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.

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