Band Relations - Need avice.

Abstand

Junior Member
Hello everyone!

I apologize in advance for the length of the post and the fact that it's not exclusively drum-related.

I've got a couple of issues going on within the (newly formed) band that i'm in.

A little background:

I just started playing the drums, and after purchasing my kit I convinced my closest friend to pick up the guitar so that we could pursue our mutual interest in music together. We decided that we wanted to form some kind of band to make our 'practices' a bit more formal, as we were just goofing off on our instruments and not really getting anywhere. Let's call this friend Jim.

Now, Jim has a girlfriend who is extremely fluent on the keyboard, shes been playing almost her whole life and we both decided that it would be awesome to have her fill in for the song we were working on at the time. (Pork and beans, by Weezer). She came in, nailed her part(s) perfectly, and both Jim and I were very satisfied with the result. She (lets call her Kate) agreed to play with us. In order to have a functioning band, we needed a bassist, I asked my girlfriend (a very talented vocalist, let's call her Jan.) if she would be interesting in both singing for us and learning how to play the bass guitar. She was immediately interested.

Great, we have a full functioning band, we are all close friends. We love hanging out together so this should flow really well.

We've gotten together only a couple of times for a full practice, by the first practice everyone knew our first song really well (Pork and Beans). We all decided that we should try and find more songs to cover as a whole.

We aren't nearly talented enough to start writing our own material yet, so we are covering songs to become familiar and fluent with our instruments. We decided on Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.

Now, before I go on I want to throw in that none of us have any real leadership experience, in anything. And I knew that in order for this to work somebody had to step up and start 'leading' this thing. So our second practice I started selecting songs that I thought we could do and I scheduled practices, put all of our schedules together to find days that we were all free, etc. Essentially, I had become the 'leader' of this band.

Now, when we decided to do Chasing Cars it was agreed upon that we would individually learn our parts and when we got together we would play the piece as a whole and fine tune it after a few runs. When the next practice started, Kate and I knew our parts but Jim and Jan came completely unprepared and we spent the first half of practice teaching Jan how to tune her bass, and Jim spent the other half learning his part. By the end of the practice, we hadn't even played the song through. Kate and I spent 3 hours sitting behind our instruments. I let everyone know that I wasn't satisfied with how things went and that we all should try harder to come more prepared for practice. That was the most recent practice.

We have all been trying to find new songs to add to our list of songs we should cover, looking for songs that are do-able but still challenging. I came across Crush Crush Crush by Paramore and decided that it would be challenging for everyone but still do-able, given a bit of practice. I ran it by Jim and he was completely against the idea.

He feels that it's not fair to Kate to pick a song that she doesn't have a part in. He feels that we should only pick songs with keyboard in them so that everyone gets to play and so that Kate isn't sitting there bored the whole time.

And I feel that we shouldn't limit our choices to those only with keyboard. I feel that it will be more difficult for us to have to sift through songs with keyboard, while we could pick songs that Jim, Jan and I can learn, and help assist in getting us 3 more fluent with our instruments. (Consider that Kate has been playing her whole life, and doesn't necessarily need the practice). It's also important to mention we've been having a hard time finding songs with keyboard that are do-able for us. (it's also agreed that when we write our own material it will include keyboard in most of it, so it's not like Kate is left out entirely, and we still have songs that include keyboard, it's just this particular song that doesn't.)

With that being said, I feel that Jim and I both have very strong points. While I think that he may be coming to Kate's defense simply because they are involved romantically, its still gotta suck to have to sit out. At the same time (I feel) we are hindering our progress by trying to find songs WITH keyboard that are all reasonable considering our skill level.

Remember we are all really good friends and this is causing us a lot of grief and arguing. I'd like to progress as quickly as possible so that we can start writing our own material (which everyone is extremely excited about doing) and start playing in front of an audience.

What should I do? What would you do?

Hopefully someone can shed some light on this for me, as i'm sure this isn't a rare occurrence.

Thanks in advance, everyone!
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Well first of all, I not sure how much preparation you should have expected from the other two since the one didn't even know how to tune her bass, much less learn parts and secondly I don't any of the songs mentioned, but I would certainly think that someone with the piano or keyboard experience, "playing her whole life" that she has could find keyboard accompaniment whether the original had keyboard parts or not. Other than the pianist all of you have just started playing your instruments and you may be asking too much at such an early start. The stage will wait. Take your time, have some fun, since you all are friends and don't be so serious.
 

Skulmoski

Gold Member
Classical "dysfunctional team" problem. I would recommend you look at "team building" and conflict resolution sites on the Internet. Specifically, Bruce Tuckman's work about the process of how teams develop. You are going through the "storming" phase. If you want to get to the "performing" phase, you need to do some work in the "norming" phase. That is, you need to talk about the goals and values of the band, how you relate with each other, how you choose music, and other rules like showing up on time, sobriety or lack of it during practice, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forming-storming-norming-performing

I have had similar difficulties with other bands and when friends are involved, things can get messy in a hurry. However, your is a classical problem that has been well researched. The solutions (above) work with a dedicated and knowledgable facilitator. Good luck.

GJS
 

CaptainSticks

Senior Member
Well first of all, I not sure how much preparation you should have expected from the other two since the one didn't even know how to tune her bass, much less learn parts and secondly I don't any of the songs mentioned, but I would certainly think that someone with the piano or keyboard experience, "playing her whole life" that she has could find keyboard accompaniment whether the original had keyboard parts or not. Other than the pianist all of you have just started playing your instruments and you may be asking too much at such an early start. The stage will wait. Take your time, have some fun, since you all are friends and don't be so serious.
Yeah i agree. Its wouldn't really be hard for the keyboardist to figure out something that fits if shes good. You could do some scale jams. My band and I(we are good friends to) open do blues jams: which are easy to incorporate any instrument, you can take turns soloing, and its fairly easy to do.

For the trouble with people not learning their parts, Its hard to say. Most of you are just starting out right? Maybe there is a lack of motive to practice right now for them.

Anyway don't really make it a big deal, its just fun.
 

Abstand

Junior Member
Classical "dysfunctional team" problem. I would recommend you look at "team building" and conflict resolution sites on the Internet. Specifically, Bruce Tuckman's work about the process of how teams develop. You are going through the "storming" phase. If you want to get to the "performing" phase, you need to do some work in the "norming" phase. That is, you need to talk about the goals and values of the band, how you relate with each other, how you choose music, and other rules like showing up on time, sobriety or lack of it during practice, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forming-storming-norming-performing

I have had similar difficulties with other bands and when friends are involved, things can get messy in a hurry. However, your is a classical problem that has been well researched. The solutions (above) work with a dedicated and knowledgable facilitator. Good luck.

GJS
That was a very helpful read, I suppose this 'conflict' was inevitable. So perhaps a compromise is in order? I think that if Kate added piano parts to songs that didn't previously have any, we could come to a solid agreement where no one loses.

Kate has limited experience coming up with her own ideas and is often-times self-conscious about her ability, which seems silly because she's a great musician. But I suppose that is a story for another time.

Thanks for the advice guys and by all means if anyone has anything to add please do so.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I used to "drive" a lot in my old bands - the songs we played, the way we played them, the arrangements, etc. In my current band I decided to sit back more and see what the others suggested. It's interesting.

It looks to me that you have two "drivers" in the band, trying to steer it the way you think is best. If you trust Jim's judgement, one option is to see what he comes up with, add your two cents' worth when you think of something that might work, and just enjoy playing. Of course, if the songs he comes up with suck you guys might need a little chat to see if there's some middle ground.

Sometimes being frank about music with friends is harder than with acquaintances. You want to be nice. It's also easy to be less careful about couching your views tactfully and respectfully with friends than with strangers. It's a balancing act and, as others have said, relationships evolve.
 

Skulmoski

Gold Member
We all join bands because we like to play, don't we? When keyboards are not necessary, then your keyboardist could add an extra layer of percussive texture (e.g. congas, guiro, temple blocks, shekere, casaba, or even theramin, etc.) Now, your keyboardist is still contributing and she has the challenge and enjoyment of contributing to the music with a new instrument.

Best

GJS
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
About the keys, as GD said, just because a studio recording doesn't have keys, that doesn't mean a keyboardist can't add something to every song, even if it's just hitting the chords right along with the guitar, basically doing a "rhythm keys" part along with the rhythm guitar. A lot of bands that don't have keyboardists take one on the road, just to beef up the sound. They play on every song, with very few exceptions.

Now, for the rest of your problem. It is generally accepted in the teaching realm that it is not a good idea to be in a band when you first start out on an instrument. There are so many issues that you are going to encounter, technique stuff (be it tuning the bass, learning rudiments, etc), that you will continue to have a lot of the problems you mentioned. There are also a lot of bad habits that almost all early musicians pick up (speeding up songs as you go through them is probably the most common) that will be compounded when you play with other rookies.

It is also very widely accepted that playing in a band with your significant other is a bad idea. I have done it twice...both times I started dating the girl after we were in the band. The first time was fine, the band broke up, but not because of us, and we were fine. The second time, the arguments about band stuff was hurting our relationship, so she quit the band (making sure we'd have time to find a replacement). We are married now, but would not be if she had stayed in the band. It just creates a lot of tension, and in the end, either the band or the relationship will most likely be hurt by it.

The odds are that a band with three total rookie musicians won't be getting anywhere any time soon. Maybe, if all three of you have some natural talent, and a ton of luck, you will be able to, but it is extremely doubtful. I don't say this to be negative, but to point out that maybe what you want to do is stay a "band," but relax, don't worry about nailing down a bunch of songs, about practicing a bunch together right now. Use it to motivate yourself to get better and learn those songs, but don't get mad at your friends for not being as motivated as you are, not coming prepared, wanting to do different songs, etc. Something like 10% of all musicians stick with their instrument past the first year, so the odds are that at least one of the rookies in your band are going to be done playing soon, or not want to work hard at it. Don't let your relationships take a nose dive just because you started this thing.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
in any band there's always going to be some members who are more serious about learning songs and making progress than others. it's pretty rare to be in a band where everyone has the same level of commitment and desire, not to mention skill level and experience. and lets not forget about artistic direction. you just have to learn to live with each other and get in the spirit of tolerance and compromise because personal and musical differences are a fact of life with bands.
 

frisco68

Member
I would suggest that the band break up till you guys are better, yes you can casually jam from time to time, but if there are already problems like that from the start all thats going to happen is you are going to mess up you relationships with your friends and girlfriend. Thats my 2cents
 

Abstand

Junior Member
About the keys, as GD said, just because a studio recording doesn't have keys, that doesn't mean a keyboardist can't add something to every song, even if it's just hitting the chords right along with the guitar, basically doing a "rhythm keys" part along with the rhythm guitar. A lot of bands that don't have keyboardists take one on the road, just to beef up the sound. They play on every song, with very few exceptions.

Now, for the rest of your problem. It is generally accepted in the teaching realm that it is not a good idea to be in a band when you first start out on an instrument. There are so many issues that you are going to encounter, technique stuff (be it tuning the bass, learning rudiments, etc), that you will continue to have a lot of the problems you mentioned. There are also a lot of bad habits that almost all early musicians pick up (speeding up songs as you go through them is probably the most common) that will be compounded when you play with other rookies.

It is also very widely accepted that playing in a band with your significant other is a bad idea. I have done it twice...both times I started dating the girl after we were in the band. The first time was fine, the band broke up, but not because of us, and we were fine. The second time, the arguments about band stuff was hurting our relationship, so she quit the band (making sure we'd have time to find a replacement). We are married now, but would not be if she had stayed in the band. It just creates a lot of tension, and in the end, either the band or the relationship will most likely be hurt by it.

The odds are that a band with three total rookie musicians won't be getting anywhere any time soon. Maybe, if all three of you have some natural talent, and a ton of luck, you will be able to, but it is extremely doubtful. I don't say this to be negative, but to point out that maybe what you want to do is stay a "band," but relax, don't worry about nailing down a bunch of songs, about practicing a bunch together right now. Use it to motivate yourself to get better and learn those songs, but don't get mad at your friends for not being as motivated as you are, not coming prepared, wanting to do different songs, etc. Something like 10% of all musicians stick with their instrument past the first year, so the odds are that at least one of the rookies in your band are going to be done playing soon, or not want to work hard at it. Don't let your relationships take a nose dive just because you started this thing.

I agree with nearly everything you said here. I understand that by having people who are romantically involved with each other in the band could hurt the band (in this case its 2 pairs of couples). However, this is something we all want to do, we all enjoy playing and hanging out with each other. I figure, why not enjoy what we got while we got it and sort out the sharp edges when they come?

If it leads to an inevitable break-up I will come to terms with it when it happens. I really feel that planning for inevitable failure will only lower the morale of myself and the rest of the band.

Like I said we all have fun doing this, in the end we're all happy and loving what we do, sometimes there are some conflicts that need to be kinked out, that's why i'm here posting this. :)
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
I agree with some of the aforementioned keyboard part statements; nothing wrong with adding a part. In a way, you're making the song more "yours" that way, rather than just mimicking. Also, lots of guitar-based rock songs have an underlying rhythm part played on acoustic guitar; not really heard, but missed a little if you were to hear it removed. If the keyboard is a digital-sampled synth, it probably has an acoustic guitar tone in it. She could just play the chords with that sound.
 

Wolf

Junior Member
Why do you feel you need a leader? Have you tried open discussions? It doesn't necessarily be all or none, you could do a majority vote situation. If that doesn't work shouldn't the person who knows what they're doing the most drive the band? I'm not even talking about just the skill level, but experience as well. Is everyone on the same page as far as what direction your heading in? (how many gigs you want to play, how often you practice, is this a serious thing or just for fun, etc.) Have you guys tried to write a song of your own? Give it a shot. Yea it might wind up on the floor but it might bring you guys closer. Maybe they'll open up more and share some ideas. Just a few ideas...
 
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