Advice on Band Diplomacy

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by stevel, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. stevel

    stevel Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    I am not the most diplomatic person on the planet. I admit it.

    I'm working on a new project with a band. This is "my" project.

    My experience has been that one of the things that very often happens is "how does it start" and "what key is it in again". So I printed up a spreadsheet of the set with columns for the key, and how it starts (who, all in, count off, etc.)

    I've got a drummer - really nice guy. He's pretty solid. He hasn't "wowed" me, but he's not made me go "WTF" either. Decent chops. Digs the material. Seems into the project.

    But I've got some issues with him and I'm looking for advice on how to deal with him. I don't know him well but the bass player has been playing with him for over a year. I don't want to put the bass player in the awkward position of addressing it but if you all think that's a good idea I'm ok with it - he knows him much better than I do and to be honest, I can come off as an egotistical asshole.

    Firstly, I think he doesn't know the songs. He hasn't really learned the parts beyond "ride here, hats here, tom work here, etc." - but like breaks, signature fills (like a drum intro), and stuff like that he doesn't know. So it seems as though he's "scanned" the songs but not really learned them.

    I think he may also not know the song by its title (this happens in a lot of bands it seems) or he simply has no clue of the tempo. So when we call the tune, he counts off in some totally unrelated tempo - as if he's never heard the song before (but I know he has in many cases because some of the fills are correct). So we frequently find ourselves having to stop and go back, I give him the tempo, then we start. I'm not perfect, but I'm going to be within reasonable proximity of the original tempo. He's like close to half tempo sometimes (always on the slow side). This is especially bad on songs that have a drum intro. If the keys start the song, we don't count, the keys just start the song, in tempo. The only time we count is if more than one player starts the song. I prefer the drummer to do that but I don't mind doing it if I have to. It just seems really weird for me to count 4 and then have 4 measures of drums that he could have just started himself.

    I also want our show to be pow pow pow - not a lot of waiting in between songs so if an instrumentalist can just start it with their part and we can come in based on their tempo, no time counting needed.

    The bass player knew this guy and brought him in - they had been playing together. They're not really a "package deal" I don't think, but I also don't want to piss off the bass player by firing the drummer. Besides, I like the guy and I think he can handle it.

    So here's my dilemma: How do I tell this guy diplomatically to fix these issues (unless you think they're not issues...I do think they're issues).

    I need some "tact" from you guys (and many times your responses are very tactful so I know you have it in you :)

    We rehearse tomorrow night and if there's a lot of improvement, I won't say anything. But I want to be prepared to bring it up if I have to.

    By the way, I decided on the material, and was up front with everyone and said "this is what I want to do, are you cool with that" and they all said yes.
    I bought the songs from iTunes and made CD copies for everyone (gave You Tube links too in case anyone needed to see anything).
    I made the list and included who starts the tune.

    I feel like I've done everything I can to make learning the songs as easy as possible for everyone. And just so you know, these are songs like Louie Louie and Wild Thing, not some Dream Theater.

  2. frankiestarr

    frankiestarr Member

    Mar 15, 2008
    Come on mannnn.....Just tell the guy what's on your mind. Simple as that. If you don't want to come off as a jerk, don't. Be nice, and to the point. I also might add, loosen up and have fun...especially if we talking about Louie Louie ! It does not need to be dissected and over analyzed. keep practicing til you get it right.
  3. DGTCrazy

    DGTCrazy Mod Squad Staff Member

    Aug 13, 2010
    Petaluma, CA
    I don't know about your neck of the woods, but where I live, if the drummer is not getting paid or gigging regularly, the result is like the drummer you have; a nice guy who struggles to move beyond the basics. That's because all the good drummer's are making money with working bands.

    However, it seems like the chemistry between your rhythm section is strong based on the prior history, so I'd advise working with the drummer for a few practices to see what progress can be made before having auditions (which I'm sure some will chime in on). for as the tempo thing, you can get an iPhone app, or buy a device (metronome) to solve the tempo issue. My drummer uses one during practice, and it's really helped him over time to develop a solid feel for starting off songs. He can put his on a "silence" mode, so that he feels a vibration so nobody knows that he's even using the thing.

    As far as the time between songs, start practicing, in real-time, several songs in a row that require no waiting in between, other than a quick count. My only other suggestion would be for you to count off the song, (most seem like a Double Four count will work).

    The last thing is simply at the end of practice, ask the whole band how the feel things are progressing...then be honest with your sentiments. Ask a question like "How can we work on starting songs quicker, because I feel like we're wasting time between songs "?, or "How does the tempo feel, because I feel like some parts are dragging"?

    If you can't can honest questions without anyone getting upset, then you know you have a real issue IMO. And all the questions I've suggested are the same I've asked my own drummer.

    Good luck!
  4. spakuloid

    spakuloid Member

    May 6, 2007
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Call him on the phone and tell him EXACTLY what you want in as polite a tone as possible. Also start off with a compliment.

    Hey man, that was a totally grooving thing you did on the second verse of "butt plug muncher..." or whatever.

    Then get to it. Knock off your list of things you want to work on to make the band better and make sure he is on the same page and sees your point. People respond well to clear well defined direction from a calm organized person with a vision -- usually.

    If he starts giving you attitude, or any **** - guess what? He's not the drummer for you. Find another one asap. Do not make a big deal out of it - just realize it is what it is.

    I just went through this last week. No problems at all. Some guys - who may be great musicians - are not for your band.
  5. Lukeling

    Lukeling Member

    Nov 2, 2011
    Brisbane Australia
    The drummer in my band doesn't know the name of any of our songs :D
    I managed a band he was in for ten tears , they made multiple albums toured all around & still didn't know the names of the songs:rotflmao
    Helps that he is a great drummer.
  6. Hecube

    Hecube Senior Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Au nord du Big Bang
    It starts with "I'm right and everybody else is wrong". Once you understand that, everything is fine.

    As far as titles go, would you believe that in the company I work for, some of the composers don't even know the titles of their own songs?
  7. gkinsingapore

    gkinsingapore Member

    Jan 14, 2009
    Are you gigging yet?

    I think you'll find a lot of that crap will disappear when you have an audience......
  8. stevel

    stevel Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    That's the problem. We got it right. We're waiting on him. I got better things to do, like go out and book some gigs.

  9. hearmecrybaby

    hearmecrybaby Senior Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    new york city
    +1 this is the answer to 9/10 TGP band issues threads. usually when people start these threads they're not looking for advice, just for people to agree with them.
  10. Crowbar

    Crowbar Member

    Dec 14, 2008
    Bucks Co. PA
    Says it all. I've found the role of bandleader to be a thankless position.

    One trick I might try in your spot is call the next session "dress rehersal" so to speak, just start calling off the numbers and rip through em like at a gig, maybe have a freind or two for an audiance. Record it all and the weak links will show.
  11. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Mar 4, 2004
    Rehearse the stop where he misses a break. Rehearse up to the break, do it again, again, again, rehearse up to the next break. If he misses it, stop the song, rehearse the break, again, again.

    Play a song, if it is faster at the end than it is at the beginning. Point it out. A lot of drummers speed up on the chorus, point it out. BTW - you can say that some of these things are your fault. "Whoops, it seems I sped up on the bridge. Let me try it again, etc."

    It's called rehearsal which means you stop and rehearse, you don't play through mistakes. That's what you do on the gig.

    If he complains, tell him this is how all your teachers did it. This is how a band gets good.
    Frank Zappa rehearsed his bands for 8-12 days for a month.
  12. mvd18969

    mvd18969 Member

    Mar 1, 2008
    If this is a new project, you have to set the expectations and establish what is/isn't acceptable from the get go...... and hold everyone accountable for their parts. I've played with enough guys who "scanned" the songs and tried to BS their way through it. It will be come very un-fun if laziness prevails. "Wild Thing", "Louie Louie", it's not like you're asking them to come in prepared to play the entire 2112 album.
  13. Neer

    Neer Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    Ask him to tighten it up. If he doesn't know what you mean, you may have a problem. The next level would be asking him if he's really into the project. Try not to come off too pedantic or strict about it, but take your own mental notes. After all, there's no bread involved yet and maybe the incentive is a little low for him at this point. I'm just being honest.
  14. loudboy

    loudboy Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Sedona, AZ
    How many bands is he in?

    The past 10 years trend of multiple "projects" has anyone who's decent player doing 2-4 bands, and the result is that they all suffer from stuff like this.

    They never quite get to the point of real comfort with the material.

    If he's only in one band, you need to address the issues:

    Practice segues, and stick to them.

    Count the songs off yourself.

    Put notes on the setlists.
  15. giltgitguy

    giltgitguy Member

    Oct 1, 2011
    Good Luck. Here's a recent email exchange with our former drummer.I'm the band leader. We do about 30/70 originals/covers. I started the band partly cause I wanted to play drums again. (I played drums professionally for a few years, then as I spent more time writing and singing, became a guitar player/singer and did that professionally for the rest of my full time career.) Our first guitar player quit, so unable to find a replacement, I became the guitar player and we hired a drummer.
    He had almost exactly the same problems you described about you drummer. So I sent him an email asking him politely to pay attention to certain parts in the recorded versions of some new songs. Including a couple of my own songs.

    His Reply-(names changed to protect the attitude-challenged):
    Hi David,

    If you would send me copies of the new tunes I would appreciate it.

    Just between you and me, I really would appreciate it if I didn't get little reminders to learn my parts. I have always come prepared, devoted a lot of time to this project and I really can't think of a positive thing you have said to me. I'm not looking for praise, just a little respect.

    And I have no intention of playing drum parts note for note off the record. if you want someone to do that or are unhappy with the way I play I am totally ok if you get someone else.
    Sorry to be so blunt but I'm feeling like we need to have this conversation.

    MY REPLY- Trying to be tactful, appologetic and massage his ego a bit:

    Hi XXXXX

    First, let me say I was mortified to get your email and to learn that I had overstepped my role as band leader. Especially after my earlier group email where I mentioned how much we all liked each other. Call me Pollyanna...
    It seems that you feel like I've singled you out for criticism. I knew going onto this that I had to be careful not to be hung up on the fact that I had originally envisioned playing drums on these songs myself. I thought I was treading lightly ( I have played in a number of other bands where I was the guitar player or singer and never had a problem with the drummers. Two of my closest friends are drummers that I've done, all told,at least a hundred gigs with.) So, I didn't think I was being overbearing. I apologize for making you feel that way. Of course, the pat response is to say that I only have the best interests of the band in mind with whatever I might say. I think I should elaborate.

    I recognize that since I am a drummer (certainly more than a guitar player) that I am very "drum-centric", but ,really I'd say more accurately, that I'm "feel-centric". I have never asked anyone to play parts ver batim, but I am certainly concerned, in this band, about feel. For example, when Rob showed Matthew how to play the piano part in XXXXXX ( and then corrected him later), the point was simply that the feel had to be there as a starting point to build the song on. From my perspective, the goal is not to imitate the band but to serve the song. I'm sure we all realize that these songs were labored over by the original artists, and that the great feel of most of them is no accident. Every bar band in the world can play the chord progression and melody for Brown Eyed Girl or any CCR song, but they almost always miss the magic of the feel and simplicity of the original. So, from what I can recall any comments I've made to you have been about feel, not nit-picky parts.
    In my earlier email, I asked you to listen to Each Little Kiss because the feel has drifted a long way from the way I envisioned, and recorded, the song. I'm sure you'll agree that I should be afforded that prerogative, since it's my song. Asking people to play certain parts is just a part of the musical ensemble process. I do apologize for asking that of you in a group email. I should have saved it for the personal message I sent you. And, just so you know, I've sent PM's to other band members about music related items. I haven't singled you out. In fact, more than anyone, I have felt, after the last couple rehearsal that I may have been too critical of Matthew. I remember saying to him, among other things, "If you haven't learned the vocal part for Gasoline and Matches, you should do that at home. Let's not make (drummer dude)sit here and wait while you figure it out."
    And that was, in a round about way, why I sent you the note about the new songs. You are only able to be with us for every second rehearsal, so for the sake of efficiency, I wanted to be sure that we had the full, correct arrangement worked out with you -especially for those specific songs that really, really, hang on the drum parts. That way, next week, when you aren't there, we aren't left scratching our heads about certain sections.
    defensive now. I'm tired. And I hate it when people think ill of me.
    I've got to go back to the studio, and I've rambled incoherently and gone on far too long. Let me finish by apologizing again and saying I do respect your drumming and I hope you'll feel comfortable staying in the band. I think we have great potential. Lord knows the guitar playing can use a good kick in the ass, though. And FYI, I haven't mentioned our email exchange to anyone else in the band. That would be very unprofessional. We're all adults, and getting together to do something we're all very passionate about is bound to have a few rough spots. I hope we can get past this. I'll do better. See you tomorrow?

    His Reply:
    Dave, I really have to say that I find your response very patronizing and not respectful at all. But it does confirm the vibe I've been getting.

    Given what I have heard of your playing - and I'm talking about drums as well as guitar here - I think a great deal more humility would be in order. As would a lot more practice. Particularly with a metronome on groove and feel and timing - all of which you frankly need a lot of work on before you qualify to critic another player.

    (Let me interject that when I was drumming full time, my nickname was "the mechanic" because my meter was, and still is, very good.)

    I'd be happy to stay if we can work things out and would in any case until we get the next gig out of the way. But that's up to you. Please let me know where and when we are rehearsing tonight.


    SO, try as I might, I couldn't finess the situation and told him to forget about any more rehearsals. We've all known defensive, insecure players. I'll take an adequate player with a great attitude over a prima donna any time

  16. shg

    shg Senior Member

    Sep 11, 2004
    Amen. The band I recall most fondly from my fulltime gigging was the one with the least ******** - not the best players.
  17. DC1

    DC1 Member

    Oct 30, 2006
    Do rehearsals as "dress rehearsals" and play the show straight through. Then point out how much work you need to do to be ready for the stage. This will make him learn the thing as it really is. Pressure is required for learning with many people.

  18. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Jun 15, 2011
    OK man, here it is.
    When I am asked to join a band, and I do, I am agreeing to be in the band on the terms that whoever asked me into it sets.
    That means that if the band is a dictatorship, and I know that up front, that I am expected to do as I am told.
    On the other hand, if is a democracy, I understand that my input is to some degree expected.

    My point is this: if the guy joined your band, full well knowing you are the bands leader, and you made sure he understood what his job is going to be, then that is that. If he agreed to that , you should be able to expect him to live up to it.

    Here is where you will REALLY run into problems.
    Most musicians in bands learn cues from each other, and very often the drum cues are the most important.
    You don't just rely on the drummer to keep a beat that augments the songs, quite often the band gets accustomed to the drummers style and the way he goes into choruses or turnarounds. And they depend on that to help their memory.
    On the other hand, if you have a drummer that himself forgets when the chorus is coming up and misses the cue, then chances are the entire band will miss it.
    Which you can fix in the studio, but for live work, a large part of live work is drum cues.

    I am thinking the guy just doesn't work the same way you guys do. Which doesn't mean he is better or worse than you are, it is just that not all combinations work.

    And, you don't change musicians. You find musicians for a band that are what you want, you don't find musicians and turn them into what you want.
    The same goes if you are a musician looking for a band, you find a band that is what you want to play in, you don't join a band expecting to reshape it into your mold.
  19. Gas-man

    Gas-man Unrepentant Massaganist

    Feb 28, 2006
    Dude Ranch Above The Sea
    If I was working on an original project with very little chance of it going anywhere and no gigs booked, I wouldn't be terribly motivated to play all these precious parts exactly the way you wanted them either.

    Who would submit themselves to this situation?

    You may consider going the other way with this and just let the guy play what he wants and not try to control exactly how the songs should go.

    This auteur paradigm some seem to work under may have to be reconsidered.
  20. Nurk2

    Nurk2 "Ignore Everybody" ~Hugh MacLeod

    Jul 25, 2011
    Upstate NY
    What I've learned on other threads here at TGP is, if you really expect this person to learn the music and his instrument so that he can accommodate the needs of your project, then you are an inconsiderate asshole. You need to understand that music really comes from what people might be feeling at any given time. Technical proficiency on one's chosen instrument is not important. You should be encouraging him in this, not judging.


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