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OT - Asking a band member to "step it up"


Bob L

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Looking for some advice when one band member has more problems nailing the chord changes/arrangements than everyone else. We are a cover band that plays music for fun and not a living. However, part of the fun is playing some challenging material and nailing it. We are not playing progressive rock here...

 

For those who have had to deal with this, what is the best way to deal with it. For starters, we are starting to not cue this band member on changes, tougher bits, etc.

 

We record a lot of rehearsals and gigs, and hoped that the embarrassment factor would set it, but it hasn't.

 

I am thinking this needs to be talked out/verbalized, but not sure how to produce a positive outcome.

 

Myself and another band member seem to always "step up" and do what we think needs doing. And the two of us always seem to be unhappy after a gig with regards to how tight the band could have been.

 

Thoughts? Advice? By the way, I appreciate this forum as the only place I can go to regarding matters like this!

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I've never been one for letting things slide without being direct about it. If you're not happy, speak up. "Hoping" something will change isn't going to do anything. Tell them you think they need to step it up. Either they will or they won't, then you can collectively decide how to handle it from there, but until you've said something to the guy, you can't expect anything to change. Sometimes it's best for somebody to have the talk directly outside of the group. Someone may feel blindsided and get defensive if the whole band gangs up during practice and it seems like they were plotting behind your back.

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 first thought is, why doesn't the person put in the effort in during his own time? Is it work, kids, or does he just not notice, or care?

 

In any case, I'd talk with him, preferably one-on-one especially if he might think people are ganging up on him. See if he's willing to put in the effort, or if his priorities are not the same as you and the other band member. If that's the case, it's probably in both your interests to part ways. It's better to do it this way, amicably, than to get frustrated and pissed, have a big blow up with him, and all that hooey.

 

It's like any relationship. If you have differing goals that are getting in the way, you either change things so you have the same goals, or you part ways. If she wants three kids and you want one, you might be able to agree on two, but if you don't want any, that just won't work.

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

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Face to face, in private, one on one.

 

Constructive criticism - acknowledge the contribution he's made (past, present) and that you want him to be part of the future.

 

Identify specific examples, not vague generalities.

 

Don't make it personal - don't make it about "he's a bad player", rather, it's that the cues aren't being hit, the changes are loose - and the aggregate effect is the band sounds worse than it should.

 

Provide concrete suggestions on ways to improve the specific examples - practice slow then fast, work this two bar riff until it's letter-perfect.

 

Ask for his response and feedback to all you've suggested - and seriously listen to what he says in response.

 

Reinforce that no one is talking about axing him - you want the unit to move forward intact.

 

I've had to do this exact thing with members of my own band. Have learned from making lots of errors and mistakes and being too harsh with people that, at least for me, the above approach yields better results with good musicians who need a little help in the self-discipline department.

 

OTOH, if the player really doesn't have an interest in improving, well...I've had no luck with those cats and have quickly, unemotionally parted ways with them without dragging it out.

 

Hope that helps some. Just my 0.02

 

Tim

..
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I think I owe Dan a Coke. :)

 

I must have inched you out by seconds...our posts show the same time. Just goes to show that great minds think alike!

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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I think I owe Dan a Coke. :)

 

I must have inched you out by seconds...our posts show the same time. Just goes to show that great minds think alike!

and then there is me. ;)

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

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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For starters, we are starting to not cue this band member on changes, tougher bits, etc.

 

We record a lot of rehearsals and gigs, and hoped that the embarrassment factor would set it, but it hasn't.

 

I am thinking this needs to be talked out/verbalized, but not sure how to produce a positive outcome.

 

First, passive-aggressive behavior will get you nowhere.

 

Do you respect this guy? Set up a meeting and tell him so, lay it out respectfully and truthfully. Using phrases like "step it up" is only going to intimidate. I'd suggest explaining as best you can how YOU feel and where you want the band to be. If he can, or at least wants to work harder at it, cool. If not, he'll tell you straight up, same as you tell him.

 

 

 

 

____________________________________
Rod

victoria bc

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Sorry, I've never seen it work. It always gets taken the worst way possible and the offender gets passive aggressive. If he could play better he would. Hes not holding back for better pay ect. So the message he hears is your not good enough. You either hold your nose and put up with the stink, or get someone else. Maybe you practice at his house and that is a compensating value to put up with it.
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Nearly every band I've ever been in was something like this:

 

One or two members work hard picking the songs, learning them, finding gigs; one or two members prepare fairly well and go along with the rest of the band; one or two members just show up, put in little effort and it shows.

 

Your friend may not hear that he's not up to snuff, or he may not care, or he may not make time to practice (some people are too good to practice) or he might even think he's doing a great job.

 

Agree with others that say to take this one-on-one. In my experience, this rarely turns out well. Normally there's residual hurt feelings, differences of opinion, etc.

 

Greg

Kurzweil Forte, Yamaha Motif ES7, Muse Receptor 2 Pro Max, Neo Ventilator
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The solution to your problem is..... drum roll please.... chord charts!

 

With the players in my circle, whoever brings in a hard song also brings in the chord charts. Personally, I like to see charts in the Nashville numbers system so I can understand the structure of the song. With some material (Steely Dan comes to mind) you almost need chord names and slash chords for bass substitutions to keep it readable, but the numbers system really helps the player visualize the structure of the song.

 

Granted, if the player is just plain lazy, you need to weigh what he brings to the band with what he takes away. Perhaps it would be more fun to bring in someone else? Just let the player know he's causing unhappiness in the ranks, but use the "I" technique so it's not about him so much as it is about you. "I don't enjoy playing this song if we can't get the chords right." Now it's up to him to get it together for the sake of the band.

 

Good luck.

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It's a whole, different ballgame when the person who needs to "step it up" is the bandleader. Yep,

lived that dream once; livin' it again :crazy:

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

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Firstly, what instrument is he playing and how big is your band?

 

Meaning, what role does his instrument play. Is he the bassist and needs to hit the root on the beat. Or the keys/ rhythm guitar comping for a lead. Do you have a singer in your group?

 

Forget all that "step it up" crap. Give specific advice for a specific song. Like, you were 1/2 second late on that G chord in bar 4... and that messes up the melody...

 

Could it be a technique issue with his instrument? How long has he been playing and what is his background.

 

Is he not a good chart reader or embellishes too much.

 

Figure out musically what you need and then work step by step to get him there.

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My own strategy is a bit light -- because my bandmates don't need that much encouragement -- but it works.

 

I produce set list CDs for myself to rehearse with -- transposed and tuned properly, in order. I can practice fast patch changes, practice harmony singing, and make sure I get all the nuances I want, etc. So, I give these to the other band members. All of them, even the ones I know who will not listen to them.

 

Then I step my own game up, and make sure it shows. If I wasn't working my ass off I would totally be a huge weak link in this band. Then I talk excitedly about how great it will sound when we nail XXX part.

 

The members who need to give the tracks a listen and do a bit of woodshedding do the rest on their own.

 

Wes

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the numbers system really helps the player visualize the structure of the song.
... unless it's in a minor key ...

 

I suggest (one-on-one) offering to help. Try to deflect direct criticism by using "we" like, "We aren't solid on the xxx changes in yyy. Do you have some time so the two of us could work through those, and a few other weak areas?" Give him the chance to figure out that he's the weak link and "step up" himself. Yeah, you've tried a few of these already but it's worth another try. I disagree this is passive aggressive. It's giving the guy a chance to step up without rubbing his nose in it. It's called "teamwork".

 

If that doesn't work, then a simple question might be in order, something like "We need you to land those changes. Is that going to happen? Is there anything we can do to help?"

 

As implied by others above, try to figure out whether his problem is that he's not at your level in terms of talent and ability, or whether he's just not woodshedding as he should. I confess I'm a bit of a foul up: I'm not a keyboard wizard, I make a fair number of mistakes, and I struggle with the difficult parts. But I show up to practice understanding and having worked on the songs, often explaining the chords or giving voicing tips, and truly appreciating when anyone points out something that I've missed, or that I'm muffing something consistently. It works in the kinds of bands I play in; it wouldn't go so well in a pro act. But I suppose if I were a pro, I'd be a bit better at it!

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I know one way NOT do do it--audition others on the sly and then call him up and "hey, sorry dude.."

 

 

Want some bad karma--that is what you can do to produce it.

 

I agree with the people that say talk it out. Not sure if it needs to be a one-on-one; initially, just openly as a group. Pose it as a question "Hey do we need to work more on this tune? Seems like we are not nailing the changes" or something like this. If that doesn't work then an honest, private discussion. Honesty and transparency works the best IMO.

 

But I see less and less of it every day.

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

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My Professional Websites

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Common issue. I have practiced almost every scenario resolution listed above at least once. Here's a few of my experiences and outcomes.

 

Address the issue with the person as a group.. an intervention.

Played in a touring act.. All players very capable.. But the drummer would loose meter in his rolls. He was a jazz cat just out of a university jazz program.. Smoking player.. lotsa chops.. But he would go off into shitstorm jazz rolls and f the rest of the band up. Outside of that issue.. Rock solid meter and groove.. And a nice guy. We agreed as a group to replace him but then we reconvened and decided to have an intervention to see if he was receptive to our issue. Turns out he was very receptive and thanked us for mentioning it to him as his OA goal was to be the best at what he does. After that it was like night and day.. The dude was fantastic and still to this day one of the best guys I ever played with. I think that kind of outcome is rare.

 

Playing with best friend in band scenario..

He was and is not the strongest musician. There was no improving his capability.. He was maxed out. He was the leader of the band.

Singer and I ended up quitting.. Reason told to him was to start a road band. This is mostly true but the ultimate reality was he was not a strong enough player. This was a difficult one. He was hurt and would jab me about it now and then for a couple years later. We are still best friends and he matured to understand we work at different levels.

 

Now.. I am mature enough to know what is best for me and don't have time or care to tiptoe around those situations. I chose the right situations and if I realize it is not the right situation later.. I move on.

 

 

Jay

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Bob L,

 

The last 10 years of my career was spent as an HR Executive and performance management was one of the things that was my area of expertise.

 

My advice would be to keep one thing in mind.. there are a thousand ways you could screw this up.. and there's probably only a couple of ways to do it correctly and maintain a good relationship, and achieve the end results you want with all parties being happy! I suppose that sounds like weird advice, but I'm telling you this because given my knowledge of band dynamics.. these things are really easy to screw up in a part time band like this.. people get pissed off and get up and walk out really easy.... when paying the mortgage isn't an issue. I'm saying this because I don't want you to feel badly if you TRY to address this and it doesn't go well.

 

I agree with quite a bit of the advice here.. one on one feedback in private is best.... don't call him out in front of the band that just adds stress and could get his back up. Make the feedback timely.. so if he's struggling at your next rehearsal grab a coffee with him afterwards and talk to him right away.

 

When providing feedback of this kind, approaching him in a helpful and supportive way is the best, but not condescending.

 

"I noticed you were kind of struggling with that B part today, is there anything I can do to help?" Maybe that is all it will take to get him to open up about his struggles and this will provide a great opportunity for dialog. The other thing is that sometimes you need to set expectations.. have you ever had a discussion with him about what the band expectations? Does he understand your expectations regarding preparation for rehearsals etc.. to be fair you really can't criticise someone if you haven't set reasonable expectations. That's one of the keys to performance management.. you can't deal with bad performance if you haven't identified what you consider to be good performance. Last but not least.. is he into this new music.. if he doesn't like the music, maybe he's uninspired to learn it, and not enjoying. Maybe he's losing interest in the band.. who knows what direction this might take.. you could easily find yourself looking for a new player.. but as someone else mentioned DON'T do this behind his back.. if the issue goes south and he decides to leave, make sure you don't look for his replacement behind his back.

 

These are just some general things.. if you have some more specific questions, PM me.. maybe I can be of more help.

Craig MacDonald

Hammond BV, Franken-B (A100 in a BV cabinet), Leslies 122/147/44W, Crumar Mojo, HX3 module, Korg Kronos, VR-09, Roland GAIA, Burn, Ventilator

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Great advice above on this all-too-common problem. I really think the key here is WHY is this person not nailing their parts.

 

The reason will dictate the best way to handle it, and some of the reasons will also dictate the probable outcome (if they are maxed out on ability, or just don't care, then you're not going to be able to change the situation and have to decide if it's good enough to slide, or if you need to replace them).

 

I have personally seen two cases where this type of situation was improved by talking to the person and helping them out. In both cases, the band member was fairly new to live performance and just needed some pointers and encouragement. In every other case, we tried everything but eventually had to replace them.

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Sorry if this was discussed, but is the problem that he isn't good enough to play the parts, or that he hasn't put in the time to learn the songs properly? Assuming he's a good band member in other important areas (nice guy, shows up on time, helps with load-in/out etc etc) then he might need some help--but that help is drastically different depending on which issue it is!

 

In our case we had a drummer who struggled with certain fills. He was very solid and could groove but especially if there were songs with odd measured fills (ie not coming on on the 1) it could be a trainwreck. Far as I was concerned, just either don't play those songs or simplify them a bit. Some of the most popular bands around my area tend to simplify drum parts anyway, it's about the groove and keeping people moving!

 

By contrast a different band had a guitarist who was very good and had great equipment...but week after week there was always a reason he didn't know the songs. Even one member who is uncertain on the changes can mess the band up IMO...you can just feel the uncertainty and "uh oh, what's going to happen next" factor.

 

I'd be a bit tougher on that issue--if everyone else is learning the songs and practicing then he needs to as well. I didn't really understand how many tunes a band can get up to speed with quickly until my latest band....all the others in recent years had at least one of "those guys" and we went for months learning songs. Last practice we did 10 new songs, and 8 were played at the next gig. Granted these were not Yes tunes, but still if everyone comes in knowing the song it's amazing how that feels.

 

 

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