I went to see a Battle of the Bands put on by my school today. Actually I only stayed through half because the sections were really
long and I was hungry! Long as in it started at 5:30 and the third band was done by 7:40... so I cut out early. But I noticed a lot
about the first three bands that I just... have to comment on.
Okay, one: bassists, do not show us your butt for the entire show
During rehersals I know a lot of bassist face the drums to keep in sync and, well, the drum is the center of the band really and so most of the rehersal is spent facing the drummer. Performances should not be spent like this! The bassist is as much a part of the band as anybody, and while I know a lot of the time is spent hanging back by the drummer, at least face the audience. Not only does it look unprepared and unprofessional, it gives an air that you dont' know what you're doing or have very little confidence in it. If you have trouble playing without looking at the drums practice with everybody facing one way. That way when performance time comes it won't be as big of a problem.
Second for bassist: you're not the center of the band, quit drawing undue attention to yourself
This is being said by a bassist, so if you get pissed that I said it, get over it cause it's true. Unless you're the lead singer, you are not and should not be the focus of the audience. A couple of things in this category to mention.
● dancing around, jumping, running across the stage, head banging, in general taking up a lot of space is okay on certain occasions, but control and limit yourself. I know you're bored. If you're that bored, think of a better bassline and entertain yourself by being a productive member of the band.
If the rest of the band, i.e. the guitarists and vocals are relatively still, do likewise. Yeah, some of the songs may get spunky and inspire you to dance, but honestly, people weren't paying all that much attention to you before you started dancing around like an idiot, and the attention you're getting now is negative and is more than likely taking away from the rest of the band.
Let's have an example. Band number one today, the music was definitely hard rock, really heavy distortion, two guitars, full drum set, heavy vocals, spastic bassist. The two guitarists (one being the lead singer) stayed pretty much in the same place for the whole set, which worked well because the guitar parts were very complex and the rhythm guitarist was singing at the same time. They'd dance a little, mostly not taking up more than a few feet. They'd bob their heads, but for the most part, like I said, not a whole lot of unnecessary movement. The bassist, on the other hand, took up most of the stage. His dancing was, trying not to be too harsh here, unchoreographed? haha, that's being incredibly nice. It was really bad. He almost ran into other band members and the speakers on several occasions. On the whole, he stood out way too much and took the entire focus away from really good songs and turned the band into a lot of laughs.
● Now, I'm not saying this band should have been completely without movement by any means. But being that the two guitarists had a very buisness-like, concentrating stillness, the bassist should have followed suit. Had the whole band been jumping around, well... personally I think that completely takes away from the music and the guitars would not have been nearly as good. The guy sitting next to me was of the opinion that the whole band should have been moving around, but even he mentioned that the bassist was annoying, to say the least.
This kinda runs into my third point, though this one is primarily for brass: if you're gonna dance or have stage movement, plan it ahead of time. If you don't want to choreograph it, at least refrain from complete spontinaeity.
Okay. Let me explain this one. Watching concerts, in a lot of professional bands the guitars will alternate places. We did this sometimes in our old band. The bassist I mentioned before tried to do this, except the guitarist didn't go. Now, I don't know if this was planned and not executed or what, I doubt it considering the length of the cable would not reach as far as he wanted to go. It looked really really bad.
Now, for the brass sections of bands, or any other non guitar/drum/hiding behind large instrument parts... You don't play all of the time, we understand that. Now, in practice, you guys are the annoying ones usually talking between while you're playing. It's annoying in practice, imagine how bad that is on stage. When you're not playing, do not stand there and chat. You have mics in front of you, we can not only hear what you're saying, you're covering up the music and looking like you don't care. While you may not see performing as anything remotely serious, people who have been in or are a part of the industry see it partly as business. If you're getting paid, you are enacting a buisness transaction. If you're competing and winning something, it's still buisness, regardless of how fun and enjoyable it is. I'm not saying y'all should wear a suit and tie and never smile, but it's not just fun times. If it is, you're not gonna go very far with it.
So, don't stand and chat, and for the love of God don't empty your spit valve in front of everybody. Plan a time for all of you to turn around at once and empty. Don't stand and wiggle your instruments around. You have a big thing sticking off your face, use it for something. I know it feels stupid to wave them all together, but it looks better than tapping it against your foot. The music's fun and upbeat, people may laugh, but trombones and trumpets are pretty much expected to wave their instruments in sync with eachother. And if one of you is doing it, everybody should, or nobody should.
Now, this group did something really interesting with their brass secition. On the whole, it bothered me that they were standing around and chatting or doing the above things, but at one point they got into a circle, crouching, and started moving together then split up and teased the audience. That was really cool. What wasn't cool was that they huddled on stage during a song and planned it there, and one of the trombones wasn't very into it.
Number four: don't cringe when you mess up
hehe, I'm bad about this when I play piano or sing. I flinch when I screw up on piano. I cringe when I hit a bad note singing. However, it's not always as bad as you think, and cringing on stage lets the tone-deaf audience know you messed up. Okay, so the audience may not be tone deaf, and maybe they noticed, but they're more likely to remember if they see you cringe, especially vocals. Guitars can get away more with small slip ups in louder more distorted songs, and if you don't cringe, we may not notice.
Number five: watch how loud the instruments are compared to the vocals
I know this is part of the sound check, and with playing multiple bands, I know you don't always get a chance to recheck all of the levels, but pay attention while you're playing to the sound levels.
This is in reference to the ska band with the distracting brass section and the bassist who wouldn't face the audience. The brass section each had mics. Now, with a 7 piece drum set, one guitar and a small audience, three trombones and a trumpet do not need to be on mics, especially mics that are turned up louder than the vocalist's. When they spoke into mics they were loud
. While they were playing, they completely drowned out the vocals. Yes this is a sound problem, but sound can still be heard and adjusted on stage, especially when you have six monitors set up.
And bass, watch your levels. Heavy bass is good sometimes, but you dont' want to drown everybody out.
Number six: at least make an attempt to not colour clash completely on stage
I'm not saying you should wear coordinating clothing, though that is cool occasionally too if it's done well. I'm saying if two members are wearing black T shirts and one is wearing brown, don't wear bright red. (yes, this was the spazzy bassist) Watch your clothes on stage. You may think they don't matter, but if you're going for a semi-professional apperance, trust me the pros consider what they're wearing (and if they don't somebody else is watching it for them).
That's all for now. I think I covered everything I wanted to. Feel free to discuss, debate, add, whatever. ^^ And yes, if you were wondering, I did really enjoy the show, these were just the bigger things that bothered me. I'm a critic. I'm the child of two professional musicians, so I kinda grew up with the business side as well as the artistic spazzy side, so at this point it's hard for me not to notice things like this. The bands were pretty good on the whole. Especially the reprise
. I really really enjoyed them, and I felt a little bad cause they're lead singer/guitarist kept cringing. Really good though. Imagine hard rock with a full piano playing in the background. While this band was playing I kept hearing a symphony behind them in my head, and damn that would have sounded so cool. They played all of their own music too. *nod*
*edit* I just remembered another one.
Drummers: keep your shirt on!
You may be the most muscular one of the bunch, but it's 60 degrees in the hall and it makes us cold just looking at you (and really, you're not as sexy as you think you are). Maybe the groupies like it... but the rest of us just roll our eyes.