PSA to folks starting bands: After the "honeymoon", but before the "Divorce"

StompBoxBlues

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19,962
I just thought this might be fun, to share experiences.

We have a lot of recurring threads about "starting a band", finding band members to play with, etc. And also I would say the second biggest band thread is bands disbanding, burnt out, or on the ropes.

But very little about bands after the initial forming of the band, and getting some songs down, enough for 2-3 sets, etc.

I can start it off a little with a few points that I have noticed over the years
All bands I've been in have been a mix of cover (mostly cover at least to begin with) AND originals, but I haven't ever been in a band that was originals only from the start...at least none that got off the ground, so my points are geared to that:

Differences in members approaches to songs

Mainly, some band members want to have the song precise, with fixed length for solos, etc. and every time they do the song it is exactly the same, while others want to have some things tight (intros, outtros, etc.) but be a little flexible on the length of solo. On a great night, with the crowd with you, repeat a verse, or the 2 verse solo extended to three, etc.

Some can use musical signature licks to tell the band "now we go back to the verse" or chorus or whatever. This might not show up at first, but as you add songs, it can become more difficult as there are more and more "how many rounds do we do on this one?" etc. The more intricate the parts, the more difficult to remember the arrangment and the worst of all is when a band rearranges a song so many times that each member is mainly remembering a different version. It can be a good idea to record the band (rough recording if nothing else) and have that be the "definitive" version, but still be able to extend solos, if wanted, etc. A band should be on their toes enough to be in sync on those kinds of things.

BUT if a band member seems to always forget say the ending in one song, it might be a clue that either they have a mental block (assuming they dont do this on all songs) or it is totally unatural for them, so maybe a thought to changing it to simplify. It has happened I've been in bands where they put a lot of work into an intro, but it is so short, and most of the listeners would never have missed it if it was easier/more standard, etc. Depends on the return on investment...but the point is the more complex a song, the more maintenance it will require.

Choosing new songs

If you have members that are pretty much into the same music this ought to be pretty easy in the beginning, when you make your songlist. Lots of agreement (and hints of future battles, because folks tend to be more open to songs they don't LOVE in the beginning, but later on not so much) and all and you make up about two or three sets of songs. Cool, but of those there may be a few the band (being honest with itself) isn't executing well enough, so need to be dropped or fixed.

Anyway, after the initial chosen songs, someone in the band will invariable really PUSH for a song the rest of the band doesn't like so much. Also, you'll get a band member wanting to do a song that is SO different from the others, that it's like they don't hear how the band sounds, or have any basis in reality (unless of course the band is creative enough to make a totally new arrangement, losing the string section, horn section, backup singers, etc. that are what make the song in the original work...while your band is a trio with only one person that sings) like you play death metal and the bassist says "I think we ought to do "Stand By Your Man"...

But I would say choosing songs is one of the deadly pitfalls in a band. It can actually break a band up. Some kind of system, as well as an understanding that 1) you can be WRONG in nixing a song outright. So unless it is the above, and not totally wrong...try it at least and do it with heart. I've had this happen, a song that is "meh" to me, we try it and I love it. 2) All band members have to get that others play their song choice, and try their best to make it work, so they need also to be open an genuinely try to make anothers choice they may not love work. A band will fall apart if one member always pitches and expects their songs to be tried, but never learns anyone elses.

Just need a system. I would really suggest to that (with exceptions) the person asking a song be considered for playing is responsible for sending around the version and song they mean. Otherwise you get people just naming songs, putting the burden of each member to find the song, etc. maybe the band is hearing different versions (or the wrong artist), etc.

Has to be songs they have really thought if it ought to work in the band, not just a song they like.

Maintaining songs

Not much to say here, except it gets to be more and more work after time. Just keeping track of the songs AND their status (We nail it, needs work on specific part, needs lots of work, we should drop it), also rotating them into the rehearsal from time to time. Meanwhile keeping track of requests to add new songs. For the person in charge of keeping track, it's at least a few hours a month.

Burning out on songs, even ones you do GREAT

Too much of a good thing. You don't want to practice songs to death, yet it is a fine line...you might need to work a while on a song to get it to "sit" well. Lots of songs, to me, that is where the real fun is, when you have it down enough that you don't have to think about "the parts" (as in "here comes that G part, goes into the bridge) but just can concentrate on dynamics, and feel..etc. But play it too many times and it gets OLD...stale.

Goes back to the above (maintenance), you may want to just set it aside, and only thereafter review/refresh when you are planning on playing it at a gig, just before the gig.

Dropping songs

This also can be a minefield. Some songs, one or two in the band may LOVE the song, and even may delude themselves that it "kinda works" and all, but the reality is some songs just don't work in some bands. At some point (and it should be before a member is ready to shoot themselves in the head rather than play "that damned thing" again) the band needs to take a vote (and watch out for hard feelings...you don't need to put the SONG down, but just say the band isn't, for some reason getting it) maybe or discuss, and some songs just plain need to be dropped.

It's an idea to say "if someone can come up with either what the problem is, or an arrangement idea that we can try, we could give it another chance, but not a lot more, otherwise we drop it".

This was long, and maybe not written the best, most organized, but the main idea is that a lot of things (and I didn't even touch on all members ought to be on the lookout, active, for gigs, etc. or promo kits, or posters, or...any of that) that need to be dealt with start after the band has gotten off the ground...got together, made headway on setlists, etc.

The stuff we don't really mention so much...the day to day maintenance, and progress stoppers in bands, after the "honeymoon phase" and before the "divorce papers".
 

jerryfan6

Gold Supporting Member
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5,374
Spot on. Song selection is a minefield...and I agree that people will go from cooperative to passive aggressive to disagreeable in no time!
 

StompBoxBlues

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Spot on. Song selection is a minefield...and I agree that people will go from cooperative to passive aggressive to disagreeable in no time!
Yeah..its the "best behavour" (at first) but often there are little signs, and later on it gets to be pulling teeth to get someone to try a song they didn't pick. It will kill a band.

Also, meant to mention, after time bands "retire" songs. Doesn't mean they are actually dropped, just that they have played them a LOT, and need to set them aside for a while (maybe even a year or more) but they are still viable and ought to be on the "pool list" for songs to use in any setlist.

A thought also need to be...even if you do a song great, if you get a following, you will need to rotate songs through the setlists from gig to gig for your audiences sake. You don't want a static setlist, same songs every gig...(unless it is originals and even then...)

Another thing to consider, at least my opinion, the hardest thing is not to remember musically but lyrics. For that reason it is hard for a vocalist to have a huge catalog of songs, they need to refresh and lyrics are way harder than music passages. Some consideration to that, as well as what the vocalist feels comfortable singing (both musically, and content-wise...)

But what have you all noticed that starts happening after a while in bands? More non-music work, etc.? What else?
Any good solutions or techniques for making it easier?
 
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pickaguitar

2011 TGP Silver Medalist
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22,210
Perhaps have a leader that determines the songs, practice, routine, material, direction, frequency, etc.
 

TheoDog

Silver Supporting Member
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I am having the biggest problem with leader communication.
I am a hired gun by nature, so song choice doesn't bother me much.

The current frustration is the band leader says "we have a huge gig coming up" but won't make a set list. So I make one. Then he says... It looks ok, just some specific changes, but won't say what needs changed.
And then he works on booking gigs and finds one at low pay... But says "I will tell you all about it at practice". My thought is, you just typed out a 3 page txt... Go ahead and tell us.

Basically, he doles out bits of "private" info to different people. Also keeps saying we aren't up to the standard for "him" to book the "bigger venues" but won't detail what the standards are... Then brags that the call gig he just played was thrown together last minute and got asked back one weekend a month for the next year.

Meanwhile, we need to rehearse 2-3 times a week to pull of a dive bar gig.

(Thanks for the vent opportunity. I didn't know I needed it.)
 

StompBoxBlues

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Perhaps have a leader that determines the songs, practice, routine, material, direction, frequency, etc.
Sure, except a "leader" in a band, where the members are voluntary, and don't get a salary can be a difficult situation. Those issues will still come up.

At least how I see it, in another thread someone detailed the trilogy of "needs" for a band, I think it was "brothers/friends, bookings, and enjoyment" needing two of the any three to keep a band together. I think it sounds about right.

Just see the post after yours, where TheoDog mentions the problems there too.
 

TheoDog

Silver Supporting Member
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I understand most of my gripes are my own issues. Because I have had a management career, I feel I am a solid leader OR have the ability to succeed under authority. But I am very critical of poor leadership.
A group of passivity "whatever" people is destined to fail. There has to be a balance of assertive leadership and shared respect.
Musicians are artists, and music is emotional... So, there is no way to not have drama... It can only be tempered.
 

StompBoxBlues

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I guess the purpose I was trying for was really more of a heads-up to guys starting bands (or that have only been in short-lived bands) because some of this stuff only comes up after the initial honeymoon phase (if there is one).

Things like "how many songs can we actually maintain at any given time" or just realizing it will take a lot more work for someone in the group to keep the list of songs, and keep it updated, and the status of songs.

Also, that with dropping songs. It's a great idea that if a song isn't "doable" and ok within X practices (unless the band is determined to do it because they need to learn how to do that) drop it.

Or how after a while it is a good idea to make a list of your "best of" songs, because it will give the band insight into what they do best. It may be QUITE different from the original idea. Maybe you find out the band really smokes on riff-based songs, but not so much on ballads, etc. You can still work on the others, but finding out what you are naturally good at as a band is not a dumb thing. Play your strengths.

Things like that. Things that would have been nice to not learn the hard way..and some things I took a long time to recognize were even happening at all. Much of this kicks in after a while. You've already plucked the "low hanging fruit" of songs you all want to do, and learn, and now you gotta pick some more, often there is where the paths seem to split a little.
 

pitbull45

Member
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Even in an original band song selection can be a minefield. Which older songs to drop, which new songs to include. People have emotional attachment to songs.
 

TheoDog

Silver Supporting Member
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Still. Leadership.
I have never quit a band based on song choice. But have over poor leadership.

Dropped songs should not be considered permanently dropped.
Even a dud can make a good comeback after some time and fresh perspective.
 

paranoid70

Member
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6,475
You also forgot another potential point of contention: Gig Frequency!

Some guys might have busy work/family schedules and can't commit to playing as often as some of the other guys may like. It can be especially tough if you are the guy scheduling gigs and you have to turn them down because one of the guys has something else to do. (Especially if it isn't something really important).

I left my last band for that reason.
 

Unnecessary

Senior Member
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2,667
Someone should work this out so it applies to original bands, too...

How to handle writing/composing

How to negotiate effectively in regards to above

Dividing Duties

I'm sure the list goes on, but to me a covers group would be easier to maintain than an original band unless you're talking about a huge group of people with horns and stuff...
 

speedemon

Member
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2,623
Generally, its a matter of waiting for the singer to implode. I have found almost universally, that the "players" generally get along well, and keep up their end playing and appearing. Total flakes/people who can't play usually reveal themselves in a few days. It helps to find someone (generally a guitar or bass player) that can carry the band financially for a while, help with maintenance, gas and meals. (Wish I had all that money back from when I had my own band, can you say Corvette? lol)
 

StompBoxBlues

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You also forgot another potential point of contention: Gig Frequency!

Some guys might have busy work/family schedules and can't commit to playing as often as some of the other guys may like. It can be especially tough if you are the guy scheduling gigs and you have to turn them down because one of the guys has something else to do. (Especially if it isn't something really important).

I left my last band for that reason.
Yeah, totally agree it is a huge thing, but I omitted it mainly because for me that wouldn't be the factor later on in the bands life...I have always made sure band members agree (at least in the same ballpark) on how often they hope the band will gig.

But yeah, if a band doesn't meet the gig goals later on it would make a difference.
 

TheoDog

Silver Supporting Member
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I have been in my band going on 9 months and not gigging frequently enough to keep me engaged.
My expectation is t lest a gig a week... We are almost to a gig a month.
 

Gas-man

Unrepentant Massaganist
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18,611
I also think if you don't sing you shouldn't get as much say in which songs are chosen.

It's easy to pick and choose when yer not the one who has to sing the actual song.

Good choices in general for cover bands are songs that are easy and that people know.
 

TDJMB

Platinum Supporting Member
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I wouldn't play in a band with Gas-man. When the singer is treated more delicately than the other band members, sit back and wait for the implosion.
 

Unnecessary

Senior Member
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I wouldn't play in a band with Gas-man. When the singer is treated more delicately than the other band members, sit back and wait for the implosion.

Yep, everyone is on the same level or its gonna be a disaster. Most "lead singers" need some place in the spectrum where everyone isn't making them seem more important. Part of the reason we never got a new vocalist and continued instrumentally...too many attitudes already!
 

StompBoxBlues

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I wouldn't play in a band with Gas-man. When the singer is treated more delicately than the other band members, sit back and wait for the implosion.
I don't think it is a question of "more delicately", it's a matter of when singing, there are limits, there are things that are physically challenging, not in the same way as say guitar...I can play things all over the fretboard, I can't sing like Freddie Mercury...

Also, when singing lyrics, for one thing if they totally go against type, can be a problem, as well as it is much more important that the singer "feel" what they are singing.

I don't think he (definitely I'm not) saying the singer chooses all songs, the point is the vocalist maybe ought to have a little more say.

In a lot of songs, bass parts maybe drums while just as important often have to learn verse, chorus, intro, etc. but guitar/keyboards have to learn often a lot more and remember them...chord changes, solos, etc.

Everyone needs judicious veto rights on songs done fairly, and the whole band ought to have a say on yes no, but maybe a little more weight on the front mans opinion (the one singing) is not totally out of line.

A singer with a bad attitude is bad anyway, but being a front man, they are more "out there", you know...in front. You don't want a shrinking violet up there, and others can just be themselves, but the front man has to out it out there, not just musically but more...
 

Tone Loco

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I don't think it is a question of "more delicately", it's a matter of when singing, there are limits, there are things that are physically challenging, not in the same way as say guitar...I can play things all over the fretboard, I can't sing like Freddie Mercury...

Also, when singing lyrics, for one thing if they totally go against type, can be a problem, as well as it is much more important that the singer "feel" what they are singing.

I don't think he (definitely I'm not) saying the singer chooses all songs, the point is the vocalist maybe ought to have a little more say.

In a lot of songs, bass parts maybe drums while just as important often have to learn verse, chorus, intro, etc. but guitar/keyboards have to learn often a lot more and remember them...chord changes, solos, etc.

Everyone needs judicious veto rights on songs done fairly, and the whole band ought to have a say on yes no, but maybe a little more weight on the front mans opinion (the one singing) is not totally out of line.

A singer with a bad attitude is bad anyway, but being a front man, they are more "out there", you know...in front. You don't want a shrinking violet up there, and others can just be themselves, but the front man has to out it out there, not just musically but more...
I agree, not everybody can put over every song and trying to force a tune that is uncomfortable (for whatever reason) just makes it uncomfortable for everyone including the audience.

If you yourself can't sing a particular song that you really want to do, you at least need to find somebody in the band who doesn't mind doing it. Lead singer or not.

Also you can only transpose tunes up or down so far, in a cover band situation, before they stop sounding much like the original. The energy is just off. So if you don't have a high tenor vocalist there's a lot of rock tunes you might as well forget.
 




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