On Stage Communication

aydee

Platinum Member
...

Alright, I'm mad ( miffed ).

I'm come from a jazzy/funky background and as some of you might know, am playing with a reggae band these days. The rest of the guys in the band are from a rock/reggae headspace.

Last night we had a gig that I was a bit disappointed with. We played it alright but, despite my best efforts as a drummer, I couldn't get the band to change any gears all night. This band goes at one speed. It belts everything out.

I tried to give the band a little speech before the gig about ' let look at each other, lets mellow out some parts, lets play with dynamics, lets not play parts-lets play music, lets go real soft under the sax solo' and everyone nodded very earnestly. Yes, they all agreed. But come gig time, our 1 1/2 hour went exactly as I feared. Cape Canaveral rocket launch!!

I know this comes from not listening to others on stage, or getting some kind of 'stage persona' hang up where you arent communicating for whatever reason, or may just sheer inexperience, I dont know.

I think the guys who do it really well, do it with their ears. For others, an occasional exchange of looks, or when you are feeling something on a solo looking at the others guys to make the musical moment happen is important. It also keeps you from overplaying, I would think.

I don't know, man,.... I mean we pulled the gig off well and it was a tight set, and we got lots of compliments, but I was disappointed. I wouldn't want to hear something for an 1 1/2 at one dynamic level. No matter who's playing.

End-o-rant.

On stage communication. How important do you think it is? How do you guys deal with it?

...
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Communication sounds a bit formal, but working together is a must.

A group's ability to work together is governed largely by the players' ability to hear each other, and themselves. Good monitor mixes are crucial for this, and if the band finds it difficult to stay with you, make sure their mixes all have plenty of hat for a pulse. Of course, your time has to be good and you have to be able to lock-in without straying.

Then again, it's also possible that some of the players just can't work in a group situation, or regard dynamics as something for bar bands that have to play quietly.

Fire them.

Go find some players with more experience and a pro attitude. There are millions of guys who'd love to be in a working band.

Bermuda
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Communication sounds a bit formal, but working together is a must.

A group's ability to work together is governed largely by the players' ability to hear each other, and themselves. Good monitor mixes are crucial for this, and if the band finds it difficult to stay with you, make sure their mixes all have plenty of hat for a pulse.
Very true, Jon. The monitors were a bit of a mess last night ( too much reflection on the stage, close micing in a smallish space, amplifiers to loud on stage..but ya, we need a better attitude to the 'music' on stage as well.

Awesome advice on the 'more hats in the monitors. Gotta tell Joe, the soundman...

Then again, it's also possible that some of the players just can't work in a group situation, or regard dynamics as something for bar bands that have to play quietly.
These guys can play in groups and are talented players, but not enough performance experience I think...

Fire them.

Go find some players with more experience and a pro attitude. There are millions of guys who'd love to be in a working band.
Not my band, Jon.. : (

My advice to the band was coming for a older guy who have been around the block a couple of times..
 

Derek

Silver Member
Yeah Abe, there are some who seem to just want to "let er' rip" at one dynamic level all night and that just isn't my cup of tea.

To me "communication" on stage is necessary - listening to each other and paying attention. We've been dealing with a fill in player who does neither. He's missing changes, not listening to the groove, too busy mugging for the audience.

We deal with it just the same way that you do - try to reinforce by talking before the gig and between sets,but when it goes in one ear... well, you know.

But we can eventually replace one player. You're dealing with the entire band.Sure wish I had some words of wisdom.

Maybe record and let them here what they're (not) doing?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yes, lack of performance experience will do it. So will personality.

Our band has only had a few gigs this year and our guitarists play head down as though their fingers will jump into the audience if they're not careful. I suggested at rehearsal that they look around a bit more. So our lead player (lovely guy) stares at me smiling until I get creeped out and escape into drumland. He then gratefully goes back to guitar land. That's nerds for you!

Ideally, this shouldn't have to be something a muso should have to be distracted by - it's a state of mind. Maybe a little conscious practice at looking up during reheasals would push us into that state?

I understand the sheer enjoyment of disappearing into the music but gigs are hard enough to come by. If we played like Miles we'd get away with it
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Yes, lack of performance experience will do it. So will personality.

Our band has only had a few gigs this year and our guitarists play head down as though their fingers will jump into the audience if they're not careful. I suggested at rehearsal that they look around a bit more. So our lead player (lovely guy) stares at me smiling until I get creeped out and escape into drumland. He then gratefully goes back to guitar land.... Maybe a little conscious practice at looking up during reheasals would push us into that state?

I understand the sheer enjoyment of disappearing into the music but gigs are hard enough to come by. If we played like Miles we'd get away with it
I'm picturing your lead guy smiling at you creepily and am LMAO right this minute!

We do it at practice, but then it all goes YOWZEE on stage.

Miles was listening all the time with his back turned to the audience. Then he played one note every 4 bars. He actually listened a lot more than he played...maybe I show mail these lads some Miles youtube links..

Yeah Abe, there are some who seem to just want to "let er' rip" at one dynamic level all night and that just isn't my cup of tea. ...Maybe record and let them here what they're (not) doing?
Yea Derico, recording us would be a great idea. Will try and do it at the next gig Wednesday, thanks.

...
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I'm picturing your lead guy smiling at you creepily and am LMAO right this minute!

We do it at practice, but then it all goes YOWZEE on stage.

Miles was listening all the time with his back turned to the audience. Then he played one note every 4 bars. He actually listened a lot more than he played...maybe I show mail these lads some Miles youtube links.....
Yeah, it was funny in hindsight but at the time my skin was crawling :)

As Bermuda said, bad foldback is a problem. That would really suck out the enjoyment for me in my old bands. Playng becomes a battle for survival rather than a joy.

Maybe there's a bit of stage nerves too?
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
Hmmm, got a few bits to add on here. The first is practice style. I always insist on two levels of rehearsal, sometimes three. Standard rehearsal is all gathered around, PA facing inwards, moderate volume, only vocals mic'd. I sometimes insist on purely vocal rehearsal with no amplification & me on muted kick, snare + hats. My real point here is that the "dress rehearsal" style practice is critical to honing performance dynamics & communication in my opinion. I always advocate at least one, preferably more, full performance rehearsals. Full stage style setup with monitors, lights, the whole show. You can't hope to foster dynamics and teamsmanship unless you immerse in the stage environment. This is where we work out the subtle bits, monitor mix issues, etc and we record the "dress rehearsal". From the recording you can clearly hear balance, dynamic & tempo issues then modify accordingly. There's no hiding from this routine. Ok, a single source recording can never be truly representitive of the whole sound but it's close enough. A lot of acts miss out the dress rehearsal stage in practice. Would a West End or Times Square theatrical production go live without a dress rehearsal, I don't think so.

Another thing that really helps fine tune things is to use an in ear monitor system rather than traditional wedges. This only works if everything is balanced through the desk. Using in ear monitors cuts out all the localised instrument effect and the front of house wash. Great for really hearing what's going on but can add a degree of sterility if you're not used to the system. Quite expensive to wire the whole band up too.

Hope these snippets help. The dress rehearsal thing certaily helps bring the less experienced / uncooperative members to heal.
 

mcbike

Silver Member
I am usually able to real people in dynamically with just my playing.
sometimes hand signals are needed. try to work out some signals that everybody can agree on. make sure people know the difference between quiet and slow down.

you can usually put a palm down signal with your left hand and still keep playing to get people to quiet down.

sometimes though if you come from a jazz background or jazz training people do not get what your trying to do. I've gotten evil looks for dropping the back beat in a solo (I was trying to leave space, they didn't see it that way) It doesn't matter how much you try to explain these concepts to people if they don't play jazz they aren't going to get it.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Hope these snippets help. The dress rehearsal thing certaily helps bring the less experienced / uncooperative members to heal.
Great way to work Andy, and I wish I could impress upon these guys what it takes to be a top notch band ( all the stuff you mentioned ), but unless one makes these discoveries on one's own, you aren't going to listen to some frowning old guy when all the hot chickies are blowing you kisses, left & right.

We try and do the dress rehearsal bit and it usually isnt as bad as the real thing.. it's like some invisible switch gets thrown on the minute the performance begins.

..

sometimes though if you come from a jazz background or jazz training people do not get what your trying to do. I've gotten evil looks for dropping the back beat in a solo (I was trying to leave space, they didn't see it that way) It doesn't matter how much you try to explain these concepts to people if they don't play jazz they aren't going to get it.
Did I get those looks last night!! They thought I was having a heart attack,...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm not sure stage communication is the issue, it smacks of musical immaturity to me, and that's something that each individual player has to understand on a personal level. Do they use dynamics at rehearsal? If so are they good at them? If so, then hopefully it won't be too hard of a battle. If not, it could take years before they get it.

I find that getting a little upset (at a band meeting) goes a long way. No one likes it when somebody is upset, it makes people sit up and take notice.

Of course you have to cushion the blow....(You know how much I like this band right? Well the other night I realized that we have a real dynamics issue...)
Maybe they don't understand dynamics, time to sing their virtues loud and proud.

Of course the trick is to not single anyone out, just a general dissatisfaction coupled with real solutions for correcting the issues, including practice targeted specifically on dynamic transitions. You have to make them understand how ameteur it is (and embarrassing to you) to play at one level all night.

Time to get proactive for the good of the band. Hopefully the others are receptive, and can follow your lead.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
I'm not sure stage communication is the issue, it smacks of musical immaturity to me, and that's something that each individual player has to understand on a personal level. Do they use dynamics at rehearsal? If so are they good at them? If so, then hopefully it won't be too hard of a battle. If not, it could take years before they get it.

I find that getting a little upset (at a band meeting) goes a long way. No one likes it when somebody is upset, it makes people sit up and take notice.

Of course you have to cushion the blow....(You know how much I like this band right? Well the other night I realized that we have a real dynamics issue...)
Maybe they don't understand dynamics, time to sing their virtues loud and proud.

Of course the trick is to not single anyone out, just a general dissatisfaction coupled with real solutions for correcting the issues, including practice targeted specifically on dynamic transitions. You have to make them understand how ameteur it is (and embarrassing to you) to play at one level all night.

Time to get proactive for the good of the band. Hopefully the others are receptive, and can follow your lead.
Larry, I think you are dangerously close to the real truth. Rehearsals are somewhat dynamically better so its not like I'm talking Greek.

Maybe I'm hoping for a realization thats probably not going to happen here with these guys. However even though I'm not the band leader, they do see me as the more experienced one so maybe I can get away with a little more hard talk, schooling and lecturing. Hope it works wednesday's gig.

Will report in.

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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Yea Abe, trying to alter other peoples playing is treacherous territory. (I've lost gigs over it) Fragile personalities and all that. But really it has to be addressed. I could never keep that in if I played a gig w/ no dynamics. Music is so much like conversation, and when someone is speaking, the others should be listening and supporting, egging the person on, not stepping on them.

If they accept your upcoming dialouge graciously that's great, but it doesn't mean squat if they can't make it happen onstage, that's where it counts.

Even though you're not the leader, this is your area of expertise. It sounds like your mates don't fully understand the sheer musical power of dynamics. OMG they are so emotionally powerful! You say that rehearsals are somewhat dynamically better...sounds like they could use a master class on "Incorporating Musical Dynamics in a Live Music Environment". They want to sound professional right? Appeal to that side of them. They could raise the level of the whole band a few notches relatively quickly and easily by using them consistantly. It's not like they have to learn new notes or anything.
 
B

Big_Philly

Guest
they do see me as the more experienced one so maybe I can get away with a little more hard talk, schooling and lecturing.
That's true. Once you've established a reputation among your band members of being a good drummer and one of the best of the band, you can often get away with a little lecturing, as most people know good drummers are hard to come by. Keep it respectful though (I trust that you will but I thought I'd mention it anyway).
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Or for a different approach you could say, Guys, I have a great idea. It's easy to do and it will raise our musicianship by at least a level or two. We'll look and sound much more polished if we really understand the power of volume manipulation....Here's what I mean...

This is where you ever so gently drill these guys on exactly what it takes to be pulled off, the benefits (tension and release, more fun, all the pros do it, you won't look like a dork) that it requires a one mindedness (band effort) and AWARENESS, but most importantly, smooth execution.Tell them it will add the third dimension to the music. Hey it aint rocket surgery it's just adjusting your volume (by touch) appropriately. Shame them into it a bit, make it a game, and rib them when they forget. Raise the bar. Don't wanna embarass the family ha ha!

Some guys can't relax enough to play soft (yet). They think they have to be giving 100% all the time. Music (I eventually learned) isn't like that. It ebbs and flows, and most times doesn't come close to 100%.

Giving your all shouldn't come at the expense of the tune.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Sounds like you have a 2fold problem, at least. The old "volume war" ..... and a band communication thing.​
With the volume thang, it's usually a guitarist that drives it. He can't "hear himself". Of course he can't. Start off the set on 10, by the 3rd song, all his hearings gone, he's got no where to go but to 11, and there you and the band are "for the rest of the night".​
There are many reasons why? A mistake I see "over and over" is guys standing right in front of their cabs, and too close. And the cabs pointed straight out. Now, if his ears were located "on his calves", he'd hear that he's too loud. But with his head 4' above the throw.​
The main "other" reason cats are too loud, I've experienced, is they simply say, "that's my sound". Well, that "used to" be a good excuse, if you were playing a Marshall Plexi (or something), but now, modern times, with Mesa Boogie's and Line 6 pods, you can make a 40-60 watt amp scream. At any volume. I own a bass pod and three 60 watt Roland amps. I know it can be done.​
"You can't teach a pig to sing", so the old proverb goes. At almost 53, I don't fight with anyone, anymore. I figure, even cats 20 years younger than me, they're grown men. They either "get it", or they "don't". Honestly, I wouldn't put much more time into these guys. If they don't "get it", they probably "won't".​
Communication. On stage, and off. Essential. Without it, you're ____ed. Music is my solace. The one thing I have control over. I'm having to deal with several "bad news on the doorstep" issues right now. But that's life. We deal. But I can keep the poison out of my jam room.​
 

eamesuser

Silver Member
Good topic,I am going thru the same thing with my band,I am getting some good ammo for when I have my chat with them.
 

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
Oh man, if I didn't listen to everyone I'd be toast. Usually my drums are in the very middle of the stage, the rhythm guitar player / lead singer is directly in front of me with his back turned to me, so I usually have to stare at his backside unless he turns one way or the othter, but usually he communicates with the rest of us pretty well. If he were a she with a nice backside, I wouldn't mind a bit! LOL

The bass player is off to my left and the lead off to my right. I can see both these cats and hear them well enough so I'm able to listen. About the only thing I can't hear sometimes and it's usually the sound system isn't set right, are the lyrics.

Just now the bass player has committed fully 110% after we played live for 2 gigs back to back and was impressed with the sound and the potential we have. So that's good. And he is now bringing up dynamics and control to the rest of us, which is great. At least we acknowledge we have a dynamics problem and are trying to fix it.

Even the lead's girlfriend has a good ear and ensures he doesn't get too loud and carried away with himself.

But we do all acknowledge the sound and communication on stage is a must if we are to make this band profitable and enjoyable.
 

ChipJohns

Senior Member
Don't know the exact venues you play, but, if you can, show them what it's like. It needs to be at a place that you feel comfortable enough doing this. Just play the crap out of your drums... as loud as you can play. no dynamics, every hit as loud as you can. Spazz out!

I bet you'll get their attention!

If you do it in like the third set you can laugh about it and the crowd will probably laugh too. (if the band has built a relationship with them by then...hopefully!)
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Fair point, Chip. The drummer has a lot of control over the dynamics without having to say a thing. I'm the only one in the band with hard rock in my background and early on the message was clear - play more quietly.

There have been times when I wished we'd crank up a bit for energy but I have been a good little drummer and stayed in my box.

Now they are rehearsing a fill-in guy for a gig I can't attend in a couple of weeks' time. He plays much more loudly than I do and the whole band has cranked up to what I think is a better level (closer to the level we play when gigging). No complaints from anyone! It sucks because it makes him look like he's a more energetic player but if he had to behave as I do, he'd struggle.

Thing is, if you drop the volume at the right spots then the band usually drops. If you lift it at those points where it adds excitement they will tend to follow suit. If they don't respond it could be because:

1. They aren't listening
2. They have a different idea of where the buildups and mellow sections should be

Aydee, if your band is responsive dynamically at rehearsal then you really need to gig with good foldback to know what's going on. If I was into betting I'd put my money on a combination of poor stage sound and nerves.
 
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