Archive for the ‘ How to Prepare a Band ’ Category

Maintaining a Good Vibe

It’s easy to get nervous when your music (and money) are on the line, but if you surround yourself with musicians who are supportive and experienced, they can take the pressure off and give you a team to fall back on. People typically work best in a guided but creative environment. Don’t worry about “letting people do their thing”– they’ll do it, no matter what, if they feel like what they’re working towards is valuable and taken seriously.

Nobody got into music to feel stressed out, so take a look at the factors in your musical environment and shape them so that you feel most creative and in your element. Music is fun, remember?

In this telling scene from Let It Be, we see The Beatles on the verge of falling apart. Paul McCartney, who knows the cameras are rolling, has been pushing George Harrison to play less (some might say “more appropriately”) on the classic song “Two of Us”. George, fed up with years of Paul’s pushiness, busts out his passive-agressive side. For me, the most telling moment of the entire interaction is how in the midst of what George is saying, Paul can’t look him in the eye, and continues noodling throughout what is a very tense moment: clearly, a subconscious way of avoiding the confrontation.

Paul may or may not have been right (you can take a guess as to which school I fall into), but it’s undeniable that by putting George on the spot in a negative way, Paul lost out on George’s creative impulses and contributions. Paul (and another one of my heroes, Sting) were both musical visionaries, as well as strong-headed (and sometimes hot-headed) bandleaders. But the proof is in the pudding: The Beatles and The Police would surely not have been the same without Paul or Sting at the helm, but their respective solo material following the demise of those bands never reached the same heights without the creative contributions of their bandmates. You may have an ingenious musical vision in your head, but even if you’re Stevie Wonder, realizing your creative vision often relies on the contributions of others– and maintaining a positive ambience is the best way to elicit those contributions that will take your music to the next level.

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How do I tell the band what I want?

As an artist, you are not expected to be an expert at every instrument– that’s why you have a band! So if you’re unsure how to make the drums sound the way you want, have no fear– you hired the drummer because he or she is an expert at drums and is experienced at writing drum parts. All you have to do is listen carefully and attentively to what your band plays, individually and as a unit, and communicate effectively how it makes you feel when performing the song. Effective communication is a true skill and will help you in all aspects of your music.

That said, while everyone communicates differently, learning the language of music is an invaluable tool to you. Perhaps classical music theory isn’t for everyone, but a healthy understanding of the harmony in your songs– that is, what chords and notes you’re playing (and not playing)– can be a boon to arranging and preparing a band. Learning to differentiate between the kick and snare drum, between the hi-hat and the ride cymbals will streamline communication with drummers (insert caveman-drummer joke) and instantly gain your respect in their eyes.
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Everyone’s Favorite Pastime: Scheduling Rehearsals

Setting reasonable goals for a gig as far as new music and new musicians will save you lots of stress later on. Once you have those goals are set, scheduling the right number of rehearsals in the right proximity to a gig will ensure that everyone is fresh and prepared.

For a 50 minute set of songs that are already arranged– that is, the band is learning off of pre-existing tracks or arrangement, I’d give a pro band that hasn’t played the material before two 3-hour rehearsals. The latter rehearsal should be a day or two before the gig, with a couple days in between the two rehearsals to review anything that needs work after the first.

If the songs have yet to be arranged, you’ll want to budget in time to spend arranging each song in the rehearsal room. Professional musicians who can write their own parts in a quick and timely manner help a lot. I’d add about 30-40 minutes per tune that needs to be arranged assuming that they are fairly typical as far as form without too many twists and turns. If you’re playing a through-composed song with alternating odd meters… well, you could set aside a couple hours of rehearsal to arrange it, or you could have someone arrange it beforehand.
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Do I Need Charts For My Band?

This is an important question to ask, because effective charts can cut down rehearsal time, but ineffective charts can do the opposite.

Sheet Music: Helpful or Harmful?

In a typical rock/pop/singer-songwriter context, professional musicians will be accustomed to transcribing songs from a track or demo and making their own charts, notating exactly what they need to know, which varies from instrument to instrument. I also find that making my own charts helps me to memorize songs, so that later I can get my head out of them and look like (less) of a tool onstage.

That said, there are a few good reasons to have professional charts prepared:

If you are playing particularly complex music, with dense harmony or specific (and varied) parts that you want the band to play, charts can be very effective and save hours of uncertainty in the rehearsal room.
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Finding the Right Musicians

It’s a sad fact, but the best musicians are not always the right ones for your project. You may like the drummer’s playing from such-and-such band, but before committing to have them on a gig, make sure that their professionalism lives up to their chops. Someone who seems very invested in your music may or may not have the experience to come up with appropriate parts. So how do you know who will do your music justice and won’t waste your time?

This drummer's on the wrong gig.

Seek out recommendations. I wouldn’t hire someone to paint my house before checking with a referral. If you don’t have the personal experience working with someone, it’s always good to ask for others’ opinions. Friends, colleagues, and other members of your band will be eager to recommend someone with whom they’ve had great experiences working before.

Once you’ve got a lineup for the band, taking into account your budget and the size and aims of the gig, make sure that they have what they need to know your music inside out. Don’t send too much, or too little.

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Preparing Songs for Your Band

How can you as a musician or artist be heard above the static? How can you distinguish yourself so that you are the one that gets remembered, that gets the call for the next gig and the gig after that?

Artists: How to Effectively Prepare a Band

There’s no one way to get your band together. Miles Davis, James Brown and The Beatles, for example, all had notoriously different ways of running their bands, of working together (or not working together), and all made excellent music.

The harder it is for your band to listen to your songs, the less likely they are to know them!

There are, however, several principles to follow that will ensure that everyone takes your music seriously and that result in a much tighter musical unit.

Preparing Songs for Your Band
Send a single demo of every song. Make sure that the demo is listenable, easy on the ears, and representative of how you want the song to sound. YouTube and other streaming media are a no-go– if your band is able to get it to work, they’ll likely only get to hear it once. Read more

Being Over-Prepared: Tips for Artists & Bandleaders

How can you as a musician or artist be heard above the static? How can you distinguish yourself so that you are the one that gets remembered, that gets the call for the next gig and the gig after that?

When you walk into the rehearsal room or recording studio, you will want to make an immediate impression– of professionalism, of precision, of creativity– of all that it is that you do and that you do it well. If you walk in unprepared, there’s simply no way that you can be at the top of your game.

Continued from Being Over-Prepared: Tips for Musicians & Singers

Tips for Artists/Bandleaders
If you are an artist or bandleader, have everything on hand that you may need to prepare for the show, and make sure your musicians have them in enough time to prepare adequately: a setlist, listenable demos, appropriate charts, and any ideas that you may want them to realize. Send them mp3s– preferably not flooding their gmail inbox. If the musicians can listen to the tunes on the go, they will get to know them better. If the band needs to learn the songs by streaming them from YouTube or another site, they won’t be able to distinguish the parts as clearly and won’t be able to hear the songs as frequently. My favorite way to send and receive tunes is with Dropbox, Sugarsync, or any other platform that lets you send a link to the downloadable mp3. The fewer intermediate steps that stand between a musician and the music they need to learn, the better they will know the music.
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