Big Band Rock, what happened?

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I am familiar with the development of musical styles, where the styles usually start out in smaller ensembles, with limited notation, relying heavily on improvisation, then growing in size adding more notation, with fewer and fewer improvisational opportunities. You can see it happen in all kinds of styles from Argentine tango to blues even western swing. What kind of puzzles me is that rock and roll, never really developed past the small ensemble. After a little searching, the only large bands I could find were Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears. I wonder why this is? I was thinking it might have to do with the guitar technology, but then there are plenty of big band blues and funk groups.
 

MileHighDrummer

Senior Member
It depends on what you consider large. More than 4, 5? There was the Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, Slipknot, Allman Brothers, Spencer Davis Group... just of the top of the old head. There are more bands with 5 or more players than 3-piece power rock groups. Most common 4.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
A lot has to do with electronic keyboards and Mr. Moog. One player can do the entire string ensemble and brass section, and the band only need pay one player plus the setting up in small venues would be impossible. One of the reasons the BeaTles stopped touring was the music they were playing at the time took more than the four of them.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
A lot has to do with electronic keyboards and Mr. Moog. One player can do the entire string ensemble and brass section, and the band only need pay one player plus the setting up in small venues would be impossible. One of the reasons the BeaTles stopped touring was the music they were playing at the time took more than the four of them.
In some ways that makes sense, but in others. For example there are plenty of big bands that get together and play pretty much just for fun(sometimes the players even have to pay for practice space or beer), and of those how many are big band rock bands?
 

sonnygrabber

Senior Member
I think economics plays a large part in this. Coupled with the fact that amplified guitars and keys are so powerful and diverse sounding that adding more people can muddy the whole thing. Look at Rush and Led Zep for examples. Essentially three piece bands, (instruments anyway), that are just huge sounding. Add anything else and it wouldn't really improve on the idea, and in fact has the great potential to detract. You know, whenever I hear the Dead (not a fan at all, but anyway), it always seems so jumbled and aimless.

In the bands that I play in (3 and 4 piece only) the key motivator is economic. If the venue doesn't have the dosh, the leader of these outfits plays solo. Sure the sound may be filled out more with more players but it seems to me that the advantages of small outweigh the advantages of the large in contemporary rock.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I think economics plays a large part in this. Coupled with the fact that amplified guitars and keys are so powerful and diverse sounding that adding more people can muddy the whole thing. Look at Rush and Led Zep for examples. Essentially three piece bands, (instruments anyway), that are just huge sounding. Add anything else and it wouldn't really improve on the idea, and in fact has the great potential to detract. You know, whenever I hear the Dead (not a fan at all, but anyway), it always seems so jumbled and aimless.

In the bands that I play in (3 and 4 piece only) the key motivator is economic. If the venue doesn't have the dosh, the leader of these outfits plays solo. Sure the sound may be filled out more with more players but it seems to me that the advantages of small outweigh the advantages of the large in contemporary rock.
But, take blues, funk for example, there are big band blues and funk bands, seems like they for the most part would have all the same problems as rock that you mentioned. Muddy guitars, small venues etc.

I guess there is no such thing as free rock.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I think there's a few elements influencing things here.

1st up, is many rock forms benefit from distinction, simplicity, & plenty of sonic space between instruments. Simply adding layers often detracts from the drive & urgency you're trying to achieve.

2nd up, studio multi tracking. Requirements such as additional instruments and/or simple "fleshing out" such as adding rhythm guitar under a guitar solo are so easy to achieve without expanding the band.

There are many examples of more compact rock bands using additional musicians live though, either to allow emulation of their studio sound or to create a "big production" vibe/show. Adding everything from brass sections to choirs, string sections to percussion, are common live show "spectacular" tricks outside of the core band.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
The heart and soul of rock n roll is the electric guitar. All of those other instruments get in the way of the main guitar sound. So to stay true to that sound you put as few instruments as possible on the stage. Having two guitars can work, but often that is not even needed. I am in two rock bands one a three peice and one a four peice. After adding and subtracting members there is just something about the sound of one single amplified guitar through a big ass amp. Big bands on the other hand needed that big brass sound, to get that you needed a large horn section. The advent of high powered amp and synths have made the large ensamble something of the past I feel.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
The heart and soul of rock n roll is the electric guitar. All of those other instruments get in the way of the main guitar sound. So to stay true to that sound you put as few instruments as possible on the stage. Having two guitars can work, but often that is not even needed. I am in two rock bands one a three peice and one a four peice. After adding and subtracting members there is just something about the sound of one single amplified guitar through a big ass amp. Big bands on the other hand needed that big brass sound, to get that you needed a large horn section. The advent of high powered amp and synths have made the large ensamble something of the past I feel.
Did you read my post? Pleas explain why big band blues and big band funk but not big band rock.

One hypothesis, I have is that rock was never really a cultural movement, and just so much cheap marketing hype.
 

makinao

Silver Member
Large ensembles have always been problematic because there are more people to pay. Even marquee jazz big bands have expanded and contracted through the 40s to the 60s depending on economics. There were a number of large rock bands with brass sections in the 70s besides BS&T and Chicago. Ides of March and Cold Blood are actually still alive and playing gigs.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Quote..."One hypothesis, I have is that rock was never really a cultural movement, and just so much cheap marketing hype."

I think the people at Woodstock may disagree with this. It may not have lasted long but indeed was a movement
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Large ensembles have always been problematic because there are more people to pay. Even marquee jazz big bands have expanded and contracted through the 40s to the 60s depending on economics. There were a number of large rock bands with brass sections in the 70s besides BS&T and Chicago. Ides of March and Cold Blood are actually still alive and playing gigs.
Sure, I acknowledge there are some, but if you look at the sales of rock albums vs the sales of swing, blues, funk, you might be lead to believe that there were more big band rock groups at the community level, because there are that more many rock musicians, however this is not the case.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
Did you read my post? Pleas explain why big band blues and big band funk but not big band rock.

One hypothesis, I have is that rock was never really a cultural movement, and just so much cheap marketing hype.
I did read your post, and I offered an answer. I dont think rock music benefits from the added instruments. People like myself who listen solely to rock music dont want horn sections in our bands. If we did, more bands would have them. You know as well as I do if 10 peice metal bands sold records, there would be thousands of them out there. I dont think its a monitary thing, its the stripped down sound that me and the millions like me prefer.

You have, however, been offered plenty of examples to the contrary. The Foo Fighters (billed as a 5 peice) travel with 8 musicians. Green Day (3 peice) travel with 6 musicians. Guns N Roses had like 10 people on stage at one point. As a bands sound progresses they tend to add musicians to the live show to mimic the studio sound.

But I get what your saying, Nirvana was a three peice so they were just a marketing ploy. But the Mighy Bosstones have like 10 people on stage, so ska must have changed the world.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I did read your post, and I offered an answer. I dont think rock music benefits from the added instruments. People like myself who listen solely to rock music dont want horn sections in our bands. If we did, more bands would have them. You know as well as I do if 10 peice metal bands sold records, there would be thousands of them out there. I dont think its a monitary thing, its the stripped down sound that me and the millions like me prefer.

You have, however, been offered plenty of examples to the contrary. The Foo Fighters (billed as a 5 peice) travel with 8 musicians. Green Day (3 peice) travel with 6 musicians. Guns N Roses had like 10 people on stage at one point. As a bands sound progresses they tend to add musicians to the live show to mimic the studio sound.

But I get what your saying, Nirvana was a three peice so they were just a marketing ploy. But the Mighy Bosstones have like 10 people on stage, so ska must have changed the world.
Mostly, I am just commenting on the absence of large community orienred rock bands at the local level, so of course I will point at any large or small commercial rock band and say hype, the more you point out, the more hype.


Horn sections aren't the only way to grow a band either.
 

mymarkers

Senior Member
One hypothesis, I have is that rock was never really a cultural movement, and just so much cheap marketing hype.
I think you need to read some history about rock and roll if you believe this. The exact origins are debatable, but I assure you that rock was not created by a business man wearing a suit in a tall office building in a big city. At the time, he was too busy selling Frank Sinatra to upper middle class white people. Of course, rock eventually went mainstream and there was no shortage of marketing along with it. But there's no way it could have grown so big, spawned so many sub-genres, nor evolved so much from its original form to be nothing more than "cheap marketing hype."

As for the size of bands, I'm just going to blame the Beatles.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I think you need to read some history about rock and roll if you believe this. The exact origins are debatable, but I assure you that rock was not created by a business man wearing a suit in a tall office building in a big city. At the time, he was too busy selling Frank Sinatra to upper middle class white people. Of course, rock eventually went mainstream and there was no shortage of marketing along with it. But there's no way it could have grown so big, spawned so many sub-genres, nor evolved so much from its original form to be nothing more than "cheap marketing hype."

As for the size of bands, I'm just going to blame the Beatles.
OK, OK, OK, but so long as we can dispense with discussing X, Y, or Z exceptional big name commercial act that hired a session dude one time or hired gun to play a part on stage one time, and get to the meat of the discussion. No rock conductors, no rock composers or arrangers, no community rock groups.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
OK, OK, OK, but so long as we can dispense with discussing X, Y, or Z exceptional big name commercial act that hired a session dude one time or hired gun to play a part on stage one time, and get to the meat of the discussion. No rock conductors, no rock composers or arrangers, no community rock groups.
Could it be that rock is made to be played by the guy who wrote the song. By arranging or composing you are making music for others to play. Most of the rock greats of my time dont have the ability or desire to follow charts and play what has already been written. They dont want to write a song for somebody else to play, they want to write it and play it themselves. Three chords and the truth cant come from sheet music. It comes from the heart.

Think of it. You can be a word renowned pianist and only play music others have written. In rock music that just doesnt happen. How many world renowned cover bands have you ever heard of?

As far a community rock group. That is something I have no interest in seeing.
 
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