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Suppose you are on stage in an unrehearsed situation when the piano player starts off solo and then sticks two fingers up . 

Do you :

A ) accidentally swing your headstock into his nose ?

B ) silently agree with the drummer that you'll both sort the piano player out after the gig ?

or C ) know that this number is in D major ( or B minor ) ?

It is an old method of showing the key : a number of fingers pointing up denote the number of sharps in the key signature , pointing down means flats . If it is in C major then a "C " shape is made with finger and thumb .

Here is an example . The Legendary Johnnie Johnson indicates to the the pick-up Australian band that the tune is in C major :

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Next , a different hand signal :

At 1:30 Alan Gorrie points at his head . He's not saying " Yous Yanks are all head cases .Pal ! " , it means the head ( ie the part of the tune at the top / head of the chart ) is coming up next .

 

Please contribute examples of hand signals for educational purposes .:D

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Posted (edited)

(Deleted duplicate post)

Edited by jrixn1

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1 hour ago, DaveFry said:

It is an old method of showing the key : a number of fingers pointing up denote the number of sharps in the key signature , pointing down means flats . If it is in C major then a "C " shape is made with finger and thumb .

I've also seen some people use a fist (i.e. zero sharps and zero flats).

Another common one is drawing a circle (in the horizontal plane) with your finger would be "go round again" - either play another head, or loop a turnaround.
 

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Posted (edited)

Whereas in the vertical plane would mean 'wind it up' i.e finish??

Edited by Oopsdabassist

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Not sure.  In my experience, it might be by eye contact rather than a hand signal.   Maybe a raised eyebrows "ready?" from the bandleader,  and a small confirmation nod from the musicians.  This generally indicates something is going to happen -- although exactly what would depend on the context. So here (i.e. having started looping) it would mean to proceed to the next part (either the next section, or end the piece if there are no more sections remaining).
 

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I've never heard of signalling the key by hand signals - I'd have thought you knew by knowing the music or simply listening to it. But I've heard of the hand signals to indicate the structure, ie moving on to the next section in a repeated bit, or ending the song.

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On 3/8/2018 at 10:19, paul_c2 said:

I've never heard of signalling the key by hand signals - I'd have thought you knew by knowing the music or simply listening to it.

 

Working with multiple bands/singers who all do the same repertoire but in different keys often leads to me forgetting who does what in which key. Hand signals help to clarify this without lots of yelling across the stage, particularly when it's a tune that the bass starts and I can't rely on hearing things first.

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On 08/03/2018 at 10:19, paul_c2 said:

I've never heard of signalling the key by hand signals - I'd have thought you knew by knowing the music or simply listening to it. But I've heard of the hand signals to indicate the structure, ie moving on to the next section in a repeated bit, or ending the song.

I haven't come across it for showing keys, but have played with gospel guys who use it to indicate chord changes (using the 'numbers' system). 

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Posted (edited)
On 3/5/2018 at 04:58, DaveFry said:

Suppose you are on stage in an unrehearsed situation when the piano player starts off solo and then sticks two fingers up . 

Do you :

A ) accidentally swing your headstock into his nose ?

B ) silently agree with the drummer that you'll both sort the piano player out after the gig ?

or C ) know that this number is in D major ( or B minor ) ?

It is an old method of showing the key : a number of fingers pointing up denote the number of sharps in the key signature , pointing down means flats . If it is in C major then a "C " shape is made with finger and thumb .

Here is an example . The Legendary Johnnie Johnson indicates to the the pick-up Australian band that the tune is in C major :

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Next , a different hand signal :

At 1:30 Alan Gorrie points at his head . He's not saying " Yous Yanks are all head cases .Pal ! " , it means the head ( ie the part of the tune at the top / head of the chart ) is coming up next .

 

Please contribute examples of hand signals for educational purposes .:D

If someone throws up two fingers I know they're not flashing the "peace" sign, being in the States I know they're not flipping me off... so that leaves "second ending" or two  sharps :).

BTW... That Daryl's House recording ought to required listening for sound guys in training to listen to as to how to properly mix. Today's "engineers" seem to go to the same school as today's photo retouchers (see official portrait of Melania Trump and ad image of Britney Spears). 

Edited by vindibona1

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I saw a band who went to the last time in every song when the singer removed his hat. They would then do the traditional huge crashing, noodling final chord, the signal to end which chord would come when he threw the hat into the air - everyone hitting the final stab as it landed. Amusing and effective.

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As well as playing in a jamming band, I'm also on the rota for our church worship band, it’s a fairly big church, we have 3 drummers, several keys players, guitarists and folks that blow things, as well as 4 bassists on the rotas.

Which means that while we play familiar songs (with some new thrown in), it’s rare to have the same lineup for either service on a Sunday.

We have a good hour's rehearsal, but the atmosphere can sway how the songs are presented, so hand signals are essential, C hand shape for chorus, fingers raised relating to verse number, arched hand for the bridge, fist for finish, 'lifting' hand motion for building up, downwards for pulling back, etc.

We also have a talk-back system, when the leader presses a pedal, it switches their mic from PA to our in-ears,  for additional communication.

Sounds complicated, but works fine!

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I've had the fingers up and down trick. I just tell them that it means nothing to me. Just tell me the key!

I play with a guitarist who sticks 4 fingers up, meaning go to the 4. "Watch me" is a favourite. Then I know that absolutely anything can happen.

I also love the guys who try to use ESP. They just stare at you!!

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Last night my drummer kept going where he should have broken down to just the hi hat. Being a bassist I of course stuck with him. Guitarist proceeded to talk me through the end of the guitar solo explaining where I should have stopped - while I'm still playing!

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That's always a tricky one. You know it's supposed to be a drop-out for bass & drums but drummist keeps playing ... do you show solidarity and keep playing (thereby enraging the guitards) or do you drop out as intended and (possibly) leave the drummer to be humiliated?

My approach is always to drop out as planned; plenty of drop-out moments sound fine with just the drums.

 

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