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Telling a bandmate he needs lessons? (longish)

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Sijjvra, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. Sijjvra


    Mar 31, 2009
    For some reason I have to be the designated bad guy here and initiate this meeting with the other band members. Or rather, with the drummer - our "lead" guitarist (who would actually rather play rhythm) and myself have already agreed that our second guitarist is just -not- cutting it.

    This is where things get a little awkward. We're sort of an "all in the family" band. My husband is the first guitarist, and it's not a matter of us protecting one another and showing favoritism here - he and I can actually "do our jobs" within the band. And I'm a bit anal about making sure everyone is "doing their job" so :p the poor man gets no breaks from me.

    My brother is the drummer. He's actually only been playing for about 6 months, but he's picked it up very, very quickly and has one of those "natural talent" things going on and has no problems doing what drummers are supposed to be doing.

    Now, the second guitarist is an old friend of my bro's. Supposedly he used to "play a bit " in highschool about 8 or so years ago, and just picked it up again a few months back. My husband and I have the same story (heck, our first date was an 8 hour jam session in his former band's "music shed" behind his grandma's house XD ) as we just picked up playing again last year. While he and I were a bit rusty and my brother was just starting out on drums, we quickly became pretty polished and really want to record some of our original stuff to put up on various spots around the web.

    Our second guitarist, however, seems stuck in beginner mode. Like...BRAND NEW beginner mode. He can't properly tune his guitar. He can't hold a chord cleanly. He has trouble with our easiest songs (our 'warm up' stuff that the rest of us could play asleep) and while he's a really great guy personality wise and we all get along wonderfully with him, he's just...not...cutting it. He needs professional lessons I think and even then it's going to take him a year or more to begin to get to an intermediate level and be able to record with us.

    My drummer, being a drumtard and somewhat tone-deaf except for "I think I need to tune my drum heads a bit", is a bit oblivious to the fact that every time the second guitarist begins to play with us, it sounds like a wall of noise :| or maybe it's denial because it's his good buddy and he wants to think everything sounds great.

    We're going to have to break the news to him that the second guitarist needs serious lessons and a bit of time before he'll be ready to be "full time" with us, or he needs to just be a casual jam buddy. What makes matters worse (and trust me I facepalmed when I heard he'd done this) the guy just bought a 1200 dollar tremelo jackson guitar *sigh* for rhythm...when he can't even tune a standard guitar.

    I need some tips on how to break this news gently :|
  2. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    Tell him that he's coming along fine but he'll come along faster with lessons and the material you write together is so good you can't wait.
  3. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    just be honest with the guy... Video tape his performance and show it to him...nobody wants to be the weak link.
  4. Sijjvra


    Mar 31, 2009
    Well, we don't have a video cam but we do have our recording equipment and we DID record a session with him...but I don't think he really understands that he -sounds- bad. Which is half the problem :/
  5. superiorpine

    superiorpine Superiorpine Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2007
    Milwaukee WI
    Sucks to be you. (Longish too.)

    Unless it is your band, and you are the understood leader, you should not be the only messenger here. Such actions are best handled by a committee of the whole, where everyone is on the same page. The whole band needs to sit down with the guy and have an intervention. Lay out the conditions for the 2nd guitarist's continuing "contribution," so that he is in control of his destiny. He produces or he doesn't. You can lead the discussion, but everyone must participate, including the drummer. These events can blow up a band, and if everyone is not on the same page the whole thing can fractionate in a hurry. Good luck, keep us posted.
  6. Then you're in for a bumpy ride! Most of us don't want to hear that we aren't as good as we think we are. I'm not a good lead singer, don't have the voice for it. Want to know who told me.....the tape. Now I can sings me some backups! It's still gonna sting a bit, but better off now than later. Try to use PC/HR terms like level of improvement hasn't reached a goal that we're trying to acheive, or something like that. Just don't be brutally honest and tell him that he sucks. I had a gui**** tell me that about my guitar playing skills a while back. It doesn't sit very well.
    I also played with some guys that were OK gui****s, but there sound was horrible. They both got pissed when I suggested to them they needed to work on their sound/tone. Then the good ol' childish come back, well you need to work on yours. Funny they both bought new amps within 2 weeks, and I'm still playing the same stuff I was playing. Not playing with those tards anymore!!
  7. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Good luck, all of the suggestions are reasonable, however when I got to the part where you don't think he knows that he has some weaknesses, well that brings in a whole different kind of issue.
  8. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I actually dissagree with the "gang" approach. I think that it should be handled by the drummer/brother/friend first. If they go way back it will hurt less coming from just him. If the guy (2nd guitar) feels ganged up on, he will be even more enbarrassed. The chances of his old buddy being able to handle this with kid gloves are ten times better than all of you together. The more people there are in the room, the more likely somebody is to say something really stupid. But I also think that you need to make sure everybody is on the same page. Are the drummer and 2nd guitar guy even as serious about the project as you and your husband are? If your brother is just out for a jam, he won't care about his buddy's short-comings as much as you do. You may need to find two other guys to form a serious project with and just stay "jam buddies" with the brother and guitar guy. Good luck! There might not be a fun answer to this.
  9. Sijjvra


    Mar 31, 2009
    Yeah ... it is a huge issue when the weakest link doesn't realize that they ARE the weakest link. Makes it much more complicated.

    But I just talked to the drummer and he did say he noticed it sounded pretty bad (the last few practices with the second guitarist) and it was even throwing him off a bit, so we're going to be doing separate practice/recording sessions and on the side trying to help the second guitarist get up to snuff at his own pace. That way the pressure is off him trying to learn more advance techniques in a matter of a few weeks and us having to -wait- for him to catch up.
  10. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Awsome answer! You are good people! Hope it all comes together!
  11. Since he already feels like a fifth wheel/odd man out since he ain't "family" maybe he is under a LOT of pressure already. Perhaps your husband=his friend [since he is a fabulous guitarist by YOUR account] could take him under his wing and GIVE him said lessons that he needs so desperately.
  12. Sijjvra


    Mar 31, 2009
    I never said any of us were fabulous :p . We're intermediate players and we can do what we're supposed to do with reasonable skill, and that's it. I don't play favorites, as I've said before. Also, my husband is not the "teacher" sort. He's not good at explaining how he does things, he just knows how to do them. Not everyone can teach someone else their skills. I can't explain these things because I don't play guitar. I just know when something sounds way off and can pinpoint it to whatever is causing the sound issue.

    It's not like we WANTED or HOPED that the second guitarist couldn't quite play up to snuff or that we planned even for this to be a "family" music project. We're all friends with him. My brother has known him 15 years and we like him a lot. But being a nice guy doesn't make the music sound any better. We'll show him what we can on the side while we work on our own recording and getting some stuff done - if he wants to take professional lessons that's great and I hope he does, but that'll have to be his choice. I can't make it for him. We can only let him know that he needs to work on his skills and give him some advice on how he might go about doing it, and should he be able to work up to a reasonable level there will be a spot for him waiting. If he just decides he wants to play more casually that's fine with us too - he can come over and jam once in a while and just have fun.
  13. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Say it straight, there's nothing to be gained with "soft" approaches. A guy who doesn't know how to tune a guitar and can't hear that he sounds bad on a recording has nothing to do in a band. That, or deal with him.

    Don't tell him to get lessons either. Just tell him that he doesn't cut it musicianwise. It would suck on a royal level to be told: "Dude, get lessons".
  14. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    Heck I wouldn't have a problem with someone telling me that my playing would improve drastically if I took lessons. That's *why* I took lessons!

    I agree it should be his friend that tells him...or if you could find a jam somewhere and get him into it, that'll help his playing and his ear.

    Please don't give up on him if he's actually trying... I wasn't the greatest player (wait, I'm still not! but I digress) and it was iffy if I'd be able to learn to play like my group wanted me to. I struggled for a while but with enough practice it comes. I went from having to write the bass lines out on the set list to knowing 60 songs with only using a quick key reminder on the setlist. It can be done.......but if neither of you are good teachers you aren't the ones to do it.

    What about asking around and finding the name of a good teacher and maybe giving him a present of say a month of lessons? Should cost less than $160 (for an awesome teacher), if you guys are all good friends would make a great early birthday present. Give the teacher a call and tell him the situation so he knows what to work with with the guy.....

    When you say he can't tune his guitar, do you mean by ear? *I* can't tune by ear.....that's why they invented tuners. (I'm trying to learn but I always forget which fret to go off of). Do you mean he doesn't hear when it's out? Have you sat down with him and tried to show him the vibrating thing when you're tuning? Vibrating-when two notes are played together that are out of tune the sound warbles , the closer to tune the faster the warble till it stops. If he could hear that for himself that might help. He may be hearing it and not realizing what it is.

    When you say he can't hold a chord cleanly, maybe it's the way his guitar is set up. If he's a beginner, he won't even realize there's other options. I've been messing with chords on my acoustic and thought I just had weak fingers because I couldn't hold a chord... then I tried someone else's newly set up acoustic and wow, big difference. Set up makes a difference on playability! Maybe if he gets his action set lower he'd be able to hold the chords cleaner.
  15. D Rokk

    D Rokk Banned

    Feb 19, 2009
    Delta Quadrant
    my worry is that you'll burn yourself out trying to be overly nice to this guy.. nothing wrong with being nice about telling him he's just not ready but it seems to me you are going out of your way to help him when he should be taking steps to help himself.. sorry if i seem jaded on this subject, i just came out of a very similar situation with a drummer.

    [story time skip if you just want to see the point of my post]

    i mean this guy brought both of his drum kits to the practice space and then would say to us "well i cant practice at home like you guys" we brought in a top notch local drummer to show him some stuff and he basicly ignored the guy and would spend all his time talking about how rich we were gonna be

    [story mode off]

    if you really want this guy in ur band then help him all you can and encourage him to get help for himself but dont sacrifice your own happiness for him no matter what that wont end well for anyone
  16. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    it takes most people YEARS to get proficient enough to be a good guitarist - even on rhythm. lessons won't help you in the short term. The person is not good enough to play in a band, from what you described. I have no idea why you are even bothering.

    Your band is only as strong as your weakest link.
  17. chasplaybass


    Oct 26, 2006
    Think about it the longer you wait the more frustrated and resentful you'll be during practices and rehearsals. It will definitely slow down your sessions and that will affect your band's progression plus the poor guy will be oblivious to the fact thats he's the cause until one of you blow up on him more than likely during a practice. I know - I held it in and said some things that should'nt have been said because I had had it.
  18. DudeistMonk


    Apr 13, 2008
    Newark, NJ
    Why isn't your lead who plays rhythm teaching your rhythm who can't play at all?

    I mean that seems like the solution here, unless he just doesn't have the time or patience...In the mean time you can use your lead guy to record both parts in the studio.
  19. I was in the very situation you describe and here's how we handled it.

    We (all but the member in question) got together and made sure we were on the same page about the situation. This meant defining what our goals as a band were and how the member who we felt was a weak link fit into those goals. We determined that, while we loved her and really felt her instrument added potential value (violin), her abilities were just not up to snuff.

    Even though we didn't feel she would be able to improve to the level we felt she needed to in short order, we also didn't want to just cut her loose. So we had a group meeting with her and told her what was on our minds.

    We explained that in our collective vision of the band, that if we were to continue to "feature" a violin, her playing would have to be much more dynamic and 'impressive'. We suggested lessons and even recommended a teacher.

    She (the violin player) is a rare person and understood completely without taking it personally. She didn't think she'd be able to get up to speed fast enough but gave it one hell of a try. She took lessons and even upped the ante on her end by adding piano/keys (which she was pretty good at as well - still the same "classical turned wannabe rocker" problem there too, but at least it offered an alternative.

    Long story short - she just couldn't get there and we parted ways. We ended up doing gigs with a lot of guest players until the band ultimately imploded.

    Best advice I can offer is be clear on what you expect from him and be very straight and honest with him about it.

    Good luck!
  20. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    A band is a business, pure and simple.

    You need to approach him and tell him, nicely, all of the things you told us. His playing needs a lot of touching up, and that he currently is not cutting it - you guys are read to get started and go places, and he isn't ready to move along with y'all.

    If he isn't mature enough to take very basic constructive criticism, he probably isn't mature enough to be in a band and it'd be better to know that now as opposed to two years down the road.

    Keep your business relationships and personal relationships separate from one another.

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