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Playing with musicial illiterates. Does it get any worse than this?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jmattbassplaya, Sep 27, 2009.

  1. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    About a month ago I decided to search CL to find a new band to play with up at college. Luckily I landed a spot playing with a decent enough and talented enough group of guys who happen to be from the same home town as me. Nice.

    Fast forward a month. We`ve been playing mostly covers to get out and play frat parties, open mics, etc... and that`s been going well enough, but we`ve recently decided to go in a more originals direction and stop the whole cover business.

    Well today the full band was having a writing/jam day so that we could work out one song. It`s an easy enough song that only has three progressions that follow simple rock formats, but it`s kicking enough that it doesn`t get boring.

    Anyways, we were trying to come up with an ending for the bridge to lead back into the verse/solo section and I suggested that we ride a Dm for 13 eighth notes over two measures, have guitar and bass cut out, then have the drums do a quick fill for the last half of the second measure by himself, and then all of us come back into the verse/solo section together on the one of the next measure.

    Simple right? Wrong. We tried this maybe eight times. The lead guitarist couldn`t count to 13 apparently and would over play, the drummer didn`t know when to do the fill, and the singer/guitarist thought a measure was composed of 8 quarter notes(I`m not even joking with this one) and obviously over played as well. If that weren`t enough, every time I tried to reexplain it one person or another would be noodling around and making noise...

    So I`m getting pissed as heck at everyone because no one understood simple music terminology and theory and it made communicating to everyone almost impossible. I even played the part on bass and drums to try and teach them how I wanted them to try and play the two simple measures and all of them looked confused. I then wrote it out on paper in music notation... big mistake. No one could read it.... :scowl:

    The singer then goes, "Why do you want to make this so hard? Why can`t we play something easy?" It literally took all the strength out of me not to yell, "This is easy, you just #@$%^@@ suck at playing $#%^&*& music you #$%^@!$!." I mean, come on guys!

    By this point most of the band was getting mad at me and telling me to cool down which I knew I needed to, but it was so frustrating working with people who couldn`t get two simple measures down. It ended up taking them 20 minutes to get it down when any other band would of had it by their second try at most... It was just total amateur hour. I seriously felt like quitting right then and there because of how pathetic it was.

    I need to add, I`m not trying to sound like I`m Mr. BA bass player or anything like that, but I thought I could expect at least an elementary understanding of music from these guys. We may be young. We may only just be a college band. But it`s not going to stop me from expecting at least the same level of professionalism I got out of bands I played in in high school. :help:

    Anyone else ever experience anything like this in a band? What did you do? Did you keep your cool or get frustrated like me?
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I've been there. You only have two options. 1)You can let it go and continue making music with these guys and not worry about whether or not they can read music. 2) Move on to a band with players more like you. Teaching them music theory will only piss them off and make you look like an a$$. Most situations ARE that black and white, no matter what you've been told otherwise. Best of luck either way.
  3. the guy i remember best had a long talk with us about noodling during rehearsal......definitely the most frustrating thing......

    perhaps these guys learn in a different way,but sounds like a simple enough thing to play by the feel even if they can't count.....

    you have your work cut out though and im not sure that they like the work part of being in a band.....do you want to be in a band or be a music teacher........

    i think it's time for you to find some different guys to play with and tell them in a nice way that this project is just not what you are looking for
  4. selfblessed


    Dec 29, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Been there. I have gotten some hell for some of my most basic theory I have tried to enlighten some band mates with. Not with them any more...I need to get some more theory down.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think you grossly overreacted if they have to calm you down. I don't get the anger over it. You're using words like "luckily" and "going well" to describe the overall experience, then lose it when they can't play something a little complex. If you like the band otherwise, you're going to have to deal with it. Come up with something simpler. So they can't use every idea you have...big deal...think of another one. Or move on to another band. It's really that simple.
  6. MadMan118


    Jan 10, 2008
    Vallejo, CA
    Try teaching music illiterates.
  7. AlleyCat


    Feb 12, 2009
    that's why I like finger style so much. I can use my fingers to count beats and measures... just cant make it past 10 tho... lol. really though you don't have to know the circle of 5th to count to 13. **** don't even count, just feel 16 coming your way.
  8. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    That`s what I`m saying though. Everyone was too busy trying to do it the way they felt it, which by all means is cool, but let`s all do it together the same way so that we can at least hear what each persons idea sounds like so that we can choose what`s best.

    That`s where I started to bring in a more formal approach to explain my idea of how I thought the part should be played so that we could try it, and it simply became almost impossible because they didn`t understand basic theory.
  9. Never try to teach pigs to sing. It doesn't work, and it annoys the pigs.

    Find a new band, one that fits.
  10. AlleyCat


    Feb 12, 2009
    my friend says "it's the great equalizer"... this way we can all be on the same page. I agree, but someone also said, "where ever you go, there you are". The plane could be equal in theory, but we all bring that internal sense to the session. Guess some people have neither...
  11. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    The overall experience has been pretty nice. They are nice guys, from the same town as me, know a lot of the same people, and are just fun people to be around in general. We really are a bunch of pretty good friends, even though we`ve only been together for a short amount of time.

    That in mind, I know I overreacted to the situation and I apologized for it and they understood, but at the same time it was just incredibly annoying for me. This is honestly the first time I`ve ever been in a band where someone didn`t know what a measure was, or what I meant when I said that the drums are suppose to come in on the 3rd count... it was just stressful because it was just a total take-back to 6th grade concert band.

    The idea was already really simple and I really could care less whether or not my idea was picked. This whole spill had more to do with the fact that the guys simply didn`t understand basic music terminology and theory, and as such it took around 20 minutes just to get two measures down. Honestly I can`t see how anyone wouldn`t be perturbed by this to an extent.
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    It's only music, bro. Sometimes I have to tell myself that as well, but really, that's what it comes down to.
  13. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Yeah, I know :meh:

    Thanks man.
  14. Ok, so you wanted to do 13 8th notes over two measures, then have the Drummer do a 3 8th note fill.

    There are eight eighth notes in a measure, so you would do one full bar then five more notes in the second measure then rest until the measure is over. When the Guitar(s) and Bass stops to rest, then the Drummer solos over the remaining eighth plus a quarter note until the measure is over.

    Seems simple enough, but three eight notes is a bit short for even a very small fill unless said Drummer is planning on beating his kit like it owes him money.

    Back on topic:
    If your bandmates are visual learners:
    You need to invest in a notebook to write out the above or opt to show your bandmates what you want them to do by doing it yourself.

    If your bandmates are kinesthetic learners:
    Have them slowly play what you want them to or have them move around the practice space whilst you teach the measure to them.

    Not everyone is an auditory learner. The mark of an adequate teacher is successfully adapting to your student's learning style.
  15. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    They are decent enough and talented enough to play covers, well enough to gig with and seemingly enough that it's "going well'. Presumably those covers are songs that the band enjoy playing and are not so far away from the band's 'originals' style (if it is, good luck with trying to slip death metal originals into a wedding band set). So, it's obvious these guys can play well enough when encouraged to do so.

    Whenever you step into the role of trying to communicate your ideas to the rest of the band, you switch from being the bass player to becoming the band leader (or at least the musical arranger) - however temporarily. To do this successfully requires a whole lot of skills that have little to do with music. Motivational skills, communication skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and so on, all a long way from writing dots down on paper or counting measures. It also takes infinite patience.

    To be a leader, it requires that you motivate people to follow you. Did you think for one moment that your musical idea might be too weak to inspire everyone else? Clearly it didn't engage people or win any hearts and minds if they were all noodling. Did you sing it to them, or play it too them? Did you get them motivated enough to try your idea? Did you act like the human beat box to let the drummer know what you had in mind? Did you break it down, play quieter and slower so that you could shout out the count of 13? Did you try counting 1234, 1234, 1234 and?

    Finally, you really didn't have the patience to try something more than 8 times before you spat the dummy? Ranting at your band mates is never a good idea, if you do it, you may get them to bend to your will one time and one time only, after that they will only do the bare minimum. Remember, that unless you are paying these guys, nobody has to put up with somebody with anger issues on a voluntary basis, even people who are being paid don't often put up with a tyrannical boss for long.

    As to your question does it get any worse than this? Yes it does. Being in a band requires compromise, patience, tenacity, tolerance and forebearance. Unlike the advice of people who appear to have zero tolerance of a band that don't 'get it' after 8 attempts and advise you to find a different band, well...good luck with that. I've been gigging over 30 years in good bands, great bands, indifferent bands and played in all manner of styles. Let me tell you that you will ALWAYS have to put up with the shortcomings of one or more band members either because there will always be one person in a band whose musical ability will be slightly limited, there will always be one person who has a bigger ego, there will always be one or more people who have issues with timekeeping, or problems with alcohol/drugs, or personal problems that affect the band.

    Bands are always happy or unhappy marriages of many individuals and whether they are happy or unhappy is purely down to luck. You have to work at it, hard, and not blow your stack at the merest touch of hardship. If you're reduced to screaming profanities at your band mates after 8 attempts at nailing an idea, you're not going to stand up very well when your lead guitarist shows up just 5 minutes before the gig.

    Time to grow up a little and get some perspective
  16. Maybe you could try writing it out on music composition software that can play it back and display it in TAB form, like Guitar Pro?

    I think it would really help in a situation like this. It isn't free but you could steal it from the piratebay or something, or pay the small fee to buy it.
  17. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Since the guys are not literate, try putting your ideas in tab, chord charts, or on CD. Above all, like another poster said, be positive if you want your ideas to be accepted.

    Also, is this band the best place for your originals? It seemed to be doing well playing covers, maybe that is what this one band does best.:cool:
  18. robgo


    Jan 25, 2008
    Well said Jools4001.

    To the OP: You need to take a good hard look at yourself. If it was that easy why did you struggle so much to explain it well? Everyone has a different role in a band and everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Just because you have an apparently better grasp of musical theory does not make you a better person or even a better musician than they are.
  19. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    ^^ This.

    Unless you are playing in some unusual meter, you are making things much harder on everyone than it needs to be by asking people to count eighth notes across the barline. Why on earth would you ever ask your bandmates to try to count 13 eighth notes? There is a reason that music is divided into measures, and that measures are divided into a specific number of beats.

    If you are in 4/4 time, then 13 eighth notes is 1 full measure (8 notes) plus 1/2 measure (4 notes) plus 1. In other words, the 13th eighth is simply the downbeat of three of the second measure. Rather than making this much harder than it needs to be and asking your band mates to count thirteen eighth notes, have them count it like this:

    "One Two Three Four | One and two and three"

    and then release the note in the place where they would count "and" after the "three" in the second measure.
  20. ByF


    May 19, 2009
    Oh, yeah, it can get worse. I was in a band a jam band where the leader didn't know about time signatures. He was counting off a song that was obvious in in 3/4 time, and he counted "1-2-3-4." Of course, I called a time-out and said "This song is in three." He loooked confused. "It's in three, you counted off four." Still, the blank look. Finally I said, "Okay, you start and I'll jump in.":scowl:


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