Jump to content
Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

playing down to the level of the band


getz out

Recommended Posts

I have been mulling about an issue for the past couple of weeks, and I thought I'd take a second to share with you fine folks on the forum, and maybe get either some feedback, war stories, or advice. Maybe I just want to write and think some things through.

 

I am not a blow-out player with lighting fast chops by any means. I consider myself a smart player; I have a good ear, respectable chops, a good knowledge of theory, and a knack for arranging all instruments in a typical rock-band setting. I'm also a decent writer.

 

Over the past four years, I have not been playing out to any significant degree. I will occasionally fill in for a band here or there, but nothing steady. About one year ago, a very close high school friend of mine mentioned he had started a band. They had been rehearsing and writing for about two months when the bass player called it quits.

 

This friend was a guitarist. However, we will use that term loosely. He's actually a sax player, and a great one at that. However, he decided he was going to play guitar. This kid has a GREAT ear, but has the occasional lapses of fundamental guitar playing. The drummer was brand new to the kit, with ZERO musical training. However, he had natural talent, and I couldn't believe my ears when he played. He had a natural sense of rhythm. However, he still was VERY rough around the edges. The vocalist showed signs of life, but was VERY inconsistent.

 

So, I said I'd throw my hat in. Hell, I didn't have anything elso going on, it was flexible, and it was just a fun "jam-session" type of atmosphere. So, for the past year, I've spent nearly every Tuesday evening watching these fellows, sans the vocalist, improve by leaps and bounds. I would like to think I was able to help these fellows get things together, have some fun, and become better players. It also gave me an opportunity to "step-up" and take advantage of the open space in the tunes.

 

However, I've recently been listening to some of the recordings we have done, and I realize I am starting to "play down," below my own ability. I have always been consistent in the past, but I listen, and my playing is all over the place!

 

Then, I thought back to the first band I played in as a bass player; I had been playing for 3 months, and I got called to start gigging with a pretty competent band at some decent venues (how typical; you have to love the supply-demand model). I played better because I HAD to. I think I was pushed along by much better players that challenged me.

 

Anyhow, I wondering if I'm "dumbing down" because I am not being challenged. I feel I have to step-up in the tunes; it's not that I overplay, but I'm filling the spaces that need to be filled. Am I getting bored? I think that might be it.

 

I don't want to bail on these guys. What should I do to get myself back on track, though? Maybe another project? Jazz lessons, since my swing doesn't really swing - can anyone recommend teacher for jazz lessons in NYC? Keep it reasonable, I'm not looking for master lessons.

 

Thanks, apologies for the length.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 16
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Bottom line; are you making music?

 

If the music is speaking, that is enough.

 

The only caveat I would say is: if the generally, easy-going nature and sloppy playing is causing you to lose the ability to "self-critique" it might be harming to you.

 

Sometimes I'm pressed into service with a student band...if the bass player is absent. The talent is very uneven, and the music often doesn't sound good.

 

Sometimes, it is nearly impossible to play in this situation...time everywhere...form lost.

 

However, I don't think of this as anything other than teaching. My playing is not as good as in other venues, and nobody knows except me and the band leader, and a few other choice people. I just don't sweat that.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I play in three bands right now and one of them is like the situation you've presented. An old friend called me in and I had a fair amount more experience, and a LOT more theoretical knowledge and confidence, than most of the other band members.

 

They perceived that though and I have been able to serve as sort of a mentor and teacher in several capacities, especially with one of the guitarists. The thing is that I set my goals for that band no higher than their goals: playing little parties or high school dances, etc. I consider it a bonus when I get to help them be better musicians.

 

However, if that were my only musicial endeavor, I would probably be making a post just like yours right about now. Don't bail on those guys just because they aren't as good as you, of course, but you should definitely seek a venue to really challenge yourself. Jazz lessons would be good, as would finding a club that has a jam night so you have to shed some songs every week so as not to play like a fool when you get up with some pro cats.

 

Or maybe, it could take nothing more than picking up a CD once a month and saying "I'm going to learn every note on this album" and learn not just the bass lines, but the melodies and the chords and even mocking the drums on your bass. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it just me, or does it seem like bassists usually know more theory than generic guitarists? I know atleast 4 guitarists who can only play tab and don't know pretty much ANY theory. Well, is this just me?
In Skynyrd We Trust
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Da LadY In Tha Pink Dress:

Is it just me, or does it seem like bassists usually know more theory than generic guitarists? I know atleast 4 guitarists who can only play tab and don't know pretty much ANY theory. Well, is this just me?

Guitarists can generally "fudge" their way through distortion. Bassists generally cannot. We usually can't play the same 3 notes while guitarists can play the same three chords.

"Bass isn't just for breakfast anymore..."

 

http://www.mp3.com/Addix_Metzatricity

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well the guitarist in my band is the best overall musician in the band. He plays keyboards better then the keyboard player and played bass on all the tracks on our album. Just depends. Lumping never works...

Double Posting since March 2002

Random Post Generator #26797

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All,

 

Thanks for the replies, I do appreciate it. I think I'm going to search out a new outlet; either some advanced lessons or another band.

 

I've also found myself playing a lot of guitar the past couple of months. It's actually scary, I'm getting rather good. I've been a good rhythm player since I picked up the instrument, but I'm starting to play some tasty leads... maybe I'll just start multitracking my way to stardom... where's that drum machine? :)

 

Thanks again!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by ibescotty:

Well the guitarist in my band is the best overall musician in the band. He plays keyboards better then the keyboard player and played bass on all the tracks on our album. Just depends. Lumping never works...

Of course, you know that I didn't mean ALL guitarists...

 

Da Lady In Da Pink Dress was specifically talking about generic guitarists.

"Bass isn't just for breakfast anymore..."

 

http://www.mp3.com/Addix_Metzatricity

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds to me like you're simply playing what the gig calls for. You don't actually mean that your playing suffered while playing with a gang of kids whose time was all over the place, do you? :eek: Relax, man. You're okay. You say you're not being challenged. How about challenging yourself to really take charge and help these young musicians' development? You generally wouldn't want to play over their heads and shine them on, but on the other hand, you could step it up a little and give them whatever tools you can to catch up to you. Tug them along. Give them whatever knowledge you may have garnered from however many more years you've spent falling on your ass than they have. It would probably help you and the band out.

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean that you're playing more simply because that's what works for this band? Or do you mean that you're letting your technique, time, feel, chops, etc. get sloppy? I would worry about the latter and congratulate myself for the former. No matter how simple the parts are, you still have to concentrate on touch, clean technique, time, feel, groove, etc. Sometimes the simpler parts are more difficult to play, because any error stands out so clearly.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Dan South:

I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean that you're playing more simply because that's what works for this band? Or do you mean that you're letting your technique, time, feel, chops, etc. get sloppy? I would worry about the latter and congratulate myself for the former. No matter how simple the parts are, you still have to concentrate on touch, clean technique, time, feel, groove, etc. Sometimes the simpler parts are more difficult to play, because any error stands out so clearly.

Believe me, I don't mind playing simple lines, as as you stated, they are often MUCH more difficult to execute in a clean, consistent basis.

 

The issue was more that I was getting sloppy; partially due to the time being all over the place and partially due to the lower expectations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by getz76:

The issue was more that I was getting sloppy; partially due to the time being all over the place and partially due to the lower expectations.

It sounds like you've been doing just the right thing up to now, sitting in with the loose vibe and keeping things together without pushing too hard to get things tight (which is the last thing to focus on IMO - nothing worse than a band that's really tight and rigid with no swing, groove or musicality).

 

If you want to challenge yourself try to make the whole band more focused, together and tighter whilst remaining groovy and letting the music breathe. Don't say anything, just play more strongly, with total conviction that you are laying down the beat and your band members' playing and the whole groove will start to tighten up (in a good way). Remember that as the bass player it's as much your job as the drummers to lay down the tempo and define the groove. Here's a cool excerpt from an interview with Prince (caveat - I'm don't believe in 'God' myself, feel free to substitute with 'higher power of your choice or whatever')

 

So how can a bassist achieve that kind of lock with a live drummer? "I'll tell you how Larry Graham does it: through his relationship with God. Bootsy plays a little behind the beat–the way Mavis Staples sings–but Larry makes the drummer get with him. If he wants to, he can stand up there and go [mimics 16th-note slap line] all night long and never break a sweat." Like the whirling dervishes of Sufi tradition? Exactly. But isn't it possible to create music as deep as Graham's without drawing inspiration from a higher power? "No, it isn't. All things come from God and return to God. I wouldn't say it necessarily needs to come from a higher place–but it does need to come from another place."

 

Make the drummer get with you! (And the guitarist, keyboardist, singer etc)

 

Alex

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are playing sloppy because your mates are playing sloppy, you can tighten it up, and tighten them up. It doesn't sound like that's the issue. It sounds like it's not fun because you have to drag them along.

 

A new project sounds good. You may want to consider staying with these folks as well. You might be able to have fun teaching them if you have other challenges. Try the Bass Collective?

 

Now you know why the previous bass player quit...

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing about writing you own bass parts is, they're only as hard as you make them. You can write a Getty Lee or Flea bass line over something relitivly simple or you can do like a lot of other players and just play the bottom end and fill when necessary. I play with different bands every week, either in the studio or live. Sometimes i sit there and wonder what I'm doing and other times I find myself trying to keep up with a badass drummer or a whole badass band. I can really tell when it's time to go home and practice. When i find myself in a situation that i play better than the others i just make them follow me. You have to assume the leadership position. If you do go out and play with these guys live, it is ,in a way, your job to make sure that everything is tight. Be "The Man" with out being a bastard. Just think in another couple of months you might have a couple of real musicians on your hands. Musicians you created.
I didn't come here to play. I came here to make babies.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bottom line; are you making music?
and

 

........Anyhow, I wondering if I'm "dumbing down" because I am not being challenged. I feel I have to step-up in the tunes; it's not that I overplay, but I'm filling the spaces that need to be filled. Am I getting bored? I think that might be it.
Dave, I think it might make a difference....

 

Most people I know don't like Lawrence Welk or classical music (I do) and yet there's no doubt those were musicians performing. They were doing music which was in demand for that time period.

 

It's unlikely anyone I know of today would consider taking such a gig.

 

So if the grade of the music "getz" is having to play is finally taking a toll on him, his creativity and his love of music, it's time to decide whether there is a limit to his generosity or not, for putting up with the other's lack of musical ability for so long.

 

That was one of the big reasons I finally left the band I was in....that and also out of the six of us, only two of us were serious when the chips were down - the others, it turned out, just wanted to goof around for 8 hours a week over the last 6 months, offering promises and no results.

 

It may seem sucky to bail, but it's a fact of life.

 

Just don't burn any bridges behind you either.

Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; one lick and you suck forever.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...