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Had to Let Band Member Go

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by Ward, Dec 10, 2010.

  1. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    I frequently see posts on here about band members who aren't putting in their share of the effort. The general consensus is to let them go. I just had to do that, so I figured I write about it. While it makes sense to let non-performing members go, it's still really hard to do it.

    We're a pretty good traditional country band, but our steel player was really unwilling to practice outside of rehearsal. We practice once a week, and at least 40% of the practice was devoted to rehashing things we'd gone over 100 times before. Almost uniformly, this would be due to our steel player. Chord changes, arrangements (we play most songs like the record, just adding in lead breaks, so this can be practiced at home), who plays what. It slowed our progress so much it was incredible.

    What finally pushed me over the edge was a rehearsal last week without him where we sounded fantasic. Tight as a drum. I figured that I was crazy for splitting our (small) pay with someone who was making us sound worse from lack of effort.

    So I finally let him go. While I feel bad, now that I've done it, I actually feel that next practice I need to apologize to the other band members about taking so long to do it. They've been complaining for awhile, and this is a problem I should have dealt with a long time ago. I'm glad I didn't lose any of the other members out of it.

    The moral of the story is that letting non-performing members go is harder, but you'll feel immediately better after you do it, and your band will be immediately better (and more fun). Furthermore, a band member who's holding the band back will eventually cause other people to lose interest. I should have done this a few months ago.
     
  2. davidge1

    davidge1 Friend of Leo's

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    People don't understand that there's a difference between "practice" and "rehearsal". Practice is what everyone needs to do on their own, so that when they get to rehearsal the only thing left to do is work out arrangements and things that you can't do on your own... and to enjoy playing, of course.

    I used to play in a band where at every rehearsal, before every song, the bass player would ask what key the song was in. We had a set of about 15 songs... it was ridiculous. Then there are people who totally surprise you... I had a band that played traditional/retro country, and we needed a bass player. A guy I had known years ago from my teenage punk rock days called me up and said he wanted to join the band. He had NO knowledge of country music, all he listened to was punk rock... but he dove right in and learned all these bass lines off Buck Owens albums and sounded awesome. That really impressed me.
     
  3. blonde52

    blonde52 Tele-Meister

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    Thanks a lot Ward, my bandmates read this and fired me! :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:
     
  4. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    He was also asking the key of every song we'd played 500 times before. I finally started saying "the same key you practiced it in".

    Practice vs. Rehearsal is key. If you don't get that, you don't get it.

    That's funny about your bass player. Ours never played country before joining our band, and now I rely on him as bandleader because his ear is so good and he diggs so deep into every song. Attitude is much more important than being an Olympic athlete on your instrument.
     
  5. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    Sorry dude...do you know how to play steel? We've got an opening.;)
     
  6. Dave Hopping

    Dave Hopping Friend of Leo's

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    The band definitely had a problem,but took the wrong action.So did the steel player.I looked all over the website and listened carefully to all the tunes....With all due respect to a potentially pretty good act,your problem is that you are working only about a third as many gigs as you need to be,and over-rehearsing to compensate and/or get your playing ya-ya's out.
    I think it's dumb to play your set in the rehearsal space for no money when you could be out gigging it for money,and I suspect your steeler felt the same way,but chose to be passive aggressive about it instead of quitting straight out.That's what HE did wrong.

    You'd be surprised how professional players' attitudes,chops,song memory,punctuality,et cetera can be when the band's sales division does its job and brings in the gigs.
     
  7. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    Dave:

    No offense, since you couldn't have known, but that's not the same steel player on the website. The website songs are either with Gerry "Dog" Walker or Dave Berzansky (from the Hacienda Bros.). Those are from fill in gigs. We've recorded a couple of times since, and haven't got anything useable. Both those guys have full time gigs, and have filled in as a favor to me in the past.

    With respect to the schedule, we used to play out once a week...it didn't help the situation. We've cut back on our schedule (1) to only do gigs where the pay is over $400 (to make sure the owner has a vested interest in getting a crowd) and (2) because my wife recently had our baby.

    I can see how you'd think I was crazy listening to Gerry and Dave on the website. Those guys are both high level pros who don't need rehearsal. What's funny now that I listen to those recordings is that the rest of the band is now 10 times better, I can't wait to get some new recordings and videos up there.
     
  8. Dave Hopping

    Dave Hopping Friend of Leo's

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    Ward-
    As I was typing I kept wondering if there was more to the story.As a steeler myself I heartily agree with your opinion of the guys whose playing does appear on the website,and I couldn't imagine either of them having the kind of performance problems that got your last guy canned.
     
  9. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    My blues trio had a bass player who left his bass at the practice space. I can't tell you how disheartening it is to see that. We were going to make a CD, with one song with a 12-bar bass solo. He could not get the hang of playing a melody against those chords. I spent 15 minutes on it with him, and he made tons of progress. But then stayed at that point since he wasn't practicing. Of course, his expectations were different than mine, so that's that.
     
  10. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    One of the guys, Dave Berzansky, and I played in our first country band when we were about 21 or 22. He'd only been playing for less than a year but got so good so quick that I assumed that pedal steel was easier to play than guitar. So I finally bought one, and after a few week finalized said, holy @#$% this things impossible to play! It think really good steel players must practice voodoo or something. If only I could get them to play with us full time!
     
  11. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    Larry,

    Stuff like that is maddening. I think it's true that some players aren't into it, but on the other hand they should be attune to the fact that everyone else is on a differnent page and should step down.

    One thing I've learned, and you probably learned from that experience, is that it's better to nip these things in the bud. You keep on going thinking things will improve, but it never does, even with repeated conversations about the issue.
     
  12. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Ward,
    We cut the same guy loose. The guy played steel AND Accordian and was a pretty mellow sort and had come to see us play and actually told us that we were his 'dream band' (dude, c'mon!)

    Anyway, he was pretty good, but from the first time we played he never got better, never learned the kicks we'd asked him to learn AND was insistent on getting to play on the gig when he wasn't ready....

    We cut loose our hired hand and had a pretty big gig coming up and a week before the gig he tells me he just doesn't know the kicks and 'can you do it?'

    I kind of lost my cool with him and told him 'yeah, if you pay me your share plus an extra 50.00 for having to do it when we need a steel player."

    he practically cried and said that I was mean and that he'd been 'practicing an hour a day!'

    Man, I sure did like some stuff he did.... but, when the chips were down... he wasn't gonna cut it....

    on the 'what key is this?' I'm guilty of that sometimes.. I play the same song with different guys and sometimes the key is different..

    It has gotten easier for us to use a couple of local hired hands..
     
  13. Dave Hopping

    Dave Hopping Friend of Leo's

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    Au contraire,mon ami! It's MUCH easier to play bad steel than it is to play bad guitar:eek:
     
  14. Ward

    Ward Tele-Holic

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    That's for sure. DB's just a natural.
     
  15. jvanoort

    jvanoort Tele-Holic

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    First: kuddo's for making such a difficult decision.

    I chuckle a bit at the euphemistic phrase 'letting him go' though, as if he was the one wanting to leave in the first place and you just kept holding him back. :p

    I suppose he just feels fired :p
     
  16. Stuco

    Stuco Poster Extraordinaire

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    If you want to be great, you will likely have to hurt some feelings along the way. Just treat people with honesty and respect (not that you didn't).
     
  17. GigsbyBoyUK

    GigsbyBoyUK Friend of Leo's

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    People don't understand that there's a difference between "practice" and "rehearsal". Practice is what everyone needs to do on their own, so that when they get to rehearsal the only thing left to do is work out arrangements and things that you can't do on your own... and to enjoy playing, of course.

    Best thing I've read for ages - absolutely spot on.

    PS One way I can tell I am going to like working with someone in a band is if they take notes when we work on a new song for the first time rather than expecting they will remember every key and song structure. I hate that 'what key?' crap. The LEADER of a band I quit recently used to ask that question for every song at every gig...and over the mic too. Made us all look like fools.
     
  18. spook69

    spook69 Tele-Holic

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    Boil lanced!
     
  19. D_Schief

    D_Schief Tele-Holic

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    Same story here, Ward. We just fired our bass player. After almost four months of rehersals, I doubted that we'd be able to play our first booking in mid-January! We're playing classic rock and trying to do lots of 3 and 4 part harmonies (ELO, Little River Band, Eagles, etc.), but even with 30 songs on the set list, I wasn't comfortable that we could nail more than a handful of them. The "funny" thing was that the two guitar players (including myself) and the drummer all thought the basic problem was that the bass player wasn't locking in with the drums and didn't know the songs. In several separate conversations with the bass player, however, he had a completely different viewpoint -- the drummer was rushing, someone else played an intro wrong so he wasn't "in to" the rest of the song, "really good musicians don't need to practice so much," etc. etc. It became clear that his attitude and ideas were plain out of step with the rest of us.

    It was extremely uncomfortable to tell him that the rest of us felt we had to replace him, and of course he didn't think we were being very fair. But we found a Craiglist replacement -- a "pocket" bass player who can sing harmonies and lead. (How lucky is that!) We now have three really good lead singers (and I can sing harmonies well), and after two practices, we're well on our way to being ready to gig.

    It's hard to deal with personnel issues in a band, but ulimately you've got to do what right for the band as a whole.
     
  20. Dave Hopping

    Dave Hopping Friend of Leo's

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    Anybody remember Peter Best?
     
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