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  1. #1

    Hierarchy of Performance Flaws

    Just thinking about the various things I've observed that I would calls "performance flaws", defined roughly as things that would make audience guests suggest, "Well, after we finish these drinks, let's split..."


    Curious how you might order them or others I left out...

    Ranked decreasing in offensiveness...




    1] Out of Control (tooooo loud)
    To me, no matter what else, if music is too loud, it approaches becoming just noise. Too loud outweighs all the other good things that might be present.


    2] Out of Rhythm
    This is highly noticeable and irritating, devastating to enjoyment. It may be just a problem with one song, or it may be global.


    3] Out of Key
    Also highly noticeable, but usually rare - the occasional failed communication consensus on what key the song will be played; usually detected and mitigated immediately.


    4] Out of Tune (includes intonation)
    Hopefully just because the instrument is cold after returning from a break.


    5] Out of Tone (bad or inappropriate tone quality)
    Similar to too loud; a major detraction, distraction. Should be rare with what we know and have available, but it is surprisingly common.


    6] Out of Ideas
    Running aground in the shallow depths of one's musical judgement, lacking or losing the capacity of continuous creation


    7] Out of Talent
    Talent is what people come to hear and enjoy, hopefully in abundance. I find it interesting that we spend a lot of time and effort practicing and studying to accumulate talent over the years (decades), and yet if at the bottom of the performance flaws hierarchy it is the "last door" the audience passes through to finally encounter us and connect.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

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  3. #2
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    Yup that’s how I rank them.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by pauln View Post
    Just thinking about the various things I've observed that I would calls "performance flaws", defined roughly as things that would make audience guests suggest, "Well, after we finish these drinks, let's split..."


    Curious how you might order them or others I left out...

    Ranked decreasing in offensiveness...
    Good list. Too loud and bad time are going to clear the room pretty quickly.

    The only one I'd add is bad choice of material for the audience. Don't ask me how I know this <g>.

    And, on the positive side-- the thing I look for is that people are tapping their feet. If I see that, I know the groove is okay and people are liking the music at some level. It worries me if I don't see it.

  5. #4
    Lack of magic. Bad gender balance. Bad communication. Bad vibe. High entrance fee. Too many suits.

  6. #5
    Around here, "too loud" is the default. Far from clearing a room, it seems to be what people want. I think it's because then they can talk without feeling guilty about talking over the band. Then everybody starts doing it, and the din in the room gets so loud, the band has to turn up. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    And this is the jazz scene. I have really bad tinnitus from the "too loud" of the rock scene.
    "I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg

  7. #6
    Another thing that bugs me is people standing around discussing for ages which tune to play next, looks really unprofessional.

    All the years that I was seeing top American jazz players at Ronnie Scotts, it was noticeable how sharp most of them were on the bandstand, no messing about, straight down to business. Also a lot of them would start with the first tune at a blazing tempo just to make a point! (e.g. Johnny Griffin, unbelievable!)

  8. #7
    Dutchbopper Guest
    In my experience, flaw 7 is the cause of all prior flaws and should be at position 1. Somehow the talented jazz cats (and pros) I have seen play live over the years never play too loud, out of rhythm, out of key, out of tune and out of tone. They don't run out of ideas either.

    On the other hand, beginners, students and amateurs often show most of the above at some point. Often several flaws simultaneously. Which makes perfect sense, for otherwise they'd be like the top players.

    DB

  9. #8
    Out of balance - one instrument is / isn't audible in proportion to the others.

    Mandatory soloists - solos by all players on every tune, regardless of their capability; related to out of ideas, but multiplied by the number of players (on more than one occasion I have contemplated the relative merits of drawing and quartering vs. boiling in oil while being forced to listen to undercooked amateur versions of "Little Sunflower").

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by unknownguitarplayer View Post
    (on more than one occasion I have contemplated the relative merits of drawing and quartering vs. boiling in oil while being forced to listen to undercooked amateur versions of "Little Sunflower").
    in sunflower oil, presumably...

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    in sunflower oil, presumably...
    Yes, definitely!

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Dutchbopper View Post
    In my experience, flaw 7 is the cause of all prior flaws and should be at position 1. Somehow the talented jazz cats (and pros) I have seen play live over the years never play too loud, out of rhythm, out of key, out of tune and out of tone. They don't run out of ideas either.

    On the other hand, beginners, students and amateurs often show most of the above at some point. Often several flaws simultaneously. Which makes perfect sense, for otherwise they'd be like the top players.

    DB
    In thinking about this, it looked to me that there were two ways to order the hierarchy, one from the perspective of the audience, and the other from the perspective of the artist. I defined it from the audience perspective to which the flaws' offenses present themselves directly without consideration of their source.

    If done from the perspective of the artist, which I think is how you are seeing it, then the cause and prevention of each flaw is important and ultimately stems from talent.

    What struck me about the audience perspective ordering was that what we generally consider as our talent doesn't really get a chance to be received and revealed to the audience until about a half dozen other issues have been cleared...

    Like a horse and cart; a cart of wonderful product that won't even make it to the market if there are serious problems with the horse. Your point is that part of being a deliverer of products with a horse and cart is insuring the horse is in good shape. That is the artist's perspective of professionalism.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  13. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    Good list. Too loud and bad time are going to clear the room pretty quickly.

    The only one I'd add is bad choice of material for the audience. Don't ask me how I know this <g>.

    And, on the positive side-- the thing I look for is that people are tapping their feet. If I see that, I know the groove is okay and people are liking the music at some level. It worries me if I don't see it.
    Good points. Too hip for the room, and you come off as condescending. Not hip enough, and you come off as lame. A fine line sometimes, but addressable with basic research. Know the room and its core audience. Repeated flops are a booking failure. Not ready for Prime Time? Back to rehearsal.
    Best regards, k

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Another thing that bugs me is people standing around discussing for ages which tune to play next, looks really unprofessional.

    All the years that I was seeing top American jazz players at Ronnie Scotts, it was noticeable how sharp most of them were on the bandstand, no messing about, straight down to business. Also a lot of them would start with the first tune at a blazing tempo just to make a point! (e.g. Johnny Griffin, unbelievable!)
    I always refer to this as "Dead Air." Like B-P. said, "Be Prepared." Always have a flexible list, and at every point, alternatives to said list to deal with exigencies - audience response or lack thereof, mechanical failure, etc. If something other than prolonged applause precludes playing another number, be prepared to keep the audience engaged - some patter, introductions of the band members, a little light flattery, the weather, whatever - just do not bore or alienate the audience. That's not what they've paid for.
    Best regards, k

  15. #14
    I once saw Martin Taylor playing solo at Ronnies, and the moment he got on stage, his sound rig failed for some reason and he could not start his set for about 20 minutes. He remained completely calm and just joked with the audience, told amusing stories about playing with Stephane Grapelli, and so on. It was very entertaining.

    Then they fixed the problem and he started playing as if nothing had gone wrong. A real pro.

  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln View Post
    In thinking about this, it looked to me that there were two ways to order the hierarchy, one from the perspective of the audience, and the other from the perspective of the artist. I defined it from the audience perspective to which the flaws' offenses present themselves directly without consideration of their source.

    If done from the perspective of the artist, which I think is how you are seeing it, then the cause and prevention of each flaw is important and ultimately stems from talent.

    What struck me about the audience perspective ordering was that what we generally consider as our talent doesn't really get a chance to be received and revealed to the audience until about a half dozen other issues have been cleared...

    Like a horse and cart; a cart of wonderful product that won't even make it to the market if there are serious problems with the horse. Your point is that part of being a deliverer of products with a horse and cart is insuring the horse is in good shape. That is the artist's perspective of professionalism.
    'Lack of talent' is also a convenient excuse, come to think of it.

    I must use it more often.

  17. #16
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    From the perspective of the audience, I think there are only two: Too loud, and too dissonant/"out". IME, those literally clear the room. The others get a few people smirking, and a few people to leave, but won't actually clear the room. Most non-musicians don't really catch the other stuff beyond sensing something being off, and that's not enough to get them to leave.

    John

  18. #17
    A few years ago I was wandering around a mall in Blackhawk CA and came upon a 4 pc band, playing pop and r&b. Good musicians, but that's not why I'm bringing it up.

    When I looked at what each player was doing, they were all playing sparsely. And, yet, the sound of the band was full, rich, just awesome. As good as I've heard in any context. Unsurprisingly, they had a sophisticated PA and a sound guy. The PA included subwoofers.

    Last night, I attended a show at what I'll call a performance space. Huge room, part of it set up with about 80 folding chairs.

    The band, which included at least one player whose name you would know, didn't have a PA. The guitarist played a Benedetto Archtop through what I think was an AER Compact 60, or very similar sized amp. The bassist played a solid body upright through an amp that was only a tiny bit bigger. Drums were not mic'ed. Violinist played through something I didn't see.

    Near the stage, the sound was pretty full. Not as good as the band in the mall, but good enough.

    Out in the audience, the violin sounded thin and scratchy, the guitar sounded dull (looked like he went straight into the amp and played with treble rolled off and no reverb) and the bass sounded thuddy. Drums sounded pretty ok.

    I thought that they needed a PA, not to sound louder, but to sound fuller. I'm not sure what that means in terms of EQ, directionality and volume (or whatever other parameters matter). My guess is that the bassist could have used a bigger speaker to make sure lower frequencies were being amplified. And, I'm guessing guitar and violin should have had the speakers mic'ed and reinforced with a PA.

    Last year, I played a guitar/bass/drum/ gig with the bassist singing. He hired a fourth guy -- a sound man. I think most other leaders I know would have hired a kb or a horn and cobbled together a PA somehow. But, this leader knew his business -- and it made the whole gig a pleasure. We set up so we could hear each other and we let the sound guy worry about everything else.

    So the performance flaw was spending a zillion hours on skills and tens of thousands on gear and then skimping on sound reinforcement.

  19. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    A few years ago I was wandering around a mall in Blackhawk CA and came upon a 4 pc band, playing pop and r&b. Good musicians, but that's not why I'm bringing it up.

    When I looked at what each player was doing, they were all playing sparsely. And, yet, the sound of the band was full, rich, just awesome. As good as I've heard in any context. Unsurprisingly, they had a sophisticated PA and a sound guy. The PA included subwoofers.

    Last night, I attended a show at what I'll call a performance space. Huge room, part of it set up with about 80 folding chairs.

    The band, which included at least one player whose name you would know, didn't have a PA. The guitarist played a Benedetto Archtop through what I think was an AER Compact 60, or very similar sized amp. The bassist played a solid body upright through an amp that was only a tiny bit bigger. Drums were not mic'ed. Violinist played through something I didn't see.

    Near the stage, the sound was pretty full. Not as good as the band in the mall, but good enough.

    Out in the audience, the violin sounded thin and scratchy, the guitar sounded dull (looked like he went straight into the amp and played with treble rolled off and no reverb) and the bass sounded thuddy. Drums sounded pretty ok.

    I thought that they needed a PA, not to sound louder, but to sound fuller. I'm not sure what that means in terms of EQ, directionality and volume (or whatever other parameters matter). My guess is that the bassist could have used a bigger speaker to make sure lower frequencies were being amplified. And, I'm guessing guitar and violin should have had the speakers mic'ed and reinforced with a PA.

    Last year, I played a guitar/bass/drum/ gig with the bassist singing. He hired a fourth guy -- a sound man. I think most other leaders I know would have hired a kb or a horn and cobbled together a PA somehow. But, this leader knew his business -- and it made the whole gig a pleasure. We set up so we could hear each other and we let the sound guy worry about everything else.

    So the performance flaw was spending a zillion hours on skills and tens of thousands on gear and then skimping on sound reinforcement.
    A good modern sound system and skilled sound techs are essential to playing all but the tiniest rooms. They should be considered an integral part of the band, or at least enjoy a solid contractual relationship. Worth their weight in whatever medium of exchange you care to cite!
    Best regards, k

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74 View Post
    AWorth their weight in whatever medium of exchange you care to cite!
    Hm... What's a Bitcoin weigh?
    "I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg

  21. #20
    Quoting Jimmy Bruno: "you gotta watch out you don't out-hip yourself"

    Not entirely relevant to this thread but it seems Mr. Bruno is returning:


  22. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Joe View Post
    Hm... What's a Bitcoin weigh?
    About as much as any bubble....
    Best regards, k

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by rabbit View Post
    Quoting Jimmy Bruno: "you gotta watch out you don't out-hip yourself"

    Not entirely relevant to this thread but it seems Mr. Bruno is returning:

    I don't hear jazz musicians put down R&B. There just doesn't seem to be much interest in it;
    Multi-tasking;



    And of course Band of Gypsies version;



    Buddy is knocking out the drum and vocals. I don't know anyone off-hand who can sing it and play it on guitar. I can't.
    I'm not sure what Jimmy is getting at in regards to 'don't out-hip yourself'.
    Hope he's an Eagles fan.
    If you take #2 on the list seriously and have perfect meter, you might get to abuse #1.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by pauln View Post
    Just thinking about the various things I've observed that I would calls "performance flaws", defined roughly as things that would make audience guests suggest, "Well, after we finish these drinks, let's split..."


    Curious how you might order them or others I left out...

    Ranked decreasing in offensiveness...




    1] Out of Control (tooooo loud)
    To me, no matter what else, if music is too loud, it approaches becoming just noise. Too loud outweighs all the other good things that might be present.


    2] Out of Rhythm
    This is highly noticeable and irritating, devastating to enjoyment. It may be just a problem with one song, or it may be global.


    3] Out of Key
    Also highly noticeable, but usually rare - the occasional failed communication consensus on what key the song will be played; usually detected and mitigated immediately.


    4] Out of Tune (includes intonation)
    Hopefully just because the instrument is cold after returning from a break.


    5] Out of Tone (bad or inappropriate tone quality)
    Similar to too loud; a major detraction, distraction. Should be rare with what we know and have available, but it is surprisingly common.


    6] Out of Ideas
    Running aground in the shallow depths of one's musical judgement, lacking or losing the capacity of continuous creation


    7] Out of Talent
    Talent is what people come to hear and enjoy, hopefully in abundance. I find it interesting that we spend a lot of time and effort practicing and studying to accumulate talent over the years (decades), and yet if at the bottom of the performance flaws hierarchy it is the "last door" the audience passes through to finally encounter us and connect.
    In a bar?
    Half of them are up to no good and you just have to deal with it.

  25. #24
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    The first five boil down to not listening. A band in which everyone is listening will avoid most or all of those. One of the mistakes that amateurs and hobbyists like myself often make is playing too much, showing off chops instead of serving the music. We're stumbling over stuff we can't quite pull off and it sounds like ass.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  26. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara View Post
    The first five boil down to not listening.
    I didn't notice that, but you are right; nice insight!

    Looking at it that way,
    maybe the first five are lack of "outside listening",
    and the rest are lack of "inside listening"...?
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  27. #26
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    If I have a gig that includes playing Wooly Bully, I usually have a bourbon or 3 and shoot for the Hierarchy of Performance Flaws lottery.

  28. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I once saw Martin Taylor playing solo at Ronnies, and the moment he got on stage, his sound rig failed for some reason and he could not start his set for about 20 minutes. He remained completely calm and just joked with the audience, told amusing stories about playing with Stephane Grapelli, and so on. It was very entertaining.

    Then they fixed the problem and he started playing as if nothing had gone wrong. A real pro.
    I would wait all day long to hear Martin Taylor!

  29. #28
    Re too loud: I remember bringing the equipment in to a wedding gig, passing by a table of elderlies, and one of the women yelled "Look how loud they are!" Still cracks me up to this day.
    -- Isn't it crazy that "archtop" and "luthier" are spelling errors on this forum?

  30. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I once saw Martin Taylor playing solo at Ronnies, and the moment he got on stage, his sound rig failed for some reason and he could not start his set for about 20 minutes. He remained completely calm and just joked with the audience, told amusing stories about playing with Stephane Grapelli, and so on. It was very entertaining.

    Then they fixed the problem and he started playing as if nothing had gone wrong. A real pro.
    A similar thing happened to Adrian Belew. He was using a guitar synth, and it glitched and all of his programs got erased. He had to reprogram the thing while he stood there trying to do patter. (Supposedly, according to the story, he did manage to pull it off.)
    "I'm opposed to picketing, but I don't know to show it." --Mitch Hedberg

  31. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by yaclaus View Post
    Lack of magic. Bad gender balance. Bad communication. Bad vibe. High entrance fee. Too many suits.
    Ha! Too many suits ...

  32. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound View Post
    Re too loud: I remember bringing the equipment in to a wedding gig, passing by a table of elderlies, and one of the women yelled "Look how loud they are!" Still cracks me up to this day.
    She may have been referring to your shirts...

  33. #32
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    May I add:

    Too much talking to the audience

    and especially

    After a song, saying "thank you" before they applaud - or even if they don't applaud. Drives me nuts.

  34. #33
    Extended solos for the wrong audience. Recently saw a Steely Dan cover band in a local bar, excellent group. Then to end the set, (Josie?) they gave extended solos to all three horn players. Bone, then tenor, then trumpet. By the time the trumpet player started, I could see it on the crowd's faces, "enough already."
    -- Isn't it crazy that "archtop" and "luthier" are spelling errors on this forum?

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