Band Communication - where are the words?

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misterMagoo
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Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by misterMagoo » Mon Apr 11, 2011 3:51 pm

I am the songwriter in our band, and when I write songs I usually have an idea of how the other instruments should sound. But it doesn't always come easily, getting them on the same page.

It's usually not a problem with the bass, because I can just jump on bass and show what I'm thinking. But, timing signitures can give us a problem sometime, and my bass player always wants to id the signiture, where I don't really feel the need to talk about whether a song is in 3/4, 4/4, 7/8 etc... I think it's easy enough to feel.

But the other day we were having trouble with one particularly easy intro (to me anyway) and it's been a problem for weeks. Our bassist keeps playing the notes ahead of me, and our accents are way off. I finally found a better way to describe it to him, remember being taught triplets as "one-a-let" and once I counted the rhythm pattern as one-a-let, two-a-let, etc, he got it almost instantly.

Then my drummer, sometimes he plays things, which sound fine, but don't convey the feeling of the part that I wrote. So here I am trying to explain to him how it should sound (or sounds in my head), when I've never even played drums before. (actually I have but I suck.) So I wish I could just jump up there and show him but I can't. So I end up saying things like "just give me a hard hitting snare, and some open sounding cymbals." Or "crack the snare and fill in the empty parts" or even worse "Just try to match my rhythm accents with the snare." (I like the snare!!! haha)

And so some practices I feel like we waste a lot of time because I can't convey the idea more easily. How do you guys go about telling someone to play something differently? What makes it easy for you guys to share and convey ideas? I am starting to think for drums I need to find a song with something similar and say "it's kind of like this"
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by indianDYsummer » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:03 pm

Haha, explaining drums is the worst. I'm just always like "play an x tempo beat on the snare and the hihat WHY CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M ASKING FOR CMON MAN SERIOUSLY??"

It always seems to resort to really awful beatboxing. The best success I've had is to find a song with something similar, or compare it to a song you guys have already written that may share some basic elements/feel.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by baytamusic » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:09 pm

It's a touchy subject, but generally I think you should stop thinking the song should turn out just like you hear it in your head and let it develop naturally between everyone's input and playing style.

If you really want things done your way, learn to play all the instruments and record your own record, or hire people to play exactly what you want on the record. Then you'll have to find musicians who will play exactly what's on the record when you want to play out, and generally this won't happen unless there is some kind of money or benefit involved for your "band".

If you stop trying to control what happens, I think you'll find everyone will be playing better because they will be playing what's natural for them. Also, try bringing very rough ideas to practice instead of developed ideas and I think you'll realize your band is starting to play stuff that you never would have thought of on your own. Try jamming more and writing less. Do you really think Page was telling Bonham what he should play on the drums? Doubt it.

Unless of course you are some kind of songwriting prodigy and then I guess you'll just need to find those pawns to let you take the lead and control the band.

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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by RickenBangler » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:18 pm

You may not be up for this - but here's a thought...
I'm no drummer but quite accomplished at laying down MIDI based drums, either 'raw' or based on an existing pattern and tweaked to suit.

When writing, I usually lay down a rough demo of the song on the sequencer and play in the 'drums in my head' via a keyboard. If you can nail the basic feel/swing of the drum part (maybe just kick/hats/snare), you can mix this down and toddle off to rehearsals with it. Your drummer will (should) only need a quick listen to pick up on the feeling you're trying to convey and then take that basic feel and make it his own.

Just a question of getting it from your head to your fingers... hope this provides a bit of food for thought.

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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Stormbringer » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:25 pm

Yep Bayta is onto it. It's either your solo project or it's a band. If you subscribe to the latter, then it's gotta be a two(or three, or four) way street.

When we find we are stumbling over each other's ideas- we turn everything louder and play without any pretense- a big old jam where the song could go forever until we fall into patterns and everything fits organically and naturally....a couple of smiles towards the drummer when he hits a nice fill or nails a part means he will hit it the same next time. It's a democracy; not a de-rock-race-y.

See what I did there? :)

If you let things roll freely you will find as bayta said that ideas you couldn't comprehend to begin with will eminate from your fellow players without need for your input. After all; they love playing their instrument too, right ? They know their instrument better than you know their instrument ?

If you think this is tricky; wait until you end up in the studio with a producer who insists his vision for YOUR music must be followed. Being in a band is all about give and take- there is never a definitive endgame and even years after writing tracks, performing and recording them there will be things that niggle away at you. It's all part of the fun. And in the larger scheme of things, I would rather have a jam where everyone is smashing the f--k outta their toys then a brains trust meeting with rules and regulations and pandering to someone else's ideas with little group agreement and distorted singleminded visions.

Turn it all up, play it louder- the music will find itself. If all this sounds uncomfortable, than put your surname into your band name, hire a bunch of session musos and try telling the pros how they should play. Even in this case, unless you distribute sheet music you are going to find any muso worth his salt is going to want to have some input.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by misterMagoo » Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:46 pm

Ok let me start by saying that I in no way want to have complete control of the music and what others are playing. I really do prefer when the drummer and bassist can just do there own thing and it fits. But sometimes I will bring a riff in, and the drummer will start playing something which fits, but it doesn't convey the mood that I'm going for properly. It's those times that I wish I could jump up there and just give him a different perspective to then make his own. But I can't do that, so I guess what I'm looking for is a better way to convey ideas.

I mean we have all played a riff from some band which when you learned it and played it by yourself it sounded weak or mellow. But when you listen to the recording the drums are punchy and the bass is booming and it makes the riff have a whole different meaning.

Andy, I think that was something I was starting to lean towards already; comparing to other music or songs we already have. RB, I also like your idea but I'm short on midi drum skills and the time it would take me to assemble such things. For the rest of you, I know it sounds like a control freak issue but I'm really not trying to do that. I just think that songs need guidance and if the feeling is not right I want to ask them to try something else. I mean everyone comes in with the attitude that I am the leader anyway, looking to me for song ideas, so it's not like I'm offending anyone I just need to communicate better.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Icarus » Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:33 pm

If our drummer ever fails to pick up a part or we feel its not complimenting a part, we start with his kick.
We usually chug the bass drum pattern we feel would work on our guitars first and then get him to match and play along whether it be double bass parts or a simple groove. Once he has that down we show him where not to abuse his cymbols and wash out more intricate guitar parts. After that, he usually understands us better and can add his own snare/tom/cymbol work to the part.
We then put the vocals over it, maybe just the melody sometimes and see if anything clashes,

I know what your saying though, drums can alter the whole feel of a song.
We try not to tell our drummer what to play, just point him in the right direction.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by misterMagoo » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:04 pm

That's what I want! Not tell him what to play but to point him in the rgiht direction! I wish I knew how to play drums so I can speak to him more clearly about it.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Icarus » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:23 pm

Our drummer is a true caveman, hard to communicate with him with simple words sometimes, if we show him fire he gets excited :lol: . We've called him 'Hoof' for a while now.

I think once you find the way that works best for you as a band to communicate your ideas to the drummer and each other you'll find he starts to understand you more without you having to show him so often.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Borderline Productions » Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:50 pm

I agree with bayta.

I would suggest what my junior high band director used to do, have everyone clap the rhythm until they got it right. For the drummer clap the rhythm giving the emphasis to the beats you want emphasized. Dynamics matter, especially on live drums.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Randy Bass » Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:13 am

I have been in situations where I have played the desired drum parts for drummers and they resent the idea of being shown what to play (even on covers!), so don't spend a lot of energy wishing that you could play the drums better :D . You have to lead things in the right direction without seeming like you are dictating, which is always a challenge. If you could record a rough demo though, it would be easier for the drummer to branch off of that without feeling like he is being directed.
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Ohara » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:58 am

here are a couple of aproaches that my band is currently taking with our drummer.

When we get together to practice, we rehash all of the issues from the previous week, before we pick up the instruments, it helps keep everyone on focus of the direction we had already decided to do the previous week.

Let the bass player and the drummer get the groove going before the guitar and vocals jump in ( I know not ideal in a live situation but this is for practice ) this way they have the proper groove going before you jump in with the riff, this will help you feel their groove and it makes it easier for everyone to get on the same page if you come in at different times. The next time you do the song (preferrably about 3 songs later if you are having a hard time with it) start with the guitar. This way they feel the groove you want and then bring in the bass til the groove is going and then bring the drummer in, this way the drummer has a fair amount of time to hear the groove in his head.

If you feel the tension in the middle of the song, stop right away and correct it asap! There is no point in getting mad and upset during the song when if you stop and start over and give them what you are hearing in your head, by playing it and have the drummer watch your foot to get the feel of the timing. If you lead they will follow, just depends on how you are leading. Always use the old "that was a great way of doing that song, but would you mind trying it this way and see how it feels as I think we can change it to make it our own" this way no feelings get hurt, or ego's crushed.

Most important piece of advice I can give you "Talk to them and let them know that you hear a different groove for the song." if you try and force them to play it one way, it is like stated in previous posts, they will expect that you only want hired guns to back you and want you to pay them to practice with you or they will leave the group. Bands are like a small intimate family and now and then need time apart, as well as an open communication between all members. They must know you are not happy with the way the song goes, as if you are anything like me it will show in your face while you are playing.

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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by Neiloler » Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:00 am

baytamusic wrote:It's a touchy subject, but generally I think you should stop thinking the song should turn out just like you hear it in your head and let it develop naturally between everyone's input and playing style.
Yes. Oh heavens yes. Let it flow. If it doesn't flow, maybe it's time to find new musicians?

But the communication is tough. We've got a song that we're trying to work on lately that has a part in the middle that seems very straight forward to me, I wrote it, but the drummer doesn't seem to hear it. He's a brilliant drummer, so it's not so much a lack of skill, he's got enough to spare, but sometimes it just doesn't translate well in the music.

Keep at it. That's my only thought in the end I guess, keep at it.

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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by StonieSlagg » Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:16 am

i either beat box the rhythm (not really beat box, more like dah-dah-dah-DAH-dah-dah) to give an idea of the accents and the general idea i have. if that doesn't work, either myself or my bassist can hop behind the kit and give a rough approximation of our idea. it's not us telling the drummer what to play, it's just putting another possible idea out on the table. we've never had problems giving suggestions, we're all big boys and no one gets dongle-narf hurt over it...
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Re: Band Communication - where are the words?

Post by jason41224 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:08 am

for the bassist, just establish to him that EVERYTHING is in 4/4 unless otherwise noted :lol: it's not that hard. but my bassist is the same way. he used to be strictly a jazz player, so making the transition to loosely structured rock and roll is a little tough. i remember him asking us constantly what mode to use ("dude, it's a 6-1-4-5. it's not that complex").

for the drummer, i do it in a number of ways. if i want to convey a type of mood/part to play, i'll point out a song by another band that has something similar in it (Artist X's song X has kinda the same halftime feel that i'm looking for on that chorus). if i want to be more specific, sometimes i'll try communicating with specific patterns. drumming on your chest helps sometimes. thump your chest for bass and slap your stomach for snare. and make clicking noises with your tongue. you'll look and sound retarded in the process though :P

but i agree with bayta, those should all be suggestions. it's sometimes fun to be a nazi and order everything to be played as is, but that's part of the fun of having a band. be open to new ideas. it may be a little scary for someone to take your baby and mess with it, but you might always catch something great out of it. you don't have to approve everything they say either just to make them feel good, just as long as you keep an open mind and are willing to "run with it" to see how it turns out before deciding to keep their suggestions.
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