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Wanted: Tips for Witty Banter


Groove Mama

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My band (such as it is) is playing a 35-minute set this Saturday at my company's annual fall party, which will be attended by ~300 employees and clients.

 

I'll know a fair number of the people there, so that will help with nerves...maybe...maybe not. But then it falls to me to fill in the empty spaces while the guitarist switches instruments, straps on a harmonica, etc.

 

Other than, "Get up and dance or it will be reflected negatively in your performance review," "Hey, how about those recent events in Ferguson? Anybody here from Ferguson?" or "Show of hands: Do you call it 'ISIS' or 'ISIL'?" I'm kind of at a loss for small talk.

 

Any suggestions?

 

 

Queen of the Quarter Note

"Think like a drummer, not like a singer, and play much less." -- Michele C.

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You could say, "How about those Cardinals!"

 

I just got home from leading the big band you saw me play with.

 

In between songs, I told a little big about the next song, who wrote it, what big band was famous for playing it.

 

or you could tell Groucho Marx one-liners:

 

"Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas but how he got in my pajamas, I'll never know."

 

 

 

 

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What I do is look around me and maybe pick out the crazy people and direct other to follow. Enquire what the cocktail of the evening is and encourage more silliness. Introduce the track your going to play with some kind of anecdote about it eg year it was out, is funky, romantic, sad whatever comes to your mind.

 

I would say don't ever apologise for anything ie sorry my strap came of there, opps we dropped a beat, sorry we messed up - don't ever do this all you do is highlight what most folk will have missed!!

 

Break a leg!!!

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You could say, "How about those Cardinals!"

Oh, that's right! The game will be shown on a gigantic projection screen, so maybe no one will sit and listen to us anyway.

 

How about, "Many of you know that I'm a Cubs fan. Just curious: What is this 'post-season play' of which you speak?"

Queen of the Quarter Note

"Think like a drummer, not like a singer, and play much less." -- Michele C.

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I would say don't ever apologise for anything ie sorry my strap came of there, opps we dropped a beat, sorry we messed up - don't ever do this all you do is highlight what most folk will have missed!!

 

Break a leg!!!

On the contrary, at practice last Sunday, we'd pause after each song, look at each other with surprise and say, "Hey, that was actually pretty good!" :laugh:

 

Thx, Seamy. Oh, by the way, our drummer is from Belfast!

Queen of the Quarter Note

"Think like a drummer, not like a singer, and play much less." -- Michele C.

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Any chance you and the drummer can keep a groove going while the guitarist switches?

 

This for sure--if you and the drummer can keep a low-key groove going in the background, that will signal to the audience that they should continue paying attention. And here's the thing about banter--half your audience won't care what you say and other half won't be listening in the first place. Nobody is there to hear witty banter.

 

If you have to say anything, I would just thank the sponsors of the event or the management of the venue for having you. They'll appreciate the shout out.

"Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Leo Tolstoy
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You could say, "How about those Cardinals!"

Oh, that's right! The game will be shown on a gigantic projection screen, so maybe no one will sit and listen to us anyway.

 

How about, "Many of you know that I'm a Cubs fan. Just curious: What is this 'post-season play' of which you speak?"

 

What does a hot dog and a beer cost at Wrigley field in October? Nobody knows.

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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There's really no such thing as witty banter. It's just talking that happens between songs that nobody understands. Keep it to a minimum if possible.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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There's really no such thing as witty banter. It's just talking that happens between songs that nobody understands. Keep it to a minimum if possible.

 

On that note - we have a couple songs that require instrument changes. As such, we carefully order the set list so that people aren't constantly changing back and forth. If someone has to switch to acoustic, play all the acoustic songs in a row. If I end a song with a sax solo, the next one should be one where keys don't come in right away so I can take off the sax while the rest of the band is starting the next song. We try to make sure there are no more than 1-2 "pauses" per set, and you can get all your talking in at those times. Also, anything with any kind of long intro goes at the beginning of a set so it doesn't break up the momentum in the middle of a set. Those blocks of songs with a different instrument can also go either at the beginning or end of a set so you don't have to change instruments and also pause to change back.

 

Careful set planning can go a long ways.

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 do some banter between songs to catch my breath, flip to the right page and whatnot, with the solo thing. Technique is important. If I just talk regular into the mic then nobody understands what I'm saying. So get closer than when you're singing and speak up...or forever hold your peace. And roll off everything below 100Hz.

 

I might bring up a little trivia or personal perspective to a song, like what album it was on or who sang backups on the original, or how "indeed, these guys could rock a mustache back in the day" or how this mid-80's act just missed the MTV revolution 'cause they were really quite ugly and couldn't dance, or.....

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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One thing I kinda liked about my crappy rockabilly band: near the end we segued a lot of songs together! Our singer wasn't much of a front man (wasn't much of a singer, either) so he always suggested that I do the in-between banter. I preferred segues but occasionally the guitarist (who also had a mic) would start rambling. Not even we knew what he was saying most of the time so the drummer would just count it off and we'd get on with it.

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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"How many guitarists does it take to change a cable?"

 

 

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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Some people really know how to command an audience's attention. It's a rare, magical talent--that person you can't help but watch, no matter what they do. And they just somehow have the confidence and poise to speak onstage without faltering, flubbing, saying the wrong things or looking awkward.

 

But that's not most of us. Most of us regular folks who don't have that fascinating skill just need to shut up and play until we learn how to burp out a few necessary words without falling on our faces. So... keep it short and play.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Political jokes.....That's the ticket!

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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"Hey, how about those recent events in Ferguson? Anybody here from Ferguson?"

 

Or as I've heard some call it.....Ferghanistan.

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 agree with Erik that the best thing is to play music with as little down time between songs as possible. Since it's the guitarist that has to switch instruments I would suggest the rhythm section start songs without him -- immediately after the previous song ends -- and just vamp until he's ready to play.

 

Even the national acts, though, will take a break every now and then to talk to the audience.

 

Paul brings up a key point. If you use your normal speaking voice most likely nobody will be able to hear what you're saying. Don't laugh; I find something approaching a pro wresting ring announcer works pretty well. (It's a bit over-the-top but goes with my 'do so it works for me.) Just be sure to project.

 

For a solo show it's important to connect with the audience; otherwise you turn into musical wallpaper. Some of the best solo acts here will interact with their audience in between songs. Yes, it's a little weird to have a conversation with someone over the mic but it connects the audience. Even the most banal. "Where did you get those jeans?" "They look great on you!"

 

With a band you can achieve something similar by bantering amongst yourselves ... especially if you include the audience. "Hey Sarah, did you see that rainbow today?" "Yes, it was beautiful." "How about you guys, did you see it, too?" Just keep the topics light. If possible use a short, entertaining story. That way it won't be just aimless chatter without a conclusive ending. Make eye contact as you talk to make sure people are listening/can hear you.

 

Obviously if everyone were naturally good at stand-up comedy we wouldn't value those who are really talented at it, nor would people spend years trying to master it. That said, it's really easy to fill a short break with the most inane jokes. Do the world's silliest "knock knock" joke but don't give the audience a pass for a lame "Who's there?" response. Start it over until you get a good response. ("Come on, I know you can do better than that!" etc.) It's amazing how an audience warms up once you include them.

 

I'll try to remember a few groaners before a show just in case there is dead time. Recently I've used "Why was 6 afraid of 7?" "Because 7, 8 [ate], 9 and 10!" And people actually smiled and laughed at that!!!

 

An important rule, I think, is don't be negative. Don't say on mic that someone in the audience looks funny, for example. Don't complain (whine), especially not about the venue/staff! Even the slightest hint of "insulting" will backfire big time. Sometimes self-deprecation works but definitely keep that to a minimum. (We're not all Don Rickles!)

 

Just like a dinner party leave politics/religion alone. Obviously vulgar doesn't work well, either. (In the right venue sleazy will work, but rarely vulgar. As this is a work event I'm sure you'll keep it clean!)

 

Smiling helps.

 

An example of a short, entertaining story might be to introduce your bass and tell her story. "This here is Ruby! Yes, I name all my basses. Don't you? Ruby's been with me since 19XX and we always have great fun together. There was this one time in Vegas when she got pretty wild, but, you know, 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas'. Ha ha! On a serious note, though, not too long ago Ruby was kidnapped. Stolen. Yes! Her photo was on milk cartons everywhere with the words 'missing since Tuesday' underneath. I was devastated. Even a box of chocolates couldn't cheer me up ... not even the good ones! Fortunately, though, I know people. Yes I do! One of my friends from across the country spotted Ruby in an online used instrument ad at a local music store. Thankfully, a short phone call later and Ruby and I were reunited! Yay! They caught the guy, too. The perp. It was Kenny Rogers! He just kept saying to Ruby over and over again, 'don't take your love to town'." (An older crowd will hopefully recognize the title of the #6 hit from 1969. If not you can help them out.) [edit: adding a little theatrics may help spice things up.]

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In the jazz band, we had witless banter. The singer and the keys (both in their sixties) would, between songs, with all the vigor of an NPR interview:

 

S: Our next song is a love song.

K: Oh, good. I love love songs.

S: I did this song for the first time in Long Island in 1958.

K: I bet it was fun to perform in Long Island

S: Billie Holiday did this song ...

...

 

(Bassist starts playing the intro to N.I.B. on the upright; gets stink-eye from the singer)

 

... and so on.

 

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

 

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