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Things I wish I knew before playing live/in a band

2nick3
Posts: 525
To help anyone who is looking to start playing live or in a band, here are a few of the things I wish I had known when I first took that step:

  1. Great tone in your bedroom (or wherever you practice) does not make for great tone in a band
  2. It's never wrong to play the root note
  3. It's never wrong to play with the kick drum
  4. Really really practice doing “fancy” stuff before you try it when others can hear you
  5. Your gig bag will mess up the tuning on your bass
  6. Breathe while you're playing

There's a funny story about that last one. No, I didn't pass out, but we only played about 90 seconds of the song before we stopped, at which point I took a big whooping breath. Everyone looked at me, and there was the general “Ah, newbie…” comments made. When we restarted the song, at about that same point, the vocalist changed the lyrics to “Nick, are you breathing? Nick, are you breathing?”

I wasn't. Again.
I've never played with a band before but one time along time ago when i first started playing i was after this girl and thought it would be cool if i could learn a song from her favorite band. This was before i could read tabs so i just winged it and as i recall i only “learned” one riff and not the entire song. We were supposed to meet up somewhere so i could follow her to a party were i would put on a show for her but i ended up getting stood up, she told me later there was a family emergency.

To this day im not angry, really in hindsight im glad things went the way they did. Had we met up i would have been at a party playing a riff i didn't really learn from a song i also didn't learn in front of people i didn't know.

I guess the moral of the story is if you're going to be playing in front of others, actually practice and know the song you're supposed to be playing.
LoudLon [moderator]
Posts: 1918
7. Be prepared to deal with egos. Getting together to write and practice in a private space is one thing. But when you get on a stage in front of people, suddenly that self-effacing guitarist or thoughtful, introverted lead singer turns into an attention-starved monster.

8. OWN YOUR OWN GEAR. If you have to borrow an amp, you'll find the person you borrowed it from wants you to keep it at lower volume so your instrument doesn't overtake theirs. You'd think they'd want it to be at an even volume so the song sounds fuller, but again – egos.

9. Have a friend of the band video tape your gigs. Not the lead singer's girlfriend, not the drummer's cousin, because they'll focus entirely on that one person. You want someone who wants to see everyone in the band get equal attention.

10. Lock in with the drummer. There will always – always – be a moment where one of the other guys in the band loses their place or falls out of rhythm. But as long as you and the drummer are in-step and keeping the pace, the guy who lost his will be able to jump back in. Which reminds me:

11. KNOW YOUR SONGS INSIDE AND OUT. You don't want to be the guy who loses his place in the middle of a song. That's just embarrassing.
My husband taught me to play his original songs ( about 50 of them!) because he could never find a bass player who wasn't strung out on “something” most of the time. I had no musical training whatsoever except for mandatory piano lessons as a child - don't remember that much at all. I practiced his songs, was scared to death at the first gig just 3 weeks away from picking up the instrument. I made it through those three hours with panic in my legs so sat on a stool the whole time. After it was over, I was congratulated by everyone and got the “bug”. I don't read music, must memorize everything so I practice, practice, practice. I got my own gear secondhand. Locking in with the drummer right away makes a huge difference - be the drummer's best friend! Because the guitars sometimes take off and you have to follow - a good drummer will keep you steady. Eye opener: definitely have someone video all attempts - I had no clue what a dork I looked like onstage in the beginning…yikes…!
2nick3
Posts: 525
12. Listen to yourself, and the band, as you play! If you're just playing shapes/figures on the fretboard it's very easy to get lost in the song or off the right spot. When the band is playing 12-bar blues in A and you're playing it in B, that's bad. It's worse when you're the one who called out to play it in A…
13. Don't overreact (or react at all) when you mess up. Stopping dead in the middle of a song is about the worst thing you can do. If you mess up just carry on, and correct if you are able to. In the case of the 12-bar blues mix-up I just slid up from F# to E for the V in bar 9, after I realized I was off by a full step.
14. You're not “just the bass player.” You have a significant impact on the music, and are in integral part of the band, so don't let people treat you like you aren't.
15. Don't have a big ego. You're not <insert famous bassist here> (but if you are, let's talk!!) - people are there for the band, not just for you. So while 14 is true, remember 15 here as well

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