Band leaders

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Are you in a band that has a clear leader? If so, and you feel like playing, describe his or her style of leadership. Feel free to rant or rave. I'm interested in hearing stories of band leaders, and how they lead bands.

I'll start. My guy is tough. Right now we are using sub bass players because our regular guy got one of his fretting fingers caught between a bicycle chain and the sprocket. Anyway, the bass players get a one on one rehearsal or two, but onstage, he won't even give them the key. If they don't know it, or can't get to their cheat sheet quick enough, they have to figure it out. There's no set list, and he doesn't call anything, he just starts. Fine for me, but the sub bass players...well I have to clue them in and help them any way I can.

So my guy is tough and expects a lot. He likes things a certain way and that's the last word. If he doesn't like your tone, (talking bass players) he'll tell them how he likes it. And he won't stop having them tweak it until he's happy. There's certain songs where he likes them to play a specific bass line. If they don't, he get's irked and tells me all about it afterwards. A lot of people think he's a dick. He can be for sure, about playing. Very high standards. His personality can be construed as abrasive at times. But man what a great player. It's well worth it, because he rarely is unhappy with me. Everybody else is a different story though.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
The last few outfits I've been in (over a 20 year period) have been administrated to the utmost. I was sort of taken aback by the level of organization that took place. But, with everyone working etc... that level of information management was necessary.

I'm talking txt tree, emails, .pdf's, Youtube links or mp3 files... the works.

Set lists for not only gigs but rehearsals. If we weren't playing someplace for a month or so we would devote a day or two working out on completed sets.

Pay? Some.
Love? Always
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
A set list for rehearsals. Wow. Our rehearsals consist of texts. I just got one last week that said: The Cars, Drive. My reply was OK got it. (I thought it was a strange choice for our band)

That night we played it onstage the first time. No conversation about anything beforehand. Hey, it's not ideal, but I like it that way. Rehearsals are over rated.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
A set list for rehearsals. Wow. Our rehearsals consist of texts. I just got one last week that said: The Cars, Drive. My reply was OK got it. (I thought it was a strange choice for our band)

That night we played it onstage the first time. No conversation about anything beforehand. Hey, it's not ideal, but I like it that way. Rehearsals are over rated.
Well a txt is a set list now-a-days, but just a few years ago we did a bunch of these communications via email. At some point in a band's life, yes, rehearsals can be over rated. But like all bands we do change personnel, most of the time it is the vocalists. But we've been through a couple of keyboardists and added a rock violinist for a few years.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Larry sorry but your guy sounds really impossibly hard to work with. Why *not* tell somebody what key its in? Or some plan for the songs for an eve. I'm sure he's a great player. If the shoe fits....

A recent blues band I was in had a good leader but poor communication, and the current classic rock band has neither. I have not been doing this for decades like many on here but am amazed in the world of telecommunication how poor communicators some musicians are - don't reply to phone, txt, email...etc. even to setup a gig or a practice. I think every band needs a leader.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
I am not sure who the leader is to be honest. I thought it was the person that contacted me and after the audition asked if I was in. But he is not too keen on leading or making decisions.

We have a bit of a separation of responsibility that just kind of happened.

I keep track of suggested songs. I also help us focused on rehearsals in terms of how we will prepare for the next gig, which is still too infrequent. So we have to at least play most of our songs once a month. We also are still learning new songs that need to be worked. I am not heavy handed about it just offer a little structure. I also edit the videos and create an audio here and there for demo purposes. I also create all of the online and printed posters. I do my best to hustle gigs but feel I am failing here.

Our singer makes the set lists. (yes we have them for every event.) He also plays guitar so the set list includes the key and who sings lead we all have at least one sing we sing lead on) He is also the musical lead in terms of keeping an eye on the notes the melodic instruments are playing.

The one I thought was the leader occasionally steps in on various things but infrequently. But his wife records every song at every gig and he loads them onto FB. He is a lax in keeping our web page updated.

Our bass player is really our gig hustler. He has a wide range of friends and his business keeps him moving around the city and often doing business for bars etc. He sometimes speaks up as a voice of sanity.

Our new keyboardist is really good and sorting through assigning the harmonies.

I really do wish our "leader" would lead more. and I wish the whole band would do better with responding to e-mails. But we do enjoy playing together so that is what is most important.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Larry sorry but your guy sounds really impossibly hard to work with. Why *not* tell somebody what key its in? Or some plan for the songs for an eve. I'm sure he's a great player. If the shoe fits....

A recent blues band I was in had a good leader but poor communication, and the current classic rock band has neither. I have not been doing this for decades like many on here but am amazed in the world of telecommunication how poor communicators some musicians are - don't reply to phone, txt, email...etc. even to setup a gig or a practice. I think every band needs a leader.
He is tough. Not impossible though. If he likes a bass players feel and execution, he overlooks not knowing stuff perfectly and is a lot easier, fun even. You at least have to be making an honest effort, and listen...and you're good. No mercy for anything less though. I honestly don't know how those guys keep up with some of the changes in our songs. Elton John's "Your Song". Jim Croce's "Operator". Ray Charles' "Georgia". Stevie Wonder's "I Wish". Pretty proprietary bass lines. I wouldn't wanna be them lol.

He expects people to know their parts, subs or not. And he will announce keys if he's stringing songs together and doesn't want the flow to stop. Think of the Sheldon Leonard of guitarists, except he's amazingly good at beautiful guitar leads. What a great rhythm player too. So easy to latch onto. Really quirky personality though. I could go on and on about his quirks. I may be his only real male friend lol. He'll just call to talk, so I feel a bit privileged as wacky as that sounds.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I really do wish our "leader" would lead more.
I'd rather have a bandleader who knows exactly what they want, even if they're less than nice, than an easygoing guy who doesn't really have any sort of plan. A band should have a leader with a clear vision of exactly what they want the band to be.
 

Chollyred

Senior Member
Not sure who you would describe as our leader. We have one guitarist that coordinates everyone's schedule, and another that is our musical director. Our bass player is very laid back and agreeable to most anything, but when he does speak up, everybody listens. I'm pretty much in the "whatever y'all say" camp. We can all sing a little, but we're without a lead vocalist right now. We all have input into our song list. Luckily, everyone is pretty easy going and nobody takes offense if somebody makes suggestions about doing it wrong or another way.

Really, only the rhythm guitarist and bassist are close friends. We could probably be better, but all live quite a distance apart.

Come to think of it, I don't even know the lead guitarist' or bass player's last name....
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I'll start. My guy is tough. Right now we are using sub bass players because our regular guy got one of his fretting fingers caught between a bicycle chain and the sprocket. Anyway, the bass players get a one on one rehearsal or two, but onstage, he won't even give them the key. If they don't know it, or can't get to their cheat sheet quick enough, they have to figure it out. There's no set list, and he doesn't call anything, he just starts. Fine for me, but the sub bass players...well I have to clue them in and help them any way I can.
Larry, I'm fascinated by this. So you really have no idea if the guy can hack it until he is onstage? Wow, that is a terrible time to find out that the guy cant handle the gig. You are also saying that the guitarist starts every song? And without rehearsal or a set list you obviously don't have any transitions between songs. It just song ends...silence...guitarist starts playing the next song. I don't know man, obviously I respect you as a player, and this type of show may be more common than I think in cover bands, but rehearsal isn't to learn the songs its to work on the show.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Larry, I'm fascinated by this. So you really have no idea if the guy can hack it until he is onstage? Wow, that is a terrible time to find out that the guy cant handle the gig. You are also saying that the guitarist starts every song? And without rehearsal or a set list you obviously don't have any transitions between songs. It just song ends...silence...guitarist starts playing the next song. I don't know man, obviously I respect you as a player, and this type of show may be more common than I think in cover bands, but rehearsal isn't to learn the songs its to work on the show.

We bring guys in who are good players. Still, even good players need a little clue as to whats going on. We don't bring someone in unless we know they can cut it. The guitarist starts every song but 3. I start those 3, but rarely do we play those songs all in the same night. He starts damn near everything. That way he has control over the tempo.

So yea, it's a song, silence, a song, silence...Except when he strings them together to keep the dance floor full. Sometimes I know which song he will go to next, but most times I don't. It's OK because I can name that song in 1 or 2 notes. It keeps us on our toes. He prefers a dynamic set list, thought up on the spot, in response to however the crowd is that night.

We have no show. The best we do is to string songs together and keep the dancers going. (We played for 2 hrs and 20 minutes the other week with no break, then another 1 hour and 45 after the break.) Our strong point is we play on a high musical level, for a cover band, thanks to the leader who continues to drop my jaw even after 5 years.

But he has very little mic/social skills. Everything comes at a price. Think of him as the Sheldon Cooper of guitarists. It's the high musical standard that keeps me there. There's only like 2 other guys I personally know who play on his level. I feel completely fortunate to be involved with it.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Love to help, Larry, but I usually played in "democracies". We didn't get much done but it was fun.

For a while I was doing drum spots for a band leader who was collecting a stable of players and I played some fill ins and in scratch bands. Then I made a blunder coming out of a fill in Red Baron at a jam where he was trying to impress some hotshot bassist to get him to join the "stable". He absolutely blasted me afterwards and never called me again.

Band leaders? Great if you want to play serious gigs. Stuff 'em, otherwise, unless they're nice.
 

geezer

Senior Member
On of the bands I'm in has a specific leader - he's the songwriter (and an amazing one at that) so has a very distinct vision of what he wants the songs to sound like. He's great at giving direction as to the dynamics he has in mind, etc. He's also very open to input from the other musicians in the band when it comes to arranging. He organizes the gigs and chooses which songs we play. Super easy to get on with as a person. I knew that this was the structure of the band when I joined - they've released several albums and a live EP, and any press I'd read about them prior to our first meet up made it pretty clear that it was the singer's project.

In contrast, last year I played briefly with a guy who was trying to get a band together to record and possibly tour - he had zero social skills, lots of attitude. He reined himself in for the first practice, and by the second practice was barking at everyone, unable to articulate his ideas, very rigid - fun times. He also wasn't half the "songwriter" that he imagined he was. Needless to say I bailed on that one and he's been a serial craigslist poster still trying to rustle up musicians who'll tolerate a wallflower drill sergeant as their band leader.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Very high standards. His personality can be construed as abrasive at times. But man what a great player.
Are we somehow playing with the same group?!

I'm a hired gun, but there are a few groups a play with semi-regularly (3-4 times a month). One of them has exactly this kind of leader: an amazing stage presence, great guitartist and singer, with a clear vision of what he wants the group to sound like. But he can be abrasive at times. I always brush it off as just being a perfectionist and front-man... It seems to me that the people who make the best entertainers are usually a little unstable. The show ends up being super tight, and people go crazy for it. These groups are usually higher stress, but the level of musicians in them is fantastic, and it's fun to play.

I also have had the opposite experience, where there is no leader, and no one to make decisions. While the players might be happier, usually the music suffers as no one is putting their foot down and defining what the groups needs to be doing. These gigs can be all right, but usually they're messy (almost a jam).


Most of my gigs fall in between: I get hired by jazz/cabaret singers an awful lot, and they usually wnat very little to do with the musicians. The music director knows what the singer wants and does his best to work with the guys in the band before you even meet the singer.


As for rehearsals, I usually charge groups if they want me to rehearse, so it's rare for me. Usually they'll have lead sheets they can send you, or maybe some recordings.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Never had a leader per se. As one of two guitarists I would say I probably made the most suggestions. At my drummer's request I would give a lot of input on his drum mix in the studio and live. Onstage our singer would lead as far as setting the pace of the show.
 

FritzDrummer

Senior Member
My current band is an original band and has a leader who is the frontman, the guy that wrote all the songs, minus the covers we do, of course. He sets up all the gigs as well. I tend to set up the practices because I have the busiest schedule so I shoot everyone a text of my open nights and we go from there. Our bass player is laid back and kind of just goes with the flow. The most frustrating part is the bass player and I sit down, listen to a song a couple times and we got it. The guitar/singer/leader won't listen to a song we are covering. He will pull up the tab for it and figure it out. But he does not do it ahead of time. I always ask everyone for 4 new songs for the next practice that we can be ready to go over. The bass player and I are ready to go but the guitarist/vocalist does not prepare one bit. I try to save time as much as possible. I work 2 jobs and am always busy, my time is valuable. Our bass player is the same as me and drives over an hour to practice. Our leader is engaged and lives with his fiance and works one job Monday through Friday and really does not venture out on weekends we are not gigging. He just does not get the importance of coming to practice prepared. But everyone gets a long great besides this and we work well as a team since throwing out our lead guitarist.
 

Daisy

Senior Member
Two previous bands I've been in, the leader was the guitarist. They owned the PA, board, lights and all the rest of the gear. They bought all the stuff and set up their own band because (so I deduced after working with them for a while) they were completely impossible and no other band would have them.

Seriously.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
With the 5-piece rock band I'm in now the lead singer is the leader. We rehearse in his home studio, he writes a lot of the songs and lyrics, and he does much of the networking.

That said, everything else is pretty laid back, and if one person feels passionate or has good ideas, those come to the fore. Once the bones of a new song come together we all have free reign to build onto whatever is happening.

I joined about a year ago, after their first two albums were recorded, but I was given a fair amount of freedom to make the parts my own, and we all still try new arrangements or tweak things while we rehearse. Easy and fun.

Which is a big contrast from the previous playing situation I had.

Singer-songwriter type with a lot of originals, but a huge list of covers too. Didn't like to rehearse, didn't like to call out song titles, he'd just start and leave me scrambling to figure out what song he was playing. I stuck with it for a long time because of the strength of the originals, but after a while I started drifting away because the haphazard nature of it all drove me crazy.
 

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
First band I played in since drumming again in 2007 was a church band. The leader was a great guy; led from the piano. He was a great pianist and good singer and a great leader IMHO. He allowed me broad parameters and didn't micromanage. Then his work took him other places and he left. His replacement was the complete opposite: lazy, egotistical, uber micromanager and could only play a narrow range of songs, etc.

Then I migrated to a Celtic fusion band and the leader was nice but scatterbrained. Good pianist though. Not really a leader however. But we managed. I got to improvise to my hearts content on not only drum set but world drums as well. She had tons of encouragement as long as it fit the song.

A Texas rock band I played in at the same time was a lot more successful gig and money-wise (we were actually developing a great following), but unknown at the time the rhythm guitar leader and his lovely wife were going thru a nasty divorce towards the end and he went sort of berserk on us and the band imploded 1 week before we were scheduled to play 2 major outdoor festivals. He was the informal leader but we all had a equal say in what we played and did, so it was more democratic than anything.

I stayed bandless for a while until we landed at a church and the pastor found out I played drums and personally asked me to play in the p and w band. To be honest I had mixed feelings about it from my bad p & w band encounter several years before. However, the leader was a young lady several years out of school, but she was nice and a good leader and I enjoyed playing music with her. What I liked about her leadership skill was she gave me broad parameters of what she wanted and let me fill in the rest how I saw fit; I played for the song. She encouraged improvisation.

Then boom! She got married, left, and went to another church and the leader we have now is...um...well...let's just say you can see his ego from the moon. A real micromanager. One of the major reasons I quit the band last August. Among other things I felt stifled and boxed in. No real improvisation was allowed or encouraged. I knew it was time to move on when I woke up one morning mad as hell and cussing the guy over his controlling "my way or the highway" bullsh*t. Playing music and serving was no longer fun. I realize now he was doing that to get rid of me since I was probably the oldest one in the band at 53 and have some grey hair. Which is pretty arrogant considering he is mid 20's and the band and choir are much older than he. Most likely my last p and w band I will play in.

Then the rock and blues band I was in beginning last May sort of fizzled out several months ago, but we all left on good terms. It was all democratic. Everyone got equal say and there was no real leader. The keys player took a job out of state, the bass player quit to concentrate on his family issues, and the guitar player is rebuilding old cars into hotrods. Can I interest you in a classic '57 Chevy?
 
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