Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Kind Of Band Are You In?

I'm always amused by how different a band's description of themselves is from what I see. You know, your friend says he plays in a rock band, and you want to come out and show some support. So you put on your classic Def Leppard shirt, make sure you have a taxi service on call in case you drink too much Jack Daniels, and pump some Foo Fighters on the way to the show. Then you arrive and see him backing a cute married couple who show an affinity for the Carpenters.

Or how about the band that thinks they are a power pop band, but plays eight minute songs filled with extended solos: they're a jam band. Those bands will send demos out to labels which focus on power pop and have no idea why they get rejected.

The worst, to me, are the people who say, they are "pro players" but have to cancel every practice for various excuses which sometimes involve family deaths, work, or pet emergencies.

So, let us help out those bands with my personal rules for defining who you are.

Your fans love your cover of (Pick one: Free Fallin, Sweet Home Alabama, Wagon Wheel, Brown Eyed Girl, Watchtower) or any such song: You are in a cover band. Even if you play 90% originals, you're a cover band.

You wear black t-shirts, have lots of tattoos, and your fans look angry: Punk
You wear black t-shirts, have lots of tattoos, and your fans look happy: Rock-a-billy
You wear black t-shirts, have lots of tattoos, and your fans look sad: Emo
You wear black t-shirts, have lots of tattoos, and your fans look bored: Maroon 5.

Your guitarist riffs and solos more than the singer sings, but he can't read music: Metal
Your guitarist riffs and solos more than the singer sings, but he writes music on staff paper: Jazz

Your bassist plays passing tones, scales, fills, and avoids repeating patterns the entire show: Jam band

Your drummer plays the same song different ways each time because of what he "feels in the moment": Jam band

Jazz or Jam? Lots of soling by several musicians, long songs, melodic interpretation, overriding theme, and purposeful transitions: Jazz.
Lots of soloing by all musicians in band, often at the same time, without purpose or direction, but everyone gets high and pretends to follow along through excruciatingly long songs: Jam

Two members of your band are dating each other: A band soon to break up

Your girlfriend is jealous of all the attention you get at shows and wishes you'd play out less: a band on the right path.
Your girlfriend doesn't bother to come to the shows or ask how many girls were there: either a band on the wrong path or your girlfriend is about to leave you.

Local press hails you as the Under-appreciated Next Big Thing: Band with no fans and about to break up
Local press refuses to write about you unless mocking your fans: Next Big Thing

You play to a room where people sit at tables: Folk band
You play to a room without chairs but people sit: Emo
You play to a room where tables and chairs get knocked over: Good band.

Any member has, for any reason, worn shorts and flip flops on stage: beach bar cover band

For every time your singer says "It's great to be here": whatever your band is, you are one step closer to being a Lounge Band

You've been nominated as "Best Garage/ Underground Band": you are sloppy

Your set includes three original songs with different girls names: cliche pop band

Your shows are sparsely attended by guys with beards and girls with nerd glasses, nobody really listens to your CDs more than once, but you sell a ton of them: Indie band

If any member can quote three Dylan tunes and you all know what a 1-4-5 pattern is: feel free to describe yourself as Americana, that seems to be all it takes

You call yourself Americana, but nobody plays fiddle, banjo, piano, or washboard, yet your singer also plays acoustic guitar: you're pop. Or modern country, which is pop. 

There are at least three times the number of people in the audience as there are band members on any given night, and more than one fan will call out the names of your songs during your set: Successful Band

You really want to be punk, but just can't seen to maintain the necessary anger no matter how much you abuse yourself: Power Pop

Your bio includes "indescribable," or "hard to categorize": you sound exactly like a bad version of another famous band
Your bio includes a description of how the members all met in high school: Boring Band
Your bio focuses on the story of how the members met at a Maroon 5 concert: Really Boring Band

You plan a tour to take advantage of fishing season along the way: Southern Rock

Your first band photo shows all the members staring into space off camera in front of a naturally or architecturally unique backdrop: every band

You know how to pee into a soda bottle while driving at 3am, can sleep just about anywhere, have performed while injured, care more about the free beer than the night's pay until the moment the van needs gas, lost a girlfriend because of the band, haul your own gear, and can simultaneously love and hate the guys you play with: Rock Band

Additionally, there are different kinds of players:
A Full Time Musician:
- This is all you know and you have no backup plans. See "Rock Band" above for further clarification.

A Part Time Musician:
- You're living your back up plan
- You've cancelled a decent gig for a girlfriend's sister's engagement party
- You hide any hint of rock band from your boss
- In your closet, your work clothes, casual clothes, and dress clothes all exceed your musician clothes.

A Hobbyist:
- You have to tell the booking agent you can confirm the gig after the other guys check with their wives or girlfriends
- It's been so long since the last gig you have to practice to remember your own songs
- You attend more shows than you play
- If somebody stole your primary instrument but left you the empty case, you might not notice for weeks or months
- You overhear your wife or girlfriend say "Oh, he used to play in bands"

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Catch Lightning in a Bottle: It's All About The Bottle

As a fifteen year old kid learning bass and playing in my first rock band, the phrase “write a song” conjured up images of Pete Townsend locked in a room with guitars lining the walls, a piano in the middle, and blank music score resting on ornate stands. Of course, there would be pencils everywhere – on the stand, strewn across tables, between Pete’s ear and his genius head, held in his mouth, and certainly in his hand as he furiously scribbled notes on that score paper.

Then I head of Keith Richards emerging from a dream with the most famous guitar riff ever, fully formed in his young and relatively clean brain. Fortunately a guitar was bedside so he could commit it to his fingers’ muscle memory.

I’ve never used music score to write a song. The few times where I have dreamed a song, it has never resulted in a turning point in rock history. But I have written thousands of songs or parts to songs while driving, sitting in boring mettings, or at a great concert.

Through the years I’ve developed some ways to keep those songs, and parts of songs, in safe places until I could find time to work on them.

I think every rock songwriter develops a similar shorthand. It goes something like this:
Intro and Verse: G-D-A-A (as necessary)
Pre CH; D –C# stepdown to Bmi – G –A (2x) (Hammer D 2nd time)
Ch: A - blues riff to - D 3x   G-D fourth

Then there are a bunch of lyrics written in poem form below.

This was a method I used, keeping notebooks more full of writing than anything I used for school.  Then my father bought me a micro tape recorder. So I began recording these ideas on little cassettes.

So certain was I that someday I would capture a hit song, I made sure a notebook was always close by, and there were always fresh batteries in the recorder. For a while I kept an extra recorder and notebook on the stand below my poster of the 25th Grammy Awards. (Someday I will go to the Grammy’s, I promised myself).

Over the decades since I started writing, I’ve maintained this need to capture any creative spark, in the hopes that it would burn brightly. So I’ve added to the notebook and tape recorder method.  Here are some tricks I’ve used or seen used:

1.     Call home to your answering machine or voice mail. When on the road with a band and late at night, I have used this trick. Standing at a rest stop payphone, calling once to tell my girlfriend to not pick up on the next call, and a second time to sing into the recorder. Never has this worked out and become an actual song. But hopped up on caffeine after a gig in another state, a lot of things that seem like good ideas, are not.
2.     With smart phones, there are apps for that. In fact a ton of them. I like “Recorder” on my iPhone. It allows me to record long sessions, upload wifi to my computer, and records in .wav format if I need to bring the audio into other programs. After playing a song, I will leave an audio shorthand of the chords, style, or any other notes to tell the future me what the past me was thinking.
3.     At a higher level than Recorder, there are apps like 4Track and GarageBand which let you do more than use the phone as a modern dictating tape recorder. With available tracks, you can know quickly if that riff in your head words with the chords you imagine. Or if the lyrics can really fit the song that needs one more line.

Those are some of the methods I have used. Before I wrote this, I asked musician friends what they used. While I invited those famous philosopher, fiction, and musician friends I have on FaceBook to respond, like always, those guys never write back. It’s like they don’t take the “Friend” thing seriously. Come on Dalai Llama and David Lowery, show some love.

What I got back really surprised and inspired me:
Chris Viola (Viola Contingent wrote, “I'm very guilty of going the "I don't need to write this down or record it, I'll remember it" route. Of course you don't always remember it. And lately I've been okay with that. I've been letting go of the ones that don't come back as nature's way of thinning the herd.”

Richard Pfleuger ( hasn’t changed his methods of capturing songs. “I'm old school. No phones, computers, or recorders. I hand write chords / lyrics in a notebook until the finished draft can be drafted. Then they are saved in a special folder I've had since I joined my first band over 20 years ago.”

And Matt Megrue (Loners Society, County Line Strangers pushes himself to move forward while using old tech. “I usually handwrite the chords and lyrics in a notebook. My biggest problem is editing before the idea is down, and throwing something away as garbage, before I give it time to develop. I got a typewriter recently though, and that has been helping a lot. It is a lot more permanent and not easy to go back and scratch stuff it forces me to keep pushing forward and not go back, or get hung up on a previous line.”

If anyone else reading this uses other methods or wants to add something, please let me know. We’ll add it to this article and include links to your bands.

Keep holding on to those moments of inspiration. We’d all love to see someone who contributed to this discussion capture and create a hit song someday

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oh What A Mess... review of Hitless Wonder

About twenty minutes ago I finished Joe Oestreich’s book Hitless Wonder, his memoir about being in the minor leagues of rock and roll as a member of Watershed. Because of a hundred things going on in my life, and capped by this book, I am compelled to write something. Anything. I need to write. So I’ve given my son a chocolate chip cookie and permission to watch some TV.

While a dozen stories rattle around my brain, the first thing I have to write is a review of Joe’s work.

First, I must preface this critique with an admission that I wanted to love the book. Joe and I are both bassists from Ohio. We’re roughly the same age. I like to think we share the same desire to entertain on stage. We’ve both been playing the same stages, drinking in the same bars, and pissing in the same urinals in New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Charleston West Virginia and South Carolina, Detroit, Chicago, Austin and who knows where else. But somehow, we’ve only talked face-to-face two or three times. Include the times I’ve gone out to see one of Watershed’s shows, we’ve been in the same room about 20 times. I would not say we were ever friends - guys who call each other up to debate the BCS system - but more like people who work the same job at different companies. Or to use the baseball analogy - Watershed was AAA while my two bands, World In A Room and Rambler 454, were not even invited to rookie developmental league. Yet, since the first time my band played a show with Watershed circa 1994, I’ve been a fan. So, not exactly peers either. And how could I not be a fan? Watershed has terrific songwriting, great stage presence, and great personalities. Since that first show together, there was something about them that told me they were going to be great.

I was right about that. But greatness never opened up its treasure chest to them. They recorded several hit records. They received critical praise. They even achieved a certain level of immortality (hey, having your band name tattooed on someone is pretty damn close to immortality). Their longevity surpassed the Beatles, Replacements, Nirvana, and all but probably one percent of one percent of bands that record a song. It’s just that when achieving these levels of greatness, fate switched the first prize cash with the consolation pat on the back.

I knew that much. The book promised to fill in the details, answer the existential questions, and entertain with stories from the road.

Again, I am biased by a personal connection. I wanted to love this book. (And by the way, I caught Watershed on tour last night. They rocked. So did their opener Sky Dragster. I proceeded to get embarrassingly, over-talkative, drunk. I expect that they have all lost my FaceBook link or Joe has cataloged my idiocy for some other writing. That’s what happens.)

I wanted to love this book. I knew it was going to be about a middle aged guy looking back on his years of rock and asking himself the questions: Was it worth it? What do I do now?

I wanted to love this book and see myself in it. To help me answer the same questions I have. I wanted to see the members of Watershed not as the pitiable characters in Anvil (if you have not seen that rock documentary, you must), but as champion survivors of the indie band road.

But I was also afraid I’d have the same reaction when a friend hands me a copy of a song from their band – what if I love the guy, but hate the art? That gets me anxious.

It surpassed my expectations. As Uncle Tupelo once sang, “Oh what a life a mess can be.” This rock and roll mess has left a wonderful life in print.

The timeline of the book follows the band through a tour, 20+ years after they formed in the back of a city bus. As the tour unfolds, Joe does ask the questions I wanted him to ask. He tells great stories. And he is not afraid to be as honest as anyone can be.

What is so special about the book is how he weaves stories from 20+ years of a band, into the log of one tour. He jumps decades, locations, and attitudes deftly, like a major league pitcher mixing up his pitches in the midst of a no hitter. Throughout it all, he continues to make poetry with many of his descriptions. Columbus, New York City, and a peacock farm in Michigan, all come alive in full color, painted with black text. So do the pain of disappointment, and the angst of always wanting more.

Joe also adds in so many lessons for bands. I’d like to see chapters assigned to anyone who ever books their band into a 200-person venue and hopes to “make it big”. I’d also like to make it required reading for band girlfriends.

Now, maybe I’m biased. As Joe describes these characters, I can see them. Because, well, um, I have seen them. I can hear the songs because I have heard the songs. I can smell St. Andrews Hall, cringe at the CBGB’s toilet, feel the power of a hometown crowd or the gut punch of a room full of chairs, understand the fatigue and silliness of a long road trip, because I have experienced all of that. However, I am fully convinced that even if you have never experienced those things, and the camaraderie of a band, Hitless Wonder will put your ass in the passenger seat of the Econoline Van between crap gig and cancelled gig; and you will enjoy every smelly, cramped, second of it.

This is another success for a Watershed guy. If karma ever wants to get things right, this book will be a commercial hit.

By the way, it inspired me to write this on a blog I had abandoned long ago. And write some of the stories in my head. Just like Cheap Trick inspired kids everywhere to rock. That's success, Joe.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The middle finger salute

Every once in a while, an audience member will give a band the middle finger. Sometimes, that person will make sure they walk all the way to right in front of you so everyone can see them give you their opinion.

So, how do you handle it? There is the fun method of jumping off stage and beating the person with fists or a thirty pound bass guitar. But that usually results in arrests, hospital visits, and an early end to your set. Hmmm, maybe that is not the perfect answer.

You can ignore it. That's fine. Let your music do the talking.

So far, my favorite one is to respond with a smiling face and a cheerful "Hey, look! That guy says I'm number one. Oh wait, he's now saying I'm number one with both hands. Thanks buddy."

I'd like to hear other favorite responses.

On the flip side, when someone shouts out "Freebird", you may extend a middle finger their way and let them know "I'm flipping you this bird for free, but the next one is gonna cost ya." Oh, and someone will shoult out Freebird. I you never hear someone should that request, you're not playing out enough.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Show Off

“Should we have a great live show with lots of jumping around, or should we focus on playing every note perfectly?” I hear this question a lot. My answer is “Yes”.

When you are in a live band, you tell people “We have a show coming up.” The word “show” indicates you are going to do something worth watching. You are going to consider what to wear. You are going to place yourself on stage. You are going to arrange yourself around that stage so everyone in the audience can see each member. And then, most likely, you are not going to do anything worth watching.

That is what I see in most clubs. A band performs a selection of songs they may have written, but does so in a most boring fashion. If you are going to put on show, do so with the thought that you are going to demand the audience’s attention. You are going to keep them engaged. Once you have them engaged, you are going to lead them to do or feel something. Will they dance, will they laugh, will they cry, will they be amazed?

That is your challenge. If you have great songs which you play with a sound that is attractive and clear, then you need to create a great show which draws people nearer.

Get people to stop talking to each other because they feel a need to watch and listen to everything you do. How can you get the crowd to turn away from the bar tv screens which are showing ESPN highlights?

To answer this, you need to look honestly at your music and understand how it is designed to make people feel. If your songs are meant to get people up and dancing, nothing is less compelling than musicians whose heads are down while they stare at their own hands, and a singer who looks like a deer in the headlights. If your songs are mellow, or quiet reflections of deep personal tragedy, a bunch of silly upbeat banter between songs may not quite fit. In fact, most people treat their show as an apology for their songs. As if they are embarrassed by them or not proud.

Take ownership of your songs. Take that stage over like this is your home. Then do all you can to invite people into the songs you believe in.

If you show the audience you believe in the songs so much that it takes over your facial expression, your movements, your body language, then they may want to believe in them right along with you.

That being said, you can not give up musicianship for performance. If there is no way you can look up from your fretboard or move around on stage while playing, then you need to keep working on your instrument.

Once you’ve committed to putting on a show every time you hit the stage, there are so many things you can work on. Yes, the band can be lively during the songs, but what about between the songs? How much time do you allow before you start the next song? What order should the songs come in?

To answer these, first remember that your job is to grab their attention and the second is to not let them go. The less mount of dead time between songs, the better.

The order of songs is up to how you want the evening to progress. Consider your time on stage is one long story you are telling. And that each song, or each break between songs, is a chapter in that story. So at each and every point, the audience is entertained by what is going on, but also eagerly waiting to see and hear what is next.

If you ask them to watch someone tune a guitar, you are not telling a very compelling chapter. Hearing an inside joke or bland conversations with the sound man is not going to inspire someone to buy another beer so they can hear you talk about vocals in the monitors again. Strings break. Guitars go out of tune. People need to switch instruments. You need good sound on stage. Prepare for those situations so when they come up, you can work them into your show or adjust on the fly without upsetting the flow for your audience.

Take any of the artists you want to be compared to and get bootlegs of their concerts. Video bootlegs would be best. Sit down and take notes while listening to them about how they do things. Does your favorite band roll through the first couple of songs before addressing the audience? Where do they place their hit song? What kind of rapport do they have with their fans? How do they handle problems that arise?

Your favorite band may have roadies who present new guitars to them between each song. Or incredible sound companies that prevent monitors from going out. But you can be creative. The more creative you get within your limitations, the more you impress your audience.

I once saw a three piece band whose signer/guitarist broke a string. They had no roadie to take the guitar and restring. They could have stopped the show to put on a new string. But instead, the bass player and drummer went right into a simple groove wile the bass player took over the mic. They proceeded to play a game of name that tune. In the middle of their groove, the bass player would break into a bass riff and challenge the audience to name the song. They were easily identifiable songs. Soon enough, the guitarist had a string on and took over on the mic. He continued the game using mouth noises while he finished tuning his guitar. Once his guitar was in tune, he took it off bypass and did one more name that tune contest, but this time continued it with the band until they ended up playing the entire song. When they were done, they got the biggest applause of the night. They took a situation which could have been boring, got the audience entertained while they worked out the issue, and ended up rewarding them for sticking around.

Remember, you do have to write incredible songs and play them exceptionally well. But that is the easy part. Putting on a show that entertains and leaves the crowd wanting more (and telling their friends the next day) is going to put you head and shoulders above anyone else in your home town.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not a Nightmare - Martin and the Barking Spider

Recently I asked for bands to tell me about their nightmare gigs. The ones where everything went wrong on stage - or they never even got to play. So many reports came back with anger toward the bar managers or owners.

Yesterday I got news of a different bar owner. Martin Juredine who owned and operated the Barking Spider Tavern in the University Circle district of Cleveland Heights. He passed away from cancer.

Actually, until I Googled it, I could not remember his last name. He was just Martin. One of those guys in our community who if someone says "Martin", it has to be the Barking Spider Martin. Every other Martin had to have a surname.

As far as I knew, the Barking Spider had been around since prohibition. I never knew it to not be there. Unchanged and unapologetically simple. Its location is actually behind everything else. Stately brick buildings that house a coffee shop and other businesses are on one street in front of the Spider. Fraternity houses are on the road behind the Spider. You have to walk through the frat house yards on one side or drive thin alleys past the tall brick buildings on the other side. How this thing had an address, I have no idea.

When you get to the club, on the face of the wood slat building, there is a carved logo with the name Barking Spider and a jovial fat man holding high a big mug of beer, while perpetually leaning back on his chair to release the Barking Spider. (If you still don't know what a Barking Spider is, google that) Picnic tables fill a space just out the front door and inside to the left, a standard bartop lines the back wall behind half dozen small round tables and chairs. On the wall opposite the bar is a small wood burning stove in the left corner and a grand piano in the right. A bench runs the length of the wall between these two iconic pillars.

It is on this bench, and in front of it, that tens of thousands of musicians have played. Doesn't look like much of a stage. More of an area than a stage. Crates under the bench are the storage spot for cables, speakers, mics and other PA equipment either purchased by the bar or left there by other bands. Who knows where it all came from. But I know a capo and cable left there by my band one gig were there three months later.

When a spider is not blamed for the odd noise among the seats, there was Blackie for many years. A black lab who would quietly move among the shadows, not looking for scratches or to steal food. He just seemed to want to be there among the crowds.

Blackie was Martin's dog. And back to him for a while. Martin ran the place like it was his living room and you were just stopping by to get warm before heading home. Or cool off. Or to not go home.

No cover charge that I ever recall. There was a hockey game table in the room to the right of the entrance. And you had to go upstairs to use the bathroom. Bands were booked, but their sets usually strayed from the big stage performance into cozy hang outs. Bands were free to play what they wanted (though I remember one band being banned for butchering Angie to the point that Martin almost pulled the plug), and could go off into random jams or bring friends up on the floor with them.

Goth bands would bring acoustics, singer songwriters would have a band magically appear from the audience. Established bands would work out lots of new material.

Bands made money with a tip jar. For a long time, Martin had hired a guy named Tom to work bar. Tom was a piece of work. I don't have the words to fully describe him here. But sometimes his requests for "Tips for the band" were more entertaining than the band. One band I was in used to make up a wandering jam while Tom would come up to ask for our tip money. Tom might rant for 15 minutes about some nonsensical story - one eye larger than the other, graying hair askew, his off line teeth getting in the way of his words (or was it the "one shot for you, one shot for me" bartending code that got in the way of his story?), and would end with a rousing "Tips for the band" shout. Even when Tom no longer worked there, Martin kept a psychedelic portrait of Tom on the wall that was painted by an art student one day.

Tom may have been the weird awkward uncle you'd see at a family reunion. But Martin was the dad. Or the grandpa. This was a family place. Is? I don't know. I've been away a year. It can't have changed that much. I mean it was that way forever, right?

No, without Martin, it will be different.

In all those years, I never heard of a band complain about Martin. He would be booked up six months in advance. Nobody paid for a sound man. There was never a security issue. I never heard of a Martin giving grief for a band not starting on time or finishing early. But then again, to play the Spider was an honor and bands seemed to just do their best all around.

Sure Martin had his favorite bands and may have given them a few more gigs than others. It was his home, after all.

Yet I never noticed if the Barking Spider did any advertising. I know they never tried to capitalize on the college crowd or cater to the nearby museum crowd. It is what it is. A simple friendly place to grab a drink and hang out. And for decades, that is all it took to get people to keep coming.

Martin is the reason. It's not the decor. It's not the sound system. It's not the beer selection (though he was way ahead of his time for pouring unique beers). It was the unassuming, welcoming-but-stay-in-the-background attitude which made the Spider one of the community hubs for musicians, poets, artists, college student and friends. It was pure Martin.

A guy named Michael posted this on a friend's Facebook status, "I drank many, many beers at the Barking Spider during my eleven years in Cleveland. Martin was a gracious and always friendly host, and a man who knew how to support great musical acts. When I returned to the Spider years later to have a quick drink with my then new wife and introduce her to the bar where I spent so many nights, he not only remembered me by name but gave us a free round as a congratulations on our wedding. A sad day indeed."

If heaven is as I see it, Martin is bringing Blackie to God's tavern and they're going to host music for the rest of eternity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Article 5 - Band Personality Quiz

I believe there are three general types of musicians - the hobbyists, the glory hounds, and the players.

The Hobbyist:
These musicians like playing music. But they also like seeing movies, going to football games, playing cards. They like a lot of things. Music is just one of them.

The Glory Hounds:
They love being in a band, playing gigs, and maybe even writing songs. As long as it satisfies a desire for others to really like them. Music is a path to a life of luxury and bright lights.

The Players:
That's what they do. They play music. If no instrument is in their hand, their fingers twitch as if they are practicing subconsciously.

Each one of these may be in your band right now. Or you may go through phases of each of these classifications sometime in your music life.

The key is to recognize these in yourself and your band mates. Being in a band is like being married to multiple people at the same time. It is hard enough to relate to one person's change in mood and needs, but now add two or three more and you have a potential mess.

So you first need to identify yourself and the people in your band. That's easy. Just a few questions and by listening to the answers, you will know who fits in which category.

Question 1: You guys want to practice Wednesday night?
Hobbyist - yeah, but first let me check. I think there might be a pickup basketball game at the gym.
Glory Hound - man why? We know the songs already. Do we really need another practice?
Player - f*** yeah, let's do it.

Question 2: We got invited to do a battle of the bands. It doesn't pay anything and is about an hour drive away, but the other bands seem like a great fit.
Hobbyist - Yeah I'll do it. Any chance we can have an early slot so I can get home? I got something the next day I want to get up for.
Glory Hound - No pay? If the place isn't packed I'm gonna be pissed.
Player - f*** yeah, let's do it.

Question 3: We have a chance to go out on the road with a touring band for four weeks. We won't be able to afford hotel rooms, but the exposure will be great.
Hobbyist - Dude, I can't do four weeks on the road. I just can't pull that off.
Glory Hound - I don't know. Go back and see if they'll give us at least one hotel room. Will we get billing at each venue?
Player - f*** yeah, let's do it.

Question 4: Our CD is being picked up by Universal. We need to get to New York to sign the contract. If we leave now, we can be there by morning.
Hobbyist - Do all of us need to go? Can you guys just sign it?
Glory Hound - Drive? They want me, they send a plane.
Player - f*** yeah, let's do it.

Do you see a pattern here? Have you seen these guys in your band? In yourself? These are real questions and conversations that have come up in my experience. The last one was the most disheartening.

And by the way, these categories are about attitude, not ability. We've all seen Players who are terrible at music but will do it every second they can. We've also met Hobbyists who can amaze us, but they don't care to ever play live or put themselves "out there" as a musician.

I'll admit it. I think I used to be more of a Player and now am more of a Hobbyist. I'm 43 and my kids, my wife and my job are my top priorities while performing music falls behind them. But I do remember a time where every decision I made revolved around how to play and write more music.

Regardless of who I am now, you may do well to figure out who you are. I firmly believe that a band full of Players will go further than Hobbyists in original music - or even the most successful cover bands, session musicians, sidemen, etc.

A bunch of Hobbyists can make for a very fun cover band that plays infrequently. Glory Hounds are there to keep the drama in any band. We need them for that. However, frequently they also put the band over the top and keep the Players from being taken advantage of.

Maybe we need a little of each in the band. Or a little of each in all of us. Over time.

Though nothing is better than having a bunch of Players when you start a band. Take any and every gig you can. Learn from bad gigs about what not to do, how to play better on stage, what songs to perform, how to build an audience, how to turn a blah night into a slightly better than blah night.

No matter which of those three categories best describe you, if there is not a Player in you who needs music like most people need water, and is willing to do all they can to perform, you will not get better.