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Starting a cover/tribute band from scratch

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by crijan, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
    I'm starting a cover/tribute band from scratch and was looking for some advice on how to run auditions.

    I've got a list of seemingly well qualified musicians gathered up from responses to my classified ads, but I'm a little unsure as to how to run the auditions with me being the only guy in the band so far.

    I've already scheduled a group of five (drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, and vocals) to come in together, have the three song set list that we will be covering for the audition, and have charts for the other songs the band will be doing.

    I'm basically looking for advice from anyone with experience starting this type of project from scratch. Should I schedule a second group of musicians to come in on the same night? or should I go through one group, pick out the better players, and then invite them back along with other players from my available pool?

    BTW, I will be multi-track recording the auditions, so I will be able to go back and listen to everyone pretty easily.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Whether you want to schedule them on the same night or not is up to you. But as someone who has auditioned for bands and hates it and refuses to do it anymore, don't waste their time. Give them 3-4 songs to learn, and keep the audition process under a half hour. And don't make guys come back again. If you can't decide the first time, it's not their fault. Just remember that you're starting a band that could easily flop as well as make a good living, and if you don't have a fair amount of gigs already booked, your project isn't really attractive enough to make good musicians jump through hoops, especially when you're the only guy in the band. Sorry, but it's the truth.
  3. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I've been in a professional, award-winning cover band since 1992, we started it with guys that we knew so I can't help you as far as putting the band together but since we started we've had guys leave and had to find replacements. I would suggest not having 2 complete band auditions in the same night, it's too much for you to remember, do it on seperate days, and I would suggest having some sort of recording device going, maybe even a video camera. And take notes during the auditions which you can refer to later.

    Good Luck!
  4. BassScum


    May 1, 2008
    So Cal
    Also since you are the only member in the band (which really doesn't exist yet) they will be auditioning you as well, especially if they are competent seasoned musicians who have been around the block a few times.
  5. Rumble Bee

    Rumble Bee

    Aug 15, 2005
    +1 to the above comment. Thats what I look at first.
  6. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    IME people dont want to just play 3 songs and leave. By the time they get all their stuff setup, drive out etc you gotta give them at least an hour. I've tried to start my own band twice and both times it didnt work out. The first time was because we couldnt find a drummer and after two months my guitarist decided it was too frustrating for him. The second time I just didnt want to deal with the personalities involved.

    Its certainly do-able though. I would record everything. If you can just have a video camera running in the corner that might be best as you could better remember faces to skill level.

    One idea for auditioning....

    When you audition your players just cut the weakest guy and audition for his spot. However, keep in mind that if a guy shows up for 3+ practices he probably assumes he is in the band so it might be harder to ditch him if required.

    Another idea is just to work with a rhythm guitarist/singer until you find a good one who's personality you like. Then add drums. Then add lead guitar etc.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I am not one of them. I can tell in a song or two if someone will work out, or if I will enjoy working in the band. I guess it's a matter of choice, but IMHO, anything longer than 3-4 songs is just wasting my time.
  8. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Fair enough, Jimmy, but I for one, want to play once I have my gear out. That's what its all about to me.
  9. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
    I agree that the other players will be auditioning me, which is why I'm going to lengths to be as organized and know as much of the material already as possible, beyond the 3 songs I'm requesting for the audition.

    I've tried to pick the "best" available candidates for the first audition so that hopefully I can select some of them immediately and begin to develop a nucleus to move forward with.
  10. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    I suggest you also keep the volume down as much as possible. We always put soundboard around the drummer or used mutes (old t-shirts if you have to).

    Another thing to consider is working with a guitarist and/or vocalist first. Maybe use a drum machine. Then add the others later.

    Here's some TB links to take a look at:
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=479185 Starting a new band
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=479102 Band Practice
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=429034 If I only knew then
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=434246 Best musical advice
  11. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY

    For me it usually doesn't even take a full song to know if the other players are at the correct level of musicianship for the project.

    One thing to consider though is that a player's personality and professionalism might not be apparent during a quick 2-3 song audition. If I find someone I want to hire at an audition, I sometimes ask them to meet me out for a beer (on my tab and at their convenience) to talk about the project and try to get a feel for how well they'll work out. This is a bit of a hassle, but if it is for a core position in the band it is worth it. Luckily, I'm rarely working cold with someone who I haven't either played with before, seen play in another band, or was recommended by another musician I respect.

    Good luck with your project.

    BTW, what is the focus of your proposed tribute band? Who will you be covering? Just curious.
  12. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Sometime (at least here in Boston) you'll find that a band has a very busy schedule for auditions and rehearsal work and can't afford to give up more than 15-30 minutes for an audition.

    I play with and run a 14 piece band and we're always auditioning players for subs and occasionally replacement spots. The rehearsal space is stocked with any instrument you could think of so when an audition comes in they don't need to being anything. We'll have it set up for them when they get there. Unfortunately our schedule is usually very busy and we might have to audition three players that night, then get two horn subs up to speed for a gig that weekend, then work out vocal harmonies for one of the sub vocalists, etc. If an audition isn't outside the door ready for their slot, they've already lost the gig. If they're there and ready they've got 15 minutes then it's on to the next guy. Sometime it just has to be that crazy to get it done. If a guy told me he needed to have his rig there for the audition or needed a few warm-up tunes I'd thank him for his time and call in the next guy.

    It's not about being nice or being a d!ck. It's strictly business.
  13. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.

    FWIW, I tend to side w/ Jimmy if you are planning on getting high quality, pros or semi pros. Otherwise, if you're hoping to find some adequate players from the weekend warrior crowd (like me), then things may be different.
  14. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Good point. There is a very big difference.
  15. von buck

    von buck

    Feb 22, 2008
    wolcott ct.
    like Jimmy, I won't audition. If anything, I'll audition the band at one of their gigd first. Someone said above that musicians and bands don't have time to spend it on auditions, however since you don't even have a band yet, you have the time.
    That being said , you have several ways to approach this.

    Just audition single musicians, say just a keyboard or guitar player and start preparing some tunes so that when musicians show up you can have a little more strtucture than a bunch of guys standing around scratching their a##
    Bring in a full band do the three prepared songs and then just jam. Hopefully the guys you call will all be interested in the same music. That;s another thing, make sure you're all on ther same page of the direction of the band.

    Also like someone said, personality is important. Having stay for more than a half an hour will help see who you can work with. You should be able to tell quickly who will work out, but it will give you chance to work with the ones who you think could make the cut.
    And if any these guys are professionals, go see them play somewhere, if possible.
    Of course if they're looking to join a band, they might not be working anywhere.

  16. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    Yes I think so. When we placed an ad looking for a new keys player we were contacted by several pros/semi pros and the first thing that they want to know is 'How many gigs are booked?' The economics for them simply make any band that plans 3-4 rehearsal for 1 gig not feasible. My son is a jazz major and is in a cover band too (among other things) – they don’t need a bunch of rehearsals – they can listen to pretty much anything a cover band is going to do and have it sorted without much effort. And if it’s a jazz gig then there are charts and players are subbed all the time without missing a beat.

    But guys like me are not in the same league. I don’t read music or charts and that requires a more painstaking process.
  17. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
    It's for a Guns N Roses Tribute. I've since found a very good Slash and have a couple of good drummers to choose from (for some reason every drummer that answers my ad already knows the whole GNR catalog).

    Slash and I are working on bringing in some more vocalists from our list to try out and then we'll focus on finding a rhythm guitar player.

    I have the prospective members learn three specific songs. I have the initial setlist pool of 15 songs listed in the ad along with requirements for costumes, the initial and mid-term goals, and expected time commitment.

    Right now, and even before I first posted this thread, I am not having much trouble getting interest in the project. I was just struggling with how to coordinate the audition process.

    I'm looking for people who can learn 3 songs a week on their own time and rehearse once a week for a month or two till the set is sharp, gig at least monthly starting about two months from now, and is cool with doing the costumes and "playing the hits" for fun and cash. Once we're gigging, I don't expect to rehearse more than once or twice per gig.
  18. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005

    We're starting to audition a new singer for our band that's been together for awhile, and I handled most of the scheduling auditions and logistics for when we were putting the band together. Come up, do 3 - 4 songs, and you just know. It's not just how well someone can sing or play, but their personality, etc. I tend to know VERY quickly if I can work with someone or not.

    When we were getting the band off the ground (I started it with a friend of mine), we originally were going for multiple positions at once and almost found a singer, but we had no drummer. So if you're just getting this off the ground - think fundamentals. It's much easier to audition singers and some guitarists with a drummer or the rest of the band.

    Callbacks are crappy. You should just know after your process since someone should stand out.

    Have clear communication with the candidates before, during, and after, and ensure they know what the process and timeframe is.
  19. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    You might only need 2-3 songs to decide on someone, but a lot of people need more than that to decide on YOU.

    I never cared for the "cattle call" type auditions. Give everyone an hour. No more than 2 in an evening and not in a way that they overlap in anyway.

    I need the hour to really decide if the dynamics are good for me. If I lock with the drummer. I want to play a bunch of songs with the band then I want to talk to them, find out what makes them tick, their plans, how decisions are made, what sort of permanent equipment they have, etc.

    If you hustle me in and out after 3 songs, I'm less likely to want to join. Nor will I want to do more than one audition before you make a decision.

    Unless you are the sh*t in some city - a major established band - there are always other options. "Auditions" go both ways.
  20. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
    Update, I've filled the drum throne position, so only Axl and Izzy left to go.

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