If you’ve ever had the experience of having a band let you go, or stop calling you or – the ultimate bad experience – actually ‘fire’ you from the Band then you know it’s not a great experience.
In this post – and the two that follow – I’m going to show you two ways of reducing the chances of this bad experience ever happening to you. And in the third email I’ll show you a way to guarantee that this never happens to you.
Sound good? Ok, onwards.
Let me introduce this first post with a story from the trenches. Back in the day I used to manage and play for one of the UK’s busiest “function” bands. (In the UK we call the kind of band that plays at weddings and corporate parties and charity balls and birthday parties a “function” band.)
A few days before an important gig we lost our keyboard player as his band’s record company put him on retainer and wouldn’t allow him to play any gigs. (If you remember ‘The Feeling’ from 2007/2008, this was their keyboard player Ciaran). So we needed someone to stand in at short notice.
My business partner Pete phoned me up the next day and told me he’d got someone. A keyboard player called Guy. I asked him if he’d met him or jammed with him or heard him play. Turns out he hadn’t. But several musicians that we both knew (and whose judgements we trusted ) had. And the consensus on Guy was this:
1. Knows all the tunes.
3. Has all the sounds for the tunes.
For a keyboard player the sounds are particularly important. In a small band setting (4 piece, 5 piece, 6 piece) the keyboard player often has to cover additional sounds like strings and horns and so on to fill out the band’s sound.
Now right there in the consensus are two of the ways we’re going to talk about. Today we’ll talk about the first one – and that’s knowing all the tunes.
Does This Mean You Need To Know Thousands Of Tunes?
But you might need to know a hundred tunes. Maybe a few more. It depends on what kind of band(s) you want to play with. And how big their repertoire is.
There are two ways to discover the tunes you need to learn:
1. Check out the websites of the bands you want to play with (or Facebook pages…or whatever web presence they have.) Prioritize all the classics that appear in multiple set lists of different bands….you know the kind of songs I mean, the tunes like Mustang Sally and so on.
2. If you can actually get out to see the bands play then go and see them. And take a notepad. Not only can you make a list of songs that bands play, but you can also make notes on any fancy arrangements they might use (e.g. medleys from one song to another, or band stabs in certain parts of the song and so on)
Now you need to go to your practice space and learn the songs in the list you have made thoroughly – so that when you get the chance for an audition with a band (or when you deputize for a band because their bass player is unavailable) you impress them because ‘you know all the tunes.’
Sounds simple doesn’t it?
The idea itself is simple – executing it takes more work than most people are prepared to put in. That’s why the players who do it stand out. And why when combined with what I’ll tell you in the next post, band leaders will value you as a bass player and more importantly as a vital member of their band that you’ll end up being the first person they call when a new gig is added to the diary.
PS another way of getting started learning the tunes that working bands play is to check out the collection of tutorials I put together in Working Basslines Vol 1