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Signalling to the Band

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The best song ender I ever saw was Frank from Hot Dog Jackson. Any Somerset Basschatters remember him? 

Every song finished in a long rousing chord. He would remove his trilby, fling it high, and the band stopped as it hit the stage. 

It was mesmerising! 

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2 hours ago, Mykesbass said:

The signals should all be part of the stage show - but then perhaps that's not the point of a church band.

Having thought about it a little, I now realise that the hand signals (and sometimes, vocal cues - "Let's sing the first verse again!") are not just for the band, but for others too.  So, the person operating the words needs to know about repeats.  The congregation find it helpful too, to know what to expect - and to see that other musicians and singers are animated and engaged by what is happening.

 

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2 hours ago, pete.young said:

You would think that it would be better to just sort the order out before the start, but the MD wanted the flexibility to go with the flow and select an appropriate piece in real-time.

Ah yes, I forgot that option - signalling to the band, using pen and paper, before the gig.   

I guess that the flexibility is good to have, but I do wonder whether that extra layer of complexity helps or hinders the band.   

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Everyone that I’ve played with tends to use the same hand signals:

·         Raised index finger – turn up

·         Lowered index finger – turn down

·         Raised middle finger – I think that you may have made a mistake there

·         Open hand, palm upwards lifting gesture – speed up

·         Open hand, palm downwards patting gesture – slow down

·         Rotating index finger (vertically, like a wheel) – keep going / repeat section

·         Rotating index finger (horizontally, like a helicopter) – technical problem, carry on without me / roadcrew, please help

·         Lifting hand showing a number of fingers – signifying next chord change (a bit difficult if you want to change to the VI chord, as you need both hands)

·         Band leader / MD lifting hand (or guitar headstock) – end of the song coming up

I have also heard of band leaders holding up a number of fingers before a song to show the number of sharps or flats and therefore the key (one hand for sharps, the other for flats), but that’s a bit above my pay scale.

I always thought that these were universal, but who knows…

Edited by peteb

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At rehearsals we all know what the official stop time is but when playing our singer tends to have a fair bit of audience participation and if going well he signals us behind his back with similar gestures as James Blunt or maybe holding one finger up to indicate repeat that section one more time. We do however practice that kind of event at rehearsals just to be safe.

I think you get to know the people in the band and most tmes can follow what they are doing or thinking just by their look of panic. 😁

Dave

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Nowt to do with signalling to the band as a whole but I’ll latch onto this to say how much I dig the little nod that Willie’s son Lukas gives his Dad to come in for his part on this cover. He’s also right there ready in case he falters. Lovely stuff.
 

 

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11 minutes ago, mr4stringz said:

Nowt to do with signalling to the band as a whole but I’ll latch onto this to say how much I dig the little nod that Willie’s son Lukas gives his Dad to come in for his part on this cover. He’s also right there ready in case he falters. Lovely stuff.
 

 

Really enjoyed that. Willie Nelson has such a distinct voice.

Thanks for sharing.

Dave

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18 minutes ago, peteb said:

 I have also heard of band leaders holding up a number of fingers before a song to show the number of sharps or flats and therefore the key (one hand for sharps, the other for flats), but that’s a bit above my pay scale.

Rather than different hands, it's normally fingers up for sharp keys (1 finger= G, 2 fingers=D etc.), and fingers down for flat keys (1 finger=F,  2 fingers=Bb etc.). You don't see it as much anymore, but it's common with old school bandleaders. It's easier to see 4 fingers point up and know it's in E, than to mouth E and have half the band mishear and start in a different key.

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15 minutes ago, Doddy said:

Rather than different hands, it's normally fingers up for sharp keys (1 finger= G, 2 fingers=D etc.), and fingers down for flat keys (1 finger=F,  2 fingers=Bb etc.). You don't see it as much anymore, but it's common with old school bandleaders. It's easier to see 4 fingers point up and know it's in E, than to mouth E and have half the band mishear and start in a different key.

Like I said, not something that I have ever personally come across. I would need about 30 seconds to work out that there were 4 sharps in the key of E...! 

Edit - also, out of interest, how do you distinguish between E major and C# minor??

Edited by peteb

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11 minutes ago, peteb said:

 

Edit - also, out of interest, how do you distinguish between E major and C# minor??

Some bandleaders will form a minus sign with a sideways finger on the other other. Generally though, on those sort of gigs it's expected that you'll be familiar with the repertoire ( standards, classic pop tunes, and so on) so the bandleader can point one finger down and the band will know if it's in F or D minor. 

These signals are generally used for a scratch band with no charts or arrangements, when songs are being called on stage.

 

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Growing up my dad and I used to listen to Jimi Hendrix's BBC sessions album over and over in the car as he dad taxied me from rehearsal to rehearsal. Dad spotted Jimi 'ad-libbed' 'That's what I'm talking about' to signal changes- a great trick.

 

Edited by scalpy
missing word
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These days I mainly signal the band using WhatsApp. ¬¬

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2 hours ago, Doddy said:

Rather than different hands, it's normally fingers up for sharp keys (1 finger= G, 2 fingers=D etc.), and fingers down for flat keys (1 finger=F,  2 fingers=Bb etc.). You don't see it as much anymore, but it's common with old school bandleaders. It's easier to see 4 fingers point up and know it's in E, than to mouth E and have half the band mishear and start in a different key.

I’ve always found this method works well, especially on gigs where you’re not familiar with everyone in the band. Shouting / trying to lip read what someone is saying whilst playing an unfamiliar song can be difficult , especially when B, C, D , E and G can sound pretty similar! Times I’ve waited for a pedal note I can play for a few seconds whilst shouting the key and title of the next tune in a keyboard player’s ear. Worked for years in a band where the BL / singer insisted on calling the set rather than working one out beforehand. 

Edited by casapete

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Directing the band is a skill. I do a lot of deps and the gigs that go well are usually lead by a band leader who is good at communicating. I play with one guy who will change the song as he feels and it rarely goes wrong, because he is giving directions all the time. Never a dull moment. The shambolic gigs are usually those where the band leader is trying to direct the band by using a long stare and attempting thought transference.

Edited by chris_b
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In my blues band we often play rather fluid versions of songs (usually another 12 bars of solo over the one we rehearsed :D ) so rely on eye contact quite a bit.  There is a lot of light and shade that depends upon it.  But that is one of the joys of a 3 piece, it is easier to do stuff like that.

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2 hours ago, Doddy said:

Rather than different hands, it's normally fingers up for sharp keys (1 finger= G, 2 fingers=D etc.), and fingers down for flat keys (1 finger=F,  2 fingers=Bb etc.). You don't see it as much anymore, but it's common with old school bandleaders. It's easier to see 4 fingers point up and know it's in E, than to mouth E and have half the band mishear and start in a different key.

My band would need a few lessons on music theory first!

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1 minute ago, geoham said:

My band would need a few lessons on music theory first!

Sounds harder than it is - works really well in most circumstances!

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We get plenty of signals from the audience. Not usually complimentary, suggesting we play in two sharps.

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50 minutes ago, casapete said:

Sounds harder than it is - works really well in most circumstances!

I'd cause all sorts of confusion signalling one-up for Sweet Home Alabama!

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2 hours ago, chris_b said:

Directing the band is a skill. I do a lot of deps and the gigs that go well are usually lead by a band leader who is good at communicating. I play with one guy who will change the song as he feels and it rarely goes wrong, because he is giving directions all the time. Never a dull moment. The shambolic gigs are usually those where the band leader is trying to direct the band by using a long stare and attempting thought transference.

I wonder if those band leaders using the 'thought transference' system ever hear the 'transferences' coming back at them 😂 I've sent a few in my time !

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Yes Mykesbass....and you know who one of them was 😉

Edited by mybass

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