Re: Tactful corrections of band members
This is a very interesting topic as it's a situation that I think a big share of musicians will stumble into one way or the other.
I just typed a big load of improvement ideas but then I thought about the situation and re-read everything I wrote and came to a not so nice conclusion.
I'd like to share a little story of a similar situation. Im in a Genesis tribute band and we had a drummer on the drumstool for 3 years that had no sense of timing and couldn't play his instrument. Now you might know genesis and if you do, then you might have an idea what it takes from a drummer to play the stuff Phil Collins came up with in his 30 years of Genesis. The guy just couldn't play a groove straight or play a fill without f*cking up the timing (or worse, just make it trough the fill without getting lost). I already lost my interest and sat in the keyboard department 1,5 years with little to no motivation because I knew that every rehearsal would be the same story.
Why not firing him? Well because of the same reason you guys have him in the band. The social part, the friendship part.
You are playing with someone that just doesn't match up with you guys and thats the problem. I know from experience that everything mentioned will not really help sort out everything because what he need is education and a change in attitude and insight. That's very difficult to accomplish.
I think that you should try out a few things and see if he's making progress (also, consider backing tracks, playing to a click and suggesting parts although you did try the latter one). But if he doesn't make good progress (get better timing, listen and not overplay) then I think it's really important to save the friendship. What that means is that you guys have to split up as a whole or fire him (but I think the first option is better for the friendship).
It's a very hard decision and very dramatic but I really believe that if you guys want to have everything sorted out and still keep the friendship the same, it is only option that looks manageable because other options just fail and will end in a negative spiral. What happens at the end of the spiral is that you guys loose the friendship and or the project. That would be a lose lose situation. I think putting the band on hold is a lose situation but also a win situation, especially if friendship is much more important.
If the band is just to make fun and do nothing serious, then I would suggest really leaving it for what it's worth, don't have expectations and just have fun togheter. If it's serious then really get rid of him (but that will cost you a friendship, unless you are VERY diplomatically skilled or if he just sees the light and understands that he needs to work hard himself to get somewhere and leaves by himself).
Btw, our story ended with the negative spiral, costing a friendship because he just couldn't understand the problem and always thought that we where just too hard for him. We had our round of auditions and have a drummer we could only dream of, but at the cost of a friendship.