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  1. #1

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    Think this one fits best in the getting started forum:

    I have roughly 1,5 years of jazz guitar experience in total, but during Covid, I played 3-4 hours a day. I've played in a combo for a year, recently started my own quintet, attended a week long jazz camp twice and keep playing as much as I can.

    Next week a new combo starts, actually it's the same combo that I played with twice 2,5 years ago (in between I had 1 non-jazz year due to other band). Back then, it was way above my level. I thought I'd be ready to join again, but I'm having some second thoughts. It's a vocal combo where a couple of vocalists take turn. I'm in the rhythm section with drummer (band leader), base player and piano (hmmmm).

    So here's the thing: they play two songs per person, which means having to learn 8 new songs per week. For my quintet I prepare my songs until I know them by heart with all the variations in comping that I can come up with. If I play a solo, I thoroughly study possible lines and licks. I spend hours and hours and I like that. With that new combo, that would be impossible, which means I'll struggle through the songs. Also, there's a lot of balads, which I tend to avoid in my own quintet. Then there's the pianist...whom I will sometimes really need, but who will also take away some of my comping options.

    Usually I say with anything that comes along: if I can't do it right, I'd rather not do it at all. But I know there's not really a 'right' here. Also I know that most of you will say that I should join the combo, because it will be a great opportunity to learn how to comp 'a vue', change keys because the vocalist can't sing it, all these things you'd encounter on a jam. But working on so may songs stresses me out to be honest. Yesterday I thought it's not going to work. Today, the songs seem a little easier already.

    Maybe you can help me with your collective wisdom

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  3. #2

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    When I'm in a band playing behind a singer, I play for the song. I nail the chords and their timing. I don't want to distract the singer with my artistic needs. Maybe after you have as a group played the song a couple dozen times, you could cautiously dip a toe in the "comping waters." But that's me. I recognize my specific role, and my musical deficiencies. But that's me. I prefer that the performing stage not be an extension of the practice room. You might want to discuss this with the other members of the ensemble, starting with the band leader, and proceeding to the singers anf then the other instrumentalists.
    Best of luck.

  4. #3
    Yes, sorry, with comping I mean nailing the chords and their timing. I know comping is not the same as that.
    What would you play in a balad if there's also a piano player?

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    Yes, sorry, with comping I mean nailing the chords and their timing. I know comping is not the same as that.
    What would you play in a balad if there's also a piano player?
    Most of the pianists I have worked with are of the "I've got this, wait for your solo spot" school. I get paid the same for the gig, either way.

    As I said, discuss this with the leader, the singers, and the other band members, in that order. A band is, or should be, a team.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Most of the pianists I have worked with are of the "I've got this, wait for your solo spot" school. I get paid the same for the gig, either way.

    As I said, discuss this with the leader, the singers, and the other band members, in that order. A band is, or should be, a team.
    When you pick sidemen, you want people who care more about the music and the band than they do about their solos.

  7. #6

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    Yes, take the gig. You won’t learn anything sitting at home. No, you won’t be perfect and sometimes you might make mistakes. You’ll learn a lot from that. Hopefully the musicians with you will be supportive of your best efforts. Yes it’s scary putting yourself out there but it’s the only way you will truly get better. The bottom line is have fun and always be good to your band mates and they will likely be good to you in return.

  8. #7

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    Eight new songs a week is a lot for anyone to learn. Are you sure they do that every week and never rehash their repertoire? What do they do when there is an actual gig coming up?

    If it’s true:
    Don’t expect the others to learn, or know, any nook and cranny of each song. They will probably busk their way through most of them, which is an important skill in itself. If they think you can do it, go ahead.


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  9. #8

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    IMHO you could just embrace the challenge. Learning new material is always good and you seem to have enough time to incorporate that into your routine. You may not play perfect the first time but you'll play better next time. Most important: have fun.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    Eight new songs a week is a lot for anyone to learn. Are you sure they do that every week and never rehash their repertoire? What do they do when there is an actual gig coming up?

    If it’s true:
    Don’t expect the others to learn, or know, any nook and cranny of each song. They will probably busk their way through most of them, which is an important skill in itself. If they think you can do it, go ahead.


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    Some vocalist bring in two new songs each week, some rehash. In general I think it will be 5-6 songs a week. While rehearsing for the first rehearsal I already noticed one severe personal deficiency: I have a hard time keeping an eye on the changes on paper because I can't play 'blind'. Need to work on that.

    I don't know about gigs. I know they play in a bar a few times a year, but that's not part of the official programm. If they don't ask me to join me on those gigs I know I need to work harder

  11. #10

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    Great idea, J,
    However, let me make an simple, honest statement based on a lifetime of playing: "Musicians are the greatest flakes on the planet!" And, the lower the level of musicianship, the greater the "flake". The most difficult thing to do is to keep a good group together. There must always be a leader and an agreement that when it comes to artistic considerations, he/she has the last word. We saw it with "leaders" like Monk, Miles(straight), Duke Ellington, Mingus, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, James Brown, etc. who allowed artistic creativity as long as it coincided with their vision. However, the fortunate few who played with them were better for the experience. On the other side, there were those who were drug/alcohol addicted and were a problem showing up and a problem on the stage when their habits effected their music. They included greats like Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Gene Ammons, Billie Holiday, Miles, Lester Young, Coltrane, Grant Green, etc.
    So, what does that have to do with you? Well, you'll never achieve your best playing sitting in a room by yourself becoming the next YouTube superstar without the "give and take" of playing with other live musicians . . . unless, of course, you're a Classical guitar soloist. But, even they benefit greatly from ensemble playing in overall musicianship. However, your idea is great and if you're a guitarist, I would suggest finding a bass player to play some standards a couple days a week and work on your playing. If you click, drummers are a dime a dozen. Or, if you're a very good musician, go to a local Jazz jam session(with Jazz pros not Rockers turned Jazzers who confuse their frenetic/wandering/cacophonous utterances with Jazz) and you'll be noticed immediately and will, undoubtedly get some gigs for the future and meet the quality players in your area.
    The best Jazzers were all tradesmen who honed their musical talents in LIVE PERFORMANCE. There is no substitute for this process. Period. Good luck!
    Play live . . . Marinero

    P.S. But, did I mention Covid? Well, most of us performers haven't played since early 2020! And, I'm not going back anytime soon based on the daily, ever-changing, contradictory government "Science" paraded as fact as vaccinated and unvaccinated, alike, continue to get the disease. But, that's another thread. M

  12. #11
    Thanks for the advice Marinero. There is no substitute for playing live, I know.
    I already have my own quintet which includes musicians above my level (obviously with my limited experience). Funny thing is that I'm the band leader in this group, probably because I started it, even though I'm one of the least experienced. In this context the 'band leader' is not in charge of musical ideas (the idea is that we can all take the opportunity to express our ideas), but I arrange the reservations for the studio, keep a list with our songs and what we've worked on and I knew from the start what kind of group I wanted. So far we're keeping it together, but we rehearse twice a month and that's the reason I wanted to join another combo.

    Once we get our setlist down with my combo, I hope to get a routine in doing gigs, because that's another challenge for me.

  13. #12

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    You'll struggle through the songs. But, most likely, you'll find a way to get better at it.

    I doubt that many players could memorize songs at that pace.

    And, even if you did, you'd still need the chart for when the singers or somebody wants to change something. Fix an error in the chart, change the roadmap, add an interlude or whatever.

    So, I think the challenge would be to translate the chart, on the fly, into a suitable guitar part, without memorizing it in advance. From what you posted, it sounds like that hasn't been the way you've worked before. If it's a goal, this is an opportunity to achieve it. If not, it may not be a good situation for you.

    It's a good situation for comping, in a way, because of the piano. You can lay out when you need to. Playing sparsely will probably be an advantage.

    On ballads, the comping instruments have to find a way to work together. Taking turns is possible - some groups do that. Otherwise, the idea is to create one accompaniment from two instruments. If the pianist is open to it, you discuss it. Otherwise, defer to the piano and see if you can find something to do that might contribute. Jack Wilkins did it great behind Tony Bennett on standards, to name one player you can check out. Might be harder on Wayne Shorter tunes, though.

    For solos, you need the skillset involved in seeing a set of changes for the first time and being able to, at a minimum, play some kind of solo without obvious clams. There are multiple paths towards that, all requiring some work. If it's a goal, this is an opportunity to advance towards it.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    Think this one fits best in the getting started forum:

    I have roughly 1,5 years of jazz guitar experience in total, but during Covid, I played 3-4 hours a day. I've played in a combo for a year, recently started my own quintet, attended a week long jazz camp twice and keep playing as much as I can.

    Next week a new combo starts, actually it's the same combo that I played with twice 2,5 years ago (in between I had 1 non-jazz year due to other band). Back then, it was way above my level. I thought I'd be ready to join again, but I'm having some second thoughts. It's a vocal combo where a couple of vocalists take turn. I'm in the rhythm section with drummer (band leader), base player and piano (hmmmm).

    So here's the thing: they play two songs per person, which means having to learn 8 new songs per week. For my quintet I prepare my songs until I know them by heart with all the variations in comping that I can come up with. If I play a solo, I thoroughly study possible lines and licks. I spend hours and hours and I like that. With that new combo, that would be impossible, which means I'll struggle through the songs. Also, there's a lot of balads, which I tend to avoid in my own quintet. Then there's the pianist...whom I will sometimes really need, but who will also take away some of my comping options.

    Usually I say with anything that comes along: if I can't do it right, I'd rather not do it at all. But I know there's not really a 'right' here. Also I know that most of you will say that I should join the combo, because it will be a great opportunity to learn how to comp 'a vue', change keys because the vocalist can't sing it, all these things you'd encounter on a jam. But working on so may songs stresses me out to be honest. Yesterday I thought it's not going to work. Today, the songs seem a little easier already.

    Maybe you can help me with your collective wisdom
    You are going to learn a lot more by doing this then you will learn by hanging out here.

  15. #14

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    Hi Joeontheguitar,

    If it's the sheer volume of learning new tunes each week, then maybe the advice in this thread will help.

    Useful ways to memorize jazz chords?

    Enjoy your band, Si

  16. #15
    Had a great first session yesterday. Both the piano player and base player weren't there yet, so the band leader started on piano and invited me to play along a bit. After the first half song he stopped, picked up the base and said: I think you got it.
    I struggled on some songs, mostly because I lost track of the changes because I was looking at my guitar instead of the changes. Even played some solo's. He said he was very pleasantly surprised.

    Normally I'm a bit nervous with a new group, but it was such a relaxed setting that there wasn't a hint of nerves.

    The band leader is such a nice and relaxed guy and there's a lot of playing and not too much talking.

    Thanks everyone!!

  17. #16
    Update: after three weeks the band leader asked me if was willing to join the combo that comes after my combo. The original guitar player was overwhelmed with the amount of songs he had to play in such a short time.

    So for three weeks in a row I've been playing three hours straight with 8 different vocalists and a rhythm section. In both combo's there's a pianist: one of them had to get used to a guitar player and now we're working together.

    In general I play a four to the bar thing in anything that swings, I do the main comping in Bossa's, I play very quietly on the ballads (on or two chords a bar, or some embellishments) and I play a solo if the changes are not too hard. With the sheer amount to songs that I had to play and the fact that not all singers let me know what they're going to sing in advance, I had to start relying on playing 'a vue'. It's funny that in just a matter of weeks I no longer fear playing most songs a vue and that it actually goes all so well. I stick to 1-3-7 voicings, but it adds so much to the songs. It's really nice to add that drive to the band.

    Of course I was a little proud that the band leader asked me to join the combo. If my playing would have been bad, he'd probably ask someone else. So to all af you that encouraged me to take the gig: a very sincere thank you!

  18. #17

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    What does 'a vue' mean? The only definition I was able to find with google said it was slander for black people. That's surely not what you meant.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanAllen
    What does 'a vue' mean?
    It’s French for ‘at sight’.

  20. #19

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    If the goal is to be able to do this sort of thing .. and they'll have you .. and you can handle the potential blows to self-esteem -- it's the fastest way to your goal.

    Somebody else already said it. You find a way to get better.

  21. #20

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    Thanks Grahmbop

  22. #21
    Thanks all. Yes 'a vue' is at sight. Sorry, I thought it was common terminology in music, but I guess we use a lot more French words here in Europe.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeontheguitar
    Thanks all. Yes 'a vue' is at sight. Sorry, I thought it was common terminology in music, but I guess we use a lot more French words here in Europe.
    Especially in France...LOL!

    Sounds like you've had a good experience.

    I have enjoyed playing in a very similar combo, but currently we are in hiatus for several reasons--our usual venue isn't having live music now, our piano and bandleader became a new father (in his mid-50's!!), etc. We are going to play some Christmas shows and fundraisers in the next few months though.

    When you play with singers, you have to support the song 100%, and there's not so much room for long meandering improvisations. The piano player generally leads and directs the solos. When we had a sax player he used to solo on every single song, so even less room for me, but I think of myself as primarily a rhythm guitarist anyway.

    Hoping to get back into it...

  24. #23

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    When I ran my first marathon a mate told me to first ‘find someone to run the marathon with and train together’. Not only did that motivate you to turn up to train, you pushed each other to improve and at the end we felt like we had been through the trenches together. I don’t think I could have self motivated myself to get that far in hindsight.

    joining a combo was the best thing I have done in a long time. We are all still pretty amateurish but our learning & growth curves over the last 20 odd weeks has been extraordinary. Did not let Covid get in the way- Jamulus was the solution to isolated interaction.
    Sounds like you are on an awesome trajectory. Bravo mate
    m