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Switching Instruments?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by malicant, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. malicant


    Oct 14, 2011
    I've recently joined an EDM band. Things are going quite well so far but the band leader has loosely put forward the idea of band members swapping instruments for certain songs in a live situiation (the band being guitar, bass, keys/synths, drums and vocals).

    I don't mind playing a few chords on a keyboard when the bass isn't needed but swapping instruments is something I've never been keen on. In my mind, me swapping instruments with the guitarist would be pointless. My knowledge of the guitar is limited and likewise, the guitar player isn't much on the bass so to swap would only mean that both of us would be wasting our potential with our respective first instruments.

    Besides this, I know alot of musicians (many more experienced than I) who would share my view that this is something to be avoided. In the classical music world, a violinist is not going to trade places with a pianist or cellist just for the sake of "looking cool." It's also rare elsewhere and I've only ever really seen it when the bassist is just a guitarist playing bass (something very common among alot of bands here).

    To give a real world analogy for my opinion here, consider the following. I work as a software engineer, specialising in Databases. In my dev team, there are two programmers who do not work with the databases, only with application coding. Now, I understand how to program and the two guys are knowledgeable of databases so in theory, we could change places and possibly function. However, if we did, we would be outside of out experience remit and thus, unable to produce work of the same quality as we had previously.

    To cut to the chase, I've essentially said that I'm not comfortable with swapping instruments for the reasons outlined above. I don't know how the guitarist feels but I don't thin he's too pushed either way. The band leader, thankfully, hasn't pushed the idea but if it comes up again, would I be right to stick to my guns?
  2. Subsist


    Jun 23, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    If it makes you feel uncomfortable to do such in a live setting (It would throw my game off, that's for sure) then I would have no problem mentioning it to the BL.

    But some instrument swapping during an easy going band practice is always a fun thing to change up your routine IMHO
  3. I've seen it done well, all good. I wouldn't like to see it done badly or be involved in such. If you can pull it off passably well that works for me. If you don't enjoy it you can take one for the team or dig your heels in if it makes you uncomfortable.
  4. My question is: What possible benifit is the BL looking for by doing this in a live gig?
    The only answer I can come up with is an ego thing. "Hey, look at us. We are all multi-instrument players. Are you impressed now". I can understand if you have a guitarist switch to keyboards, sax, etc for certain songs but thats about it. Maybe others can come up with some more ligit reasons than ego pleasing.
  5. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    I've seen it done by really talented professional players and its interesting in that when the instruments are switched, the new player(s) normally won't play with exactly the same style and execution as the original player(s). The band sounds different.

    However, this is only worth seeing if each player is really proficient on their second instrument. Otherwise swapping instruments is at best a waste of the audience's time having to listen to a half-assed band and possibly a (huge) embarrassment for the band and player(s).
  6. DoggBisket


    May 3, 2009
    There was a cover band that I used to go see quite a bit back in the day that did a lot of instrument shifting. They did it on certain tunes where they wanted the lead singer to be out front singing. If the bass player took his turn being the front man, the keyboard player played bass. When the drummer was the front man the bass player played the drums and the keys guy played bass. It worked well for them and added a lot of diversity to the show. I think if I were gigging again it would be fun to have a chance to just be the front man for a tune instead of playing the bass and singing lead at the same time.
  7. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    To my surprise, audiences are still impressed by this. That's the #1 reason most people switch.

    Occasionally there is a bass player who can also play another instrument and the keyboardist can also cover bass on the keys. I've seen that work well a few times.
  8. The Sloth

    The Sloth

    Dec 19, 2011
    Hey, The Band did it.
  9. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    And so did the Beatles.
  10. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    The first family members of the R&B group DeBarge were in a band called Switch. There claim to fame and what got Motown's attention was that band members were able to switch instruments
  11. To do it just to impress the crowd is silly.

    However, if the guitar player comes up with a really tasty bassline (or vice-versa), and they play it with a different style than the current bassist would, I say why not? As long as you aren't making a big deal about it/take too long between songs because of it.
  12. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    I play bass, but spent many more years playing keys and guitar, so I'd do OK.

    It will never happen in our band though because its pointless.
  13. Stumbo

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

    Feb 11, 2008
    Cali Intergalactic Mind Space - always on the edge
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    IMO,no downside to perfecting a couple of songs for the show and testing them out to see how switching goes over with the audience.
  14. 2behead


    Mar 8, 2011
    It has seemed totally unprofessional every time I have seen it done.
  15. Hey buddy,

    I'm the Co-Lead Guitarist in an 80's Tribute Band. (3 Guitars- 2 Lead and 1 Rhythm). I play both Bass and Lead during the course of a show. (Bass is my main but I'm no hack of a Lead Guitar player...) Mid-2nd set I jump on Bass. We do "Rock and Roll" and "Immigrant Song", it gives me a chance to show what I can do on a 4 banger (which, imo is better than my Guitar playing...) but it also shows our versatility as a band.... I can do more flashy stuff than our Bass player and it gives us a chance to do some different stuff, can but my Guitar playing adds a TON to the show as well (harmonies, trade-off soloing, etc...) So we use that to our advantage....

    I've seen it done MANY times, it's cool to see bands jump around if they can pull it off.... It's obvious which one's main instrument is usually, but it's still cool to see a guy who plays Rhythm Guitar jump on Keys for a couple tunes or the Bass player on Lead and such....

    Stick to your guns, bud. If you don't feel comfortable swapping instruments, than don't. If it takes from the show it's pointless. The only reason to do it is to add something extra to the show and that's about it. First and foremost the band should be comfortable and in their element onstage, if they're not, the performance will suffer... Just tell them "hey, I'm not comfortable swapping instruments" and hopefully they'll understand.... Just my .02 .................. A.D.
  16. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I've been playing with a group of friends since 2007. We all primarily play guitar but all can play bass to varying degrees and three of us can play drums, just about. So on average of once a month we have been doing 4 hour jam sessions with everybody swapping instruments.

    We had an opportunity to play a gig and we picked the best band and stuck with it. I did my first bass gig since 2004, this year.

    We will probably swap instruments for various sets if it works in rehearsals.

    The point is that we could easily rotate instruments but chose not to. Wanting to swap instruments for the sake of it is IMHO a gimmick and will probably not work too well.
  17. BBox Bass

    BBox Bass Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2011
    NW Pennsylvania
    I saw a band do it last week. Their singer has an incredible voice with a huge range and he sounds a little like Blaze Bayley. Near the end of the evening, the bassist handed the singer his bass and the bassist took the microphone and sang Pantera's Walk, which was quite a departure from the rest of their set. I thought it sounded pretty cool and when I later told the singer so, he just shrugged. "I'm not much of a bass player." He was good enough to stay locked in with the drummer, which was all he needed to do.
  18. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    In our band, I am the acoustic guitar player. So I play acoustic guitar, Krystal plays bass, and Arthur plays lead, and Tim plays drums.

    Then, sometimes I am the keyboard player. So I play keyboards, Krystal plays bass, and Arthur plays lead, and Tim plays drums.

    And then, sometimes I am the harmonica player/singer. So I sing and play harmonica, Krystal plays bass, and Arthur plays lead, and Tim plays drums.

    But then SOMETIMES, I am the bass player, and so Krystal sings, and Arthur plays lead, and Tim plays drums.

    What' REALLY fun is when I play bass, Krystal plays acoustic guitar, and Arthur plays lead, and Tim plays drums.

    And there are songs where I play acoustic guitar AND keys, Krystal plays bass, and Arthur plays lead, and Tim plays drums.

    You may have noticed a pattern. Arthur ALWAYS plays lead, and Tim ALWAYS plays drums.

    I SUCK on lead, and I suck WORSE on drums. Krystal could play lead, but she's mediocre at best, and she's no better than I on drums. Arthur is mediocre on drums, and Tim doesn't play an instrument. Arthur was surprised to learn that we think he SUCKS on bass.

    When your band has TWO bass players, you don't put your lead guitar player on bass, period.

    So for us, the switches we do are to make a four piece play more like a five piece, and to get all the songs we want to play. When I play bass, it's usually so Krystal can sing "naked," without having to carry a bass line, on songs that are difficult to put your whole self into a vocal on. Same for me. I am NOT screaming Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin songs while playing an instrument. I need my whole body just for the dam vocal.

    Instrument switching works, but you have to know when and why you're doing it.
  19. BigRedBassPlayer

    BigRedBassPlayer Supporting Member

    My buddy's band does this. Only during the last song of the night and not played most shows. The guitar and bass player switch. The front man and the drummer switch. It works great and is a great novelty for the crowd. But, they don't do it every show and over expose it. And like I said, only one song.

    If you don't feel comfortable, then I wouldn't. I know I wouldn't.
  20. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    On of my basic principles in band disputes is that it's usually easier to try something than to argue about whether it might be a bad idea. In your shoes, I'd try it at rehearsal, stick up a Zoom H2 or similar, give it my best, and let the recording tell the tale.

    That said, in addition to player competence at the second instrument, if you go ahead with the BL's idea, I'd also have an eye on the changeover time during instrument switches.

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