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  1. #1
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    Inexperienced bandmates

    Anyone been in a situation where maybe your bandmates have, or had, considerably less working-band experience than you? Did you find yourself frustrated? Or did you find something to learn out of such a challenge?

    I could use some insight!

    Thanks guys/gals!

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  3. #2
    I find it frustrating.

    But, I also have had the experience of playing with pro level players who make everybody around them better.

    So, the challenge, when you're the most advanced player, is to try to make everyone else better.

    I don't find that easy to do, but it's the goal.

    In my own groups, I sometimes have to bring in new players and I try to do it one at a time.

  4. #3
    Considerably less? Fired!

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Considerably less? Fired!
    I'm afraid so... at least with the bandleader. In fact, he has the least amount of working-band experience. A couple of the other guys in the group have some gigs under their belt I think.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    I find it frustrating.

    But, I also have had the experience of playing with pro level players who make everybody around them better.

    So, the challenge, when you're the most advanced player, is to try to make everyone else better.

    I don't find that easy to do, but it's the goal.

    In my own groups, I sometimes have to bring in new players and I try to do it one at a time.
    This is what I've been hoping would happen in the group I'm in. Unfortunately it just hasn't happened. Maybe I'm not the voice of experience they want to hear. I've tried to offer some gentle suggestions but get pretty stubborn resistance. I don't wanna overstep my boundaries by being pushy or a know-it-all. But I want to see some growth within the band. I like the kind of music we do. Just not how we're doing it.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by dallasblues View Post
    This is what I've been hoping would happen in the group I'm in. Unfortunately it just hasn't happened. Maybe I'm not the voice of experience they want to hear. I've tried to offer some gentle suggestions but get pretty stubborn resistance. I don't wanna overstep my boundaries by being pushy or a know-it-all. But I want to see some growth within the band. I like the kind of music we do. Just not how we're doing it.
    Thinking back, the players who have made everybody better were mostly pianists. And, they did it without talking. Rather, they played really clearly. Meaning, their playing was so in the pocket and straightforward that everybody could instantly lock in with the time. Once the band is in the pocket, everything becomes easier.

  8. #7
    Forms of inexperience can have different effects:

    - inexperience due to becoming a musician later in life (late starters)
    They may have a strong taste for the kind of music they liked before becoming musicians as opposed to one who began playing their instrument as a youngster who sought out the more complex, deep, "more musical" stuff with more changes, greater demands on the player, more difficult, etc.

    This is a two-way street that needs to be handled carefully because it is asymmetric - although only annoying for you to play easier simple stuff, it is scary for them to play more complex stuff. You might suggest a more complex tune as a "project song", meaning that it is going to be worked up over time without a deadline. The result of success can be a big increase in confidence which may raise interest in playing harder music.

    - inexperience having played much with others
    They might not be used to musically listening and communicating, might not know very well how to describe song form, chord types, other lingo for asking questions or understanding ideas or suggestions.

    The simplest approach is to just use the right names for things as they come up, and clarify misunderstanding as needed on a case to case basis... nice and easy, not pushy or teachy.

    - inexperience rehearsing
    They may expect rehearsals to be where they learn the songs rather than where they should integrate and polish songs they have learned from practicing alone.

    Some bands do use part of their rehearsal to explore, test, examine songs, or compose new songs, but others don't and expect each member to show up prepared to play them, or to play through whole sets of them... pretty important that everyone is clear and knows in advance the band's approach to rehearsal process.

    - inexperience performing
    There is an endless learning here that is too much to cover... like waiting until all the plugging (and unplugging and re-plugging into electrical service outlets, changes to the configuration of power cords, extension cords, and surge protectors, and everything else involved) is completed and everyone else has powered, before switching on your tube amp... (because an amp with a tube rectifier, especially, may be damaged by being powered up and then down and then back up again over a few seconds by people making changes to the power distribution topology). Likewise, knowing that the risk of damage to an instrument / microphone cable from a 110 lbs female singer in high heels is much greater than a 300 lbs bass player wearing big boots.

    This just comes with time on the stage. Telling stories during rehearsal breaks can help.

    - inexperience with their instrument

    No real cure for this except time and encouragement, progress leading to confidence.


    In general, the worst thing for any band is a long period of rehearsals without gigs. If there are any problems under the surface, they will emerge. Booked gigs on the schedule have the seemingly magical effect of focusing everyone on precisely what they need to do in preparation... scheduling, equipment, transportation, preparation of sets, rehearsals, etc... it all comes together.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln View Post
    Forms of inexperience can have different effects:

    - inexperience due to becoming a musician later in life (late starters)
    They may have a strong taste for the kind of music they liked before becoming musicians as opposed to one who began playing their instrument as a youngster who sought out the more complex, deep, "more musical" stuff with more changes, greater demands on the player, more difficult, etc.

    This is a two-way street that needs to be handled carefully because it is asymmetric - although only annoying for you to play easier simple stuff, it is scary for them to play more complex stuff. You might suggest a more complex tune as a "project song", meaning that it is going to be worked up over time without a deadline. The result of success can be a big increase in confidence which may raise interest in playing harder music.

    - inexperience having played much with others
    They might not be used to musically listening and communicating, might not know very well how to describe song form, chord types, other lingo for asking questions or understanding ideas or suggestions.

    The simplest approach is to just use the right names for things as they come up, and clarify misunderstanding as needed on a case to case basis... nice and easy, not pushy or teachy.

    - inexperience rehearsing
    They may expect rehearsals to be where they learn the songs rather than where they should integrate and polish songs they have learned from practicing alone.

    Some bands do use part of their rehearsal to explore, test, examine songs, or compose new songs, but others don't and expect each member to show up prepared to play them, or to play through whole sets of them... pretty important that everyone is clear and knows in advance the band's approach to rehearsal process.

    - inexperience performing
    There is an endless learning here that is too much to cover... like waiting until all the plugging (and unplugging and re-plugging into electrical service outlets, changes to the configuration of power cords, extension cords, and surge protectors, and everything else involved) is completed and everyone else has powered, before switching on your tube amp... (because an amp with a tube rectifier, especially, may be damaged by being powered up and then down and then back up again over a few seconds by people making changes to the power distribution topology). Likewise, knowing that the risk of damage to an instrument / microphone cable from a 110 lbs female singer in high heels is much greater than a 300 lbs bass player wearing big boots.

    This just comes with time on the stage. Telling stories during rehearsal breaks can help.

    - inexperience with their instrument

    No real cure for this except time and encouragement, progress leading to confidence.


    In general, the worst thing for any band is a long period of rehearsals without gigs. If there are any problems under the surface, they will emerge. Booked gigs on the schedule have the seemingly magical effect of focusing everyone on precisely what they need to do in preparation... scheduling, equipment, transportation, preparation of sets, rehearsals, etc... it all comes together.
    Excellent analysis!

    For my band, the inexperience lies within 3 of the examples you shared. The band is led by horn players, and a trumpet player, specifically. This is his first time leading a band. I'm pretty sure this is all new to him. He has had a lot of time in school bands though.

    Rehearsals are a disorganized mess. We just show up, goof around, until someone finally says "What do you guys wanna work on?" Then, everyone opens their charts and follows them exactly. What's the point of just reading the stuff off a stand at rehearsal?!?! The way I've always done, with every band, is to practice that stuff on my own, show up to rehearsal having all done our homework, and then hammering it out until we get it down without training wheels.

    There's virtually no stage dynamics or presence when playing live. Of course, those stupid music stands are all propped up at the front of the stage with every player's eyes glued to them all night. No interaction with the audience and an almost robotic performance of the music.

    And when I try to discuss any of this with them the horn players look at me like I'm crazy! This ain't no school marching band dammit!

    Please forgive my rant. I like these guys personally and love the style of music we do. But man, they make me wanna pull out my hair!

  10. #9
    I’m not very experienced, but earlier this week on my local jazz station was an interview of a jazz musician who’s name escapes me. The host brought up this very topic to which the person admitted to the same frustrations...initially. He then spoke of a musician more experienced than he was who suggested a different perspective. When playing with less experienced musicians consider that it forces you to listen better, and to work harder at compensating for your bandmates’ lack of experience which, in the long run makes you a better musician. The host then admitted to direct experience with that theory as she had spent years playing with inferior musicians, and when she ran into a prominent musician years later she was complimented on how much better she had become. This other musician suggested it was because of her need to be better given her bandmates over the years.

    Long and drawn out, I know, but you get the point...I think ????

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    Thinking back, the players who have made everybody better were mostly pianists. And, they did it without talking. Rather, they played really clearly. Meaning, their playing was so in the pocket and straightforward that everybody could instantly lock in with the time. Once the band is in the pocket, everything becomes easier.
    Jeez, wish that was the case where I am. Most pianists here don’t believe in leaving space and are deaf to their gross over playing and lack of dynamic and textural variety in their playing while having their head buried in Ireal book so they don’t listen to other substitution possibilities.

  12. #11
    How to run a rehearsal is a big problem for many bands. Lots of bands choose a rehearsal manager (RM), who may or may not be the band leader. It is normal for the band leader to not be the "best choice"; being a band leader is hectic, and most will jump at the chance to have another member prep and work the rehearsals.

    The RM's primary duty is acting as quality control for the songs. A simple way to think of this is that you have a list of songs you consider to be "in work". These are songs that are not yet ready for performance. When a song does become ready for performance, it is the RM that declares the song "finished" and it is promoted into the pool of other finished songs from which set lists are constructed for performance. Declaring when a song is "finished" needs to be based on a realistic perspective, best summarized as:

    "Amateurs practice until they get it right, pros practice until they never get it wrong."

    The RM's secondary duties are all about whatever it takes to help get songs from "in work" to "finished". Everyone going into rehearsal should have received in advance which of the songs "in work" are planned to be worked and they should know what problems are holding the songs back from being "finished"... this gives everyone the best chance to prepare.

    The RM's tertiary duties are about ensuring the "finished" songs maintain their status.

    Part of the reason for the RM role is that otherwise it is upon the individual members to point out problems, which may be uncomfortable for all around. By delegating that to a defined role, it is much more comfortable for everyone to identity problems and work solutions with the feeling of all pulling in the same direction.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzism View Post
    Jeez, wish that was the case where I am. Most pianists here don’t believe in leaving space and are deaf to their gross over playing and lack of dynamic and textural variety in their playing while having their head buried in Ireal book so they don’t listen to other substitution possibilities.
    I'm thinking about three players. Top pros. One a particularly famous musician -- who my group hired for a group lesson. We brought in an extra kb for him. When we played without him, we sounded like our usual selves. When he joined in, suddenly we sounded terrific. The others weren't quite at his level, but when they played the band found the pocket.

    Our regular guys are pro players too, but at the level of local gigs rather than international tours.

    BTW, I've found that top pro players are often open to giving group lessons. Each student chips in and it works for everybody. I prefer them to individual lessons, although they aren't the same thing.

  14. #13
    I did a show last night with a staff band. I was the only vaguely competent instrumentalist. The other two guitarists I don’t think had played in bands before. As a result there was no musical communication. I tried to lead it but from bass you can make it sound better but you can’t lead the harmony. Or at least I can’t. The audience though knew who the better players were.

    The whole point of this is to say you should look at where the real weaknesses are and then start working on that. Is it a lack of experience on the instrument? A lack of listening ? Stubbornness on either side? Something else?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  15. #14
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    Inexperienced bandmates

    Ha! Sometimes the most experienced players are set in the worst habits.

    Professional players can often come disarmingly young and green.

    Experienced players who do really good gigs are obviously the easiest to work with if you can get them.

    But a lot comes from attitude and professionalism

    That said I think it is only possible to play jazz well if you’ve done it a LOT

  16. #15
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    Excellent analysis!

    For my band, the inexperience lies within 3 of the examples you shared. The band is led by horn players, and a trumpet player, specifically. This is his first time leading a band. I'm pretty sure this is all new to him. He has had a lot of time in school bands though.

    Rehearsals are a disorganized mess. We just show up, goof around, until someone finally says "What do you guys wanna work on?" Then, everyone opens their charts and follows them exactly. What's the point of just reading the stuff off a stand at rehearsal?!?! The way I've always done, with every band, is to practice that stuff on my own, show up to rehearsal having all done our homework, and then hammering it out until we get it down without training wheels.

    There's virtually no stage dynamics or presence when playing live. Of course, those stupid music stands are all propped up at the front of the stage with every player's eyes glued to them all night. No interaction with the audience and an almost robotic performance of the music.

    And when I try to discuss any of this with them the horn players look at me like I'm crazy! This ain't no school marching band dammit!

    Please forgive my rant. I like these guys personally and love the style of music we do. But man, they make me wanna pull out my hair!
    It's more like lack of leadership and interest than experience....

    I participated in such groups... and the players each were very experienced but the whole thing just like you described...

  17. #16
    I wonder, when the experienced player came in and made the band sound wonderful, what they were thinking!

  18. #17
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    That can happen. My parents went to see Bob Wills one night, late in his career, when he traveled with one guitar player and used pickup bands, whoever he could get locally. My mother later told me that my father almost left, because he saw who was in the band, and said "Hell, I know those guys, and they can't play at all". Bob comes in, gets them together, and they sounded good. On their own they weren't much, but when they were playing with Bob Wills, they transcended their abilities.

  19. #18
    The most difficult aspect of what's described in the op is to have the group "led" by someone other than the most competent would-be leader in the group. It takes a lot of patience to sit back and watch when you know what needs doing.

    A wise musician defers to the more experienced player/leader, but musicians can be touchy about such things.

    I work a lot playing with students/amateurs, but not with THEM leading EVERYTHING. If anything, there needs to be some guidance on how to lead/structure rehearsals etc...

  20. #19
    That's good advice Matt!

  21. #20
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    In these situations I find the experienced player is able to do two things:

    1) leading the band in a way that emphasizes dynamics. This almost always means getting them to play quietly at appropriate moments. Almost every inexperienced band is marked by playing too bloody loud all the time. if leaves little room for the soloists because he/she fights the band and there can be little emotional profundity to the music because the audience is just hit consistently with a wall of sound and worn down. In a similar way, these bands tend to play tunes too fast because they think it generates excitement. Usually it just sounds frantic and poorly executed.

    2) Good experienced leaders have a calming influence on players and play/lead in a way so that the musicians are enjoying the experience. This is related to #1 also in that players that are not calm and confident tend to play loud and aggressively. That may work in metal but not in jazz.




    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    That can happen. My parents went to see Bob Wills one night, late in his career, when he traveled with one guitar player and used pickup bands, whoever he could get locally. My mother later told me that my father almost left, because he saw who was in the band, and said "Hell, I know those guys, and they can't play at all". Bob comes in, gets them together, and they sounded good. On their own they weren't much, but when they were playing with Bob Wills, they transcended their abilities.

  22. #21
    I was a concert violinist as a young man, and started guitar at age 40....played my first gig as a rhythm guitar player four months later. It is truly amazing how difficult it can be to find three or four other people that have the same work ethic, much less take any criticism or direction. The conductor of an orchestra has complete control of the musicians. It was amazing to hear the differences in the music with the conductors during their auditions with the orchestra, and also the students at the conservatory. Night and day in the sound and expression each one brought. A good conductor is worth their weight in gold. In a band it really blows when feedback is stymied. Every quartet I played in back in the day contained nothing but pros. Players without a formal music performance background take things to personally much of the time imo. So.... Lack of experience in what way? Where are they going wrong? If they are listening and trying, I'd say keep them and grow with them. If not, kick them to the curb dude. It's a waste of time and not worth the stress. Sorry it's a choppy post.

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