Category Archives: Joining a Band

Tesla Vintner House Band – 7/12/15!!

Since the Turbo  Fuegos imploded on New Years Eve (that story to remain untold on this site!) I joined forces with Steve Powell, entrepreneur, and known for his singing as much as his wine making at Tesla Vintners.  The picture here was our first incarnation:TV I’m in the back and if I look a little weird, I was actually quite sick the evening we took that photo and in about 3 hours I was in the ER with appendicitis! The guys thought I was crazy for showing up for pictures like that but hey, I didn’t know.

Not long after that we had our fist gig.  Since then one member went back to the East Coast and our bassist is on vacation so we are playing Sunday at 2:00 with a fill-in bassist.

Details:

Address -> 5143 Tesla Rd, Livermore, CA 94550

Do you have to be 21?  No!  This is a family run place.  They are even dog friendly.

Is there a charge to get in?  Again, No!  Show up and have fun.

Is it just wine?  Nope – although there are 3 wine makers offering tasting (all for $20) there will be beer and food to purchase.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

The Ancient Art of Weaving

Hi all – Happy March….

Last month I blogged about my 2 auditions and reasonably good showing at “R Place” in Livermore.  With the three of us in place – Singer, Drummer, and myself – we needed to add a bassist.

A bit surprisingly, though, the singer next had in line to try out a rhythm guitarist.  I approached this with some caution.  In the past, I’ve had rhythm guitarist try out for the band, then try to undermine me to get the lead spot.  However, at the same time, I was fine with sharing some lead guitar duties – especially if he had a different style as me.  I didn’t think we needed 2 “me’s” in the band.

I should explain the title of the blog – I recently read Keith Richard’s autobiography Life and he mentions the ancient art of weaving as two guitars that listening to each other and playing around each other and complimenting each other.  Keith has always worked with another guitar player, so I decided to pay special attention to this approach.

They guy we tried out had a very good attitude.  No real ego here, just wanting to play in a working band like the rest of us.  He corrected me on a song (Honey Bee) in a respectful way.  He had a tube amp and a Fender Strat.  We sounded good together but I also realized this increased my work load a bit.  In most songs I didn’t want to play exactly what he was playing.  For example, if he’s playing an open E chord, I will probably play the bar E on the 7th fret.  Why?  Because with two guitarist we can stretch the range.  He plays low, I go high.  And we have to pay close attention to our rhythms to make sure they don’t clash.  The new guy has more of a country background and I don’t and I think that’s a plus.

We still needed a bassist.  Luckily for us, the idea of playing out at “R Place” to put the word out that we needed a bassist bought us an audition.  We auditioned him last week and his playing was just right on.  Nice tone, not too loud, rock solid bass lines and he had the signature bass parts down cold in the 10 songs he brought.

As I’ve done with everybody on the band, I brought up commitment and goals.  Two gigs a month on average, one rehearsal a week unless there is a gig that week.  Everybody agreed.

The Turbo Fuegos was complete.

We then talked about next steps.  Three out of the five members of the band, including me, needed to learn the song list.  I had come in with 10 songs, so did the rhythm guitarist and the bassist.  We now needed to learn the Fuegos’ set list, starting with set one.  There was a lot of talk about throwing out older songs, replacing them with new ones, but for now we will keep the first set as is, and everybody come next week prepared to play through 13 songs.

We are booked at Ollies on May 24th, and we might be playing a rodeo event on April 27th.  Nothing motivates as much as having a live gig to go on.

More next blog…

Spencer

The Audition – Part 2

Hi,

Well last post we had me overextended on my audition, playing a guitar I didn’t practice on, and not enough time to prepare.  But they liked me enough to want to check me out one more time.

So I reduced the number of songs from 21 to 10.  I pracitced on my #1 guitar – my Ibanez Prestiege, and worked on my presets/tones on my amp.

The difference was huge.  They liked me so much I got the job on the spot.

Then they had the idea of us playing at a local jam night at a club called “R Place” in Livermore.  We worked up two sets of 4 songs each, with 2 extra, just in case.

When we arrived, the “House” band was setting up and played a blues set that lasted about an hour and half.  I was….not nervous, but antsy.  I wanted to play, but instead I have to listen to these guys play!  I have some serious gear – I kept thinking about where it would go, what is the most effecient way to get it set up to save time, etc.

Finally we got the green light.  With the “house” bassist to fill in, we got setup to play.  I got my gear up and ready to play in under 10 minutes.  We started off with

1)  Born to be Wild

2)  Can’t Get Enough

3) China Grove

4) Gimme Three Steps

We originally were going to play only 4 but they let us do one more so…we played Jumpin Jack Flash.

We then stepped down, dragged our gear off (well I did, the drum set didn’t move), and took a breather.  Our friends and family were supportive, and we sounded quite different than the standard blues fare that had been played thus far.  We were also pretty loud.  50 watts with a tube amp is pretty darn loud.

Eventually we were asked back up.  Up goes the amp, the effects, the guitar, and me.  We ran through:

1) Honky Tonk Women

2) Feel Like Makin’ Love

3) Highway to Hell

4) Sweet Home Alabama

Again, they wanted another song wo we threw in Johnny B Goode, the old Chuck Berry Classic.

After that, we were “done” in the sense that we had prepared 10 songs, and we had played them.  People loved us, and our lead singer was a natrural as he worked the crowd – talking to them and getting them fired up.  Then we were asked to play one more.

“Uh, what do we want to do?”

I said “Ok, let’d do Long Train Runnin'”.  I’d played that song every time last year when I played out, I knew it backwards and forwards so we knocked that out.

We were done.  Once again, dragged my stuff off the stage, wrapped the cords, put it in the car and was done for the night.  No money, but it was a nice “testing ground” for how we’re going to be on stage.  They guys liked what I did.

There were mistakes.  Oh yeah there were mistakes – but we played through them.  This was our third time playing together and the crowed loved us.

We were building a new band…..

More next blog

Spencer

The Audition – Part I

[Note: as of 2-11-13 I have one opening Wednesday nights at 8:30pm in the Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore area.  I know that’s late but some people are night owls.  If you’re looking for a different day/time contact me anyway and I’ll see what I can work in for you ]

My last post talked about a new audition I had coming up.  Well I did it – here’s my report.

I nearly blew it.

I showed up at the warehouse where they rehearse (while not warm and cozy, it has no noise restraints at night).  The singer and drummer welcomed me and helped carry my gear in.  I brought what I would normally bring to a gig:

  • Amp head and cabinet
  • Effects foot pedal
  • guitar
  • Crate including power strip, extension cord, extra strings/picks, iPad for charts, and various connecting cords.

As I got set up, I explained that I havn’t really used my new amp head/cabinet other than to jam with since I quit my last band before I had a chance to gig with it.

All talk aside, we began to work through the tunes.  Now in our communications via email I said I could play 21 of their songs.  I did have background with all 21 songs, but not all songs were fresh in my memory.  I had brought my Stratocaster as that is the closest “country” sounding guitar I have, yet most of the 21 were classic rock songs (Bad Company, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, etc).  As we started playing through them, I struggled off the bat.  My hands felt cold, they wouldn’t move like I wanted them to.

As we got to about the 4th or 5th song, I started to loosen up and relax, hands warmed up, and I began to play better.  I found on the rock songs I missed my Ibanez (the S5470 – catchy name eh?).  The Ibanez is my go-to guitar which I had left at home because this was a “country” band.  Wrong move.

Plus, I didn’t even practice these songs on the Strat at home.  I had practiced on my Dean 7 string since that is what I had set up in my practice area.  So I practiced on a guitar I wasn’t going to bring, and I wasn’t going to bring my main guitar.  Not too smart!

After we got done playing, we sat down and talked.  The lead singer opened with “We think you’re a better player than you showed us here tonight.  It took like 5 songs for you to hit your stride, and you’re playing on new gear.”

That sounded hopeful to me, but not quite a definite “Yes”.  They made it clear to me they are not a “Classic country” band and they enjoy all music from Garth Brooks to Juda Priest.

We had similar goals – be gigging actively, be different than the competition, sound good and work hard.

They wanted me to come back the next week with a smaller set of songs ready.  I agreed to that, trying to remember if I’d ever been asked to audition twice.  If I had, I didn’t remember.

To recap my mistakes:

  • I practiced on the guitar I would not do the audition with
  • I chose too many songs to work on
  • I auditioned with a guitar that I was not as comfortable on

In my next blog entry, I’ll tell you how the second audition went.

Peace out

Spencer

Auditioning for a New Band

Hi all –

[ as of 1/24/13, I have an opening in my schedule on Thursdays at 8:00pm.  Email me if interested in in-home guitar lessons in Pleasnton, Livermore, or San Ramon]

Well, once again I’ve been contacted by a band for an audition.  The first time you do this, you’ll probably be fairly nervous.  I’ve done quite a few and even though I’m fairly confident, you just don’t know what’s going to happen as you are meeting people for the first time.

I’l be stepping out of my usual role as a rock/funk player and trying my hand at a band that does a fair amount of County.  They have a bit of a country image too.  It will be an interesting change.

Here is a list of my “DO’s” for auditioning:

DO make a chart of all the songs you’ll be playing at the audition.  You shouldn’t have to read the chart too much but it’s a good way to jog your memory if you’re feeling a little bit stressed out.

DO come up to speed on as many agreed upon songs as possible.  Play them daily.

DO experiment with the right tone for the right song.  Most auditions are 5-10 songs.  (I, of course, had to agree to 21 that I have played before).  Even write down the settings if you have to.  Bring the gear you’d gig with, not your practice stuff unless they tell you not to due to noise restraints.

DO practice any vocal parts if singing is part of your possible new role.

DO dress appropriately.  Jeans and T-shirt are fine, but if, like me, this is a bit of a country audition, leave the Metallica T-shirt at home.

DO ask questions!  This is a job interview like any other.  The more forthcoming you are about what you want to do the quicker you’ll see either agreement or areas of concern.

Questions I will ask, either before in email or at the audition:

1) What are the main goals of the band – like: gig as much as you can?  Gig every other month? Write original music?  Play festivals?

2) If there was a previous guitarist, why did he/she leave?

3) How often do they practice?

4) Band history – where have they played before?

5) Marketing – do they have a website?  Is that site any good?  Photos?  Portfolio?  CD? DVD?  If the answer is no to any of these, or it’s out of date, ask when they plan to update them.

6) Do they travel?

7) Are there any restrictions?  Like can the band ever play a Thursday?  Would they play 100 miles away?  And if so for how much money?

While it’s not critical you become best buddies with the band, it’s important to at least get along with most, if not all of the band.  There always seems to be one cranky person in the band who stews about it being too hot, or too cold, or whatever, but on the whole people should feel like they can work with you and get along with you.

With this upcoming audition, the subject of tone came up a few times and they made it clear they don’t want to sound the same the whole night.  I will get my modeling presets arranged for the audition, but will also make it clear that I have a lot of different possibilities in my sound and I’m open to suggestions if someone really doesn’t like my tone.

Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes!

Spencer

Oh No! Say it isn’t so!

“Maybe you guys need a new guitarist”

Well, I did it – I quit my band, almost to the day when they first contacted me to audition.

This wasn’t an easy decision, but it has been coming a while. I nearly quit at the last practice before Thanksgiving but I didn’t – I decided to sleep on it.

I always find it to be ridiculous when fans are upset when someone quits a band or the band breaks up. You never know how happy or unhappy people are in their situation.

In my case, when I auditioned for the band, I had to weigh the pros and cons.

The Pros were that this band sounded great. This is probably the best sounding band I’ve played with or one of the top ones. Having two dedicated lead vocalists both male and female gave us a lot of flexibility, plus everybody else had a lot of years on their instruments and knew what they were doing.

The Cons were the following:

1) I was told they don’t gig any other night but Saturday (this is not exactly true – we did some Friday gigs but the sentiment remained)

2) They told me they gigged 11 times in 2011 which is fine – about one a month, which was ok. I’d prefer two. But later on others expressed the desire not to work that often – more like 1 gig for every two months which is not frequent enough in my opinion

3) Very little attention was given to marketing the band. This includes an amateurish web site with grainy photos, bad video (focused on the dancers not the band) and clunky interface to play their sound clips, plus a dumb attempt at humor with a page entitled “Nothing” and when you click on it, you got a blank page that said “We told you”. No portfolio, no professionally done photos, no CD, no DVD, just a clunky website and a business card that still had the phone number of the guy that quit. No facebook page (they created a “personal” page for the band, I later made a real band page on facebook), no mailing list, no booking agent

Unfortunately, #1 and #2 remained in place a year later, and while effort was put into #3, the webiste improved, pictures were taken (at JC Penny, which is fine), a CD was recorded and a DVD made, all these efforts together took 9 months. Many in the band didn’t care to do it, some had no money to do it with, so a lot of the work fell to two people who wanted to take it on in their spare time. More drag.

The end result is we hadn’t worked since July 21st, as the only place we played shut down.

Still, even all this wasn’t enough to make me want to quit. We were each given five places to call and promote the band – I made my calls and dropped off the portfolio at a club that wasn’t on my list. I attempted to contact agents. I don’t know if it’s the economy or time of year or what but we got little or no response.

By this time, we had 95 songs on our song list. Now granted, many of them I haven’t even played with the band. You need about 45 songs to get through a 3-4 hour gig. So with all this time off, they wanted to go over the other 40 songs that I hadn’t played with the band.

I found my enthusiasm waning. I found I didn’t want to work on all these new tunes. My thought was to get 45 songs down pat, have a gig’s worth of material down tight so when the phone rings, we’re ready, and maybe work in other songs once in a while. Realistically, with one 3 hour practice a week, you’re not going to get tight on all 95 songs. But they thought we should know them all.

Additionally, in the time of one year, I had suggested ONE song which was rejected by the male singer. It was Tattoo by Van Halen. He said if it doesn’t have 100,000 hits on youtube it wasn’t worth his time.

So I started showing up unprepared. That wasn’t professional of me, but I was trying to find the right motivation to do what the band wanted me to do. It didn’t work. And finally, last week, the keyboard player (who is ALWAYS heard and always wants me to turn down) started in on me about my lack of preparation.

And so I said it: “Maybe it’s time for you to get a new guitarist”. I think the keyboardist was fine with me quitting. I think over the months I had disappointed him in one way or another on a continuing basis. I don’t think the news made the others happy but they took it in stride. No one asked me to reconsider. You want out? You’re out.

I did state, for the record, if they get a gig before they’ve worked somebody else in, I’ll stand in for them. Shook hands, and left.

I will admit, I was bummed for several days afterwards. It’s like breaking up in any other kind of relationship. Even though I wasn’t close friends with any of them, you spend a year with these people it’s somewhat sad they I won’t see them anymore. But as the days roll on, I find myself comfortable with my decision and realize it was the right thing to do for me.

What now? I’m not sure. I have one friend that wants to write originals and another friend who wants to start a classic rock band and wants me in it.

Time will tell.

Spencer Out.

Sound Advice Pt V (The Initial Gear)

By the beginning of January, I started to wonder if I had all the gear I needed.  My gig was some weeks away, and I was getting concerned that my Line 6 Spider II, even though it was 75 watts, was more of a glorified practice amp than a rugged gigging amp.  There were some practices where it struggled to keep up with volume and it was very directional having only one speaker.

I liked the Line 6 concept – using digital circuitry to mimic it’s analogue counter part – the Tube amp.  I liked the idea that I can get several amp sounds out of a single amp.  It’s a nice solution for someone like me that’s going to play all types of music from Pink to Bon Jovi.

If I was going to do a metal or hard rock band only – then yes, one tube head, one cabinet would be the way to go.  However, I have logistic issues.  I live upstairs so I’d have to trudge whatever I have 19 steps up.  I also drive a sedan – a big one, but it’s still a sedan.  So the combo amp is still the best solution for me.  (Note: combo amps are amps that have the amplifier power and cab in the same box – as opposed to “stacks” where you can buy a 100watt, 200 watt or 400 watt head and mix and match with various 4 speaker cabinets).  Combo amps are almost always mic’d into the PA system.  That’s not always ideal since you have to relinquish control over your volume to someone else and trust me, it doesn’t always turn out well and balanced.  But that’s what I was going to use.

I started googling and checking the forums for who used what, plus I started looking at ebay.

My current rig had only 4 presets on it’s footswitch and offered delay, chorus, phase shifter, and reverb, as well as a wah pedal on the footswitch.  I needed more presets than that so I bought a used FVB Shorboard for $100 that can handle up to 64 presets.  This board doesn’t have any effects on it – it’s just controlling the effects already on the amplifier.  There are about 12 models on this amp – I would be using about 4 of them, but with or without various effects.  I would have about 6 or 7 presets ready for the first gig.

So I had  a board.  Great.  I needed tools, strings, and picks and somewhere to keep them.  Tadaaa! – I went to Walmart and found the Craftsman’s organizer.  With the help of a razor, I modified the compartments to accommodate what I needed to carry.  I have a double locking tremolo system on my Ibanez Presteige – you need a hex wrench to replace strings, as well as a wire cutter to cut the ball bearing off the end of the string.  Batteries, and a flashlight.  This works great.

My search for an amp continued.  I’d heard good things about the Flextone series and the Vetta II series from Line 6 – both these amps are discontinued.  They introduced a new line of amps that seemed to be aimed more at the metal market (Spider Valve with tubes in the preamps), and then the DT series which was well over $1000 that was made to work with their Pod series of effects boards.

Finally, I found a Flextone III amp – 150 watts and 2 12″ speakers.  This had more like 16 amp models and these models were built to emulate existing amps – Fenders, Marshalls, Bogners, etc. It was old – built in 2004 – and the owner, who was local to me in Berkeley – was asking $155.  It would also work with the shortboard I had just bought. I met that bid and waited. No one bid again.  There was no bidding war – time ticked by right up to the deadline and no one swooped in to grab it.  It was mine.  I almost felt bad for the guy. Almost 🙂

I got it home and within the first 30 minutes, I found a problem.  The volume would drop out on me.  The tone would distort when it shouldn’t.  Arg!  Did I just waste $155?  Long story short, I found a great repair shop (and expensive) that would do a complete overhaul on the amp.  The only problem was I would get the amp back on Feb 3rd – the same day as my gig with no time to work with the presets.  Oh well, I was going to use my Spider II for the gig with the new shortboard.  (Although when I did get the amp back, they had cleaned and re-soldered all the connections and knobs and it has been working 100% since.  Only cost me $280, so total money spent was about $435 – still not a bad deal for the power and versatility).

Some stuff I couldn’t get used.  I used a combination of Musiciansfriend.com and Amazon.com. I picked up an amp stand by On Stage – they make pretty good stuff.  When you have a combo amp, it helps to get it off the ground and tilt it up a bit so you can hear yourself better.

And since this band uses music stands, I bought a (again On Stage) sturdy music stand.  And miscellaneous stuff including pick holders, clip on reading light for the music stand, string winders, multi-tooled guitar tools, and a few other things I’ll talk about when I post about my final, complete rig.  This took some time and thought to pull together, plus I will take pictures.  I wasn’t done making purchases by the time I played my first gig, so I’ve got more to say on that, but for that time, I had what I had to get through the night.

On to the show…

Sound Advice Pt IV (Preparing)

After I got the gig with Sound Advice, it was early December.  The plan was I would work with the Keyboard player exclusively until January, then the rest of the band would have rehearsals with me.

When I showed up to the kbd players house, I was amazed at the organization.  Each tune was in mp3 or wav format and he had all his charts (keyboard parts with form notes) on computer which he printed out for me.  Talk about being spoon fed.  Some of the notes were cryptic or too keyboard centric but regardless, it made it much easier than figuring these songs out on my own.

Even though at that time there were 84 songs listed on their website, we worked from their setlist from the last job, which was about 46 songs.  I took home my “homework” and got to work.

When I teach students songs, many times I don’t teach the whole song.  I teach the memorable parts.  Take Smoke on the Water for instance – people just want to learn the intro. The rest of the chords are quite boring.  Or when I do teach all the parts of the song, say like Highway to Hell, I don’t map out the whole form (Form is how the song is arranged – like verse A twice and then chorus B and back to verse A would be a standard AABA form) along with breaks and all that.  A kid will get bored, unless he’s in a band and has to learn the whole song for their own performance.

Learning the Form of the song is also getting down the introduction, the ending, the verses, the choruses, the tags (tags are a chord progression that usually are used to lead into the next section), the bridge, where the breaks are, and if you have any particular melody to play – say like the intro for Rebel Yell.

Three quarters of the way through December, I got an email from one of our singers.  The setlist for the February 3rd gig would be different than the setlist we were working on.  That meant setting me back about 6 songs that I’d been working on and having to work on their replacements.  I didn’t consider it time wasted since I needed to know all of them anyway, but it was a definite priority shift.  I would come to find out this band does that a lot.  I was used to a fairly static set list while this band shuffles things frequently.

I took the mp3’s and ripped them to my hard drive and imported them into iTunes and into 4 playlists: Sound Advice All, Sound Advice Set 1, Sound Advice Set 2, and Sound Advice Set 3.  The way they organized their sets were different than what I was used to.  Sets 1 and 2 were long.  Set 3 was short and as it turns out, we never finish it.  There is no set 4.

The guy I worked with was a bit of a perfectionist – and really believed in if he was doing something busy on the keys, I should be doing something less busy on the guitar, and vice versa.  This sets up more of a complimentary style rather than competing for attention.  We have some very keyboard centric songs and I’m trying to add a bit here and there.  We have plenty of guitar centric songs too, where I get all the main parts.  I think it works out well.

I prefer working with a keyboard player as opposed to working with another guitarist.  I like the contrast more and I think it provides a lot more possibilities.

January rolled around and the band started to discuss where we were going to do full rehearsals.  The guitar player I was replacing had hosted band practice.  As it turns out, he offered his home to continue to be our practice space.  That was very generous of him and the band accepted his offer.  It felt a little weird being around him because he was always intent upon listening to me.

It’s a bit of a trek from Pleasanton, where I live, up to Lafayette, but it was only once a week.  I had 4 rehearsals with the band and then it would be show time.

I was still sketchy on plenty of songs.  I was getting mostly constructive feed back from people after every song. Things like “you play a part there – make a note of it  and take another listen at home” or “there was a break there – only bass and drums play there” or “You have a solo after the 2nd chorus”.  The only thing I didn’t like was when I heard “Jim played it differently”. Well, Jim is a very different guitarist than I am.  Nonetheless, I tried to please.  For now.

What was hard was they had a Prince medley and a Bon Jovi medley – and there was no mp3 that I could work with (at that time – our bassist engineered one later) so I had only the full length originals to practice with so I missed those transition spots a lot.

This band also likes to do mashes – there was a mash of “Just Dance” with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.  I knew Don’t Stop Believing but a mash is interweaving two songs together – back and forth – which threw off my timing of certain key guitar parts I was supposed to play (and to be honest, I’m still getting cued by our singer on those!).

Sometimes, it would be the simplest of things that would throw me off.  Maroon 5’s Give a Little More has this chicken pecking kind of guitar lick in the beginning.  The drummer got on me about playing it “right”.  It occurs in two spots.  Some people got really concerned that I would screw it up.  I was thinking “it’s just a chicken pecking part – how important can this be?” but for them it set up the feel of the song from the beginning and having it correct was important to them.  It would be a few rehearsals before I got that simple little part right.

Another problem developed in these rehearsals too: dynamics.  At this point, I was using a single speaker, 75 watt amp by Line 6 – a Spider II.  It’s loud, but it’s very directional.  Some people couldn’t hear me, while others heard too much of me.  I would eventually fix this issue by replacing the amp with a 2 12 combo amp (another Line 6 – I’ll get a post up here about my gear soon) and putting the amp father away into a corner, increasing the spread of the sound, but this would happen in April – up until then I would struggle to get the mix just right and people would complain.  In fact, someone said it was “depressing” that I didn’t seem to have a concept of how loud I should be.

I was wondering if they were starting to have second thoughts about me.

However, February 3rd was looming and they weren’t going to be able to replace me so I figured they were stuck with me at least until then.

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