Over the years I have needed to choose band members for many different gigs. The first band I was in, I joined after it had been formed for a while. I was 20 years old and I had been playing guitar for about two years. It was a southern rock/classic rock band and I hadn’t really played much of that then. What I learned was that I cannot expect everyone to learn at the same pace. I also learned that there is a great difference in ability between those who learn an instrument just for fun, and those who are interested in becoming professional musicians. That difference is time.
With this group, we had to hire new drummers more than any other member. As a matter of fact, the vocalist, bassist and I left the original group that we were in together and found another guitarist and drummer to join us. The guitarist stayed for the life of the band, so the drummer saga starts here.
You know how during a song the drummer will roll across a number of drums then come back in at the beginning of a section? Well, the first drummer would always end up backward: kick, snare, kick, snare, roll, snare, kick, snare… That used to drive us nuts.
The second drummer was one that I had chosen. Oops. I chose him because I thought that he played interesting things when we auditioned him. One note about auditioning other players; give them a week or two to learn some of the songs your group does. Then, setup a rehearsal and see how it goes. What you are looking for is: did this person learn the tunes, or are they just following along poorly? Did they show up in time to setup all of their stuff to be ready at hit time? Are they sober? Did they bring their girlfriend or boyfriend? Did they bring all their friends? Did you have to go pick them up? Do you have to take them home and stop at four different places on the way?
I learned all of the above warning signs from the same person. Live and learn.
The third drummer I met at a ‘Come be a millionaire selling our air purifier (vacuum cleaner) to people who cannot afford it’ pep rally. He is a great guy named John who moved away. I arranged a meeting with John, and I took our bass player to hear him play. Well, the first scary moment was when we asked him to play he picks up two trimmed tree branches. He picked up two trimmed tree branches!
Let me tell you, drumsticks, tree branches, chopsticks, whatever; John showed us what we were missing in our group: time, tempo and feel! Wow! You’re Hired!
I miss John.
Right now I am getting a group together and I am remembering some of the nonsense that I have dealt with over the years and nothing changes but the faces. Here is my solution: I will have two sets of each instrument I need played. Yes, two bassists, two drummers and eventually two sax players. Maybe I will use some people to play trumpet. I like trumpet too. I even thought of finding a sub’ for myself.
This should solve the greatest problem of all: Scheduling. Scheduling rehearsals and gigs grows exponentially more difficult relative to the number of musicians in a group. I figure if I have two of everyone, someone can make it to something. Plus, it will give me a leg up if I need to fire someone. I will take wagers on who is going first.
I will keep you all up do date on our progress and gig schedule.
P.S. I am sorry I did not complete an article for last week. I do have a subject for another article because of that missed week though: Success and Failure.