Sound Advice (Pt III – The Talk)

So the audition went very well and we’re talking about basic things – how often we gig, etc.  Since everybody showed up at different times during the evening, I didn’t have a real good feel for their personalities as we were already running through songs.

I didn’t like everything I heard.  Someone said “We don’t gig on Friday nights”.  I looked at him, and was like “what?”.  Someone else said “Yes, but if we got a gig on a Friday you’d play it, wouldn’t you?”.  The answer is yes.  My first gig with them was on a Friday night.

Also, some people didn’t want to gig that often.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, the gear is just as heavy as it was the last time, and I have a full time day job, but I’d like to shoot for 2 gigs a month.  Last year they had 11 gigs.  So in my mind, we’re halfway there.

Like many other things, gigs are pretty seasonal.  You can do club work year around, but they are also at the bottom of  the rung as far as jobs go.  Weddings are late Spring, Summer and early Fall.  Then there are holiday parties for companies.  Quieter periods are Jan/Feb, Oct/Nov.  So my philosophy is take them when we can get them.

When the band asked me what I thought I raised the following points:

1) When I saw them play, almost all the guys wore jeans.  Not good.

2) The web site needs work.  Grainy photos, and no real pizazz to it.

3) They didn’t have a portfolio.  We should have a promo package on nice paper that has contact info, song list, CD or DVD and website info.

I would find out later that if I asked the other 5 members what they thought about something, for example, should we do a group picture vs single photo and photoshop collage them together, I would get 5 different responses.  We’re not on the same page for a lot items.  Some want to gig as much as I do, some about 75% of what I want, others 50%.  Some don’t want to do anything during the week (Thursdays can be advantageous – some club owners want to see what  you can do before they put you on a Friday or Saturday).Others agreed about what I said about dressing a little nicer, others ignored me.

Welcome to band life.

All those issues would have to wait.  I got a call about 2 weeks later saying I got the gig.  I was to start rehearsing with just the keyboard player at first.  He had the mp3’s and the charts.  December was going to be a big brain dump on me to get the 46 songs down for my February 3rd gig.

I was up for it.

Sound Advice (part II – The Audition)

So in my last post, I talked about how this band contacted me on bandmix.com to try out for their top 40 dance band.  But first I had to check them out.

So on a Saturday night in early December, I and my girlfriend trucked out to Antioch, CA. at a club called Bases Loaded to hear them.  When I walked into that bar, I was really taken aback by how large their stage was.  Many bars have a small stage and dance area – preferring to fill up the place with more tables for more drinking, eating customers, but this place was large and had a very nice stage front and center across from the bar.

We took a seat in a booth and I started noticing some things.  First, the two lead singers were very good, played off each other well, sounded well together.  They used a sound man to run the Public Address (PA) board.  Some bands prefer to do that themselves to save money – most use a sound man now.  He’s dedicated to watching the volume levels, make sure the mix is right (i.e. you can hear all instruments and singers) and no feedback or ringing that could turn into feedback.

Confession time – I don’t spend my leisurely time listening to top 40 radio.  So as the band went into song after song, my girlfriend was reacting like “Oh I love this song!” on many occasions while I was say ing “Huh?”.  Now I knew some songs, like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, but many of the female lead songs I hadn’t heard.  Not an issue, I expected that.

So the band sounded good, the next thing I paid attention to was the guitarist.  What kind of guitar were they used to?  Well, he played a Fender Stratocaster – great guitar, I have one, but they only have 21 frets (they can hit a high C# and you can bend from there). He used a slide to get past that range.  That’s a difference right there – I don’t play slide.  Nothing wrong with it, but the action on my guitar (the height of my strings to the fretboard) is very low and pressing the slide onto the strings like that can cause the stings to buzz on the frets.

The next difference to me was that their current guitarist was a solid rhythm player, while I have focused more of my time on soloing techniques – scales, arpeggios, triad shapes and placement of them all in various styles.  I also use a whammy bar (aka tremolo or vibrato bar) for some wild effects.  So to me, from this one performance, I determined I was a bit flashier than what they were use to.  That doesn’t necessarily mean better or that they’d even want that.

The band played for an hour, and then took a break.  I took that opportunity to go up and talk to them, shake all their hands, and tried to get a “vibe” from them – who’s the grumpy one?  Who’s the leader? Who’s the primma donna?  From my experience, bands are like the 7 dwarfs – no two personalities are the same and someone usually takes on more responsibility than the others and is the tie breaking vote in certain decisions.

So they asked me again if I would be interested in auditioning and I said yes.  So I was told “pick out 5 songs from 5 different genres on our song list and let’s get together this Thursday”.  Agreed.

So I looked at their band site (which I didn’t care for, but more on that later) and they had 84 songs listed (it’s now up to 89).  They were listed in alphabetical order.  So trying to keep it a good mix, I picked Jenny 867-5309 (pop/rock), Jump (a bit harder rock, tried to get Eddie’s solo down), Before He Cheats (country rock),  Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (R&B), Celebration (funk), and Get Into the Groove (pop/funk).

The audition was at the keyboardists house.  When I showed up he was the only one there.  So we started running through songs.  I’d brought my Stratocaster, NOT my Ibanez because I wanted to blend in more like their previous guitarist.  Besides, none of the songs chosen really needed a metal type guitar.

One by one, the other members of the band showed up.  I supposed I could have been a bit put off by this lack of courtesy (I was on time) but for some reason it didn’t bother me.  By the end of the night, everybody was there, even the male singer who I was warned wouldn’t be there.

The funny thing, and I’ve run across this before, is I called a tune – and someone reacts with “Whoa!  We haven’t played that in over a year!”.  The keyboardist said “It’s on our song list, we need to be able to play it.”

It was becoming obvious that the Keyboardist was the band’s unofficial leader.  Not that he called all the shots, and in certain situations he defers to others, but if he pushed for something, he normally got it.

So we ran through all the songs.  As more and more people arrived, they got to hear me.  It was not a full fledged audition – we used a drum machine – the drummer didn’t play.  I don’t think the bassist did either.  The problem was, they didn’t rehearse at the keyboardist’s house – they rehearsed at the guitarists house and since he’s no longer in the band they had to make do.

I nailed all the songs and then it was discussion time.  I could tell they liked me.  One person even said “We have three more players to audition and we have to be professional about it, we have to listen to them, but we really like you”.

Nice to hear.  However, it’s not over till it’s over.  I said you absolutely should go ahead with the other auditions.  Since I was being rated on my guitar skills only and NOT guitar and vocals, I was in a much better position.  My singing skills suck, to be mild.  It’s really the only reason why I ever lose out on an audition.  It’s not my playing skills.

So as they auditioned me, I auditioned them.  And when they said “Do you have any questions for us?”

I had a few.

…to be continued…

Spencer

Sound Advice Part I (The Email)

*** Schedule Note! As of April 2nd, 2012 I have openings Wednesday night 7:00pm, 7:30pm and 8:00pm.  Email me for details ***

Hey all –

In October, something went wrong with my website – while it was up, I could not post more blog entries.  As my daily work and family life got busy, I put off working on it until January when my host decided they were terminating the type of account I had and required me to upgrade to a new site.  That forced me to reinstall wordpress on the new site and get this puppy up and running.

but during the down time…

I got an email out of the blue from a site called BandMix.com.  Someone wanted to know if I was interested joining their dance band.  It seems that their guitarist and founder no longer had the time to stick with a practice and gigging schedule and was quitting (on very good terms) the band.  They had a show in early December, 2011 and then they had to find someone by February 3rd, 2012 for their next show.

This greatly piqued my interest.  First, in the last 3 years I’ve made 3 attempts to form bands, only to be thwarted by personal issues – varying levels of commitment, varying musical abilities, and varying musical directions.  This has been well documented in my previous posts (see Band categories).  I’d pretty much given up on it for the time being, but I joined bandmix.com out of frustration back in 2009.  Besides a brief flirtation with the all original band Lipshok, it was quiet out there.

Sound Advice is a top 40 band, but saying that doesn’t mean a whole lot.  Top 40 now seems to come in 31 flavors.  This band’s material went back to Born to be Wild and Gimme Shelter, and up to Hot and Cold (Katy Perry) and Give a Litte More (Maroon 5).  To say it’s all over the map is an understatement.

Actually, this is the kind of music I do well in.  My teacher never let me box myself in – I was playing rock, blues and jazz in my lessons with him.  Those fundamentals let you branch out into just about any musical style (you may have noticed I left out Country!  Not my forte…)

The band is a 6 piece (with a guitarist) and has both male and female lead singers (that’s a big plus – you can cover a lot of range of material with that combination).  Then there was a drummer, a bassist, and keyboards.  I’d be the only guitarist.  Great!  I like that.

The first thing to do was to go listen to the band.  Their next gig was in early December at Bases Loaded in Antioch, CA.  It was time to do some reconnaissance work and find out:

1) What does the band sound like?

2) What kind of guitarist do they have now (and are used to)?

3) What kind of gigs do they play?

All of this matters.  If the band sounds horrible, well, I’ve been there.  I can’t fix other peoples playing.  If their guitarist is like another Larry Carylton, I would have my work cut out for me.  And if they played dives in bad areas where we have to fear for our lives, it isn’t worth it.

Next: Part II – The Sound Advice Report Card

Spencer

Welcome to Fast Fingers Guitar Lessons

It’s taken months to get this site back online, but it’s up!  This site is a combination of web lessons and a chance to sign up with in home guitar lessons of nearly any style.  Feel free to poke around and read some of the older blogs I’ve posted – subjects include lessons, music theory, how to practice, managing being in a band, and much more.

If you’re looking for drum lessons or know someone who is, check out http://ryanonthedrums.com  as well.

Spencer