View Full Version : Balancing Act...

01-03-2007, 10:14 PM
Alright, so it’s my first post, and I apologize for it being so long. There’s a number of questions I’ve been asking myself – when it comes to my role in my band – and I need some guidance (or advice) from people.

I am the lead and rhythm guitarist in an ambient-art-rock group. We’ve played together for nearly 2 and a half years, in which we’ve recorded two full-length albums. Thanks to the wonderful support by much of the musical community on myspace, we’ve sold a number of our releases throughout Canada, the US and over seas. All in all, it’s a pretty good situation at the moment.

Now here’s where the problem comes in: the group is made up of a textbook introvert and three extroverts (including myself). This textbook introvert is our keyboard player who just happens to be our lead singer as well.

Because the fact our lead singer isn’t the most social person on the planet, and that she is the ‘default’ singer (i.e. she wrote the lyrics so she became the singer), problems have arisen…

On stage she forgets the lyrics, makes way too many mistakes, doesn’t know how to talk with the crowd in front of her, and 99.9% embarrasses me with her lack of performing skills. And because of this, we’ve only played 8 or 9 gigs during this 2 and a half-year period!

I’ve tried numerous times to remedy this issue. But after suggesting to bring aboard another singer for our live shows, I nearly had my head bitten off by the group…

On the other hand, my drummer and bassists are extroverts when they get on stage. They love the thrill of playing live, and enjoy the opportunity to make people happy with music. But there’s also a problem here. They too, just like our singer, make way too many mistakes when they play live. I constantly get confused looks by all three of them when they get lost or confused - as if I’m supposed to be the conductor. Which makes me wonder where does personal accountability come in?

And yes, I’ve taken the role as the bandleader. At practice I force the group the get their parts down cold. But they don’t listen to my reasoning, and think they can worry about being good later. I’ve tried so many approaches that now that I’m starting to get really annoyed and surprisingly, stressed.

All of these criticisms aside, when we’re in the studio, it’s like magic. We get together perfectly, we create these ethereal jams – it’s amazing. But live, it’s a bloody disaster. So here are my questions: (keep in mind that they’re all under the age of 19)

1. If I pull my weight, shouldn’t I expect the same from my group?
2. Should we get a new singer - who has a stage presence - for our live shows?
3. Should we just be a studio band then? How do I go about addressing the different expectations that everyone has?
4. If this continues, would it be wise to walk away? As much as I love playing with them, I spend more time being stressed about things I shouldn’t have to be.
5. How do I demonstrate to my group that we need to project a professional image in order to be successful?
6. In the long run, is it worth going through this headache?

Anyway, I hope this makes some form of sense. I really appreciate the advice that I’ll be give. Thanks very much! :)

01-04-2007, 12:36 AM
Welcome to IBM!

If I was in your position I would first make sure that your band is interested in the same things you are. And if not, whether this is a problem. Get a solid response from them regarding whether or not playing live is a priority for them and whether or not they feel their current live performances are as bad as you think they are. I tend to be of the mentality that if I pull my weight others should as well, but this isn't always the case, especially if people are on different wave lengths. You may also want to get some response from a non biased listener at one of your gigs because maybe it isn't as bad as you think it is.

as for an introverted singer, I don't see a problem with that. There are plenty of very succesful people out there with no charisma on stage. In your brand of music a 'hipper then thou' mentality may work to your advantage. My take on stage presence is that if you are comfortable jiving with the audience you should use it, if not don't fake it. I was at a Bill Frisell concert and the only time he spoke was when he introduced the band after the final song...music was still incredible. Hell, it's what made Miles Davis famous.

01-04-2007, 09:07 AM
I was concerned until you told me the age of the band members.

My advice now is don't worry about it, keep playing, don't push them too hard and just try to up the amount of times you play live. They'll get better with practice in a live situation.

What you don't want is to make them feel uncomfortable, then it'll get worse, they won't enjoy gigging and the whole thing will fall apart.

Also, try to enjoy yourself too! It sounds like you spend a lot of time on stage being red faced and worrying what the audience is thinking. Relax, enjoy.

I think it's worth the headache yes, and stick with these individuals, they are what makes the band what it is. Keep the chemistry.

Congrats on your success btw, it all sounds very positive!

and welcome to IBM!

01-05-2007, 05:11 PM
I'm responding because I was in a similar situation, only I was the introverted female singer. Getting over self consciousness on stage is something I will always have to work on. Here's what I did with a duo in which I was the primary, but introverted, singer.

The guy I played with, Joe, was a great guitarist but only sang a couple songs, so I carried most of the songs. I'm not shy about singing, but I close my eyes and it's like I'm in my own world. The trouble starts when the song is over and I open my eyes and I have to speak to the audience. I never know what to say that doesn't seem trite or obvious (e.g. "This next song is from Gillian Welch's second album...")

After our first gig, when Joe saw how shy I was talking to the audience, he took over introducing the songs, meanwhile developing a running joke about my "autism." It was all in good fun, and his poking fun at me encouraged me to answer back with some repartee with Joe.

I don't recommend making fun of your singer; she might take offense, but my partner Joe did it with such gentle wit that the repartee worked for us.

Russ's, comments are good: it just takes some time.


01-05-2007, 05:37 PM
I try to avoid public speaking at all costs.... My band members could not even get me to say "Check" into the microphone for a sound check. I would be like "Nahhh", dass ok mang, ju do eet.. No public espeaking for mee.

Authority Sound
01-05-2007, 07:05 PM
It may not be as bad as you think. I'm agreeing with UKRuss about the age thing...my guess is they just haven't figured out who they are yet and that makes the waters a little rough.

As for the other concerns, I have two words for you, Trent Reznor. He does all the recording himself and puts together players to tour. Maybe you could consider these guys for your studio musicians and maybe put together some other guys to perform live. I wouldn't be the easiest thing to do logistically, but it could work.

Another thing that he does is not talk to the audience except to say thank you (most of the time. (I know someone will chime in and say, "when I saw him he did." I'm saying in general). You don't have to banter with the audience. If the music is good enough, then just play the music.

Other bands also have people other than the singer do most of the talking. Fall Out Boy's bass player does most of the talking on stage and during interviews. Maybe that is your role. Just because one person sings that doesn't mean they also have to speak.

01-05-2007, 11:18 PM
i probably shouldn't have been so harsh in my wording. i do in fact love playing with the group i'm in. this is one of those groups where it feels almost surreal once we break into a jam. we all share a deep musical connection - which is very rare, and not to mention, hard to find.

thanks for all of the input, by the way. but there are still some things i feel the need to question...

first off, when we all spend the time working to market ourselves as best we can (i.e. professional) and then i can't get everyone to pull their weight live, is it wrong that i take leadership and try and get everyone to put their all into it? is it wrong that i demand professionalism live, when they demand professionalism in the studio?

as for taking leadership when we play live, i do (mostly because it's thrust upon me). i don't really have much of a problem with this reponsibility, but again, at what point can i hold others accountable in a group for not holding up their ends?

i realize that in some respects i sound a wee bit uptight about this, it's just that i'm scratching my head trying to figure out how i should address this. (and no, i'm not rude to my band at all - we like to keep it happy and democratic).


01-06-2007, 02:50 PM
I think it's best, but by no means easy, to get everyone to accept that people are individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses.

In this particular case you do better at the leading thing, well nothing wrong with that. Stick with it, make it your role, discuss with your band colleagues and try to find them, or get them to identify, things that they can do equally competently.

Everyone will have a role and everythings cool. I mean you don't need the keyboard player to pull their weight in any area other than playing the keys. Sure if the mistakes dont eventually go away you have to question their committment or indeed their fundamental competence, but it's early days.

my guess is time will heal all and in a couple of years you'll be a tight little unit that produces live.

many, nay most, amatuer bands produce quality in the studio nowadays. technology makes it easier to do that, and struggle to reproduce that quality live.

just takes time.

01-06-2007, 02:57 PM
I don't know bout all the other sh*t , sounds a bit adolescent, you can't expect much more and it all seems good- natured but you seem to be the one who's steering them in the right direction and they should respect that.At the same time you don't want to spoil a good thing.But you are the leader that's evident.
You could tell them at the next rehearsal that you wanna do some "groove training" and go through the parts that need tightening up ,repetition till it's right will help in fixing their sloppy playing, without putting the Svengali hat on and getting the cat-o-nine out and try & check everyone has the arrangement in their heads .At sometime during the number YOU stop playing, if they ask why you are not playing tell em you are... "listening " and they should continue ,that alone can be a formidable kick in the butt.You can then talk individually to them in PRIVATE about problem areas .Everyone should be pulling , the results will be greater achievement.
Get them involved in their own sloppiness to make them realise how sloppy they are ,but easy, there is strength in numbers and you don't need adversaries .
Another reason could be that you don't rehearse often enough ,my guess is the week before the gig if you've not gigging regularily. try and book some more gigs ,maybe get a showcase something to work for ,a goal helps sometimes.Don't wanna sound too serious here but music is serious and fun & frustrating etc etc. Oh! There's nothing wrong with introverts they just need reassurance and take a little longer ,he would'nt be there if he didn't want to be. ;) G'luck !

01-07-2007, 06:07 PM
my contribution to all the good advice and encouragement given here for you would be to have someone video tape the next performance, plus sound, either with or without their knowledge. athletes and teams do it for the purpose of improving.

then all the band can critique themselves.
after the review you can ask them and yourself, "how do you think we did, 1-10
on that performance?"
let them and yourself point out _(their own)_ flaws and what to do to remedy the troubled areas. (careful, not to start a pile on)

i agree age and live experience will improve performance but you can help speed it up if everyone knows where the weak and strong points are.

someone else, you?, can take over intro's and thank you's, etc.
confidence or lack of can be obvious to audience.

just my opinion and i would like to hear some of your music also.
good luck!