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To be (in a band) or not to be (in a band)?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Howard K, Mar 12, 2003.

  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Here's me situation:

    I'm in two bands currently.
    I joined a band 3 years ago, wrote material, gigged, recorded etc etc and am now sick of/ have lost faith in/ am still with through obligation.
    In the other band I dont have to pay for anything so I just turn up and play - so it's so easy there's no point in quitting.
    Neither band is challenging me as a player, band member or song writer.

    So, the other day I bumped into some guy who asked if I knew any bass players, so I gave my number, got a call, have learnt the best part of a 9 track demo and am waiting on audition. The music is good, it's a bass heavy gig (kind of like Ian Dury & The Blocksheads - not too technical, but nice noticable and involved bass lines)... I like the music, but there's a niggling doubt in the back of my mind...

    The doubt : I have a feeling that ANY band will be great to start with, I.e. I'll get right into writing and learning etc,,, but then I'll get bored and end up in the situaton I'm in now with the first band mentioned above.
    Sure I could just quit after a year or as soon as I get bored, but I feel that is messing people around, especially if I'm not 100% sure to start with.

    I'm starting to feel as though the best option is to start my own band, but I'm unsure where to start, what style to start with, and what the overall aim would be?!

    I just wondered what other people's band expereinces are? Does anyone else suffer from this phenomenon.. or is it just me?!
  2. Hey man, its a natural thing. I've been in a gazillion bands, and the average would be about 3 years. The max was 5. As you obviously need constant challenge, why not do what I do now, freelance? Now THAT is a challenge. I was in a similar situation to you, but now I have four bands that use me regularly, two jazz, one latin, one country/rockabilly, plus other one-off gigs. Freelancing keeps you on your toes, especially when you get a gig with a band you dont know, there's no time for a rehearsal, and there's charts, or maybe no charts, some tapes or maybe no tapes, and the gig's in two days time. I have done Irish gigs, a Jewish Klezmer gig, big band gigs (they always have charts), as well as the usual rock covers and corporates. I will never go back to just being committed to one band again, unless of course Ben Harper, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris or Neil Young happen to call!!!:D
  3. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    A nice idea, but I'm certainly not good enough to play professionally like that... well I expect I could pull off the majority of gigs, but jazz is a no no at my stage of development!

    Also, I think at my amateur level people expect 'band members' rather than players. Most bands need to rehearse regularly to get things right.
    It's also a social thing I think - which is all very well, but it tends to get on the way of the music getting any good!
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    That said, I reckon I could walk the majority of rock based gigs with one rehearsal, a demo and a few quick notes.

    I could advertise..

    "bass player on holiday?"


    "between bass players?"

    ..type thing!!!
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think Marty's right - but just wanted to add that the "Jazz Side" is calling to you Howard!! ;)

    I was a bit like you when I was younger and I ended up writing, recording and playing my own stuff, but was never really "dynamic" enough to be a band leader. I relied on female singers to get that side of things going - so women are better at doing the social side of it - talking to people and getting gigs etc.

    But eventually like Marty, I think you will come to Jazz and possibly Latin - which is like Jazz that people dance to!! ;)

    So - Jazz players don't feel any loyalty to a group thing - they will play in various combinations of musicians they know and have big repertoires of standards that they can play together at the drop of a hat! So the group is just like "Howard K's" Quartet, Quintet, Trio - whoever is playing tonight!!

    So you will get Jazz band leaders who write all original material and lead a band on tour - but they will also play as a sideman in somebody else's group - well, several other groups if they want to earn enough money to live on!!

    It's also a continual challenge - you never learn it all and somebody will always come up with pieces that are different - odd time signatures, exotic scales, fusions with world music etc etc.
  6. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I know, I know it is!!!

    ...but it seems so distant at the moment. I have SO much to learn before I can even attempt to play jazz with other people. Best get to work then I suppose! :)

    I'm hoping the "metal" band will die out after this latest burst of "activity" - I'm gonna quit either way I think (although I've said that before - they just wouldnt let me last time :( )

    Being a band leader... I think I could do it. The social side, getting the gigs, the ideas, I reckon I could do that, but I definitley need a decisive writing partner - I write best with someone else to bounce ideas off.

    Also, there's plenty of challenges to be met in learning. I have mountains to learn, but what I really enjoy is playing in a group - more than anything else - so it's hard for me to focus on 'just learning'. I actually need to play with other people or I end up going mad!
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree - but for me Jazz is far more of a social thing. Towards the end on rock/pop, I was just writing/recording stuff on my own with singers coming into put on vocals - I got fed up with that.

    I then thought I ought to do an Open University music course, but it was really dull and I gave up before the end of the first year.

    But Jazz is all about playing live and I discovered Jazz classes where it was all about taking a tune each week and playing it, improvising over the chord changes.

    Playing Jazz is the most social thing I've ever done and now I seem to know dozens of people - maybe even hundreds(?) just through playing Jazz with them. So, I went to a Wayne Shorter gig last week and realised in the foyer I could look around and point out about 50 people I had played with or had classes/lessons with!!

    I suppose it depends on your local "scene", but it seems that around here there are loads of people who want to play Jazz of varying standards. They're not all great chops players - a lot of Sax players and pianists are just into tunes that I would class as "Easy Listening", but it can still be fun music to play if you put aside any preconceptions.

    I do play stuff that I would have thought of as my Parent's music or old people's stuff when I was listening to Led Zep, Deep Purple or Punk/New wave later on - but as you say I just like playing with other people and there is a lot of interest in actually playing Jazz bass lines, as you have already discovered.

    I mean; I would love to be playing Weather Report stuff or similar fusions - but these guys all started out listening to Ellington, Parker, etc. and so there is a huge learning curve for Jazz and discovering new "old" music is great fun - so like I now have loads of Horace Silver albums and love playing his tunes at Jazz jams - did this last night at my local Jazz Co-operative!!
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    This is reasssuring. I tend to imagine that jazzers are all super chops geezers with a thousand chord replacements to hand and a zillion solo concepts waiting to be aired!

    Hmm, a local scene...yes, there must be a pretty big one round here? I shall investigate this... still got a lot of learning to do mind!

    Well, I got passed the hang-up of listening to 'my parents music' when I realised how damned cool Mingus' music was!
    Still, that's a lifetime or playing away, most probably more :rolleyes:
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    As I am trying to explain - learning Jazz can be both at the same time. So - the Jazz Co-op I go to is basically a big Jam. When I first went along there were other bass players who were quite confident and I would sit in, listen to what they were doing and then take my turn when I felt up to it.

    So nowadays, I am sometimes the only bass player - with loads of horn players, pianists etc - but more often than not there are other bass players and we take turns - maybe do a few choruses each or just agree how we will play it. Also, new bass players will come along sit around for while and watch/listen but not feel up to taking part - fair enough, nobody pressures them.

    There have been problems - bassplayers who think they are great, but are not or have problems like poor intonation etc. But generally it is a great way to learn - new tunes, each with differnet challenges and play with loads of different people.
  10. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    If you're finding the metal band a drag, give them a reasonable period of notice, but then stick to it.

    For example, say that you want to be gone by the end of May. That gives them two and a half months to find a replacement. The best case is they get someone in quickly, you spend a bit of time helping them get up to speed, and then you're out of there early. The worst case is that they don't take you seriously and do nothing about it but that's their loss. You'll be out of there , having given the kind of notice period associated with jobs paying tens of thousands of pounds (which I assume isn't the case with your relationship with this band), and they'll be the ones with the problem.

    Meanwhile, you know that by the end of May at the latest you'll have time for another project and so can make sure you've got a clear idea of some objectives and what you want to do to achieve them. How about a solo set (wouldn't challenge you as a band member, but I'm sure would stretch you re. playing and composing ;) )

  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Howard, you need Jazz, my son!

    I guess you're daunted by the prospect of walking bass lines and millions of complex chord changes?

    Maybe you should consider something more fusion-ish, Jazz/Funk or something more like Weather Report? By melding Jazz with the sort of rock/pop - you can play what you feel comfortable playing, but still retain the improvised nature and freshness of a Jazz?
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    wulf - that is a very good idea actually... hmm.. brain ticking that one over. thanks.

    Strangely, it's not a time issue with these guys, more a commitment issue. We havent gigged for about a year (so where;s the problem i hear you say?!).
    Well we've just recorded a new demo and are booking gigs for the end of April.
    All very well, but they are now rehearsing in Croydon (mid meeting point for other 4 members) So from Reading it takes me 2 hours best.
    The main point is tho - I just dont want to play metal.. I'm balding for pete's sake, it's just not cool any more!!! :D

    Bruce - thanks very much. That is very very encouraging. I dread the idea of turning up, being the only bassist and being expected to play, but being well below par!
    I do know of a jazz group/class/thing fairly close to me.. that pianist I mentioned ages ago told me about it.
    I'm gonna have to check that out I think, but I definitley want to get a few standard progressions down before I go along. Or at least learn the blues properly!

    re: Solo stuff... you know I really dig this idea and i play with bits & bobs all the time, but I do find a distinct lack of overall aim means I put other things ahead of it. Also - I find I spend hours on something then sit back and realise it just sounds like a load of bass :D - SteveL is a very talented man!
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    This is indeed another good idea, BUT I have a feeling that I'd be better off approaching jazz from the more traditional side.

    I think I'd be jumping the gun going straight into fusion. The whole improv walking line thing really is THE essential starting point isn't it. That's why I need to learn the blues inside out!

    ..and not so much being daunted by the waking line, just that I know how hard it is to improv a walking line that has purpose, direction and groove.

    I mean I can impress a bunch of idiots with a walking line, but I can hear that my lines arent anywhere near 'there'!
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well - the problem is getting people who are up to playing this sort of thing. I have alway found the most difficult thing in getting Jazz stuff together is the drummer! So there is generally a shortage of Jazz drummers and good Jazz drummers are in even more of a short supply.

    So at the Jazz Summerschool I mention this is a perennial problem and they always ask us to encourage drummers and ask how we could attract more drummers to the course. So they end up paying some drummers to make up complete groups for the weeks of the course.

    So with fusion like Weather Report it is even more dependent on a good drummer - fusion stuff is very hard for them and pretty demanding on drummers/percussionists.

    I would love to play this sort of thing - but have found very few people who are into it and all those have been pros who have been my tutors/teachers rather than people on the semi-pro/amateur level I find myself at!! :(
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well decent drummers are hard to find full stop...
    I've considered all sorts of funk based bands in the past and kind of still am, but I know that finding a drummer good enough to knock out just those classic James Brown style beats is nigh on impossible.. let alone one who can groove in 5/4 and still keep time like a clock!

    As you said, if they're that good, then they turn pro. It's a damned hard instrument to be good at drumming.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Sounds like it's well worth checking out - a social thing - find more musicians to talk to and maybe play with, at the same time as learning and becoming a better musician all round. But it never hurts to be more prepared - maybe the pianist coudl tell you what tunes/pieces/concepts they are working on ?
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Well yeah. I still have two Aebersolds I need to get well and truly down as a first step in this direction I think.

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