So I've been playing in a quartet with some really nice guys for the past 1.5 years. We are what you could call ambitious amateurs. We rehearse once a week for 2-3 hours and play the occasional gig. At rehearsal, one of us usually calls a song from the realbook, which we all might or might not know, we play it 2-3 times, maybe try to figure out an intro or ending etc. Then we move to another song.
While this is great fun, and our sound and coherence as a group really improved in the first few months, I feel we don't make a lot of progress in the last time.
So I was wondering if you guys have some tips or exercises on how to take a band sound to the next level. I really want us to become tighter, listen more to each other and make the tunes our own, but I'm (we're) stuck at getting there.
Any help and suggestion is greatly appreciated!
Help! How to practice with your band?(6 posts)
Quit the real book, transcribe the changes from records and play them by memory, Just having everyone playing by memory will help a lot on playing together.
How many different ways can you play a tune and improvise on it? Experiment with different grooves on tunes. Sit down and write an arrangement of a tune you like that perhaps expand on a single section or chord that you like. Explore different ways to improvise (free as a collective, soloist only, soloist+bass, soloist+drums, 2 soloists playing conversationally, drums+bass only, etc.). There are probably several textures within the band that you have not thought about exploring. Also, developing the trust to leave the tune behind if you like, and then agree as a collective how you would bring the changes/tune back. Have the group improvise strictly on fragments of the melody and leave the changes behind entirely.
these are all just ideas. Figure out what aesthetic you are going for and then pursue it. Clarity of expression is the key to all of this. In the end, it is often how a group of musicians control the content that makes it great, and that doesn't mean that everything is planned, but rather there is a frame work. If you listen to enough recordings of Wayne Shorter's current quartet you will see there is a formula, though that formula produces a wide array of environments. And they collectively understand the aesthetic they are pursuing as a group.
Thanks guys, some really good suggestions!
I don’t think we’ll abandon the realbook anytime soon. As I said we’re amateurs so in the limited time we have to play and practice I feel it makes more sense to learn the tunes from the book in a fraction of the time we’d need to transcribe them.
But I agree that knowing tunes by heart is essential to really listen to each other and get immersed in the song.
Also, approaching tunes from different styles and tempos is a great suggestion.
Thinking about it, I guess the biggest two issues I can make out are:
.us being not ‘tight’ enough, rhythmically and sonically. It is hard to put into words, but we seem to sound much more like 4 incoherent instruments than one unit.
.us not communicating enough….or at all. Rather, our eyes (and often ears) are glued to our own instruments than to the band sound. A pretty painful, honest observation regarding myself is that I don’t seem to have any significant conscious awareness of the solo the trumpet is playing, while I am comping. I couldn’t really repeat a phrase that he just played, or at the end tell whether the solo was a good or not so good one. I’d REALLY like to change that.
I’m certainly not be as talented as most of you guys but there’s got to be some exercises, both to practice alone and in the band context, to improve that!
My advice: work on the same songs week after week. That way you'll be able to really get inside the tune and then communicate better with your bandmates. Plus, it would help to play by memory. Then you can start changing things ("hey, let's make it samba!")
usually with my band, if we feel like we aint getting something cool, we do some practices we picked up here and then.
-always play just the first beat of a bar together. (without a metronome, looking each other, stomping your feet to the ground or whatever)
when your good at that, you might go for 2 bars, 3 bars then, 3000 bars?
then try other beats (third eight for example)
swing and straight
-kinda the same: have a metronome playing on different beats and also play the one together.
-funny thing i was shown in a workshop with some french rockband:
all of you play the first beat of a bar, but everyone has different time measures.
first guy plays 3s, secound 4s, others 5 and 7.
this can be real funny and you can do all this stuff drunk and with no instruments 8)
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