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

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