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Bad bands - or - where are all the semi-decent musicians?


Rexel Matador

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I answered an ad for a punk band looking for a bass player. They already have a drummer: tick. Gigs booked: tick. The sent me some rough demos - pretty catchy and the singer can hold a tune: tick.

 

I went to try out for them last night. They were lovely guys but my god they were terrible. The singer/guitarist/songwriter was fine, but the drummer seemed to barely know the songs and the "lead" guitarist was out of tune for the whole two hours and seemingly oblivious to that fact.

 

I was still considering it on my way home though - it's just something fun to do of an evening and a way to hang out with nice people - that's clearly their approach. But I concluded that I can't bring myself to get up on stage as a part of that. I shouldn't be going to my first rehearsal with a band that's already played live knowing the songs better than anyone else in the room.

 

Am I taking it too seriously? Do they just need some time to get it together? I feel like I'm too old to start from scratch like that and have been to a shocking number of try outs in this vein - people who just don't know the material or don't put in any effort to play to a decent standard. The leader really didn't seem to mind that these songs he's spent time putting together were being butchered - I would despair in his position!

 

 

I by no means consider myself a remotely exceptional musician, but learning a song properly and playing it in tune is the bare minimum, surely?

 

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7 minutes ago, Rexel Matador said:

I went to try out for them last night. They were lovely guys but my god they were terrible. The singer/guitarist/songwriter was fine, but the drummer seemed to barely know the songs and the "lead" guitarist was out of tune for the whole two hours and seemingly oblivious to that fact.

 

Wasn't that Punk?

 

Seriously, maybe give the singer your number and say you'd be interested if he ever forms another band.

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Tricky. If they're decent blokes and I had nothing else on the go, I'd probably agree to give it a try on a provisional bases ("Let's see how we get on", etc), However, I'd insist on rehearsals and subtly suggest improvements/get people to tune up, etc. Which might mean I wouldn't last long... On the other hand, the singer might be grateful for an ally, who wants to do his songs justice, so you and he could work on knocking the others into shape. 

Edited by Dan Dare
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Record the next rehearsal on a mini recorder and send the band members a copy. Then contact and ask what they think? If they point out obvious deficiencies, and how to solve them, then all is good. If they find nothing wrong then walk away. Tuning has never been easier, even between songs, so no excuses.

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1 minute ago, mikel said:

Record the next rehearsal on a mini recorder and send the band members a copy. Then contact and ask what they think? If they point out obvious deficiencies, and how to solve them, then all is good. If they find nothing wrong then walk away. Tuning has never been easier, even between songs, so no excuses.

I know, I suspect his guitar needs a good set up - but surely he should know that. Maybe I expect too much of people.

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59 minutes ago, Rexel Matador said:

 

I was still considering it on my way home though - it's just something fun to do of an evening and a way to hang out with nice people - that's clearly their approach.

 

 

If that's the case, then I don't really see the problem. If it's just an excuse for a night out with the lads, then ultimately who cares if there are a few issues? 

 

If, however, you want to take things seriously, this clearly isn't the right situation for you. Politely walk away and don't worry about it. No harm, no foul.

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I find if you play with musicians who are noticeably below your standard, you wind up not being friends because you moan at their lack of practice. Always best to play with people who are better than you because you push yourself. Personally, from my experience, I'd pass. Being in a rehearsal studio with a lumpy drummer and an out of tune guitarist is one thing but being seen live with them is another. Good luck finding something more suitable. 

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Sadly some of the punk bands about aren`t that good, are pretty much as described, whereas some are truly amazing, really tight and all able to play very well. I think your standards @Rexel Matadorare the right ones, there`s nothing wrong in any of what you say and I don`t think you`re taking it too seriously at all.

 

Having been on the punk/Oi circuit the bands that can & do play well rise to getting the good gigs pretty quickly, and there are plenty out there, maybe these guys have that potential but need steering/focusing, sometimes that aspect doesn`t need to be done by the lead songwriter.

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1 hour ago, Rexel Matador said:

I feel like I'm too old to start from scratch like that and have been to a shocking number of try outs in this vein

 

 

Yes. Lots of deluded instrument owners around. You just have to keep auditioning. You're auditioning them as much as they're auditioning you. 

 

This is where depping and keeping contact with musicians you used to play with comes in. It's all about networking and knowing who can actually play. Turning up to play in a band of people you've neither been recommended to nor do you know who they are is very hit and miss.

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I`m no virtuoso bass player but if I went for a play with a band and the drummer was crap and they can`t even tune their guitars, I would be outta there. 

 

Some people seem to treat being in a band as some kind of social club, which is fine if you have no plans of playing gigs to a decent standard but if you aren`t on the same page, it`s never going to be satisfying. 

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18 minutes ago, EssentialTension said:

I'm pretty sure I have failed auditions because I queried the correctness of the chords the guitarist was playing.

 

I once failed an audition with the words "Is that how you think it goes?". Followed by, "Think we will go with the other guy, he knows all the tunes. Do you fancy a cup of tea and a chat?"

 

Although I'd already decided I didn't want the gig on the drive to the audition. 

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2 hours ago, TimR said:

 

 

Yes. Lots of deluded instrument owners around. You just have to keep auditioning. You're auditioning them as much as they're auditioning you. 

 

This is where depping and keeping contact with musicians you used to play with comes in. It's all about networking and knowing who can actually play. Turning up to play in a band of people you've neither been recommended to nor do you know who they are is very hit and miss.

I've auditioned for some dreadful bands over the years, notable incidents include the keyboard player who could only play in C/Am and had to use the transpose feature on the keyboard to play in any other key.

Edited by bassman7755
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13 minutes ago, bassman7755 said:

I've auditioned for some dreadful bands over the years, notable incidents include the keyboard player who could only play in C/Am and had to use the transpose feature on the keyboard to play in any other key.

I can't help but respect the misplaced ingenuity, though

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4 hours ago, Rexel Matador said:

But I concluded that I can't bring myself to get up on stage as a part of that. I shouldn't be going to my first rehearsal with a band that's already played live knowing the songs better than anyone else in the room.

 

Am I taking it too seriously? Do they just need some time to get it together? I feel like I'm too old to start from scratch like that and have been to a shocking number of try outs in this vein - people who just don't know the material or don't put in any effort to play to a decent standard. The leader really didn't seem to mind that these songs he's spent time putting together were being butchered - I would despair in his position!

 

 

 

I think you've answered your own question here. I don't consider myself much of a musician but there are people out there with apparently no idea.  I was a late starter to music, still suffer from imposter syndrome and I'm still pathetically grateful to anyone who will have me in their band but there have been a few occasions where I've felt we've been letting the audience down and I'm never going there again. I've a really lovely friend who plays keys and he's partnered with a woman with a truly great rock voice but he can't keep time and has an inability to listen to the rest of the band. I haven't the heart to tell either of them but I think every musician in the area knows the problem and we are all letting them hang on to their dreams whilst making our excuses. Excuses you will have to make.

 

If you are going to stand up in front of other people I think you owe it to them to take it seriously whatever level you are playing at.

Edited by Phil Starr
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Once joined a band because I just wanted to be in a band again. The drummer was kind of ok but uninspiring, the guitarist and band leader appeared to know the songs less well than I did, but I got the gig.]

As time went on in became clear the guitarist had no sense of time, nor was he interested in learning. I'm now in another band with the same drummer who, it transpired, hadn't been playing very long when I first met him. He is a lovely bloke and a wonderful drummer.

I suppose what I'm saying is you can't make any kind of valuable judgement of where a band will lead you.

 

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To try to answer the question in the thread title....

 

For the cream to rise to the top of the jug, it needs to be in the jug. Being the musical, professional, good-humoured member of a shambolic band will attract the attention of quality bands – and they would much rather poach a bassist of known quality than audition a stream of random replies to an advert.

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There is a gentle winnowing of the great field of musicians as you pass through life. Early on everybody sucks and consequently nobody really cares; as you get older the untalented, the unmotivated, and eventually just the plain mediocre slowly drop out as other things take priority in life (partners, kids, jobs, making rent). Eventually you end up with only the truly talented or the truly delusional still available playing, and the truly talented are rarely struggling for gigs or advertising on classifieds... That's not a knock on your level of playing at all but unfortunately most people are going to have to go through the audition mill a few times until some of the bigger lumps get knocked out! 

 

I've always felt that you should never be the best musician in a band and often it's actually better to be the worst, so long as it inspires you to get better rather than give up. 

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4 hours ago, borntohang said:

I've always felt that you should never be the best musician in a band and often it's actually better to be the worst, so long as it inspires you to get better rather than give up.

The issue then is, of course, that they may be reluctant to have you in their band. We all need to find our level.

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Well that's where you have to rely on your roguish wink and natural charm to get you the gig, obviously. Failing that, or if you're a drummer, then being able to consistently turn up on time and sober is a close second. You'd be amazed how many gigs that trick has got me even when I was having to turn down in the tricky bits for the first couple of shows...

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On 11/11/2021 at 15:40, bassman7755 said:

I've auditioned for some dreadful bands over the years, notable incidents include the keyboard player who could only play in C/Am and had to use the transpose feature on the keyboard to play in any other key.

I did a handful of function band gigs with a keyboard player like that . 

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