Get Out And Play Part 4

Photo by Oscar Jordan

Lead The Band

You are the musical director. If you don’t become the leader someone else will, or no one will and nobody will know what to do. There will be chaos. Chaos is bad. Discover the control freak in you. You set the tempos by counting the band in. You decide who takes the solos and when. You also decide when to cut them off so you can return to a verse. You should know how many verses there are and when to insert the solos. Caring means sharing so allow everyone to take a short solo. If there are a too many people on stage, leave out a few soloists and give them the spotlight during the next song. All that note density gets tedious for normal people. You will also decide when the song will end. A song doesn’t need to be twenty minutes long. Think about the audience. Don’t get self-indulgent. Play for the audience. These decisions have to be made. Leading the band through songs that you’ve rehearsed at home will help you sound like the musician you envision in your mind. Lead the band but have fun. Being on stage is supposed to be a good time. Take control but be generous. All bands need a bandleader and it may as well be you.

You Are Not Yngwie J. Malmsteen

You’re not Kurt Cobain either. When the bandleader points to you to take a solo, take your time and do what you do. You’re not expected to create a whole new revolution in guitar playing that alters the time space continuum. Play tastefully with soul and economy and always be yourself. Don’t be a hog and play forever either. Nobody wants to hear sixty-four choruses of self absorbed pentatonic wanking. That’s selfish. Selfishness is bad. Be considerate. Play a chorus then pass the ball. Be a team player. Make eye contact with the singer so he can tell you’re about to finish your solo. Eyes and facial expressions are very important signals on stage when playing with a band. Play the soulful tasty stuff. It takes less effort than you think to please people. That’s all that’s required. You can play “Anguish and Fear” when you get home.

Play With The Drummer

No matter how good or bad the drummer is you have to play with him. He’s the engine of the band. Don’t fight the engine. Ride the engine. You must learn to sit in his groove. If he has bad time, take the ride and just get through it. If he’s limited, find the one thing he’s good at and do only that. If he can only play shuffles, play shuffles. Don’t get mad because he can’t play “Manic Depression” and don’t be a crybaby because he’s not Neil Peart. Nobody likes a crybaby. You’re no Alex Lifeson either. You’re only going to be on stage for about a half an hour. Have fun with it. It’s not life and death. Get with a better drummer next time. Always take the high road and don’t be a dick.

Don’t Be a Dick

Be nice to people. Say “please” and “thank you.” Try to remember people’s names. Thank the host for getting you up on stage. The cooler you are with people, the better they will treat you in the future. Most jams have a clique of regulars and you have to put the time in so people can get to know you. The host is also checking out your level of ability so he can put you up with good musicians. As you get better he’ll discover that you’re someone he doesn’t have to worry about. You want to be known as the solid musician who can carry a band and put on a good little set. This is so the host can sneak outside, smoke a cigarette and hit on the waitress without worries. If you aren’t that good, being a nice guy will help offset your lack of experience. A good host will put together a group of musicians with a solid rhythm section and a strong vocalist. The lesser skilled musicians will benefit from playing with better people. You only get better playing with people who are better than you. You can’t learn this at home. This is the whole point, so be a nice guy. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be a snob. Don’t put people down. Everybody is there to become better musicians so stay off the high horse. The good karma will be returned to you.

Tune in next time for Part 5 where we’ll wrap it up and get your mind right.

Get Out And Play Part 3
Get Out And Play Part 2
Get Out And Play Part 1

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