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  #1  
Old 06-13-2008, 12:57 AM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default How to Start a Band

Hey all,

I've finally decided to sit down this summer and plan out how to start a band. I'm hoping to get a combo together with some of my acquaintances from a high school jazz ensemble and form a 5-piece group with Drums (me), Bass, Piano, Alto Sax, and Trumpet. I know an amazing jazz pianist who I've played with many times before, as well as a phenomenal alto sax and a good screamer on trumpet. I'd like to meet 2x a week to rehearse and sightread tunes (lots of old and new jazz, latin, and old pop - sinatra, fitzgerald, etc.), and I'm considering calling everyone a good month or 2 in advance to make sure their schedules are okay with mine.

So basically I'm looking for advice... what would really draw other musicians into this experience, where they might be somewhat skeptical at first? These people I have in mind are all high-school aged, but RIDICULOUSLY good players... all of them (including me) have performed at the Fullerton Jazz Festival, at the All-State Band, and lots of school-related stuff... but I don't think any of them have really been involved in a gigging jazz group.

If anyone has tips, suggestions, ideas about starting a band and keeping it going...PLEASE feel free to drop in and say it like it is!

Thanks SO MUCH in advance...

Clayton Chancey
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  #2  
Old 06-13-2008, 01:41 AM
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Jimothy Jimothy is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Whatever you do with them, no matter how hard you work...remember to always have fun!
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  #3  
Old 06-13-2008, 01:41 AM
blade123
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clayton_C View Post
Hey all,

I've finally decided to sit down this summer and plan out how to start a band. I'm hoping to get a combo together with some of my acquaintances from a high school jazz ensemble and form a 5-piece group with Drums (me), Bass, Piano, Alto Sax, and Trumpet. I know an amazing jazz pianist who I've played with many times before, as well as a phenomenal alto sax and a good screamer on trumpet. I'd like to meet 2x a week to rehearse and sightread tunes (lots of old and new jazz, latin, and old pop - sinatra, fitzgerald, etc.), and I'm considering calling everyone a good month or 2 in advance to make sure their schedules are okay with mine.

So basically I'm looking for advice... what would really draw other musicians into this experience, where they might be somewhat skeptical at first? These people I have in mind are all high-school aged, but RIDICULOUSLY good players... all of them (including me) have performed at the Fullerton Jazz Festival, at the All-State Band, and lots of school-related stuff... but I don't think any of them have really been involved in a gigging jazz group.

If anyone has tips, suggestions, ideas about starting a band and keeping it going...PLEASE feel free to drop in and say it like it is!

Thanks SO MUCH in advance...

Clayton Chancey
Oh my God, I could be posting that. I even went to Fullerton. I'm looking for a group (5 might be too big, preferably 3-4). There's no talent were I live, so I can't start a band (yes I know there is, but they're keeping their whereabouts awfully secret). With larger groups, charts are the way to go. Look for some standards in bebop. Older jazz was mainly big band, and 5 is too small for a proper big band. Plus, bop for the most part has easy to follow structures. Get into Monk, Blakey, Miles.

Also, for sax, tenor might be easier to work with than alto, just a FYI.
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Old 06-13-2008, 03:19 AM
ericmiles ericmiles is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

What up CC,

Transitioning out of the school environment into the pro ranks, is super challenging. Not in the playing department, but in all the other aspects. Booking shows, getting paid, at those shows, being a band leader, organizing rehearsals etc. . . .

The advice to keep it fun, you should take to heart. Not just because this idea gets lost sometimes, but because all good groups START with the fun had playing. It's what will carry you through all the rest.

I would say that planning things 2 months in advance is overkill. I would try and arrange something next week to two weeks from now. If you know the players, make the calls, start and email list, make it happen. Even if they say yes to 2 months from know, other things could crop up in the interim.

Though it's unavoidable, try not to be intimidated by great players. Play with the best you can find, they will push you, and of course make your band sound better.

One more thing to keep in mind, especially because you asked to say it like it is: NO ONE from high school is really that good. You sound like you are on the road to getting good and your professional attitude will carry you far. But bear this in mind when you try and get gigs. Best place to start is house-parties or private functions. Club gigs will be hard to get because you will be competing against more experienced cats, and age will be an issue (drinking 21+, you know the drill).

My advice, plan it all out in your mind, but take it one step at a time. Organize a jam, have some fun. If the vibe is good, schedule another jam. If everyone is into it, bring up regular rehearsals. If the band is smoking, book a gig.

fire away any more questions,
eric
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  #5  
Old 06-13-2008, 07:11 AM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Thanks, eric and everybody... Good advice all around!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericmiles View Post
One more thing to keep in mind, especially because you asked to say it like it is: NO ONE from high school is really that good. You sound like you are on the road to getting good and your professional attitude will carry you far.

I don't mean to get argumentative here, after all, you're just offering some great advice (!) but that bit about no-one from high school really being that good is bogus. I know that personally, my professional career landed me gigs with Isaiah Morfin (young solo artist, also in High School... won Down Beat's Young Artist of the Year Award, played at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and also played with Terrell Stafford), Paul Perez (played alto for the Tower of Power), and Doug Davis (amazing pianist and classical composer). I've also been the drummer opening for the Estrada Brothers, Tom Harrell, and Condrad Herwig's "Latin Side of Miles, 'Trane, and Wayne." Two of the musicians I'm talking with about this combo, the saxophonist and the pianist, played at Carnegie Hall in 5th Grade (which is a big deal, being from California), and the pianist, according to the official SCSBOA Jazz results, is the number one high-school jazz pianist in California.

It seems narrow-minded to say that high-schoolers can't be as good of musicians as older people can. lol Maybe part of the reason I'm fiesty about this idea is because it tries to limit what I can do as an individual and a musician, and I don't think anything can do that.

:) I liked the other stuff you said, though.... hehe
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  #6  
Old 06-13-2008, 08:08 AM
ericmiles ericmiles is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

CC,

I stand corrected . . . almost.

Don't worry for a sec about what some random guy on the internet says (namely me). I can tell by your posts that you have the FIRE. Nobody can stamp that out but yourself, and that seems unlikely.

When you are in school, you get compared to other cats in school, but when you leave school, you get compared to everybody. It's certainly a big deal to play Carnegie Hall in 5th grade. But just this evening I was staring at two Carnegie hall posters (I live in NYC). One night was Mos Def with a big band, and the other was Herbie Hancock, Vinnie C. on drums.

The point I was trying to make was that you shouldn't get discouraged if you have some trouble when you get going. It doesn't matter how good you are now, and you sound like you can probably swing it hard, everyone gets smacked around at first, or soon enough.

I like a good argument. I'm from New Yawk after all!

There are always exceptions (Tony Williams, cough cough) , but no, high schoolers are in general not as good musicians as older cats. you simply don't have enough years on earth yet. However, that is not saying that there is a limit on you or your potential, those are infinite. That's a different thing entirely.

Keep us posted on your progress, and post some material when you get it together. I'm always looking to hear some great new music!!!!!

eric
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Old 06-13-2008, 08:13 AM
jay norem
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

What's your plan for this band? You've got to have a plan, an idea you can articulate to the guys you want to play with. Even if it's only to get together to learn and play tunes in order to become better musicians. Also, who's going to be the leader, the organizer? You don't want to waste time wondering what to do once everyone's together. Someone has to organize rehearsals, make a list of songs to work on, and run rehearsals so everybody isn't just sitting around waiting for something to happen or for somebody to do something.
Get an agenda and organize your players. Get the charts together. Make it as professional as you can. That, to me, is the fun of it. Doing it right is the fun of it.
Best of luck to you.
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  #8  
Old 06-13-2008, 09:00 AM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericmiles View Post
The point I was trying to make was that you shouldn't get discouraged if you have some trouble when you get going. It doesn't matter how good you are now, and you sound like you can probably swing it hard, everyone gets smacked around at first, or soon enough.

Keep us posted on your progress, and post some material when you get it together. I'm always looking to hear some great new music!!!!!
:) Point taken! I think I maybe misunderstood your original statement... I totally agree that being a youngster, I'll learn things the hard way, and that part of growing up and getting better at anything (not to mention music) is, quite simply, failing. And I've definitely got more of that ahead of me that older musicians, simply by nature of humanity.

And yes, I'm planning on purchasing several condensers and a audio-buddy mixer box, and using it to record all our rehearsals, assuming we actually get together. So if everything works out... we'll have plenty of recordings, and I'll definitely post some here!


Quote:
Originally Posted by jay norem View Post
What's your plan for this band? You've got to have a plan, an idea you can articulate to the guys you want to play with.

Get an agenda and organize your players. Get the charts together. Make it as professional as you can. That, to me, is the fun of it. Doing it right is the fun of it.
Best of luck to you.
I do have SOMETHING of a plan, although that's part of the reason I posted here. Most of the conversation, thusfar, has been me showing off and affirming good advice (I AM only a teenager, after all... just kidding ;)). What I'm really looking for is ideas, spoken from experience, on how to best attract/organize musicians. I have an idea of who I'd like in the group, but I'm not sure how to make it more than a casual "jam session", because we've had plenty of those, and I seem to be the only one who's thinking of making it more...

And, of course, there's always this: pianists and saxes can get their own gigs, and my friends DO get gigs, but drummers... they need a band. So I'm in a bit of a - a pickle, you could say... :)
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  #9  
Old 06-13-2008, 10:28 AM
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harryconway harryconway is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Might help now, to start thinking of your project as a trio +. Getting 5 cats together twice a week might be hard. Especially if the people are already gigging. If you and the bass player are "tight", any third body, there's a gig. If 4 can make it, cool. If all 5 make it, sweet.
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  #10  
Old 06-13-2008, 05:40 PM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

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Originally Posted by harryconway View Post
Might help now, to start thinking of your project as a trio +. Getting 5 cats together twice a week might be hard. Especially if the people are already gigging. If you and the bass player are "tight", any third body, there's a gig. If 4 can make it, cool. If all 5 make it, sweet.
That's a very good point, and regrettably, it might end up happening. :( I talked to one saxophonist (the one who plays alto) and he would love to be in, but may not be able to make the practices all the time. But I have another friend on tenor who would be able to make 2x-a-week rehearsals between his 5-hour practice sessions (homeschoolers, go figure). While I would LOVE to have a trumpet, there's only one I know that has the jazz chops necessary... and he's heavily involved in sports, making practice for some combo a huge sacrifice - probably not one he'll make.

Also, how much rehearsal is needed before we're ready to go play more upscale gigs? Obviously house parties, favors for friends, low-paying company parties, etc. don't need a whole ton of preparation, if you're a good sightreader... but when it comes to really DEVELOPING a flavor and developing a unique way of playing tunes, how long do you keep things in the oven before bringing these elements to a show?
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  #11  
Old 06-13-2008, 05:48 PM
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

It's been my experience (especially recently) that the main thing to starting a band is that all members have the same level of commitment and understanding of the direction of the band.
I've been working with a trio for several months (drums, bassist and singer/ guitarist). The singer/ guitarist is much younger than the bassist and myself. As a matter of fact, he just graduated from high school and is an amazing musician. He has really projected us into a much higher level of playing than we were before.
The problem is his priorities are a little different than ours. Just this past week, we were scheduled for a practice on Tuesday and then play a gig on Wednesday. He called and cancelled the practice AND the gig stating that he wanted to "spend time with his girlfriend"! TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE! Needless to say, we are not very happy with him right now and have talked about finding a replacement soon.
My point is- I totally agree that you can find great talent in young people (just out of high school) but if the maturity and level of commitment is not there, it can be a real let down.
I wish you the best of luck!
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  #12  
Old 06-13-2008, 08:27 PM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Yes, I'm hoping that if I can get these people together and show them how serious I am about getting out there and playing... they'll start acting serious about it too.
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  #13  
Old 06-13-2008, 08:48 PM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

Okay, I drafted a basic email-style description of the group that I'm planning to email out to everyone. I'll post it here... if anyone thinks of something that needs inclusion, please let me know!

---

JAZZ GROUP

Bass, Keys, Saxophone, and Trumpet are needed.

Will be an organized group with rehearsals twice a week. I'm perfectly fine with arranging rehearsal times to suit everyone's schedules. Rehearsals will typically be 2-3 hours. One rehearsal will be dedicated to sight reading all new music (building a base of call-up tunes), and the other rehearsal will be dedicated to practicing tunes we have already sight read (getting comfortable with each other as players). Everyone will get solos to fit the tune (i.e.: in a soft piano-intensive ballad, no drum solos). We will be playing a mix of Traditional Jazz and Latin(Fakebook/Realbook tunes, bop-era charts), New and Contemporary Jazz (anything post-bop that's NOT SMOOTH!!!), and Old Pop (Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, whatever we can manage without a vocalist).

Expect two 2-3 hour rehearsals per week for a month before getting a gig. The entire purpose of this band, besides having fun and making music, is to play around town and hopefully get lots of gigs. Any payment that the band receives will be equally divided among all the players.

All rehearsals will be recorded and CDs can be emailed or burnt for anyone who wants/needs a copy for a class or just to listen. Please RSVP with your schedule and WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, and I will try to make rehearsals as conveinent as possible for everyone. Depending on individual schedules, I hope to begin rehearsals on the last week of July, carrying us into the school year. By the end of the first quarter, we will hopefully begin to play around town.

RSVP. Clayton Chancey
Phone: (---) --- ----
Email: ----------@gmail.com
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  #14  
Old 06-13-2008, 09:42 PM
lewisn27
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

hi Clayton!
i think your thinking in to this a bit too much.
if it is just your mates your playing with you don't need that much organisation. it is good how your planning in advance and stuff but the main thing is that you get together and play.

as soon you find some compitent members for your band, just get together and play, before you do anything else get to know each others playing style so you can work together easily listen to eachother. that would be my main advice to you.
as soon as you get together it will probably just fit in to place as you go along.

Decide what would compliment the other dudes's styles and work towards being totally coherent with eachother.it will come naturally after that, hopefully.
and then you've got the problem of getting gigs.
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:32 PM
ericmiles ericmiles is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

CC,

I would try and strike a different tone in your email.

I think it's almost always a bad idea mention money arrangements up front. The first step is to get people excited to play with you. A future and important step, once they are, is to work out the financials.

Also, the number of hours of rehearsal's per week is directly related to how excited people are with the situation. If the vibe is right, you'll have no problems getting them that often. However, I personally would never commit to a rehearsal schedule before jamming for the first time.

I said it in a previous email, but it bears repeating: plan it all out in your head, but take it one step at a time.

Here's what I would suggest:

You are not looking for random cats, as your email implies. You already know who you want to play with!! Call them, or email them directly and say something along the lines of: "I've been thinking a lot, and have a great vision for a band. I'm trying to organize a quintet of top players, and your name popped immediately into my head. I haven't got definite commitments from everybody yet, but I think if the musicians I'm thinking of got together in a room and started jamming, we'd see that the vibe would be right. . . . You have any interest? . . . what are your good days for the initial get together, I'm really excited about this, so the sooner the better"

That's just some ideas. You could also drop things like, your favorite players or groups. "Love the jazz messengers or Miles' 50s quintet with Coltrane." or "I want to play a good mix of standards, but am open to new material as well, and I definitely want to play out"

The key point: get them excited about the MUSIC and the rehearsals and everything else will fall into place.

eric
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:51 PM
blade123
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

This thread has inspired me to put up an ad at Guitar Center.
I hope I get a call from someone, wish me luck.

Edit: at the Fullerton jazz festival last year, did you go to the auxiliary clinic? I loved that guy. He was great and taught me a LOT.
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  #17  
Old 06-13-2008, 10:59 PM
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Clayton_C Clayton_C is offline
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Default Re: How to Start a Band

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Originally Posted by blade123 View Post
Edit: at the Fullerton jazz festival last year, did you go to the auxiliary clinic? I loved that guy. He was great and taught me a LOT.
No, unfortunately, my jazz band's from Bakersfield, so we went up as a group to hear the faculty trio and a few others, and then did our performance. Took third, which is disappointing, considering that 2 years ago we took first... of course, no-one beats out El Dorado. Those guys SMOKE..

I wish you the best with that ad!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericmiles View Post
CC,
The key point: get them excited about the MUSIC and the rehearsals and everything else will fall into place.
GREAT advice! Yeah, I suppose I should just email the individuals and keep it more personal that taking an anonymous ad kind of approach...
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