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Playing in Duos, Trios

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by tonyp145, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    Hey guys I've started looking for a partner in crime for a duo. Most likely a guitarist who sings and has a PA because I don't. I sing and play guitar as well as bass so we can switch things around for some variety which should be cool. I ran a CL ad last week and have gotten a couple of promising responses so it's all good. My plan is to hammer together a couple of sets of covers (the usual suspects: blues, classic rock and oldies) and try to book us into restaurants, coffee houses, farmer's markets, etc.

    I've been looking for existing threads on this and other forums and have found very little. Maybe I'm searching the wrong things but I figured it would help me and probably some other people here to have a thread dedicated to discussing the small combo format.

    My only ground rule is please don't argue about originals vs covers. I happen to enjoy playing mostly covers with a few songs I've written thrown in. But I know many of you will be singer-songwriters who favor this format over a full band. Let's talk about that and not genre. Thanks I hope to hear from some of you who are playing in small combos and those who are thinking about it.
  2. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I do bands and small combos. Last night the five piece classic country band played a four hour gig that was a private party for about 150 people in a big hall and I made $125. This afternoon I'll be on bass and acoustic guitar with a locally well known singer/songwriter playing a 45 minute set at a house concert, and a couple of songs with another performer in his set. All told about 1.5 hours on stage for me. I'll make more $ today than I did last night.
  3. mimaz


    Mar 1, 2005
    Wheeling WV
    Endorsing Artist: Crook Custom Guitars
    Currently, my main gig is an acoustic trio with guitar, trejone, and me playing "acoustic-ish" bass. (Not exactly acoustics, but with that sort of vibe.). I'll be interested to hear what others are doing as well.
  4. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I enjoy the duo/trio thing ... fewer moving parts and all. It's important to have a compatible partner, you'll be spending lots of time together. I'm a big proponent of "virtual rehearsals" ... record the bones of the song as it will be played, share it on line or in email, practice it separately, put it together on stage. Over-rehearsing is a buzz kill.

    Decent gigs are harder to get ... plenty of places think they're doing you a favor by giving you a stool in the corner and putting out a tip jar. "Why, you could make $30 a night just playing your guitar!" No thanks.
  5. I've been playing in a duo with a woman for nearly 5 years, and we're very successful. She plays keyboards, bass and is a great singer (and is a whizz with MIDI technology). I play guitar (acoustic and electric) and sing harmonies. We slip in a few originals, but basically we play covers. Though we try and play songs that aren't too common, we have over 400 songs to choose from, especially for requests (cheat sheets are easy these days with modern technology).

    Duos are actually very lucrative: a $500 gig is decent money split two ways with very little overhead, not to mention tips for requests - something you don't get with bands. Weddings and other private functions often pay $1500 - $2000. We have regular clubs where we'll do a residency for 2 or 3 weeks, then move on to another club in a different area and do the same. We both have other gigs in bands as well, but I really enjoy the duo thing - you can play a huge range of songs in different styles of music and be very inventive in how you arrange them.
  6. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    Thanks for your responses, this is very encouraging to hear. I've done both small combos and full bands and I really prefer the smaller format. I left the blues band I was in a few months ago because I just can't take the bar band grind anymore. I took a few months off and now I'm gearing up for this. Just bought a TCE BG250 208 which is the perfect little amp for this type of gig. Plus I sold my old rig when I left the band and needed something to practice with.

    A few years ago I worked with an acoustic singer-songwriter, I would play lead and bass lines on an old hollowbody Gibson guitar. That was one of the things that led me to taking up the bass more seriously as I found I really enjoyed it. Anyway we were doing mostly originals and a few covers and got a monthly gig at a restaurant getting $200 for 2 hours playing time. Not bad. We also did a lot of gigs for little or no money. But I would think a good cover act could make a few bucks. Hope to hear from more folks on this. Especially would like to hear about the types of venues you book. Thanks again!
  7. I think its can be a lot of fun playing in smaller groups, Ive done a few acoustic shows with the singer from my rock band, we generally take it a completely different direction from what our band does. the band is pretty much all originals but when its just me and him we do a lot of covers. Everything from Alice in Chains to Weezer, to Staind.
  8. Fragile Thunder

    Fragile Thunder self-proclaimed

    Jan 2, 2014
    Central NY
    I've just started playing with a friend of mine, him on acoustic guitar, me on bass. He's played in a couple bands before and I have not. Things are going well. We've got a decent number of tunes down and a list we're working our way through. We're aiming to be ready for gigs by summer and I' really looking forward to it. I've always just had jam sessions with a couple friends but the structure of this duo is something that's really appealing. The thought of getting paid to play is very, very appealing.
  9. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I have to ask... If you're serious about it and you sing... Why no PA investment? It's a tool. It doesn't need to be deluxe. You can put this together for a grand and the Seattle Craigslist... With a decent PA you can work with about anybody, otherwise you're screwed to just the folks that have one... A little mixer and a couple of used EON's will go a long way for the duo /trio format.

    My main band Willy & Nelson started as a trio of guitar, bass and lady singer. We got to a point where we could afford the 4th player and added percussion. Fired that guy and got a drummer later. Best earning band I've been in since the 70's... We still gig as a trio now and then. I stomp cajon using a kick pedal and play a fretless ABG. Way more fun for me with drums though. Playing fretless, kicking the cajon, singing lead and backup... Man it's a lot of work... I'm totally spent at 3 hours of that... It's a good kind of spent but spent none the less.

    Sheryl Crow, Pretenders, Eagles, Jackson Brown, some blues and country stuff, a little pop... Music for boomers visiting wine country :D. Early wine bar and winery hours. The occasional re-marriage... Great pay, tips, bottles of vino from the winery to grace the rack. All the cougar you can... Oh wait, different channel :D small gear and no bleeding ears at the end of it... Being happily married, I leave the cougar stuff alone!

    Lots of Tb looks down on this sort of thing but... I actually play better at lower volume than I do high.... And My peeps are a great hang! I say go for it but ... Plan big. Get the PA, choose your partners well. Really focus on making the presentation pro and you'll be amazed at how good the environment can be...

    Venues... Our most steady are wineries and wine bars. We do a regular Sports bar gig. We also act as the house band and host some open mic stuff which can pay ... Having been around a couple of years we also do a bunch of local festival work. Pear & Wine, Harvest Fest, Spring Fest, October Fest... JoMaMa Fest... Any fest that pays... Wednesday Fest if they have a decent budget... We get most of that word of mouth from the wineries.
  10. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I played a duo with a guitar player and a drum machine for years, all kinds of restaurants, small pubs, sports bars, birthday parties, etc. It was fun easy money and my ears didn't ring at the end of the night. You can also do it without the drum machine if it's a "listening" venue but since ours were mostly dance gigs we used a drum machine.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  11. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    Yup I'm working on it. I'm thinking about getting the Bose L1 Compact from Zzounds. With their payment plan it would be $125 a month for 8 months, no interest. I figure I could easily make that money performing solo.

    You guys are really inspiring me, this was a particularly inspirational post, thank you 4Mal! As soon as I'm over my current back miseries (another story) I'm going to get out and hit some open mics.

    Thanks again guys!
  12. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    I'm thinking about the drum machine thing too. With a start/stop pedal it isn't bad and a lot less work and less restrictive than programming and playing to backing tracks. I played guitar in a trio years ago with an ace bass player who really knew what he was doing with his drum machine. He maintained a set list with pattern numbers and tempos for all our tunes. We did dances at a VFW lodge doing a lot of 50s rockabilly. Our lead singer was a crazy redhead who could have done Vegas in another life. Verry entertaining -- and not bad to look at! Not a great singer either but man could she deliver a song! I ultimately couldn't put up with her insane temper tantrums but for a few months there it was one of the best gigs I ever had.
  13. headband


    Oct 18, 2013
    Lake Havasu City
    I play in an electric band, but the guitar player and I have done some duo work. Usually during the week to pick up some extra money.
    I don't use a solid body bass when we do this - I have a Fender Kingman Electric Acoustic, as well as 1/2 scale upright, and use either or both. My amp for this work is an Ampeg micro SVT. Small footprint and great sound.
    I invested in a few older JBL 15G2 Eons for PA - they can be had for cheap, are pretty indestructible and sound good. Their design is also modular and the modules can be found online, so they are easy and fast to repair.
    Also just added a Soundcraft EPM8 mixer, and now the small PA is all set, and I don't have a lot of money invested.
    Good Luck!
  14. Usually, duos tend to play to older audiences, which is fine for me, but something you need to consider when it comes to song choice (though I don't know how old you are). We tend to play Sport Clubs, RSL's, and casinos. We do the odd wedding, anniversary or similar private gigs, but we're fairly picky about them (for their sake, not ours - we need to be sure we're suitable for the gig). Luckily, my partner fronted a band in the 80's that had a few hits, and people still remember her, which does make a huge difference.

    Whether it's a duo or a trio, you do need to sing though. Unless you have Janis Joplin or Paul Rodgers as your vocalist, harmonies are an absolute must imo. I never sang when I started out, but I learned - anyone can learn to sing harmonies - it's not as hard as you think.

    We do have a P.A system, but rarely need it as most of the venues we play have good systems (except for private gigs of course). We do use a drum machine and sometimes backing tracks, but sparingly (as neither of us like the damn things). I guess that's a matter of taste though, and depends on the sort of music you play.

    Never mind what others think - playing music is playing music, whether there's 2 or you or 10 of you.

    I wish you all the best,
  15. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    Thanks Mark, good info. I do sing and in fact I'm planning to go solo on electric guitar with backing tracks. I agree that vocal harmonies are important, that's why I'm planning to buy a TC VoiceLive Play, I think that will add a lot. I'm a little older myself (let's call it 50ish ;-) and I'm planning to play blues, jazz and rockabilly with some classic rock thrown in (Stones, Dire Straits) for good measure.

    I've been having a back issue for the past few weeks so I'm actually selling some equipment to raise the money for a Bose L1 Compact for this act. My wife's going to kill me, I just bought a TCE BG250-208 (like a month ago) and now I'm thinking about selling it to help pay for this. I may list it here on TB. It will be a hell of a deal, I've only played through it a couple of times at low volume here in the house. Anyway, just FYI if anybody is interested.

    Thanks again for all the feedback, seems like a lot of people are going small these days and still getting a full sound using technology. Pretty cool.
  16. I'm 47, so I imagine we'd have similar tastes, and play to similar audiences. I'm not married, and my girlfriend is a very talented singer and piano player, so there's never any problems on what I spend my money on. I was married for 12 year to a "non-musician", and it was constant pain in the ass trying to justify buying equipment (even though that was the sole source of our income). I's a pain the ass trying to explain things to someone who just doesn't understand (no offence to your wife of course). I can only wish you all the best with your musical endeavours.

  17. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Coming from bands, we tend to think of PA in terms of pairs of FOH speakers/towers. But with a lot of duo gigs, the venue neither needs nor wants a lot of volume.

    A single powered top + a monitor can easily cover a lot of duo gigs. If the stage volume is low enough, you can often even go without a monitor by setting a single FOH cabinet so that you hear enough of it at your vocal mics. (You'll still want to test and know the limits of your system's gain-before-feedback; but *not* teetering all night at the edge of monitor feedback is another upside to this kind of gig.)
  18. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    Yup there are a lot of ways to go with this. I went a little pricier than most, I got the L1C and TC VoiceLive Play GTX. Sold my guitar amp and NI Maschine to fund the purchase (cool product I just didn't bond with it). I decided to hang onto the BG250 for now, I really like that little amp.

    At this point I'm still planning to go out solo on guitar and then maybe hook up with a partner if I think I need help. But I'd like to get a few gigs under my belt first.

    Anyway, the only thing holding me back right now is my back - I seem to have thrown it out a couple of weeks ago and it's making it difficult to play. :meh: Going to see a dr tomorrow, hopefully it's nothing serious. I'm itching to get back in the saddle. <sigh>
  19. HockeyDawg


    Oct 12, 2012
    I play in a duo as my main gig, me playing bass and singing and a drummer. We make a lot of noise for only two people.
  20. tonyp145


    Apr 1, 2012
    Kent, WA
    Wow that sounds cool HockeyDawg, I'd like to see that. Got any YouTube videos?