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Owning the music? Selfish guitarist?

michaelg

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I'm subbing tomorrow with a cover band who I've played with once before a few weeks back.

The first gig went well enough and they were all very happy with me but during the gig the guitar player kept asking me to speed up quite a few times, even once saying "play it much faster than the record".
He likes to play super fast solos ala "Vai/Satriani/halen" style which frankly don't impress me very much, especially as his rhythm playing wasn't all that good or in time really. And worst of all he has an enlarged ego which is completely unjustified. I can hear it in his playing.

I use a metronome on stage to count off the tempo if I'm unsure. I can appreciate things being a little faster than the record live but not too much.
I know I can own the music much better If I were to take full control of the tempos/dynamics myself and not be distracted by the guitarist (instead listening to the singer). But I don't want to rock the boat too much or be "difficult" and its nice to get sub work.

I'm sure many of you have been in the hot seat before. Do you own the music or go with the flow. Or a bit of both :)
 

Quai34

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Guitarist are the worst in term of keeping the tempo, the way they play, maybe coming from the fact that they can play alone, is that, very few have the habit to play for the others and especially, to build their playing on the drums and to support the singer. Guitarists, as well are keys, are just here as harmonic links between the rythmic section, drums plus bass, and the singers, that's it, that's all. If you want it be a lead something, whatever it is, play instrumentals...Steve Vai plays alone, no singers!!!
So, just tell him that and see and if he's starting to push you back, well, tel him that it's the way that you play the best.
 

notINtheband

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Tough situation.
Might be a no-win scenario.
Play it his way, but mention to the band before the gig that you are willing to play things faster than the record tempos if that’s what they want.
Then at least they will know you not only recognized the tempos are off, but offered to both do them correctly AND their usual ‘too fast’.
Beyond this I don’t know what options would be any more professional. You are a pro and it will be obvious in your flexibility and versatility.
If the client wants stupid fast, hand them what they specified, assuring them you know the difference in what’s established (the songs original, vetted tempo) and the ego-stroking blitz they specifically requested.
 

1988fxlr

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Go with the flow but maybe suggest you slow it down so he can solo in double time. If you go too fast noone can dance. If they can dance, people enjoy themselves and don’t worry about the details
 

Bri6366

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When I was subbing, as a hired gun, I'll just go with the flow. Where I draw the line is complicated endings. I.e., they'll say ok after the last chorus, we do tihis and then we do that and then we do this and then this will happen. All on no rehearsals, one rehearsal, or just before we start the set. At that point I'll say I already forgot what you told me, so as not to train wreck the ending, if I go into a rock star ending, that's the ending...just roll with it.

In a band I was in for a while as a full member, there were songs my singer asked me to either play a little faster or slower in order to help him sing the vocal lines. No biggie.
 

CC Cirillo

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I feel you, michaelg.

Perhaps poll the rest of the band on the side to see how they feel about him wanting things faster.

But if his name is Dick Dibble and the band is called “The Dick Dibble Project”, you may be stuck.

I too have run into the problem of guitar players with a little rhythm capability wanting things faster so they can play their solos at a tempo that they think is important, meanwhile you see people on the dance floor stop gyrating.

If the rest of the band is in agreement with you perhaps have them speak to him and you agree. That way it doesn’t make it look like you’re trying to poison the fish tank.

If you need this sub gig for money or some sort of other positioning in your local music community, then you may have to just grin and keep the grimace internal.

I respect that, and your professionalism, but I’ve reached a point where my desire is to never have to play with a dude like that again.

My feeling about this is so strong, right now I’m playing in a project that is built around vocalists and we have no guitar solos. I don’t care if the song is three minutes instead of six, no guitar solos.

Give me a solid rhythm player who can lay in the cut and just make it feel good.

I do acknowledge that my view on this is neither pragmatic nor particularly artistically sound in all situations.
 

dcrigger

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If I'm subbing - I consider myself the person least qualified to count of their tempos.

Which I guess reveals a lot of my underlying thought on the matter. Which is - songs don't have tempos. Original recordings have tempos. And bands have tempos that they like to play those songs. In my experience, this even applies to the band's that recorded the original. Come time for the live gig - maybe they play it at the record tempo... maybe they feel the record was too slow.... or too fast... or too whatever... so they then - like every other band - settle on what tempo they want to play the song at.

So my job - particularly as a sub - isn't to own my claim to determine the song's tempo - but to own whatever tempo they want to play it at... though in most working situations, "they" amounts to the leader... what does he or she want.

So again speaking as a hired hand, I simply don't care how far or close to the original the tempo is - only what makes the band/leader happy - all while always trying to make everything sound and feel as good as possible - regardless of the tempo.

Of course, might something sound better at a different tempo... maybe. Maybe not. It might be more familiar - but the band might not play it as good at that tempo. And most importantly - that's not my job (unless the band/leader has made it my job, of course).

As for notion, that across the board guitarists and keyboards are not suited to count-off tempos.... I have to say through-out my playing life, that hasn't been the case at all... sure some can't - but that holds true with every instrument. But over the years, I've worked with more guitarists and keyboardists than any other instruments - and all of them counted off their own music... and many of them absolutely stunningly.

My 2 cents...
 

Whitten

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Yes, when I played with actual artists the songs were always faster than the record.
I DO feel that song tempos are set when they are recorded and that is my personal benchmark But playing live, cooler, more considered performances usually do't go over well. People expect more energy and dynamism. Even with the biggest name artists songs will be live performed 5 to 10bpm faster than the record.
This is worked out in advance.
I have played with a 'virtuoso' guitarist (not Knopfler btw) who insisted that his solos had to be played at a fast lick (so he looked impressive). This meant either playing the song (too) fast from the beginning or speeding up just before the solo. That didn't impress me much.
I was playing in another well paid gig where the band leader insisted every song should be played at the limit tempo-wise, where the lyrics sounded rushed, the drum groove had no weight and the guitar solos were frantic. I argued the case over moaths with no success so had to leave the band.
 

Houndog

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If I'm subbing - I consider myself the person least qualified to count of their tempos.

Which I guess reveals a lot of my underlying thought on the matter. Which is - songs don't have tempos. Original recordings have tempos. And bands have tempos that they like to play those songs. In my experience, this even applies to the band's that recorded the original. Come time for the live gig - maybe they play it at the record tempo... maybe they feel the record was too slow.... or too fast... or too whatever... so they then - like every other band - settle on what tempo they want to play the song at.

So my job - particularly as a sub - isn't to own my claim to determine the song's tempo - but to own whatever tempo they want to play it at... though in most working situations, "they" amounts to the leader... what does he or she want.

So again speaking as a hired hand, I simply don't care how far or close to the original the tempo is - only what makes the band/leader happy - all while always trying to make everything sound and feel as good as possible - regardless of the tempo.

Of course, might something sound better at a different tempo... maybe. Maybe not. It might be more familiar - but the band might not play it as good at that tempo. And most importantly - that's not my job (unless the band/leader has made it my job, of course).

As for notion, that across the board guitarists and keyboards are not suited to count-off tempos.... I have to say through-out my playing life, that hasn't been the case at all... sure some can't - but that holds true with every instrument. But over the years, I've worked with more guitarists and keyboardists than any other instruments - and all of them counted off their own music... and many of them absolutely stunningly.



My 2 cents...
I agree , but when you fill in I assume they are consummate professionals .
And when one of us regulars posts about an annoying situation I assume they have ran into an idiot …

It’s just what I assume .

If SRV himself wants it’s fast I will think he’s got a good point .

If the guy with his signature guitar does I’m going to question it …
 

CC Cirillo

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I agree , but when you fill in I assume they are consummate professionals .
And when one of us regulars posts about an annoying situation I assume they have ran into an idiot …

It’s just what I assume .

If SRV himself wants it’s fast I will think he’s got a good point .

If the guy with his signature guitar does I’m going to question it …
I think Houndog and I track and sniff in similar hunting grounds.
 

dcrigger

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I agree , but when you fill in I assume they are consummate professionals .
And when one of us regulars posts about an annoying situation I assume they have ran into an idiot …

It’s just what I assume .

If SRV himself wants it’s fast I will think he’s got a good point .

If the guy with his signature guitar does I’m going to question it …
While I'm flattered by your assumption... in the case of what I wrote above, your assumption would be wrong.

First - I guess I need to point out that my almost 50 years of playing hasn't always been about dealing with "consummate professionals". I think I've played in literally every space - every cheesy banquet room, country club, hotel and backyard capable of hosting a wedding reception, bar mitzvah. Christmas party, office party and/or New Years Eve party in all of Southern California. I've played with singer leaders, with piano, guitar, saxophone and accordion playing leaders. Played for guys that were doing casuals (what we call these gigs in LA) to hone their skills and make money (fun productive gigs) and with 60-70 year refuges from I would assume the Catskills type leaders that believed that every tune with a rock beat should be upbeat and snappy (because, you know, that's what the kids want). In variably on these gigs - the guitar player and myself would be the only that even remotely knows these "rock tunes" - leaving the rest of the band of old geezers (all of which knew every song written from 1910 to 1960 and few after) to mockingly follow along.

So no - there are no trenches that I'm not pretty well experienced in.... IMO that's how one becomes a "consummate professional" - not so much by training (though that helps too), but by experience.... by experiencing every slimy corner of the trenches with the goal of being the top call - the favorite guy - of as many people in as many trenches as possible. There is no measurable dividing line as you seem to be imagining.... there is just an endless succession of gigs... regular gigs... that if one is lucky and is up to hitting as many of the marks as they can turn over time to better regular gigs.... and then better regular gigs.

It's just all the same - we all start out barely able to play anything in a band that can only "play" three songs to wherever the road eventually takes us....

So that's assumption #1 - but assumption part #2 is because of assumption #1, I can't imagine the horrible tempo atrocities that the "regulars" have to deal with thus, of course, my outlook on tempos would be skewed. I mean, how would I know? How would I know just how horrible it can be?

And again, this assumption couldn't be more wrong. I've experienced all of what you describe and considering the amount society work I did early on - have played through tempo atrocities that would likely make many here's heads explode.

So.... now maybe re-read what I wrote with no thoughts of "Well he just doesn't get it" "He's never experienced anything like this".... Because those considerations really don't apply - I completely get what you are talking about... and still wrote what I wrote. And meant every word.

I work from the notion that songs do not have one right tempo.... period. Performances of those songs.... arrangements of those songs... certainly bands playing specific arrangements of songs may have a tempo that works best..... but that tempo may not be the one I think it is. It might be... But it might not either.

So even within a band, I'm not going to argue too hard about my perceptions being right over someone else's.... if I'm leading or producing, then certainly my perceptions will rule the day (because that is how this works).

But to argue for the song itself???

Not... My... Job... (unless it is) I am not some ordained protector of tempo correctness - I am a facilitator of making tempos feel good. If it is my place to decide or respond to the question (do think this is too fast or too slow?), then I'll have an answer.... an opinion.

But fight over it????

No way - not ever. Again I don't care about the song, or the sanctity of the original.... I only care about the people I'm playing with/for - and what they are trying to accomplish. If recreating the record is a high priority.... great. But if they want to do something else... that's great too.

Again I'm a facilitator... not a curator.

Hope that helps explain it...
 

mebeatee

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As mentioned already a live bpm vs a recorded bpm can be like night and day as long as everyone is onboard should be no probs….however….;)
Myself and a sax player did this at a gig…..
A “lead” bassist hired us….drums and sax to accompany him…..he was all over the tempo map and was soloing everywhere, however the sax player and myself do a lot of improv where there is no tempo or bar lines per se so we just went with it and actually made his “jazz standards” repertoire a little more edgy. He then proceeded to (our surprise) call up another couple of players (trumpet and piano) to “guest” on an unannounced ditty….no biggie.…piano was already on stage….a small jazz fest….
Bass player mentions the order of the solo’s and then says take this one out really quick boy’s as myself and the sax player rolled our eyes as the tempos he wanted in all the tunes were quickish to begin with. Again no biggie as it was his gig, he wanted to call the shots and it was our job to give him what he wanted.
He counts off at a good clip and after the intro the sax player and myself looked at each other and yelled out “too slow” so we turned on the afterburners….be careful what you ask for….as he and his unannounced guests, couldn’t keep up. But he still didn’t get it because he said wow that was cool…great tempo guys…nice to play with folks who can keep up…???!!! It was actually fun to turn the tables as it turned into a very quick John Coltrane/Rashied Ali ish duet with three folks standing around…..
Sometimes ya gotta give them what they “want” especially when they don’t know or get what they “want”….is that a taste of (their own) medicine…..
As mentioned before….drop to half time so there may be the illusion of the solo having all those notes or go to blast beat land for the solos….then ask was that fast enough for ya….
bt
 

dale w miller

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As with any band, ask yourself first who has the power. If it is not you, then ask yourself is this particular situation worth losing the gig if the other person does not get their way.
 

KevinD

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ahh, if I am hired to play in the studio or a live gig, I just follow what the leader wants, especially if I'm subbing.
My opinion on things like tempo may differ from the leader, but the way I see it, they are not hiring me for my opinion, they just want me to shut up and play.
 

multijd

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While I'm flattered by your assumption... in the case of what I wrote above, your assumption would be wrong.

First - I guess I need to point out that my almost 50 years of playing hasn't always been about dealing with "consummate professionals". I think I've played in literally every space - every cheesy banquet room, country club, hotel and backyard capable of hosting a wedding reception, bar mitzvah. Christmas party, office party and/or New Years Eve party in all of Southern California. I've played with singer leaders, with piano, guitar, saxophone and accordion playing leaders. Played for guys that were doing casuals (what we call these gigs in LA) to hone their skills and make money (fun productive gigs) and with 60-70 year refuges from I would assume the Catskills type leaders that believed that every tune with a rock beat should be upbeat and snappy (because, you know, that's what the kids want). In variably on these gigs - the guitar player and myself would be the only that even remotely knows these "rock tunes" - leaving the rest of the band of old geezers (all of which knew every song written from 1910 to 1960 and few after) to mockingly follow along.

So no - there are no trenches that I'm not pretty well experienced in.... IMO that's how one becomes a "consummate professional" - not so much by training (though that helps too), but by experience.... by experiencing every slimy corner of the trenches with the goal of being the top call - the favorite guy - of as many people in as many trenches as possible. There is no measurable dividing line as you seem to be imagining.... there is just an endless succession of gigs... regular gigs... that if one is lucky and is up to hitting as many of the marks as they can turn over time to better regular gigs.... and then better regular gigs.

It's just all the same - we all start out barely able to play anything in a band that can only "play" three songs to wherever the road eventually takes us....

So that's assumption #1 - but assumption part #2 is because of assumption #1, I can't imagine the horrible tempo atrocities that the "regulars" have to deal with thus, of course, my outlook on tempos would be skewed. I mean, how would I know? How would I know just how horrible it can be?

And again, this assumption couldn't be more wrong. I've experienced all of what you describe and considering the amount society work I did early on - have played through tempo atrocities that would likely make many here's heads explode.

So.... now maybe re-read what I wrote with no thoughts of "Well he just doesn't get it" "He's never experienced anything like this".... Because those considerations really don't apply - I completely get what you are talking about... and still wrote what I wrote. And meant every word.

I work from the notion that songs do not have one right tempo.... period. Performances of those songs.... arrangements of those songs... certainly bands playing specific arrangements of songs may have a tempo that works best..... but that tempo may not be the one I think it is. It might be... But it might not either.

So even within a band, I'm not going to argue too hard about my perceptions being right over someone else's.... if I'm leading or producing, then certainly my perceptions will rule the day (because that is how this works).

But to argue for the song itself???

Not... My... Job... (unless it is) I am not some ordained protector of tempo correctness - I am a facilitator of making tempos feel good. If it is my place to decide or respond to the question (do think this is too fast or too slow?), then I'll have an answer.... an opinion.

But fight over it????

No way - not ever. Again I don't care about the song, or the sanctity of the original.... I only care about the people I'm playing with/for - and what they are trying to accomplish. If recreating the record is a high priority.... great. But if they want to do something else... that's great too.

Again I'm a facilitator... not a curator.

Hope that helps explain it...
Just gotta say I love this! This is my career in a nutshell! Lol.

It reminded of on a recent gig with Bobby Militello’s jazz quartet we had a bass player who is fantastic but doesn’t work with us all of the time. Bobby called a tune that starts with just bass and vocal and he didn’t count it off. I think he forgot the bass player wouldn’t know his usual tempo. The song was “I thought about you” and we usually do it as a medium tempo swing that we really dig into. Like an organ trio chitlin circuit kind of vibe. The bass player played as a very slow ballad but with solid time. We just went with it. It was a whole new thing but he laid down a good solid tempo. Just 75 or so clicks beneath where we normally do it. But we made it swing and the audience sure didn’t know!!We had a good laugh about it later.
 

toddbishop

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It's their band, you're a sub, they should be counting off the tunes, and you should play them at the tempo they want.
 

EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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I always liked subbing for people last minute as it keeps you on your toes, both musically and personally. 99% of a sub gig is keeping the band happy and navigating the personalities involved.

If I'm getting paid by the guitarist in question, I'm much much more likely to go with their flow during the gig and then talk it over after the gig, or, I'd possibly talk during a set break if its really not feeling good.

If the guitarist isn't the band leader or pay-er, I'm finding that person and seeing what they want.



If the guitarist really wants to be an ass about it and you don't mind losing the gig, tell them you'll play at their tempo if they let you pick the key of the song.


I've been really lucky with subbing for people. For the most part, the bands were always semi-professionals at the minimum. The only really bad experience I ever had was for a free, one-off gig to help a friend, and the band was a bunch of blues lawyers, so to speak. One of the band members didn't show for our only practice and then kept telling me to play quieter during sound check. I asked him how quiet do you want it, and he kept moving his hand lower and lower until I stopped playing. Then he said that it sounded great. Since I was there on behalf of a friend, I kept my mouth shut and played the best I could. That was my last gig with those guys, and it never affected me professionally. The singer had a cute sister and we hung out for a bit after the show haha. She seemed to like my playing.
 
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