Playing In A Group Context

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by kwd, Sep 15, 2003.

  1. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley
    I play in a trio at restaurants and casual gigs in the area. While I believe we are good enough musicians to be playing out and moving ahead, it seems like not enough attention is payed to playing within a group context. This is a big source of frustration for me.

    About five minutes into our first set I noticed an intermittent feedback. I was crawling out of my skin when I heard that and neither of the other players noticed it - I asked them. For the next half-hour I began trouble shooting during the set. I started by taking some of the bottom off of my sound and then gradually decreasing my volume throughout the set. The problem persisted.

    I narrowed it down to the guitar being too loud. I asked her to turn down and everything was fine after that. I feel that each player should be responsible for what's coming of his/her amp. Am I being unreasonable? What have been your experiences? How have you dealt with this in a diplomatic way.
  2. Aren


    Jul 18, 2003
    Fort Wayne, Indiana
    I play in a seven piece "acoustic" band. We showed up at this cafe that booked us as an "acoustic" band. The people in charge of the band (guitarist & wife) had brought a p.a. and three omni directional mics- bluegrass style set-up. Which is still ok for an acoustic sound. And then the guitarist pulls out a FREAKING FENDER TWIN!!!! Which he proceded to use through the entire gig, while everyone else had to crowd around the mics to keep up. Oh did I mention that the guitarist also stood front and center at the mics "to get a fuller sound"? O.K. my rant is over.

    I feel your pain.
  3. In my opinion, everyone onstage needs to listen to the sound of the band as a whole. Don't listen only to yourself. Listen to the band. Whether you're two pieces or eighteen, mix yourself into the band sound volume-wise, and play appropriately.

    Whatever the focus is at any particular moment- the head, solos, vocalist, ensemble playing, play something complimentary or lay out altogether. (Bass players rarely get that breather.) You're probably not the star of the show, don't be stepping all over someone else.

    Listen to the others and "play off" them. It's something you only learn by doing, and it's magic when you get it right.
  4. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley
    I understand the concept of listening to the group as a whole. My question was how to approach that subject with members who haven't had the time to cultivate their ensemble ears. When I've tried to do this before I've received defensive responses and denial. Am I at a dead end with this group? Is it worth continuing?
  5. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Many folks find it hard to constructively criticize another musician to their face in a tactful way. Unless it's The Sam Show, my group, my tunes, I generally just don't do it. And even then, I'm usually inclined to take my friends as they are, by and large.

    So, on to your question. I'll rephrase it slightly like this: "The people I play with are so numb that they don't even hear themselves feeding back. Since they don't even listen to themselves, do you folks think that there's any chance they listen enough to the other band members to make memorable music?"

    Hmmmm . . . .
  6. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley

    Your rephrasing of my question distills it down to the fundamental issue. The answer is no. I don't think we're capable of making memorable music. The obvious follow on question I need to ask myself is if should I continue to waste my time.

    The other players are accomplished at their instruments and can sound inspiring when playing by themselves. When they play in an ensemble, the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. It should be the other way around.

    Thanks for the clarity,

  7. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    I don't know Kevin, I think there's a way to get a higher level of understanding out of anybody, though with belligerant types some times you just have to hit them squarely between the eyes, let them hate you for a few weeks, and in their own time they come back to you as a highly cooperative friend.

    Perhaps jokingly nickname your guitarist Hendrix for the feedback, make more eye contact with her, draw her into the equation, compliment her when she gets it right, and you may provide an important turning point in her musical career. Her first real good musical experience may be due to her pal Kevin the bass man, who knows?

    You mentioned that the other players are good, so if you can't fix her, replace her.

    BTW, is your formal training above the other players? Alot of folks who grew up in the garage so to speak wouldn't automatically appreciate what you're getting at, but may enjoy the introduction to good ensemble sensibilities.

  8. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley

    Thank you for the wisdom. It occurs to me that each time we play out, the guitar player sits out in front with her back to us. Perhaps, some simple modifications to the seating arrangement might allow for better interaction.

    Both of the other members -including the guitarist- are accomplished at their instrument. The point I was trying to make was that mastery of an instrument is no guarantee that you can play well in a group situation.

    I grew up playing in school concert bands and later in church orchestras. That gives me the benefit of knowing how to fit in. The guitar player has -as you've said- a garage background which probably explains some of my frustration.

    I used to play with the guitarist in a larger combo. The instructor was always on her about the same problems, but she never fixed any of it. That makes it harder for me to have a positive outlook going forward.
  9. Kind of going back to your original issue, I've sometimes found it helpful to remind each member in the band that they are 1/3 (in your case) of the content of each song.

    If each instrumnet is playing 100% of each song your missing the magic that happens when each instrument's piece blends with each other.
  10. If you're being paid to play, you're a professional. Your, or hers, ability is irrelevant. As a professional, she should do a professional job. If she's not, she should be told straight up what needs fixing. If her skin is too thin to accept professional advice/criticism, c'est la vie.......

    Same advice applies to Aren's problem.

  11. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley
    I've since decided to drop out of the group. I've had real sense of relief after that. Taking the time to woodshed is a much better use of my time. We were playing for enjoyment and some nominal money. Playing with that group was no longer enjoyable so it was time to stop.

    I helped last year in a Jr High Jazz band at my son's school. All but one of the students in my small combo group were better listeners than the other members of the trio.

    At the last gig the guitar player was tapping her foot, loudly. It ruined the groove and called the whole endeavor into question.
  12. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    "making memorable music" is just what you might be making and not good a good memory either!

    If you want to be a pro you can't aford to play in a bad band. Word will get out that the group sucks and guilt by association everyone init sucks. Good gigs will become hard to find.

  13. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I've run into this type attitude many times...and for me, it boils down to just that. Attitude and priority. If the other players priorities aren't roughly equal and place the ensemble sound above their own, then something will be outta whack. It's why I've come to love all-acoustic groups so much...there's just not that much room for someone to run roughshod over the group dynamics. They'd have to do something really inane and bringing a Twin to a supposed acoustic gig.

    I think you're better divorcing yourself from players like that. It'll never get any better.
  14. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Dec 9, 2021

Share This Page