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  #1  
Old 08-06-2018, 04:42 PM
HeadForTheSticks HeadForTheSticks is offline
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Default How important is knowing the songs?

I was hoping to get some feedback, shared experiences or opposing views.
I'm in an original R&B soul band and I sub for a couple cover bands. Sadly I never took the time to learn how to read music and basically everyone in the bands I play for are either well schooled in music theory or have a very good understanding of music theory. I can really appreciate the skill and feel this is something I need to learn. That being said (this is the part where I fear getting beat up on here. :-) I noticed two of the cover bands that I sub for the members don't seem to take the time to actually learn the material. Even the simplest tunes that these guys grew up listening to and playing require them to be glued to an iPad or sheet music...on stage playing songs that they play out nearly every weekend. I'm the sub, I was recently sent a list of 40 or more songs 10 days before the gig to learn. I felt like I knew the songs better then some of the permanent members. Especially the bass player who seemed to rely completely on sight reading and felt like he was reacting to the chord changes slightly behind in time. I'm definitely not trying to toot my own horn (although it reads that way even to me) but I've done several gigs with these bands comprised of some of the same members and they rarely seem to have memorized the majority of the material. I feel like it often hurts the feel of the music and the conviction in which its delivered when they are so dependent on the sheet music and not in the moment. I sure if they were better at sight reading this won't be an issue. Long rant, sorry! any thoughts? have you experienced this? Am I out of line in my thinking?
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Old 08-06-2018, 04:51 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I'd say knowing the arrangement/tempo/key is Job 1. After that, it's all execution. But if you don't know the arrangement, that's a big inhibitor to the execution. I need to know what the next song section is well before time so I can handle the transition gracefully.

The thing is....you have zero control over how the others do their job. As I see it there are 3 choices. Either you work around the problem, (shut up and play) try and change their problem (good luck with that, or at least voice your concerns), or move on. Only you know best what you want to do there.

This is what makes bands hard, people not pulling their weight.
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Old 08-06-2018, 04:59 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

No, you are not out of line for your thinking. I play with people that HAVE to have notes (heck, my wife who plays bass is one of these people). As we are playing music, so many of them are staring a hole into their iPads. In addition, we have backing tracks and a click track pumping through our IEMs too. Even though we are playing in time and are playing the right notes, I feel it comes across as sterile, and as really not having any "soul" to it. I'm sure people in the audience don't care, and I think just about everyone else who is playing doesn't feel this way, but I do. I think that it's simply because I've played with musicians, both past and present, who play without any sort of written music at all. It's not that the music we do at church is bad by any stretch. I'd say we do a fairly good job, but to me there's no real "feel" to it.
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Old 08-06-2018, 05:08 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

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Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy View Post
No, you are not out of line for your thinking. I play with people that HAVE to have notes (heck, my wife who plays bass is one of these people). As we are playing music, so many of them are staring a hole into their iPads. In addition, we have backing tracks and a click track pumping through our IEMs too. Even though we are playing in time and are playing the right notes, I feel it comes across as sterile, and as really not having any "soul" to it. I'm sure people in the audience don't care, and I think just about everyone else who is playing doesn't feel this way, but I do. I think that it's simply because I've played with musicians, both past and present, who play without any sort of written music at all. It's not that the music we do at church is bad by any stretch. I'd say we do a fairly good job, but to me there's no real "feel" to it.
I will never understand how say a Vinnie can sight read....and play with feeling. People who read their parts...normally don't register with me on an emotional level. I never want to read on a gig, I just don't. That would involve being in my conscious mind. Not my goal while playing.

To the OP: No one is 100% the way you want them to be, no one. I just had to leave a band because it was embarrassing to me to play songs the at the speed we played them. I had to go. They weren't going to be doing any changing, and I couldn't shut up and play anymore.
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Old 08-06-2018, 05:15 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

If subbing learn the songs as best you can and let the rest of the band behave however they want. You won't be there often, nor responsible for how things turn out other than your parts. When I was younger, I used to frequent a particular club that was known for their 6 day a week music, and normally good bands. One week however a young band showed up with music stands on stage as if a high school concert band. Not good. But since you won't be there often, roll with it.
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Old 08-06-2018, 05:33 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

It's really interesting to me to see the debate between on-book and off-book. As someone who came up in classical music as a woodwind player, and still gets calls to do theater and related gigs with full scores, I can tell you that going off-book is not an option in many genres of music performance. And I don't think that folks who are experienced readers lose anything in the emotion of the piece. But that assumes an experienced reader - i.e. someone who does it for their job all the time. Most folks in rock bands don't fall into that category.

On pick-up gigs where I have minimal rehearsal time with the rest of the band, but the arrangements are completely set in stone, I will make a chart or a series of notes to refer to before starting the song.And even from there, if there's an ad-lib, I should be able to catch it.

I have been in bands where one or more members are stuck on-book, with varying degrees of success. But I also see a number of very prominent bands using confidence monitors on stage for lyrics (notably, Geddy Lee was using one for the last several Rush tours).

*If* it results in consistently better performances than without, I don't have a problem with someone being on book. If it becomes a detractor to the performance or the person in question can't read charts or music well enough to make it work, but then says "well, I can't remember all these parts"... I think that can be a red flag.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:01 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

It would literally take you 30 minutes to learn to read basic rhythms

doing so would never be detrimental to your musicianship or communication

there is absolutely no reason to not learn to understand the written language of music

what you do with it is up to you ...


playing poorly while reading on a gig has nothing to do with reading ... it has to do with being a shit musician

two pieces of advice

take a half hour and learn to read ...

seek better musicians to play with

of course knowing the tune is of utmost importance ... why would anyone think otherwise

this is an exercise I do with my students all the time

I'll play the rhythm of something like jingle bells or happy birthday on a pad without singing it and ask them to play it back ... 99% of the time they can't even begin to repeat what I just played ...

we try that a few times in a row

I then play the same rhythm while singing the melody then BOOM! ... they play it flawlessly

repeating what you are familiar with is very basic human conditioning ... check out baby shows ...

still absolutely no excuse for not knowing how to read ...

cue the "Buddy couldn't read" crowd ;)
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
I will never understand how say a Vinnie can sight read....and play with feeling. People who read their parts...normally don't register with me on an emotional level. I never want to read on a gig, I just don't. That would involve being in my conscious mind. Not my goal while playing.

To the OP: No one is 100% the way you want them to be, no one. I just had to leave a band because it was embarrassing to me to play songs the at the speed we played them. I had to go. They weren't going to be doing any changing, and I couldn't shut up and play anymore.
+1

I wouldn't want to watch a band that was sight reading songs that don't need to be sight read. Most pop songs are easier to learn from listening to the vocals and guitar rather than drums.

If you're performing you're usually entertaining as well.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:10 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I agree with alparrott-plenty of excellent musicians who sight read all the time-play fantastic with all kinds of emotions and feel. But those who don't I get the "it sounds mechanical" comments-it does. A good sight reader isn't focusing on reading but playing with emotions and feel-if you aren't you are concentrating on reading so it does sound mechanical-like grade school band learning a new song-ouch. I wish I had that gift-Vinnie Colaiuta really has it-I seem to remember some story by Zappa of Vinnie eating sushi with one hand, sight reading and nailing the song with his only free hand?? I can barely read, reading and listening same time-plugs it in quicker though (and my wife who reads well). So if I have to read it's just to learn the song so I can memorize and play it. TBH I always thought my playing was faster than my brain could think to sight read-wait a minute while I quit laughing at my own stupidity ROFL!!! I use to memorize everything but as I aged I did have to make up my own cheat sheets. I wish I had taken more interest and time to sight read music better-it did cause me to lose gigs (feel like it set me in my place-I'm not a real musician but I can do a good job faking it lol). Yeah really it is an insecurity-like living in a foreign country and I don't know how to read and write.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:10 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadForTheSticks View Post
any thoughts? have you experienced this? Am I out of line in my thinking?
Don't blame the method. It's not the reading; it's who is doing the reading.

There are musicians who are great at reading a chart, and can deliver a quality performance while doing it. It takes a lot of practice, and it's usually something you go through when studying music in a high school big band, or at a university. Knowledge of the style plays a role here.

But for the average Top 40 gig? Maybe if you're a sub, or if it's been a few weeks since you played the tunes, you'd read a chart. But it sounds like that band is being lazy about it.

Quote:
Especially the bass player who seemed to rely completely on sight reading and felt like he was reacting to the chord changes slightly behind in time.
If someone sounds like they're reading, when they're reading, then some personal practice/preparation/memorization is definitely in order. You can play dumb and say "hey you sound great! so, we're both pretty new to these tunes, huh?" "Oh, you play these tunes every week? Huh."

Blame the player, not the act of reading charts.
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  #11  
Old 08-06-2018, 06:13 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikyok View Post
+1

I wouldn't want to watch a band that was sight reading songs that don't need to be sight read. Most pop songs are easier to learn from listening to the vocals and guitar rather than drums.

If you're performing you're usually entertaining as well.
people who work all the time commonly read charts

almost every player I work with travels with an iPad
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:15 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
I will never understand how say a Vinnie can sight read....and play with feeling. People who read their parts...normally don't register with me on an emotional level. I never want to read on a gig, I just don't. That would involve being in my conscious mind. Not my goal while playing.
1. So I guess you don't enjoy classical music or big band jazz?

2. If you read music enough you don't have to think too hard about it letting your mind have more bandwidth for other things.

I read charts every time I play for the praise band at my church. I'm not reading chords or even the specific notes, just the patterns, repeats, codas, and arranger notes. I assume Vinnie is doing the same. Probably glances here and there as a safety net.

I don't get people who think you can't play with gusto and read music at the same time. I see it happen regularly.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:25 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I think there is also a little a psychological effect..

The fact that someone sees a drummer reading while playing maybe gives a person the feeling that the drummer is playing without 'feeling/emotion', while maybe if someone would only hear the drummer playing (while the drummer is reading), nothing would be noticed regarding that..
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Old 08-06-2018, 07:07 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
people who work all the time commonly read charts

almost every player I work with travels with an iPad
I'm talking about bog standard pop stuff, just how I learn I guess. If you're a full time working drummer who hasn't heard the song before then totally agree I'd be the same :)

We all have ipads too, couldn't use it on stage having to sing and play at the same time.
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Old 08-06-2018, 07:10 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I think it depends on the band, the genre and the setting. For either one it can be acceptable and / or common.

However, another aspect is the interaction with the public. I prefer musicians communicating with the audience instead of looking at an iPad or music book all the time. But that also relates to the genres of music I like watching.

BTW: I can read notes but not fluent enough to perform at my best so I will learn the songs I will be playing (either on drums, guitar or keys). And I kind of expect the same from the others, be prepared.
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Old 08-06-2018, 07:24 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I think you guys are misunderstanding what a chart is

when you see these bands they are not sight reading ... as you would see in an orchestra or symphony

they are reading charts ... which does not require constantly staring at an iPad or paper

it is simply the changes and sometimes a melody line

this should not happen if you are playing rehearsed material with a band you're actually IN ... this takes place mostly with working guys who deal with a large catalog of tunes like 6 days a week with many different bands

for drummers 99% of the time the chart is simply for you to know where to start and where to stop ... nothing more ... aside from possibly the form if you are not very familiar with the tune

I prefer homemade charts to say, piano charts

my charts often look like this as opposed to something you would see in a Real Book

if you see someone sight reading an actual transcription of a song on a rock , pop, or jazz gig there is a major issue at hand... like major ...

run for the hills

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Old 08-06-2018, 07:26 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Kenny Aronoff charts everything, and I don't think anyone would call him mechanical or lacking feel.
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Old 08-06-2018, 07:33 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

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Originally Posted by whiteknightx View Post
Kenny Aronoff charts everything, and I don't think anyone would call him mechanical or lacking feel.
charting is a fantastic way to learn a tune you are not familiar with

very often I'll chart a tune then not need the chart when playing because the charting itself allowed the changes to absorb

this happens often on record dates

we will run through a tune I've never heard before ... all the musicians will run down a chart of their own style ... then you get under the mics and play it

most of the time when this happens the chart will be on the stand but I don't even look at it because of the charting session that just took place in the control room
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Old 08-06-2018, 07:43 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Thanks for clarifying the waters I muddied by bringing up sheet music, Tony :)

Depending on the gig, I will use sheet music, charts, notes, or go without a net:

- For theater gigs and classical work, I have sheet music in front of me. By the time the actual performances come around, I use it for reference, not sight-reading, and for a less complex show, I often can be most of the way off book by closing night.

- For a short-notice gig or sub, I will often have charts like Tony's, that takes up at least part of a page. As he mentioned, just charting the song can help you learn it and then the chart is just for reference during the performance.

- For a more-rehearsed gig with music I'm not as familiar with, I'll have an expanded setlist with tempos, keys, and one or two lines of notes about the feel, any stops or breaks, or what I'm using on the song (sticks, rods, brushes, etc.)

- For most of my rock gigs, I use a setlist and scrawl notes on it only if I need them.
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Old 08-06-2018, 08:30 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I thought this was a joke.

If you don't want to chart stuff and read charts, you're going to need to know the songs and song forms. If you can legit read music and you get actual sheets for the songs that can be a stand in, but...

I guess you could be that guy who just plays the same 3 beats to every song and switches every 4 or 8 measures but then you'll be that guy.
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:08 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Hey WhoIsTony:

Your charts look somewhat like mine below. What does "post" mean in your chart?




.
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:30 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I really appreciate all the responses and input. I think maybe I was misunderstood on some level. I wasn't trying to make a reading vs. memorizing debate. I think some of you hit it on the head when saying don't blame the method blame the musician who is relying on reading but isn't proficient at sight reading. That's the situation I'm dealing with and maybe the case I'm making. I play with several musicians who read well and play with feeling. And in no way am I trying to say reading is bad. In fact I know its something that would be very helpful to me and need to learn. I have a basic understanding of subdivisions, time signatures and even how drum notation works....basic knowledge. I sometimes write my own charts for song form that I'm sure no one else could make sense of!! lol. I often write basic drum notation to remind me of bass drum patterns. My point, or gripe was musicians (working musicians, we get paid) who rely solely on reading on a gig, staring at an ipad, never engaging the audience and not really ever engaging their fellow musicians on stage. And their playing suffering because they don't know the material and are not very good at reading. And like others have said, I'm the sub so I pretty much play what they want and shut up. I'm ok with that. They keep calling me back and I've gotten compliments from their following who say they like my playing. Good enough for me!! And in my original band I "write" my own drum parts that cover a range of styles from jazz inspired to old school R&B to dare I say...rock. But yes, I think learning to read would only improve my playing and my opportunities.
That's what I love about this forum, wide range of experience and opinions and you didn't beat me up too bad!!
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:35 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

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Originally Posted by Hollywood Jim View Post
Hey WhoIsTony:

What does "post" mean in your chart?




.
that particular tune had these little post chorus bits ... the first time there were 2 and the second time 6

kind of like a tag if you will
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Old 08-06-2018, 10:39 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

It is ridiculous that they still need to stare at charts for songs they've played every weekend.

But I prefer to focus on the what rather than the why. The issue is the band isn't sounding good. They play tentatively, without conviction, whatever. They need to fix that. How? That's up to them. I'd point out the problem and let them decide how. They can learn the music by heart or become better readers, makes no difference to me. Keeps things nice and simple.

I play a lot of sub gigs and I depend heavily on writing charts when I have to learn a lot of material in a short time. But I had my method called out once, literally during the soundcheck before the show. The artist was mentioning changes he wanted to make to songs I had already learned based on the recordings and so I was frantically scribbling notes on my charts. He told me, "Maybe it's better if you just watch me for cues and don't read."

It was kind of a pivotal moment for me. I was the sideman trying to be supportive. But I stood my ground and told him this may take a little longer now, but when we're playing the show, you can focus on playing instead of worrying about whether I'm going to stop or start at the right time. He was okay with it and the show went well.

The funny thing is the drummer for the band we opened for that night was Kenny Aronoff. And it was Kenny who mentioned in an interview one time that he has often had those exact same conversations with artists and producers explaining why he spends time on his charts. This is why I prefer to focus on the results more than the method.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:00 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

At the end of the day, the great musicians (read or not ) come off with emotion, etc. Just because a person is a great reader does not mean they are great musicians.

Look at all the late night shows who have different musical acts nightly....those "cats" (I love saying "cats") have to have it down. Or the Vegas style musicians who are hired to back singers, etc for stints.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:09 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrPockets View Post
1. So I guess you don't enjoy classical music or big band jazz?

2. If you read music enough you don't have to think too hard about it letting your mind have more bandwidth for other things.

I read charts every time I play for the praise band at my church. I'm not reading chords or even the specific notes, just the patterns, repeats, codas, and arranger notes. I assume Vinnie is doing the same. Probably glances here and there as a safety net.

I don't get people who think you can't play with gusto and read music at the same time. I see it happen regularly.
I don't contest this at all. It really was kind of a stupid thing for me to say.

My apologies.
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Old 08-06-2018, 11:30 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I like making charts, it actually frees me up to play better - I was taught to use them as a roadmap. Study it, make notes, etc. - donít bury your nose in it...

I either make one from scratch, like Tonyís example - or if someone hands me a chart of a song (which can be nice because everyone is referencing the same thing)- I make notes. Definitely making a chart allows me to learn the song/drum part, and if that exercise was enough, I just have the chart as a safety.
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Old 08-07-2018, 04:38 AM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post

very often I'll chart a tune then not need the chart when playing because the charting itself allowed the changes to absorb
Same here. I'll take them to the gig but rarely have to take them out unless I had to make 30 of them for a full sub gig. Then it's alphabetical order because even if someone sends you a setlist they never stick to exactly that order. Bastards.
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:36 AM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Is it a sign of the times?

30 years ago we had to learn everything by ear; no Youtube to look up covers, sheet music for rock songs was unheard of in my small town, and most guitarist I knew looked down upon "Tablature".
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Old 08-07-2018, 05:40 AM
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  #30  
Old 08-07-2018, 02:57 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I think it is important to know the songs. Most of the songs that I play only have three or four chords anyway.
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  #31  
Old 08-07-2018, 10:41 PM
J-Boogie J-Boogie is offline
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Not important at all, what a silly question. Any drummer, like myself, worth his salt can easily handle any tune completely blind and/or deaf as I do it sometimes, which I feel is the ultimate challenge. I can usually suss out a new arrangement by smell or sheer intuition. I can see how drummers such as yourselves may need 'familiarity' with a song, I do not. How pedantic.
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  #32  
Old 08-08-2018, 12:20 AM
Drumolator Drumolator is offline
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I use lyrics for some of the songs I sing, but I never use any type of drum charts or sheet music. There are some songs that I just cannot remember the words. Peace and goodwill.
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  #33  
Old 08-09-2018, 08:56 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Here's one of my charts I made for a song called "Jailbreak."




Here's the actual song if you want to open it up in another tab and read my charts just for kicks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2ZMjmZMo1o
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  #34  
Old 08-10-2018, 12:19 AM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadForTheSticks View Post
I noticed two of the cover bands that I sub for the members don't seem to take the time to actually learn the material. Even the simplest tunes that these guys grew up listening to and playing require them to be glued to an iPad or sheet music...on stage playing songs that they play out nearly every weekend.

I'm the sub, I was recently sent a list of 40 or more songs 10 days before the gig to learn. I felt like I knew the songs better then some of the permanent members. Especially the bass player who seemed to rely completely on sight reading and felt like he was reacting to the chord changes slightly behind in time. I'm definitely not trying to toot my own horn (although it reads that way even to me) but I've done several gigs with these bands comprised of some of the same members and they rarely seem to have memorized the majority of the material.

I feel like it often hurts the feel of the music and the conviction in which its delivered when they are so dependent on the sheet music and not in the moment. I sure if they were better at sight reading this won't be an issue. Long rant, sorry! any thoughts? have you experienced this? Am I out of line in my thinking?


If you played in a drum ensemble, no stringed instruments, this might be more of a concern.

First off, string (key, horn, melody etc.) players are always going to be confronted with chords, and some music has a lot of chord changes. As a drummer you're just remembering beats, measures, accents etc. all the stuff a a chord player has to know too, plus their chord changes on top.

Its really common IMO to see chord players using a tablet/charts in a cover band, and its really more because their brains memory is too full, and/or needs to be defragged. Some people can memorize better than others.


Secondly, its not uncommon to see players who've been active for 20+ years glued to a tablet onstage, you'd think they'd know standards etc. Very common for such players to have spent a good portion of those 20 years just playing a few styles, and not know as many songs as other musicians who've played a lot of styles/standards over and over thru the years.



So 40 songs for a drummer in a variety band isn't that big a deal, especially if that drummer has some experience, like 15-25 years. Out of those 40 songs I would guess they would know (already played the songs in bands) 25-30 of them, if they have 20 years in.

The rest they'd of at least heard, but maybe not played. Just being a drummer tho, they probably don't know any of the chord changes in those 40 songs-0

Vocalist are of the same ilk, some have a better memory than others. I personally have lyrics to 50ish songs that I sing committed to memory, and even if this weeks set list has me singing a song I haven't sang for awhile, I'll still need to look at lyrics to remember the first words that start the second verse for instance. Some singers may have 300+ songs they kneed to know for various acts, so you can't knock these people for using a tablet onstage.

Original acts who only do 90 min or less, the singer should know the lyrics, and all should not need notes onstage. Old acts like the Stones where they know 400 + songs, no way to remember all that. When you get old(er) you revert to 'not' storing things to memory, its the only way you'll have peace of mind.
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  #35  
Old 08-10-2018, 01:02 AM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I chart all new material. I will use my charts in rehearsals and at the first couple gigs, but after I have 1 or 2 under my belt I typically don't need the charts anymore and have the song(s) memorized. It really surprises me that if they are playing the same songs over and over every week they would still need a chart in front of them after a while...
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  #36  
Old 08-10-2018, 03:02 AM
bud7h4 bud7h4 is offline
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadForTheSticks View Post
Sadly I never took the time to learn how to read music and basically everyone in the bands I play for are either well schooled in music theory or have a very good understanding of music theory. I can really appreciate the skill and feel this is something I need to learn.

Learning theory doesn't require reading music. The two are complementary but not synonymous or interdependent.
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  #37  
Old 08-10-2018, 09:46 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

In the 80's, I played in a band that played everything from the Police to Santana to country music. At the time, I loathed country music and had never even heard many of the songs. I am a "by ear" drummer, so I find that I need to be fairly familiar with a song before I can play it well. Since then, I still don't care for country, but I understand that anything worth doing is worth doing right, so I would make an effort to know the songs I am expected to play, instead of winging it.
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  #38  
Old 08-10-2018, 10:16 PM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I would think you need to know the structure of the song first. Knowing where breaks are, where the leads are, what fills fit (and dont fit), how it starts, how it ends, etc. If you are reading charts someone else made you are ahead of the game, but you still need to understand the feel. In a case where you dont read and are playing by feel, and you dont know the tune (at all - never heard it) or the structure, you can make a mistake by playing a metal tune as a ballad or a ballad as pop. (plenty of examples on you youtube ;-) ) of course if you are playing in a tribute band i would think you need a lot of notes at least tilll you learn everything perfectly. If you are just sitting in or jamming and not concerned about doing it the same every time (i.e. where are the verses, bridges, etc), then you can pretty much just follow along by feel.
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  #39  
Old 08-11-2018, 12:18 AM
Chollyred Chollyred is offline
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

Depends on the context of the performance. For years I played percussion, timpani, etc. in a church orchestra. because you generally had one opportunity to practice the song one time before performing it, you'd be totally lost without sheet music.

In the worship team I play with now, we use chord charts to work through the songs. we often make changes to the arrangement so work out a "map" of the song. Once we've gone through it a few times, you generally learn the song well enough to play without the chart, but have it available "just in case".

In rock, jazz, and country, it's pretty well expected to learn the song. It looks pretty tacky to be staring at a music stand. If you don't know the song, you're not prepared to perform it.

Keeping a set list is a different matter. Sometimes I'd make minor notes on the set list as a reminder if we were playing something fairly new, or something we haven't played in a long time.
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  #40  
Old 08-11-2018, 02:53 AM
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Default Re: How important is knowing the songs?

I had a gig a couple months ago playing in a recital for students of a voice academy, we were the hired band and we received the music a day before the show, we had one rehearsal the day of the show. Some of the charts we received where in "lead sheet" format, no problem there, but about half of them were in this horrible "singer" format that can go upwards of 10 pages because it includes the melody written out with everything and a piano part, some of you guys who've done musical work might know the type of charts I'm talking about, they're not designed to be sightread on the bandstand. Anyways the bandleader scrambled to try and make readable charts for the next day, he got some but not all, since there were around 30 tunes. The rehearsal was (predictably) a bit rocky since we were having trouble reading some of the bad charts plus we're dealing with non professional singers, the bandleader was looking worried. I couldn't do much but try to write out basic charts like the one posted above for what I could in the break between the rehearsal and the show and for the rest...put on my big boy pants and do some serious reading while playing. To our surprise the show ran smoothly with very minor mistakes, I think the whole adrenaline of the challenging (to read) charts kept us all on an edge that made the whole thing work. There's really not much of a point to this story except you never know what you're gonna get thrown your way on a gig. Being able to read ANYTHING, make charts, have your ear super ready to take cues by other band members, being able to take a decision to move on to a section going by your intuition, all these are valuable skills in a professional musician's tool box. There won't always be times to learn everything by heart or even to make charts, learning how to read is essential.
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