I just got back from a trip to Southern California for my son’s Class 1 soccer team. Their last game was against a very good team and we lost, 0-4. Our coach, in a talk to the parents, made an interesting observation (and I paraphrase):
“The team we played was very good, especially in communication. They talked to each other more in this one game than our team did in all 3 games. “
I thought about how this relates to playing in a band. You can communicate both musically (getting louder or softer or playing a passage that signals the end of the song) or you can communicate with a look or a hand signal.
Getting comfortable in a band that has been playing together for years means this kind of communication. Everybody knows what to listen for. You replace anybody in the band and everybody has to acclimate to this new person. The change is dramatic. Replacing one person in a 5 person band can be quick (I did it once in 2 weeks time) but I had to listen for queues, look around and keep an eye on the bassist, check to see what the drummer was doing, etc.
And on a related note…..
Guitarists DON’T LISTEN!! We don’t. We want to crank the dang thing up to 11 and think “Check THIS out!!” and go crazy. When we end our solo, do we remember to turn down? Not always. Now the singer has to compete with an elevated decibel level and scream to be heard.
Exercise in listening: if you are advanced enough, sit down with another guitarist and just play free form. I used to do this with Bob Culbertson, another teacher at SMI. It would just flow. It was like having a musical conversation. It was give and take. We didn’t decide on what to play, we just came up with an idea the other built upon. We’d do this for 30 minutes at a time.
To sum: band members need to communicate effectively and listen to others.