What you need to know to be in a COUNTRY band!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mattsk42, Oct 25, 2006.

  1. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    I'm not looking to start ANY debate at all, just an informational thread that hopefully ends up being a sticky or megathread.

    I'm joining a pop country band and have literally never even really listened to country and dislike it. What are some tips? No gear suggestions, because that will just turn into an argument. Just what to tweak on it.

    Also, no "guitarist will suck so you should hate him" comments unless they're CLEARLY humor. I really don't want to derail this thread. :D

    Reply to one or as many as you can think of.

    timing tips

    appearance - me AND my gear

    note selection


    gear settings (No gear suggestions, because that will just turn into an argument. Just what to tweak on it.)

    a few "staple" artists to listen to

    lastly, what to expect!
  2. tlwaps


    Feb 13, 2006
    Watch the Jerry Springer show and you'll know what it takes to be in a country band :D
  3. gitcher sef summa them thar bibhoverallz an a set o them thar billybob teefs, n'yool fit raht in.....y'all

    :bag: :D
  4. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    You're going to have to listen to it . . . a lot! If you really don't like the music then you're probably not going to play it well (at least not enjoy yourself while you're playing). I'd suggest either listening to it and finding something you like about it or not doing the gig (for your sanity).
  5. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    Oh I like playing it, just not listening to it. The general groove of it is fine, and I enjoy the pocket feel you can get with a drummer. I'm surprised no one has given any gear settings. I've had good luck with a big "scoopy" sound and a little growl. But, I don't really know HOW I got that sound. :meh:
  6. Walk that bass. :)
  7. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Walk a lot.

    Check out some Brad Paisley. As far as I'm concerned it's some of the best pop country out there.
  8. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    Settings? I've been doing a country gig for over two years now and when I started, I liked the growly', edgy tone that I do for most other stuff I play. I've evolved into a warmer "low mid" emphasis to my tone, but still with a little edge! I don't know how to tell you set your tone, I'm not that technical. But the bass should be very prominent in the mix for country music, it really does drive the song.

    Also, hearing some of the earlier stuff we did, I was way too notey and choppy for the music. Sounds much better to define the chord with less notes that sustain instead of alot that don't, imo. I love thirds and approaching the major third from a half step below sounds pretty cool in country.
    I always define upcoming changeups with prominently walked approach notes to let the band know we're (at least I am) on our way there and they follow (most of the time!).

    Timing? I follow the bass drum. I play with a solid, predictable drummer that makes this easy and the song sounds tight because of that. Let the guitar player do the stylish pickin' and just support the song without getting overly busy. I have to really resist the urge to overplay on ballads and waltzs, but these songs sound bad if overplayed imo. The honky-tonk stuff you can walk all over the neck especially in the instrumental parts where you have the freedom to do more of that. A five string is a good tool especially for flat keys.

    Appearance of your gear? I don't know. Does it really matter? Appearance of you? If your appearance is one of casual, confindence: like you've done a two chord song a thousand times before and you're lovin' it anyway, then thats pretty good I'd guess. We have a steel player and do Rainy Day woman. I have two chords to define and he's jammin away. Dance floor is full, bar owner is happy. What could be better than that?

    Maybe a cowboy hat?

    Attitude? I try not to have one! Have fun, everyone else usually is. Its a hoot most of the time. And try a tip jar! The patrons in a country joint are some of the nicest people I've ever played for and they'll take care of you if you take care of them!
  9. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    Very bold move! Keep it sparse. Pop country is just another form of rock and roll, but keep the space between notes. Make every note count! Go for tone and consistency. It's not that easy! Buy a hat and some boots. Look at a picture of George Strait. Model that look. Here are some groups to check out:

    Alan Jackson - my God, he's a machine!
    Shania Twain - some "must-know" classics
    Brooks & Dunn - More music than you can stuff in a hat
    Sugarland - sweet group
    Brad Paisley - great player
    Keith Urban - he got Nichole Kidman. 'nuff said
    Big & Rich - very creative, great fun
    Rascal Flatts - good luck with the vocals
    Sarah Evans - Her husband is an IDIOT! Great voice!
    Dixie Chicks - Love or hate their politics, they are excellent musicians
    Gretchen Wilson - female Lynrd Skynyrd
    Toby Keith - A new song every five minutes

    Watch CMC all day long. I wish you luck, I tried two years ago and it flopped.
  10. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    My situation exactly. I found myself in a female-fronted country band after 30 years of HATING country.

    timing tips: slow stuff - dead on the beat; fast stuff - slightly ahead, lead with a grace note pickup 1/2 step below the root occasionally

    appearance - me AND my gear: you - got a hat? The key word here is STETSON - straw is quite cool under the lights. Your gear - who cares? You will probably be quieter than most rock bands, so turn your amp toward the drummer. Which raises another point - country is much more naked than rock, so you MUST work seamlessly with your drummer. Constant eye contact is a must.

    note selection: typically I's and V's, forget the blues progression EXCEPT when you solo (which is once every 10 songs or so). Learn to walk up and down following the beat STRICTLY

    attitude: Country is about the lead singer. Rock celebrates musical individualism and soloing, while country is all about the STORY. You're not a star, you're the bass player. The proper attitude is that your job is to make the singer sound good and to SELL THE STORY. Slight exception for the boot-scootin' songs - then your job is to make the song easy to dance to.

    a few "staple" artists to listen to - country is all over the board. Old George Jones/Tammy Wynette stuff, early Eagles, Alan Jackson, Reba, Gretchen, even some Sheryl Crow like "Steve McQueen". My favorite country stones were recorded by the Rolling Stones - "Dead Flowers", "Faraway Eyes", "Tumblin' Dice"

    lastly, what to expect - if your experience is like mine, you will work twice as much to crowds twice as big and make twice as much money as playing straight rock in rock clubs and bars. Don't dis the US, most of your audience is veterans, and many of your gigs will be in VFW's and American Legions. HEAVY DRINKING. The downfall of all country bands is one (or more) members who are WAY too familiar with Jack Daniels and/or Johnny Walker. If it's you or the drummer that's even worse. Country must be rhythmically tight in order to be good.

    Good luck! If your experience islike mine, you will enjoy yourself and hate yourself at the same time. But the gigs will be bigger and the money will be better.
  11. Loel

    Loel Blazin' Acadian

    Oct 31, 2004
    I cannot stress enough the importance of Hal Leonard's
    book&cd "the lost art of Country Bass"by Keith Rosier...

  12. coop


    Jun 22, 2002
    +1 especially since you probably have not listened to very much country.
  13. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Taste! Country bass playing is all about laying down a groove and playing fills which are more tasteful than a fruit basket. It's harder than it sounds. A great passing tone between two chords can take a good bassline and make it great. Also, be familiar with as many playing styles as possible. Country's very diverse as far as what types of styles you'll be called upon to do. You may have to play two-beat root/5th stuff, a shuffle, a calypso, a swing, a ballad in 6/8, a straight ahead rock beat, and a waltz all within the same set. Also, don't be surprised if you're covering stuff that isn't exactly country. Many country band's have "cross-over" material to supplement their setlists, usually oldies and some classic rock; so don't be surprised if you do some Jimmy Buffet, Elvis, or Bachman-Turner Overdrive too.

    As far as tone, if you're doing more modern country, I'd suggest keeping your sound modern. A tight bottom with a little aggresion in the low-mids may be the ticket. Keep the bass tone focused. Even though you're not competeting with a Triple Rectifier with its gain on 10 in a Country band, cutting through will still be important. You could get away with a more flabby low-end if you were playing more traditional country. Even though you said not to talk about gear, a discussion on the perfect country bass would be moot anyways. I've seen guys sound great with the tried and true Precisions/Jazzes. I've also seen Rickenbackers, Warwicks, Carvins, Alembics, etc. Lately, I've seen a lot of cats with Stingrays.

    As far as players go, just about any national country act is going to feature top-notch bass playing. There may not be a brilliant display of chops on the records - not that that's an indication of the players' chops. Many of the world's best musicians are Nashville session cats. Some are even closet fusion players, i.e. Keith Horne - but all of it's going to be cleanly executed and very tasteful. If you listen closely, you'll really be able to appreciate how the bass functions in a country song.
  14. Wesley R

    Wesley R Gold Supporting Member

    You will be up an running in no time and you might even enjoy it!

    Best of Luck,
    Wesley R.

    PS way back in the 60's and 70's in the local bars, country bands were allowed (sometimes forced to be) much louder than rock bands.
  15. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    Great thread! I'm in almost the same boat as mattsk42, except that I've listened to more country than he has, I think. Loads of good advice in here.

    Good country artist to listen to: Billy Joe Shaver. That man has written a *lot* of country hits. Wrote a lot of the songs Merle Haggard does, and has made excellent recordings of his own, over the years.

    And, of course, Merle, and Waylon, and George Strait, and all them. Willie is in a class by himself. Johnny Cash is my country favorite. You also need to listen to some Bob Wills. He *is* still The King.

    Browse MySpace for country bands, too. There's a *lot* of them in there, and you will hear a very wide variety of styles. Great learning tool, really.

    Edited to say: Wear bootcuts, lean as you can. Get two pair of boots (dress and work), a straw Resistol, a *good* snap Western, and a manly buckle. *No* rodeo buckles unless you have actually ridden in one. If you decide not to wear the boots to a gig, though, don't wear the hat. T-shirts (with boots, buckle, and hat) are ok so long as they do not convey political thought (dangerous, in country bars).

    I have also seen country players wear suits (and no, I don't mean the old-school Western kind) to great effect. Like, a lean Blues Brothers kinda suit, with a Texas break in the trouser (for your boots), and a bolo tie, or no tie. With the suit, you can wear either a fedora, or a cowboy hat to top it off, or wear your hair 50's style, like the old-time country players did. Sharp sideburns are sexy with this look.

    Edited again to say that well-kept sideburns are *always* sexy. (Trying to convince my hubby of this.) LOL!

    Cherie :)
  16. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    keep turned down. For most country songs, you shouldn't even notice the bass line.
  17. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    I disagree. In a lot of the country I listen to, the bass is prominent. It leaves plenty of space, and isn't at all busy, but it is pretty prominent.

  18. Lotsa sub genre's in country. There's swing country, bluegrass, pop country, outlaw country, etc. etc.

    In a nutshell though, warmer tones with more low mid and less sustain are what sound more country.

    Walking lines are great for some songs while others just are a very basic *boring* line - but fit the song perfectly. It's very easy to overplay country songs!
  19. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    Yes, it surely is. I have to watch that on ballads and waltzes.

  20. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    LOTS of good advice, thanks! I agree, I tend to overplay a lot, and it is difficult to really find what to do. Question, though: I have no idea what the clothing ACTUALLY is! Like, what IS a "resitol" or "snap western"?
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