HOW TO BE THE BEST BANDMATE
BY DAVID BLUEFIELD
1- LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN
learn to listen to actual music parts — rhythm and melody to find your part
-learn to listen to the sound spectrum
Example :pick out bass and treble and train your ear to stay focused throughout an entire piece-
think of it as spatial ranges moving horizontally - picture a thermometer in your mind from 0 bottom to 100 top
and try to keep your focus at the bottom and listen for the bass line and kick drum - visualize them staying in the same range moving horizontally -then move into the middle range and try to lock into a keyboard or guitar rhythm and then to upper mid -the easiest - listen to the vocal. When listening to the vocal - it also means listening to the spaces inbetween the vocal - what musical line is happening ? Is it in the same range of the vocal? More on vocal - listen for tonality, listen for phrasing - is the lyric being delivered in a conversational way and is there intention? The bottom line is that noticing the subtleties will improve over time but if the singer is making you listen and feel the lyric -then you have virtual gold to work with.
2-KNOW YOUR ROLE
Learn the appropriate roles or positions or basic functions of the rhythm section and lead section
lead guitar plays what during verses -during chorus .
There are basic rules that the brain can only focus on one musical line at a time and since all the music is moving
horizontally as well as vertically - at any one point in the vertical spectrum there are multiple parts going on -
but it is a conversation where one part is primary and others are supportive - a lead line is usually in the upper midrange
and other parts in that same range should either lead into or lead out of the lead line -
3-WHAT TO PLAY WHEN TO PLAY IT
rhythm part should change from verse to chorus - sometimes actually lay out to create sparseness and then add power
The options are either double up or halve the rhythm part and always listen listen listen to the accents of the drummer
and bass player.
BASS - root and 5th -always solid on the downbeat - lead into the next section in the song - always with the drummer
If you are a bass player -your actual personality should be supportive - you are holding up the bottom of the foundation and are critical - you are the entire defensive line protecting the quarterback - who, in this analogy is the lead guitar or lead vocal as the
primary focus - you must be content to play basic tones ( root and 5th) and play it over and over - when you are locked with the drummer you are in the groove and there is certain momentum that occurs that is hypnotic when done right.
GUITAR - rhythm can be a constant driving strum (depending on the genre) or a spotty repeated pattern - a short rhythmic lick that occurs at a certain place in the bar -every bar or every other bar -which is part of the groove set up by the Bass and Drum
KEYS - similar to the guitar but withtout the strum aspect -Keys are percussive and can find a pattern that repeats as well as single lines that lead into or out of a section
LEAD - these parts/players are the quarterback or running back sharing the song with the lead singer - whenever there is a space left by the vocalist - this can be the space for a tasteful lead line - "leading" into the next section of music - which is usually the chorus and often a solo - George Harrison was one of the all-time best at playing parts that fit the song - also The Edge in U2 comes up with entire song guitar parts
4- SIGN LANGUAGE CUES
Determine who ends the song who starts the song
it could be guitar with obvious motion of neck
or it could be drummer with stick sounds
Regardless - at every ending -keep eyes on leader for cues on when and where to go
and ears on drummer for actual anticipations
5- HOW TO BLEND
mix yourself so that you hear the other sounds equal to the sound you are making - in fact it is better if you don't hear your part separate but as blended
6-INTEGRITY OF THE MUSIC
The more you can instill the absolute importance of valuing what you play as adding to a whole - as opposed to adding to the energy will make a difference - constant awareness of DYNAMICS will help you remember to drop down in the verses and to match the sensitivity of the other players in certain softer delicate parts of a song. EMPHASIS by catching upbeats by the drummer or bass player or not - "or not" means knowing the space they occupy and stay out of it -
7. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
Know your parts inside and out before group rehearsals. That way the band can actually focus on the finer details or the big picture together and have more fun in the process. If you don't understand a section of a song, talk about it and make sure to smooth out the kinks sooner rather than later. You don't want those doubts to linger until it's too late to ask or you get on stage and the nerves kick in.
8.WHICH ONE ARE YOU ?
If you don't know your role, talk about it. Are you a support musician? Are you a bandleader? Do you have a say in the creation and selection of the material? Or are you supposed to just learn your parts from a chart and do what you're instructed to do? Once you know this, you'll be able to make sure that you're not stepping on any toes, and you'll also feel more free within your defined role.
What makes a good leader is allowing and appreciating all comments and knowing what each member needs to hear - on confidence on what the band expects.Place equal value on each musician– everyone contributes to the band's unique sound.
9. WILLINGNESS TO ASSIST
Whether it's carrying equipment or promoting the band, always help when it's needed. Depending on your forte and interests outside of music, find a way to contribute to the management of the band. Maybe you're a good driver and can get the band to gigs, or you love to design and can make the T-shirts and posters. Maybe you have a big social network, and naturally will be the promoter. Or maybe you host the rehearsals. What ever your part is, make sure you share the legwork, because it's way too much for one person.
10. Each instrument has its own details and complexities on which to focus, and each individual deserves respect. Every member should be included in band discussions and practices, and everyone should feel welcome to weigh in with suggestions when appropriate. This gives ownership and builds commitment.
11. Be on time
The band members depend on each other to make "it" happen, so be respectful of each other's time. Don't be the one to hold everyone up when people are already making sacrifices to make time for the band between their jobs, families and possibly other musical projects. if you're too flaky, you might just lose your seat in the group.
12. Plan in advance
Schedule rehearsals and gigs in advance. If a show is booked and you've committed to it, don't miss it unless it's a true emergency. It reflects badly on the whole band if they have to cancel or cannot produce what's expected. Also, give a heads up if you're going out of town so that your bandmates know when to book practices and shows, or have ample time to get a sub for you if needed.
13. Do social things together
Hanging out together is inevitable if you practice a lot or go on tour together. Whether or not you're friends outside of the band, try to find times after rehearsal to get food or drinks, or go to a show together for inspiration. Being social creates a bond. A real friendship and understanding of each other shines through in the music. Building a relationship as friends places importance on the art rather than the business side of things and keeps things in perspective. Also, the more you know each other, the more you can read each other and mend mistakes on the fly during a performance!
14. Discuss style
Details make a band unique and stand out. This includes fashion! It's embarrassing to witness a band where everyone is dressed up except for that one person who rolled out of bed and looks downright slovenly. If you're going for the "I don't care" or "grungy" look, that's fine – just be on the same page as everyone else. Prepare and discuss it in advance – maybe you want matching outfits, or you just want to be casual, or maybe dressy. These details matter. Your shows are a presentation of your art, sound and appearance all together. Paying attention to all of these aspects shows that you care about your presentation and your audience.
15. Work on your stage presence
Being a musician usually means that you're also a performer. This requires stage presecnce. Enjoy it, and give a little love to the audience. This can be as simple as smiling, or thanking the audience for coming, or even creating choreography. Just make sure that you and your bandmates work together to always give good energy to the audience. This will increase your fan loyalty and it will also enhance the music. People always love stories ( short and sweet) about a song or why an arrangement turned out the way it did.
Part of being a good bandmate involves putting effort into not only the music, but also the promotion of it. You've done so much work to get to this point, so now it's time to share it. Create a mail list with info how and when folks can see you and it is always great to say hi to your buds from the stage with a call out.
17. Be transparent
I'm talking about money. If you're performing together as a band, there is money involved. The group as a whole should be open about it. Ideally, the group should decide together what to do with the funds. It could be small enough that you all go out for dinner together, or you pay a member back for the time they bought gas. If it's large you can divide it up, or put into a band fund, or towards your next album, etc. Also, unless someone has signed up to be a sponsor for the band, always pay them back if they fronted the group. If there is a tip jar how is it divided ? Is anyone due a payback or had/has an additional hardship -this is a great opportunity to make these kinds of paybacks
18. Speak up
When things that matter are bothering you, it's important to voice your concerns as soon as possible. Certain things will blow over, but if you have any nagging thoughts that continue to bring you down, that means it's time to talk about it – no matter how small of an issue it seems. Nothing is too small to talk about if it feels important to you. For big issues, like who owns royalties, and what to do if a member quits, it's a good idea to create a space to straighten out any kinks that might need clarification early on. Don't be afraid to be the one to suggest that these conversations be had.
Remember why you are here and why you chose this to do- the luckiest are ones who can make this a true labor of love.
BY TRAVIS RAAB
These 10 Tips will make you better at Guitar.
1) Practice it slowly. After that, practice it even slower. Muscle memory takes between 20 and 80 times of repetition to develop. The more precise your execution, the faster muscle memory will develop. Therefore you will have better results practicing something 20 times slowly and correctly, than 50 times rushed and sloppy.
2) Take breaks.
3) It’s better to practice 5 minutes a day, 7 days a week than 5 hours on one single day of the week. Slow and steady wins the race.
4) Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. If you dont know what you’re aiming for, how will you hit it?
5) Learn songs you love and it will always be a joy working on them.
6) Your hands are not too small or too big or too weak, too skinny etc. Django Reinhardt and Tommy Iommi didn’t even have all of their fingers. PS Trim the nails on your fretting hand.
7) Rhythm is king. Its better to play an entire song in time without hitting a single right note than it is to play all the right notes without regard to your place in the song.
9) Practice difficult passages bit by bit. Don’t try to start from the beginning and stop every time you get to the difficult part. Work on the hard parts individually, slowly and perfectly. Then attempt to play the entire passage.
10) Have fun. That’s the whole point isn’t it?
Make sure you follow these 10 tips for guitar beginners, and life will be much easier!
How to Play Guitar Fast
Want to know how to Play Guitar Fast? Of course you do.
Musicians will tell you that it’s not about playing fast, but playing what’s right for the song. Thats stupid. Playing fast is all that matters!
But sometimes you are on a gig where a blazing solo is what’s called for. Or maybe you’re just bored! Getting your chops up is one of the fun things about being a musician!
So what’s the secret?
That’s right. The best way to build your chops is to practice slowly along with a metronome in order to build muscle memory.
What is muscle memory? Muscle memory is what enables you to throw a baseball, brush your teeth, ride a bike and walk without thinking. Its what your muscles can recall without assistance from cognitive reasoning.
Muscle memory is developed through performing an action the same way between 20 and 80 times. It generally does not matter how quickly you repeat this action, it only matters how accurately you repeat it. What does that mean for us musicians? If you want to learn how to rip on a certain lick or scale, the most efficient use of your practice time is to repeat that action slowly and perfectly. Once you’ve gotten your phrase down at a slow tempo, then gradually increase the tempo of your metronome.
A lot of students try performing the same passage over and over again at blistering speed. They struggle to learn and grow frustrated. If they simply broke down their phrases into manageable pieces, practicing them slowly, they would see results from their hard work. This is the same principle used by professional athletes across the world.
I learned this approach to practice from my first drum teacher, Jill Mongeau, and its stuck with me. Applying this system to your woodshedding will decrease your practice time and make that practice more efficient. Give it a shot!
You're playing too loud. Turn down.
Arpeggios will pay your rent.
Why is it when some players take a solo, they sound like they're noodling? They might have great rhythm, solid licks, and great tone, but still something about their playing doesn't sound right. Conversely, certain players, even when playing the simplest ideas, seem to always play something that works. Most of the time, You will find that the noodler is ignoring the chord changes, and the more tasteful player is 'honoring' those chords by employing arpeggios.
What are arpeggios? Arpeggios are broken chords (Chord tones, eg 1, 3,5,7). Most guitar players start out by learning their pentatonic/ key center playing. They have a general ambivalence to the chords going by, and are basically jut ripping in their key, or their box position. This type of playing is a ton of fun, and often appropriate for styles like rock and blues. But in songs where the chord changes are really definitive, your solo should reflect those chords. In styles like country and jazz, it's imperative to land on chord tones even if the whole song is diatonic (in one key). Even in styles like rock and pop there are circumstances where you need to adapt and your old approach of playing in one key for the entire song will no longer work.
Having an awareness of the chords you are playing over (and their corresponding arpeggios) will free your playing. In time, You will be able to 'honor' the chords, and also wail in your favorite box positions. Arpeggios also provide you with a safety net to navigate difficult changes where you may not always be sure what key center you are in. As long as you are playing a fundamental note of the chord you are playing over, your playing will 'work'.
If you have reached a point in your playing where you notice that your solos seem to wander, and you are struggle to play over more difficult tunes, I would highly recommend learning your arpeggios in every position. You may need a good private instructor to show you. And most importantly you will need quality regular practice to get these arpeggios into your playing!
Learn your arpeggios and soon your solos will have the willful abandon we all crave!
Is your guitar playing stuck in a rut?
This is another one of the very common themes I hear from new students. "My playing is stuck in a rut!" They come in and tell me that their playing always sounds the same, it's always predictable, and they want to break out and have fresh ideas. I think all musicians can identify with this.
There are two easy fixes for this symptom.
1) learn new licks. If all you ever play is minor pentatonic in the same old box with the same old licks, of course you're going to sound the same! But if you take the time to stop and learn even one new lick, you can get a whole a new perspective. Learning a lick that you really love is like getting a private guitar lesson from your favorite player. It doesn't end with memorizing the lick though. You then need to get this lick into your playing by soloing along to songs with different grooves in different keys to actively apply this lick. Do it every day, at home, on gigs, when you're jamming with your friends - until it sounds fluid, and you can get in and out of it. I have wasted many hours learning licks that never made it into my playing, simply because I tried to learn too many licks at once and didnt give each lick time to marinate. Like a steak. That you bought from the butcher. That he recommended would be delicious. So you bought and cooked 10. And you couldn't eat them all. And you wasted them. And you felt bad and full cause you ate too much steak. Get what I'm saying?
Remember, One lick alone could be enough to give you new ideas. You can always morph that lick into different positions, or superimpose it over different chords.
2) Learn new concepts. Ok let's take that same example, and say all you ever do is play the same old minor pentatonic box with the same old licks. What if I told you you can play major pentatonic by simply moving that entire Box down three half steps (e.g. A to F#) and that over a blues you can go back and forth from major and minor pentatonic by just moving that shape back and forth? Or if you take that same box and move it up a half step and then back down you can get some cool outside sounds?
These two simple concepts can open a whole world of ideas for you. No new licks to learn. Just a new concept, and that might completely change the way you play guitar.
Sounding Original on the guitar. Easier than you think.
Now and then a guitar student will tell me that they want to sound original. They want to have their own style and want to be unique from every other guitar player. Characteristically, these students are resistant to learning the tendencies and licks of the great players who came before them. So they may want expand their musical knowledge, but they are very superstitious about learning licks from Brent mason, or joe pass, or whomever.
I think what this person believes is that learning a couple things from a master will make them sound cookie cutter. But even if a player never copies anyone’s licks and has a totally unique sound, that doesn’t mean mean they sound good. “Hey this lick has never been done before! …. And now we know why!” Vice versa, if a player sounds very similar to someone who came before them, that doesn’t mean they sound bad. Furthermore, even if you obsessively study one musicians style, and quote them in your playing, and live and breath that musician, you are still not going to sound just like them. You aren’t going to think what they think, or feel what they feel. So inevitably you won’t be able to do what they do. Your personality is going to come out in your playing whether you like it or not.
Eddie van haven was in a cream cover band. Does he sound like Eric Clapton? Stevie Ray Vaughan was probably the best Albert king emulator. Does Stevie’s mimicry take away from his great playing on ‘the sky is crying?’.
I think students sometime don’t realize that your guitar playing is a composite of all the different artists you have heard and like, whether or not you have transcribed their work or are trying to sound like them. Personally, I make every attempt to copy artists that I love. Blatantly. Because no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be them, I’ll never sound like them. I’ll sound like myself, and maybe some of my influences will be apparent. When I transcribed Jimi's rhythm guitar playing on "the wind cries mary", I felt like I was playing the guitar with Jimi's hands. It felt like a personal guitar lesson from Jimi himself. So I chose to learn it the way he played it as closely as I could. It helped me get inside his head. But I’ll never be Hendrix.
Mimicry is the ultimate form of flattery. Remember – Good artists copy ; great artists steal.
Also remember -There is more than one way to skin a cat. And When in Rome. And two wrongs don’t make a right. And fool me once shame on me. Or you. Or something. OK? Good.
The point I’m trying to make is that you are going to sound like you, and no one will ever be able to copy you and sound exactly the way you do. You are unique already. So learn as much as you can from wherever you can, and only be concerned about making good sounds. Not original sounds.
Do I need a brand new Fender Guitar?
Do I need a brand new fender? Telecasters and stratocaster are ubiquitous among guitar players, and the stratocaster is renowned as a work of engineering perfection. They can run in price anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for a squire to many thousands for a master built to tens of thousands for a vintage piece.
People seem to forget that fenders are simply two pieces of wood bolted together. We aren't talking about a Stradivarius here. They are assembled quickly in factories, without much attention to detail, just like always. Drop a tele down a flight of stairs, and you can plug it and it will sound great. (No liability). That's what makes them great workhorses.
Heres what you want in an ideal fender: 1) Nitrocellulose finish (not polyurethane like 90% of fenders) 2) Quality pickups (good luck finding those in a stock fender). 3) A neck that feels comfortable to YOU. (Go try a bunch of fenders and when you find a neck that is comfortable, write down the fretboard radius and material, fret wire size, and shape/size of back of the neck. All info is available on fenders website). 4) One that looks and feels right to you. Say what you want, if she ain't purdy you gonna get bored of her.
Fender is constantly changing their available models but to my knowledge, here are some models that satisfy these requirements.
1) Roadworn series strat, tele (basses too). Not the road worn players model yadayada. Just the plain roadworn. (You might want to change the pickups, I put suhrs in my tele). 2) Eric Johnson strat. Look for used. Sounds and plays great completely stock. The stock pickups are great.
What is the next option if you don't like the roadworn series and can't afford the Eric Johnson? Build your own! Companies like All Parts and Warmoth sell fender necks, bodies, hardware, etc, and you can get exactly the type of parts you want.
I personally bought an unfinished tele neck and body from All Parts (finished it myself with tung oil), stuck on a Callahan bridge, lollar pickups, and finished the rest with hardware I had laying around the house. It looks a little nerdy, and the equilibrium is a little off, but it was cheap and sounds better than any fender I own.
I have owned American telecasters and strats. Even after changing pickups, bridges, etc, they never felt right or sounded great to me. I think a huge part of that has to do with the poly on the wood. If you have your heart set on a fender, I'd go for a Used Mexican. It'll probably run you around 300, and after changing pickups (lots of great companies out there) it'll sound better than a high end American. The American standards are nowadays finished with polyurethane (not the original nitrocellulose). This seals the wood better, but most players agree that Poly is inferior to Nitro in terms of tone. Conversely, modern fenders have been tweaked a bit to be easier to play. Changes from the original design include larger frets, truss rods with opening in the headstock, flatter radius necks, but generally inferior pickups. It is no secret that fenders of the 1950s are praised for their beautiful sound, while modern fenders, although having improved playability, sound significantly worse.
Ok so let's cut to the chase. Fenders are simple instruments. But everything from the type of metal used in the bridge to the type of nut you have can effect it's tone. Find one that feels right to you, and you can always tweak it to your hearts content. And then name it Beatrice.
Flying with your guitar.
So you're thinking of taking your guitar on an airplane? Well there's a few things you should know before putting your grandpas pre war Martin in a soft case and handing it off to the good people at the ticket counter.
Before flying with your guitar, consider the following: is your guitar very valuable? Will you be devastated if it breaks? Is there another guitar you can use at your destination? If you answered yes to any of these, reconsider traveling with your instrument. Your guitar has a decent chance of being damaged on a commercial flight.
Ok so you're going to bring your stratocaster on a fly date. Here's a checklist of things you'll want to do:
1) Loosen the strings. When a guitar is dropped, the tension of the strings contributes to a crack at the neck. If your guitar is being checked or gate checked, this is an absolute must.
2) Get your guitar onboard, either in the cabin closet or overhead compartment. This is your legal right - check out this article from the Department of Transportation.
3) 2nd choice would be a gate check. A gate check is when they tag your guitar at the gate, put it in the cargo before take off, and then bring it back to you on the jet bridge. Therefore it is the last thing put in the belly if the plane, and the first thing taken out. Ask the gate personell where the guitar is going to emerge upon landing & double check the stub they give you. Sometimes they will tag it at the gate, but when you arrive it will come out of baggage claim which is bad news. (Remember in fight club where they call baggage handlers "throwers"?). Even worse, on a layover, your instrument could be short checked, which means it ends up at baggage claim at your layover airport.
*** I have heard musicians say they were able to get their instrument onboard by waving the D.O.T. law in the face of the airline employees. But, I have also personally seen airline employees force an EMT to check a bag containing $30k of medical gear (which is against the law). This EMT confided in me that he could legally 'delay the flight' for this violation. But after arguing, they checked his bag, and he sat his ass on the plane. The truth is that there is always room for your guitar inside the cabin. But the reality is that when the flight is full and behind schedule, a cranky airline employee won't allow your guitar onboard, even if it is your legal right to check for a spot. All you can do is refuse to take any guff from those swine 🙂
4) Use a small streamlined semi soft hard case like a 'Reunion Blues Aero'. The bigger the case, the less likely it's gonna get onboard. I believe that you get the most protection from a firm case with padding - not a hard case. In a semi hard case if it drops, there is shock absorption that you wouldn't get from a hard case. If it's crushed by a heavier bag, it will give you protection that you wouldn't get from a very soft case. This is my personal, unscientific belief - I am not a rocket scientist . (If you always check your guitar for some reason, you will want a hard molded flight case).
5) Avoid the ticket counter. Check in online, print or use your phone for your ticket and walk straight to security. With certain airlines, if the staff at the ticket counter see you with two large items they will force you to check one.
6) Be polite to the staff and do what you can to get in line and onboard early. Your chances of getting your guitar in the cabin are determined by how much room there is in the overhead bins, and how well you treat the airline employees.
7) Only travel with one other regulation carry-on bag. If you have too many items, or your bag or guitar case is too big, this will be a red flag and they will try to make you check or gate check your bag.
8) Don't fly American Airlines. At most airports, they will not allow you to even reach TSA with a carry on bag and a guitar of any size. I learned this the hard way, when they pulled me out of the security line, causing me to miss my flight and almost miss my gig.
9) Don't fly with a Gibson. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Gibsons, due to their unique design and stress points have a higher chance of cracking at the neck than a fender electric with a bolt on neck.
10) If your guitar is really valuable and you want guarantee it's safety, buy a seat for it. Then the question will be, what does your guitar want to drink? Hiyo!
I fly for gigs every week of the year and I have a developed a simple approach. I have 3 guitars that are suitable for fly dates, which I always keep in my Reunion Blues Aero case. They are inexpensive, great sounding guitars with upgraded parts. 75% of the time I get them onboard. The rest of the time, I loosen the strings and hand them off for a gate check. If one breaks, I'm not gonna cry. I've experienced a couple short checks, but no broken guitars yet. Fingers crossed!.