collective sound by errors? And in any given band,who is the 'most professional musicain'? The mind boggles.I think that to play with musicians of similar skill levels is the best way to proceed.The band will obviously listen to their respective 'role models'away from the rehearsals and if the will to better oneself is inherent,then the inevitable learning curve will be attacted.I speak through my own experiences...yes at one time,Scotland's slap bassist was an inadequate learner and after one or two rehearsals with a crowd of guys a few years older than himself,he was told.."Sorry man,not good enough." Stay cool,y'all and expect the bad days.Scotland's slap bassist's website coming very soon! "Fallon".
  8. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I was at my very first jam session last week with 2 guitarists that I knew. While it was exciting to get out and play with ppl, when I got home I wasn't thrilled about the situation and it even made me feel like not wanting to play with ppl again.

    The one guy that I know is such a gifted guitarist, but I'm upset he's wasted his talent and prefers spending his life drinking his nights away. And he did that last week. They both just sat around smoking cigarettes (quite funny when the one guy was complaining that he couldn't get his voice the way he wanted it) and drinking beer. The other guy wasn't as good and couldn't sing very well.

    I brought out a notebook of some songs I've been working on (written out in bass clef) and all they did was laugh at me, like "what are those little dots? hahaha". Neither of them know how to read music. The one guy, when telling him how I take bass lessons and stuff, told me that I should quite lessons and start writing things from the heart (at this point I haven't even played him anything of mine, so he knows nothing about me and my writing, nothing about me and how I feel).

    So I played a few things I was working on then played a bunch of basslines to some rock songs I learned by ear...and they sat around doing nothing, not trying to join in.

    I don't know. It just felt uncomfortable and a little frustrating. I'd rather play with ppl who know more then me because at least I won't feel held back, and wil always go home learning something new and challenging. I know there'd be that disappointment of "not being good enough" for a band or whatever, but at least I'd learn something from the situation. I unfortunately learned nothing from my jam session. :(
  9. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    or perhaps it's geographic? I don't know.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    This assumes that the ony way you will play with better musicians is by being in a regular band with them!

    I think playing with musicians who are better than you, is one of, if not the best way to get better.

    But there are many ways to do this - so I have gone to Jazz Summerschool for the last 5 years or so and I always get to play with some musicians who are way better than me - at points I have been playing in a trio where I am the only one who isn't a full-time professional Jazz musician!

    It is scary - but as it is a learning situation, it makes it more fun and less pressurised.

    When I started playing Jazz, I used to sit in on a lot of Jazz jams and everybody was better than me and I learned a lot - but nobody was looking at a serious band - so people were there to play - not get a "perfect" performance!! ;)
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I currently play in 3 bands.

    All three drummers are pro, and of a vastly better standard that I.
    Being honest about it, of the other musicians, most are of a simelar or less able level than myself, but often in different areas.
    Some are great song writers while some have strong theory knowledge, but are lacking in technique, for example.

    I love playing with players who are "better" - or more developed I should say - than mysel. Although admittedly it can be stressful if it takes me longer to pick up on something than others... but that rarely happens as "a band is only as strong as the weakest player" and I'm not the weakest player in any of my bands.

    I plan to start attending local jazz open stage jam sessions soon (there's threee round here that I've found out about and will check out over the next few months)- where I hope to get to play some players much better than myself and really start learning quickly :)

    Stephanie posted:
    Firstly, those guys are ignorant {insert indult here}. F' them.
    You gotta find someone more open minded and less idiotic to jam with - just keep looking and something will turn up! :)

    I guarantee that they felt threatened because you had a whole load of ideas right there and they couldnt even speak the language! Which is pathetic really!

    Perhaps the most important thing for playing with other musicians and playing in bands etc, aside from being able to actually play of course, is being able to fit in with people.

    Don't think that all the people here on Talkbass are representative of all the players out there. Far from it - MOST people who play music at an amateur level dont know sh~t-all theory and dont want to know. They just play what sounds good and it suits them fine. So when you walk in there talking about lessons and theory and getting out your written music they feel threatened. Sad but true!

    My advice is don't offer up the information about your lessons, or theory or anything. Just play and see what happens.
    One day you'll get a "wow, that's a great bassline" type commment and you can just tell them how it works "well, it's JUST root and third of each chord" :)

    I'm not saying that you should be all 'cloak n dagger' about it, just that sometimes it pays to keep things to yourself and just let your playing do the the talking.

    Although in this case it sounds as though you found out right away what idiots they were and are probably better off for it!
  12. fallon


    Jul 6, 2003
    Bruce,I think the best way is to practice alone at home along with some bass lines that will test the learner who is unsure where he/she fits into the bigger picture.There are many reasons for people playing in bands.A working club band who have just lost their bass player,will not tolerate a learner who might jeopardize the band's Saturday night slot in the local social club.If reading music is a requirement,again if your not up to speed,you will not be playing bass for television shows.A touring band,signed to EMI with a couple of chart successes will not cater for ability below a certain standard,so I say again,imho, that the best way is to take the first steps with people of the same level of skill.The thing is,who can say that they can do all of above,play all styles as good as all the top players of all styles that are and have been on the planet? Again,just my opinion and as always,stay cool.Scotland's slap bassist,"Fallon".
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Being less able than the rest of a band doesnt mean you will neccesarily make more errors?!

    If I was in a band where all the players were much better than me, I would keep it simple and solid.
    Thereby providing them exactly what they need in a bass player, a solid backing. In my experience drummers love a simple, solid bass player who doenst over play.
    I would then learn as I went along and gradually incorporate new technique and new learnings as I felt I could.

    Above, like I said I'm going to check out these jazz sessions. I'm not to walk in there and try to play my ar~e off! I'm gonna check it out, see who are the strong players and who arent so string. I shall get into playing simply with the group before I even think about breaking out a little!
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Err - did you actually read my post - I wasn't actually talking about playing in bands!! :rolleyes:

    Practicing at hoem alone is very laudible - but you're never going to be able to put that into practice until you play with other people - they are very different things!!

    I think your advice is going to lead to frustration and/or getting stuck in a rut!
  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Getting back to the original post, this is what I try to do all the time...getting in with players better than myself and learn, learn, learn. I've been really lucky that all the bands I've been in the last ten years have been like going to music school.

    I have been lucky enough to play gigs with guys whose records I bought before I had even picked up a bass. I play simpler and more focused when playing with great players. There is no opportunity to showboat, I'm not going to impress THEM by tossing my latest hot lick into every tune :meh:

    My latest challenge is taking baby steps into the local jazz scene. With Berklee and NEC nearby there are heavy cats on every street corner, I've got a lot of humble pie to chew on in the next few years :cool:
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think you're right Brian - of course if you go along thinking you're going to impress them with your "slap skills" (!!) or something - then you are bound to fail. But solid simple bass playing is always appreciated, in my experience, as well. :)
  17. I have improved and keep improving by playing with more experienced musicians then myself. Is you got the heart, consistancy, and drive you should be fine. Unless of course the band needed there level bass player yesterday they aren't gonna take you today if you are under qualified.
  18. fallon


    Jul 6, 2003
    >Err - did you actually read my post - I wasn't actually talking about playing in bands!!<
    Did YOU read my post? I WAS talking about playing in bands!I was actually offering my opinion.
    > Practicing at hoem alone is very laudible - but you're never going to be able to put that into practice until you play with other people< Agreed.So once the player has put in what they consider reasonable practice time they will have a feel for their ability.> I think your advice is going to lead to frustration and/or getting stuck in a rut!< Firstly,it was not advice;it was my opinion.I'm not trying to ram it down anyone's throat.As I said in an earlier post,it happened to me when I 'thought' I was good enough to join a certain band.These guys had lost the bassist to another band and were advertising.I got a demo from them,listened to it,practised along with it,thought I had done okay,went to a rehearsal and was told that I was simply not up to scratch.That was when I reassesed my playing and practised like a madman until I became fixated with professionalism.That's how things went for me so ....well that's my opinion.Stay cool nonetheless Bruce."Fallon".
  19. fallon


    Jul 6, 2003
    >Being less able than the rest of a band doesnt mean you will neccesarily make more errors?!
    Being less able would normally mean just that,at least within the context of my example.If you played bass in a band and were told you were the weakest link in the band,there would have to be a tangible reason for it;playing out of time,missing out notes,bad muting...you know the score.>If I was in a band where all the players were much better than me, I would keep it simple and solid< Well that depends on the band.What happens when they ask you to 'duet' with the 'better than you' guitarist? "Man,our last bass player done it all the time" Hiding behind "solid bass lines" will not wash unless the band are benevolent with inferiors.Again,it's the way I see it.That said,stay cool.Scotland's slap bassist,"Fallon".
  20. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003
    There is a great way that you can play with better musicians anytime you want - by getting some albums featuring studio greats and learning to play along with them. Get some real groove stuff like old Motown, blues, and jazz. There's a treasure trove of big, fat pockets that you can groove to and learn from.

    Now granted, there is nothing that takes the place of playing with real live people, because there's an element of spontaneous interaction that you won't get from a recording, but it's not a bad place to start to get your grooving skills together.
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