When the songs aren't great...

maxwhineberg

Junior Member
What explanation do you give a project (and the members) when the songs and direction just aren't going the direction you want to go?

I've been running into that in 2 separate gigs I've been a part of. One a cover band. One an original band.

Cover band has been choosing a lot of songs that just don't work. Selfish selections because it showcases the individual musician's talents.

The original band started out great, but the new songs they've been writing are so boring (for lack of a better word) but I wouldn't necessarily want to tell them they are boring. Well written, but oh so boring.

How do you tell a project these things without insult? You want to be honest, and not give unrelated reasons, but you also don't want Hurt Feelings.
 

octatonic

Senior Member
Be honest but kind.

Don't give people an out by being attacking them verbally- just be clear about what the problem is and why you think it is a problem.
From then it is a negotiation- but it doesn't have to be one person winning and the other losing.

If they flat out refuse to acknowledge that it is a problem then decide if you want to live with the band as it is, or if you think you can affect a change of position down the line, or finding another band to play with.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
You need to be honest, and impart some real-world ideas to the members.

An original band is one thing, and might exist solely for the benefit of the writer or singer. Hopefully there's a level of enjoyment derived from rehearsing and perhaps gigging, and maybe there's not even an expectation of any success.

But a cover band exists primarily to make money, and please an audience. It's not a project band where the players can indulge themselves with obscure album cuts. Well, not if they want to make money! If the members have an issue playing songs that made the charts and are therefore likely to be familiar to the crowd, then those members need to either form a tribute band where the audience knows all of the original artist's material, or not attempt to play covers at all.

Bermuda
 

maxwhineberg

Junior Member
You need to be honest, and impart some real-world ideas to the members.

An original band is one thing, and might exist solely for the benefit of the writer or singer. Hopefully there's a level of enjoyment derived from rehearsing and perhaps gigging, and maybe there's not even an expectation of any success.
....
Bermuda
Thanks Bermuda. There's not much enjoyment lately. It does def exist solely for the benefit of the songwriter, he's very into his songs and writes drum parts and everything for me to play - for the keys as well.

been bored for some time
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
If you are planning on playing out (or if you do play out), record a practice. Have the band listen to it and ask them to answer honestly: "Would you pay money to listen to this?" And "Would you hire this band to play your event?"

That might get a good conversation going.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
Honestly critiquing your own original music is one of the most difficult things to do. Even if you have them listen with "new ears" they will never hear what you are hearing. I have left many bands because the songwriting stagnated or went in a direction I wasn't a fan of. You just tell them that you aren't digging the material and you are going to find a project you are passionate about. No need to be critical or mean, if they are guys worth their salt they wont want somebody in the band whose heart isn't in it anyway.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
I've had a similar experience recently - initially filled in for a band that had lots of gigs in a particular style. (Original drummer had back problems.) I didn't really like the dynamic of the group, but I was temporary, lots of gigs, and they paid well. Then I became a permanent member, but without any say. Over time they lost a few regular gigs, and tried to change direction with obscure songs, a new singer, and dozens of rehearsals of songs I hated. I tried to fix some of this, but it wasn't really my band. In the end I quit, as politely as I could, and two months later the band broke up, after nearly ten years.

My point is that you should try and help out, but if they won't listen and you don't enjoy it any more, then its time to move on.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Be honest, and professional, don't resort to personal digs or use superlatives...

I'm freelance, so I don't usually have too much say in a band's direction, but I recently gave a group some advice that was similar to this.

The group that had hired me a few times, were people in the ir 30s and 40s, but they weren't stellar musicians. They had 3 girl singers: 1 from Western Swing/Country, one from 1920s-30s torch songs, and one from more of a blues background. The main band was a piano player that was really an Opera singer, an upright bassist who came from Bluegrass, and a guitarist who was more of a classic rock guy. They would always try to hire me, and would sometimes hire a sub bass player that I knew, or a sub pianist.

Naturally their songs were all over the place: from Mood Indigo, to 20 Flight Rock, to Bake My Biscuit... and again, they were pretty good, but not great.

They were having trouble booking gigs outside of the two bars that they play at (one bar was owned by the singer's husband, the other was owned by another singer's cousin).

I let them know that finding a style or niche is ciritical, for any band. Original or cover. That's not to say that every song needs to stay the same, but you should have a style, for a couple reasons:
  • It's easier to sell a product (your band) if you can define it in a quick sales pitch - Jazz band, country band, et cetera. If you have to list multiple genres, you'll start to lose your ability to convince the bar/club to try you out. (this is more true for cover bands)
  • Crowds are often looking for a consistent style - while you can have some diversity, the crowd is usually a classic rock crowd, or a jazz crowd. It's not often that you would get a blend.
  • It's important that you find a style that the band can play "authentically". An audience can tell if people are going through the motions; they want to see a band that is passionate about what they are playing - plus it's easier on the musicians
  • Multiple directions will eventually just split the band up. The more material these three singers pulled in, the less cohesive the band became - Try having a conversation with two other friends and then walking away in three separate directions, eventually you get far enough away from each other that you aren't communicating anymore.
 
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