I told you in my About Page that I’m in a band. I’m actually in several bands.
Sometimes when I step back and take a really objective look at the different bands, it’s a pretty educational and enlightening experience.
I think that people, me included, tend to think of bands as pretty straightforward and symmetrical. I’m not sure why I used the word symmetrical, but to me it means that everything is in balance and is the same. In other words, we tend to think of bands as just similar entities to each other.
I have found that this is pretty far from the truth.
The bands that I’m in all have very different personalities. I don’t mean just the personalities of the band members, but the personalities of the bands as a whole.
Granted, the personalities of the bands as a whole are a reflection of the personalities of the members and especially of the band leader. So the bandleader’s personality does definitely color the personality of the band as a whole.
I’m in a band that has a very fun and laid-back personality. Sometimes we have practices before gigs and sometimes we don’t. We all get a set-list by email and then I get acquainted with it and then I just show up and play. The lead vocalist and lead guitarist kind of makes the songs his own, often dropping measures or series of measures, and we and the rest of the band just follow him.
We have been doing Lee Greenwood’s song, Proud to Be an American. There’s a part in the original song where the vocals are held out for like three or four measures. In our version and our band, our bandleader just chops off that whole section and jumps right into the next line.
Stuff like that used to drive me crazy, but now I just kind of roll with it. It’s a low-key, informal band, and we have a lot of fun together. We get gigs regularly in local restaurants and bars around town. We tend to just fly by the seat of our pants. The thing I like about this band is that I’m free to experiment a bit and be creative with the lines in the song because of the informal personality of the band.
I’m in another band where this sort of informal approach would not fly at all.
This is a band that talks about being professional, meaning that we have rehearsals before we have gigs, and we show up for the rehearsals prepared. Prepared means knowing the music and having our particular parts completely ready. There’s no guesswork and no varying from the way the original recording has been done.
I’m in another band that is also a professional band but takes it to a truly professional level. In this band we get the set-list far ahead of the gig and the set list does not ever change significantly. We run through the shows from top to bottom over and over and we work out the details of each song so that every musician knows that song backwards and forward. This means that when we are on stage, we all know the music so well that we’re freed up to just have fun and engage in the experience. We can move around stage because nobody is stuck to looking at their chart on their iPad or whatever.
The music is basically all memorized and everybody knows exactly what they’re doing. The personality of that band is high energy and high-performance. We all sometimes make mistakes but we are all good enough musicians that we can basically cover it and just move on like the mistakes didn’t happen.
So all of these bands are different playing experiences for me. I like most of them.
One band that is the semi-professional one is the only band that I frequently think about ditching. That’s because I get so many revisions of the set list that it’s ridiculous. And then we don’t usually allocate enough practice time to really get the music down before we do a gig.
So it often feels messy and not professional at all. So that has been an education to me, just observing how different bands function and what my comfort level is with the functionality of each band.