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Learning Curve for new band...


metromike

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I joined a new cover band the first part of May....I had 'heard' all the songs they play before, but have never "played" them...So now it is June 1st, I have learned about 30 songs....The band is really tight-lipped and not saying much. I am trying to play the songs as close to original as possible. Still no comments....

 

Am I not up to speed? Should I be more agressive on learning stuff? (song list of about 150) Doing the best I can....What would you seasoned 'band' guys say?

 

Thanks

Gear: Roland RD700, Yamaha MotifES6, Roland Fantom FA76, Roland JP-8000, Roland AX-7, Roland Juno-106.
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Never been in that situation - joining a preexisting band with that large of a catalog.

 

Usually, they never had a kbd player before and so all the material changed, or it was a brand new band, in which case we barely had 30 songs total before we went out and gigged.

Moe

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If you feel you are doing as much as you can, you should push them as much as you think you reasonably can to find out what they're thinking. I would not want to put a ton of work learning So Many songs for a gig and then have them decide you're not a good fit. I would be plenty annoyed if that were the case.

 

Some guys aren't very good at communicating, whether good or bad. Maybe all it would take is a text or email and the band leader will give you a big positive reply.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

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When I came to this band, I already knew some of the ongs, but had changed my rig, so had to redo everything. Had about 60-70 songs to learn. They needed me to start playing out with them in about a month, but only needed 45 songs to get through a night. So I picked up about 45 songs that we picked out of the let in the first month. After I was playing out with them, I picked up the rest over the next month.

 

When we hired a new bass player, it was about the same pace - a month to get down enough songs to start playing out with us.

 

Btw - I learned those 45 songs in about 2 weeks, then we had a couple practices over the next 2 weeks before I started playing with them. I remember pulling some all nighters trying to get up to speed - it was a lot of work!

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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this was my last response to the 'band leader' "I am really enjoying it...but as I told on Sunday, this is a whole new ballgame for me (compared to what I have been used to for years). Right now, I have found at least chord charts for all of the songs on the list and I think as my ear develops over time things will get easier for me to pick up.

 

I have the 'basics' down for all the songs I sent you. I will add the 'bells and whistles' after I play the songs a couple times with you guys. Thanks again for being patient!!"

 

No response.....Hmmmm??

 

Gear: Roland RD700, Yamaha MotifES6, Roland Fantom FA76, Roland JP-8000, Roland AX-7, Roland Juno-106.
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When I came to this band, I already knew some of the ongs, but had changed my rig, so had to redo everything. Had about 60-70 songs to learn. They needed me to start playing out with them in about a month, but only needed 45 songs to get through a night. So I picked up about 45 songs that we picked out of the let in the first month. After I was playing out with them, I picked up the rest over the next month.

 

When we hired a new bass player, it was about the same pace - a month to get down enough songs to start playing out with us.

 

Btw - I learned those 45 songs in about 2 weeks, then we had a couple practices over the next 2 weeks before I started playing with them. I remember pulling some all nighters trying to get up to speed - it was a lot of work!

 

I thought 30-40 songs would be good for a gig??!! This is a lot more work than I thought...especailly being "green"

Gear: Roland RD700, Yamaha MotifES6, Roland Fantom FA76, Roland JP-8000, Roland AX-7, Roland Juno-106.
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I thought 30-40 songs would be good for a gig??!! This is a lot more work than I thought...especailly being "green"

 

It depends on the band and the songs. Unlike some bands, we are very prompt and always start and stop our sets on time. So a typical gig is 3 full hours of playing (with 2 half hour breaks). We go song to song without stopping, which means we can squeeze in 15-16 songs in an hour. Other bands I've been in only did 11-12 songs in the same time...which would add up to more like 35 songs. If they're one of those bands that starts late and takes long breaks, maybe you could get by with 30.

 

Either way, if they haven't done so, I would have them prioritize them, and maybe even decide on the set list for your first gig with them.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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My two cents? Don't make this about whether you're doing enough to satisfy the other guys or not. Instead, focus on whether YOU are having a good time. If you're enjoying learning the new material, enjoying playing with these guys, etc., then stick it out for as long as you can. If not, or if you're annoyed by their lack of communication (as frankly I might be at this point), then go search for something else. Life's too short to waste your time with a band that you're not feeling good about -- regardless of whether the other guys want you or not.

 

Noah

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I agree... 40-50 out of the 150 songs should be plenty to get you through the first few gigs, giving you an opportunity to be sure you're happy playing with them and vice versa... and if it's all going well, start working in the rest. I'd ask them which "core" songs are most important and then work from there.

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Hey, any band that has 150 songs on the list either has been together for a long time, cant play them well or doesnt play most of them. If they have been together for a long time and play all of those songs well its doubtful that they play more than about 60 on a regular basis.

 

Considering they brought you in knowing that you had no band experience they need to give you a shorten the list for the upcoming gigs until you are up to speed on 40 or 50 tunes that they play on a regular basis.

 

 

We play for free. We get paid to set up and tear down.
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this was my last response to the 'band leader' "I am really enjoying it...but as I told Garvin on Sunday, this is a whole new ballgame for me (compared to what I have been used to for years). Right now, I have found at least chord charts for all of the songs on the list and I think as my ear develops over time things will get easier for me to pick up.

 

I have the 'basics' down for all the songs I sent you. I will add the 'bells and whistles' after I play the songs a couple times with you guys. Thanks again for being patient!!"

 

No response.....Hmmmm??

 

 

My take, for what it's worth...

 

Each band is different. Some want a high number of songs learned, with all of the 'signature' keyboard parts nailed down; others are content with a new player learning the 'basics', and adding the 'bells and whistles' as things progress. And a lot of that depends on the particular style(s)/tunes being covered.

Unless this is full-time cover act, and you are a full-time player with the band (no day gig, and plenty of time therefor to learn a lot very quickly), it seems to me that 30 songs covered in 30 days is a very solid effort on your part. I've done the 'learn it all in a few days'(or less) thing before, but that was with f/t road bands; and I usually 'knew' at least a third the material being done.

In Dec. 1997 I joined Five Guys Named Moe, a popular party rock band in the SW Chicago suburbs. The band was part-time (mostly weekends), but took their cover arrangements - many of which were unique to the act - rather seriously. Plus they had a list of about 120 songs they could play at any time. I had about a month to learn three, 1 hour sets of material; 45-48 songs for this group. Rather than swamp me with all 120 tunes, the band chose the 50 songs that were being played the most in their current shows. So with about 35 days to learn 50 tunes - many with peculiar 'Moes' arrangement twists - I went to work writing charts for most of the songs, making notes, and practicing signature lines; plus I had no small amount of rig programming to do as well. Took a few 'late nighters', plus some charting on Christmas & New Years Day, but the show was ready first week of January.

Five Guys Named Moe was a reasonable bunch about breaking in a new keyboard player. While each situation and player is unique, being 'tight lipped' about 30 songs in 30 days seems a bit anal to me - especially for a p/t cover band. I did something similar in 2002 for another act, and they pulled the 'tight lipped' thing on me as well. Turns out that they'd decided to go with a keyboard player who was a stronger vocalist. Though I can do b/u vocals, they decided they needed another lead voice in the act. Wish I'd read their signals sooner, as I'd already scored about a dozen charts, complete with horn parts (these guys did a lot of funk based originals).

 

If these folks were initially willing to work with you, it would seem that they perceived your having the 'chops' to pull off the gig. I suspect they just want you to be further along the way to getting all 150 tunes down; a bit unrealistic under the circumstances, IMO. Hopefully the leader responds to your message quickly and clearly. I think that asking them to pare the starting set lists down to around 4 sets of 15 tunes - the most important songs - for you to learn first is not unreasonable.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

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I thought 30-40 songs would be good for a gig??!! This is a lot more work than I thought...especailly being "green"

 

It depends on the band and the songs. Unlike some bands, we are very prompt and always start and stop our sets on time. So a typical gig is 3 full hours of playing (with 2 half hour breaks). We go song to song without stopping, which means we can squeeze in 15-16 songs in an hour. Other bands I've been in only did 11-12 songs in the same time...which would add up to more like 35 songs. If they're one of those bands that starts late and takes long breaks, maybe you could get by with 30.

 

Either way, if they haven't done so, I would have them prioritize them, and maybe even decide on the set list for your first gig with them.

 

We do 13-16 songs per set, 3-1hr sets, with very minimal time between songs. A lot of the time the ending chord on one song will be the cue for the start of the next song.

 

Mike, I agree, you should get them to prioritize the songs you need to learn and work those up. Any new player in a band needs some direction and feedback from the existing members.

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My two cents? Don't make this about whether you're doing enough to satisfy the other guys or not. Instead, focus on whether YOU are having a good time.

 

With all due respect, my take (also worth only 2 cents) is the opposite. OP is the new guy and should ensure he is meeting or exceeding the band's standards. Without knowing much about OP's playing style and abilities or that of the band's, my initial thought is that there may be something systemic about the OP's playing that is causing the silent treatment. For example, is he consistently playing off-beat? Overplaying?

 

If we could hear a sample from a rehearsal, perhaps some other theories would form..

"I never knew that music like that was possible." - Mozart ( Amadeus movie)
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My take from the silent treatment is that they are holding out to see if he's going to work out or not...basically see how things progress. There may be mixed opinions within the band, and they're giving him a grace period. When I first joined the band, the drummer absolutely hated me, and although nobody said anything, I could tell. Now, the drummer absolutely hates me, but he tells me so all the time. So communication will improve.

 

(just joking, we get long well now)

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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It's not the band posing the question. So the answers are for the new guys perspective. :)

 

Yes, I just went through the exact same thing, though this band only had about 50 songs, so not exactly the same. This is a hobby for me...I like these guys in my new band.

 

If this is a hobby, absolutely judge whether or not these are guys you want to hang out with in your free time. Early returns indicate...NO.

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Thanks for the replies and insights. I will just keep plugging away and see what happens. I am just a bit nervous because I really want this to work out.
Gear: Roland RD700, Yamaha MotifES6, Roland Fantom FA76, Roland JP-8000, Roland AX-7, Roland Juno-106.
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this was my last response to the 'band leader' "I am really enjoying it...but as I told Garvin on Sunday, this is a whole new ballgame for me (compared to what I have been used to for years). Right now, I have found at least chord charts for all of the songs on the list and I think as my ear develops over time things will get easier for me to pick up.

 

I have the 'basics' down for all the songs I sent you. I will add the 'bells and whistles' after I play the songs a couple times with you guys. Thanks again for being patient!!"

 

No response.....Hmmmm??

I do not know your situation and can't give any useful specific advice but ..... what the hey.

 

Stop apologizing to your co-workers. If you are doing your best then you are doing your best. Act like you have confidence whether inside you do or not. That alone can add to your performance level. Johnny Cash never was what you could objectively consider a good singer but he became a singing legend. Attitude is big part of this business.

 

FWIW - Never forget that playing music in a band is NOT a marriage contract, it isn't a sacramental covenant before God. In long-term band situations we sometimes develop friendships but at the end of the day it is a business. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. But if you are giving an honest effort and a honest day's/night's work then it is what it is and you have nothing to apologize for. Throughout your career try not to have your feelings hurt when bands break up or musicians part company for one reason or another.

 

You can try to pin the boss down as to where you stand. But if you do be prepared for the worst but you deserve an honest assessment (if you want one) of whether or not you are driving yourself crazy trying to fight an unwinable battle. Otherwise your time isn't being wasted. Sounds like you are working toward developing your ear skills. I have often played gigs with bands I have never met and played out songs I have not heard before. Pulling stuff out your .... err I mean effective improvisation is a skill that comes from developing your ears. A few tricks also help like there are 12 note 7 are tonic which gives you about a 60% chance of hitting a good one and you can often turn the bad ones into good passing tones (learn scales and your odds skyrocket) or learning primary and secondary chord changes and how fake your way through to where you need to be on the fly. Basically you play enough music and you start to internalize how a lot of music works. Some types of music lend themselves more to this than others but developing your ear through the discipline of learning material accurately off recordings are going to go a long way to getting you off to a good start. Oh and pay close attention to your rhythmic feel. It is hard if not impossible to teach rhythm.

 

PS - The band business is often full of liars also. Musicains are also often dreamers. It is that creative element to our brains that fuels what we do so you may at times play with good players who are not always grounded in reality. That can impact their expectations.

 

There are no guarantees of anything in this business. No matter how this all works out if you want to play in bands this is good experience. Don't worry be happy.

 

Good luck and have a great weekend.

 

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

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So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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this was my last response to the 'band leader' "I am really enjoying it...but as I told on Sunday, this is a whole new ballgame for me (compared to what I have been used to for years). Right now, I have found at least chord charts for all of the songs on the list and I think as my ear develops over time things will get easier for me to pick up.

 

I have the 'basics' down for all the songs I sent you. I will add the 'bells and whistles' after I play the songs a couple times with you guys. Thanks again for being patient!!"

 

 

Well, I can only tell you how I would handle the situation. First off, I would not have sent quite this email. As others have pointed out, it sounds apologetic.

 

If it were me, consider that I've played in cover bands before ... but I've been out of it a while. So I am confident that I can play the music, but my memory of tunes and performance settings will need to be refreshed for some songs, and learned new for others. Even if I played in cover bands all the time, I'm sure there are songs I'd have to learn for a new band. OK, so see how I'm setting up how I feel about myself? Even if this is new to YOU, if you had the confidence to try out in the first place, you probably feel you can hack it.

 

SO, the next step ... telling them about "bells and whistles" and "this is new to me" is TMI. Assume you are your worst critic.

 

When I have to step into a situation where I don't know the band's repertoire and a gig's coming up, here's what happens (sometimes); the band gives me charts and audio for an audition, if there is one. I get 2 to 3 weeks to nail some tunes. I am not bashful about saying "let's do 6 or so, you pick 'em"... that is enough information for them to tell if they like me and I like them, and I am not out too much shedding time if it doesn't work out. Then, I get those tunes NAILED.

 

THEN, if we proceed, I find out not only their SONG LIST (all the songs they know or say they know) but their SET LIST; if there isn't a set order, I find out what songs they've played on recent gigs. At least one person in the band is usually cooperative on this score, if not organized enough to have actual ordered set lists, which I understand; most of the time I don't have a set list, but I used a sub bassist recently who was most comfortable with that, so I made a set list for an upcoming gig. No big deal.

 

Which brings me to another point ... not all cats are as professional and communicative as they should be. IF you're not getting what you need, then you need to press the issue, but keep it about the music.

 

If it were me, I would send an email like this: "Hey guys, I'm having fun playing with you and it's getting better all the time. I know we have a gig coming up soon, so I want to focus on the songs we'll be playing for that. Can you get me either a set list or tell me which of these tunes we're most likely to do? I'll get up to speed on all of them in time, but I know that in any given night we'll do about a third of these at most. Thanks!"

 

So you're coming at them from the standpoint of, "I'm a professional, and this is what I need to give you the full benefit of my talents. Help me to help you. :D " I would call or fire off one of these emails soon. It takes too much time to get up to speed to waste being in the dark. If you still don't hear anything, I'd really press for direct discourse about their intention to keep you on. "I'm having fun here, but are you guys satisfied with what I'm doing?"

Original Latin Jazz

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"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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OP is the new guy and should ensure he is meeting or exceeding the band's standards. Without knowing much about OP's playing style and abilities or that of the band's, my initial thought is that there may be something systemic about the OP's playing that is causing the silent treatment. For example, is he consistently playing off-beat? Overplaying?

 

If we could hear a sample from a rehearsal, perhaps some other theories would form..

 

True, but if he COMES from a place of better confidence, his playing will be better. Hesitation and lack of conviction makes poor players out of many who otherwise would be at the very least utilitarian and competent (and able to keep the gig). If he's REALLY not cutting it in terms of musicianship or personality mix or whatever, pressing the issue for communication of this will prevent wasted time.

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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Musicians are notoriously bad at verbal communication. For instance, when the typical musician intends to says "no" it usually comes out something like "yeah, man, right on, that sounds great, let's do that!" So you have to learn to pick up on more subtle cues, and usually you'll only get these when you're in the same room. E.g., do they ever look you in the eye while you're playing, or do they only look at each other or the walls?

 

If this stuff is still a mystery to you, then I think the best advice has already been given: enjoy the process and view it as a learning experience, regardless of the outcome. If this band doesn't work out, then maybe what you learned is that you really want to do this kind of gig in the future. You'll take a hiatus, woodshed like crazy, and be more ready next time.

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this was my last response to the 'band leader' "I am really enjoying it...but as I told on Sunday, this is a whole new ballgame for me (compared to what I have been used to for years). Right now, I have found at least chord charts for all of the songs on the list and I think as my ear develops over time things will get easier for me to pick up.

 

I have the 'basics' down for all the songs I sent you. I will add the 'bells and whistles' after I play the songs a couple times with you guys. Thanks again for being patient!!"

 

No response.....Hmmmm??

 

I'll disagree with the masses, and say that I don't see any sign that the bandleader bad at communication from this email. If I got an email like that, I probably wouldn't respond, because it doesn't require a response. There's no direct question, and no request for information.

 

If you want to have a conversation, and subtly get an idea of how he's feeling about your playing, call the guy.

 

Otherwise you have to ask point blank, if you want an answer.

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I sort of agree with Frogmonkey, but, I have quit bands right after joining because no one in the band talked at all. If there is a big lack of communication from the start it will generally always be there. NO ONE is too good to talk!

Playing the songs is the fun, talking is the business, no communication no play! There are way too many other bands to work with and have fun with, never forget that. YOU ARE supposed to be having fun in the beginning and during rehersal and working and if a lot of talking is not going on there is something really wrong.

I would be asking a lot of questions, and, probably quiting the band.

 

I absolutely disagree with Adan that musicians do not communicate well at all. I've worked with very few bands who did not talk. 98% of the bands I worked with would talk my ears off. What to do where, when, how long, etc, etc. I would not put up with the not talking garbage.

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I suppose I'm guilty of miscommunicating my point. Musicians who have the gift of gab are quite common. Musicians who will give you the straight scoop about a scenario are less common. There's a widespread tendency to not want to say anything that might burn a bridge. I suppose you could call this a survival technique, as you never know when you'll meet paths with someone again. My point really is that I would put more stock in non-verbal than verbal cues.

 

This is kind of true for life in general. It's much more difficult for people to lie with their body language than with their verbal language.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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My two cents? Don't make this about whether you're doing enough to satisfy the other guys or not. Instead, focus on whether YOU are having a good time.

 

With all due respect, my take (also worth only 2 cents) is the opposite. OP is the new guy and should ensure he is meeting or exceeding the band's standards.

 

I don't necessarily disagree, but I gave the OP the benefit of the doubt when he said that he was already giving this his best effort in terms of learning the songs, playing the songs, etc. Accordingly, he's doing all he possibly can to satisfy the other band members. If it's not enough, it's not enough, and the band members will eventually tell him so. This is why my point was for the OP to also consider this whole process as HIM auditioning the BAND. If he's not happy with the silent treatment or anything else about the band, then he shouldn't feel compelled to stick it out (unless, I suppose, he's simply in this for the money and he just really needs the gig). This is why I advised him not to lose sight of his own happiness in this situation.

 

Noah

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I don't know. My guess (and its only a guess) would be no communication back (including some positive reinforcement stemming from the email sent by Mike) isn't a particularly good sign.

 

From my perspective, if I received that email from a band mate, it really suggests a response is necessary, even though a question wasn't directly posed.

 

I'd guess that one of four things is at play here with the band leader.

 

1. Your email just reinforced an opinion that you "may" not cutting the mustard, since the sending of that email suggest that you're questioning it yourself (and admitting some shortcomings, saying the bells & whistles will come later, you're looking for charts and you're ear isn't currently up to the task of figuring out parts on your own).

 

2. If #1 isn't the case, then some reinforcement that everything is ok and you're doing fine should have followed. Why hasn't it?

 

3. Doing nothing, suggests that they're "quietly waiting to see if things gel together" before providing any commentary. Not a particularly good thing either.

 

4. The "band leader" is a clueless jerk who doesn't recognize when one of his guys is kind of treading water and asking for some help, or at least feedback!

 

Mike, if you still haven't received a response, I'd pick up the phone or go over and see him and point blank ask him. At this point, you're guessing and perhaps everything is fine, perhaps it isn't. You deserve to know, before you go down the rabbit hole much further. Maybe you're in over your head, maybe not. It's up to him to let you know.

 

Good luck!

 

My 2 cents.

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Is anyone in the band helping you learn the songs? When I joined my first band as a keyboardist I had never learned keyboard parts by ear. The guitarist and bass player each took time to help me chart out chord progressions. My set lists included chord charts and that was all I needed to get going pretty fast. It worked out really well. Even though the drummer thought I was a waste of money in the beginning we all became good friends.

 

In my second band the guitarist had the attitude "Here are the songs. Learn them on your own and prove you are worthy." He had put together a popular band and was full of it. When that band broke up he could not understand why established musicians would not return his calls and join his new band.

 

They already knew what I finally learned, "There are too many good musicians out there to waste your time with an asshole."

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I don't know. My guess (and its only a guess) would be no communication back (including some positive reinforcement stemming from the email sent by Mike) isn't a particularly good sign.

 

From my perspective, if I received that email from a band mate, it really suggests a response is necessary, even though a question wasn't directly posed.

 

I'd guess that one of four things is at play here with the band leader.

 

1. Your email just reinforced an opinion that you "may" not cutting the mustard, since the sending of that email suggest that you're questioning it yourself (and admitting some shortcomings, saying the bells & whistles will come later, you're looking for charts and you're ear isn't currently up to the task of figuring out parts on your own).

 

2. If #1 isn't the case, then some reinforcement that everything is ok and you're doing fine should have followed. Why hasn't it?

 

3. Doing nothing, suggests that they're "quietly waiting to see if things gel together" before providing any commentary. Not a particularly good thing either.

 

4. The "band leader" is a clueless jerk who doesn't recognize when one of his guys is kind of treading water and asking for some help, or at least feedback!

 

Mike, if you still haven't received a response, I'd pick up the phone or go over and see him and point blank ask him. At this point, you're guessing and perhaps everything is fine, perhaps it isn't. You deserve to know, before you go down the rabbit hole much further. Maybe you're in over your head, maybe not. It's up to him to let you know.

 

Good luck!

 

My 2 cents.

 

Word.

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

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They already knew what I finally learned, "There are too many good musicians out there to waste your time with an asshole."

 

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In that case I'd replace one word there with "representative of the oppressive kind of conservative oriented (actual) organisation". D*head and *shole aren't good words for that. And for instance this country has had disfunctional bands at least since the early nineties (if at all, except some rare exceptions, see music magazines and such since that time) so in europe if you can make a band work at all without having to apply for wellfare or totally betraying yourself to the powers that want to be, IMHO opinion you'd be pretty talented and/or lucky to begin with. So possibly the question is more in lieu of knowing how to act out a certain deal, which probably isn't a pretty enough one to be allowed to discuss with self-respecting musician people.

 

I mean if some talent show is to replace the good musicians from storming the charts, and it appears to work, maybe the next thing is to keep "house-held music" and small party type bands under control..., jeesh now I'm starting to suck...

 

So I oppose the well known "and now you do what they told you" (repeat 4 times)

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"Breakfast in America"

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