Is simpler better?

jvin248

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The bigger the band, the more potential for Drama ... scheduling, personalities, and more.
The gig may pay as 'entertainment' so that if they give $500 split to five players or if you show up alone you get all that sweet sweet $500 for yourself! ;)

The White Stripes (2)
Royal Blood (2)
Russ (1)
Juzzy Smith (1)




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SlimGrady

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My ideal situation runs along with what a couple others have said. I generally want no more than four on stage. Drums, Bass, Guitar, and a front who can do acoustic or piano/keys and sing.
This is Somewhat evolving for me as me and the bass player are starting to take over more of the singing duties and could shift into trio. However, I still love key fills so I would like to keep that.
 

Gene O.

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My ideal situation runs along with what a couple others have said. I generally want no more than four on stage. Drums, Bass, Guitar, and a front who can do acoustic or piano/keys and sing.
This is Somewhat evolving for me as me and the bass player are starting to take over more of the singing duties and could shift into trio. However, I still love key fills so I would like to keep that.
It would be great to have a front singer that can play an instrument or two, but our singer only plays flute, and only on one song for now. It puts a little more pressure on me to cover several bases.
 

HaWE

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I like the idea of a trio because of simplicity.But when playing in a 3-piece band I found out that it sometimes was a challenge to keep a full sound,above all when I ( the guitar player) played a solo.
The bass player and the drummer had to fill some of the space and this sometimes worked better, sometimes not so good, depending on the song.
I like it when the bass has a fat and full sound, like for example Jack Bruce playing with the Cream.
 

Gene O.

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The bigger the band, the more potential for Drama ... scheduling, personalities, and more.
The gig may pay as 'entertainment' so that if they give $500 split to five players or if you show up alone you get all that sweet sweet $500 for yourself! ;)

The White Stripes (2)
Royal Blood (2)
Russ (1)
Juzzy Smith (1)




.

I'm okay with making 100-150 in the band. Money isn't that important.

That cigar box guy is pretty damn good! But we don't do gimmicks 😄. Royal Blood is nothing like what we would play. To me, that's kind of heavy rock, and we don't do much rock stuff at all.
 

Gene O.

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I like the idea of a trio because of simplicity.But when playing in a 3-piece band I found out that it sometimes was a challenge to keep a full sound,above all when I ( the guitar player) played a solo.
The bass player and the drummer had to fill some of the space and this sometimes worked better, sometimes not so good, depending on the song.
I like it when the bass has a fat and full sound, like for example Jack Bruce playing with the Cream.
I agree with all you say, except I like a more modern bass sound that has low end punch, but enough treble to cut through.

Check out the Rebecca Johnson Band (trio). She plays bass and sings, and is fantastic at both. They cover all sorts of songs you'd never expect a trio to play, but they pull it off. And no one else but her sings.
 

ReverendRevolver

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It would be great to have a front singer that can play an instrument or two, but our singer only plays flute, and only on one song for now. It puts a little more pressure on me to cover several bases.
Something often ignored is that a singer freed up to just sing is better able to work the crowd and make the band more engaging.
I tried having my brother (the singer) play rythm in our old grunge band, but it didn't really add anything that wasn't happening with me playing both parts. And he wasn't coordinated enough to play bass when we were between the second and third bass player, so I dialed in the amp to get some low mids and we were a 3 piece with no bass for a bit. My rythm playing has never been as tight as it was then. I played rythm and lead, sang backup, and was the timing anchor (the drummer listened for me because I was better at staying on it...)
And the singer got to move around and interact with people in the bars while singing, which made us better to watch.

Singing lead in the last 3 bands while playing guitar has made it hard to be a visuallly engaging singer or guitar player. I'm tied to the mic so can't dally too long jumping off the drum kit or riding the upright bass, and I have a guitar in my hands and can't manuever and gesture like a proper front man.

So I'd reccomend leaving her with the flute (which I get winded playing, can't imagine singing too) and being freed up to front properly. Unless she doesn't help load and unload equipment, then she needs extra work. ;)
 

mfguitar

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I think the real trick to a successful trio (or any band for that matter) is a great drum sound. I like a larger band for variety but there is certainly a lot more work for trios and duos.
 

teletail

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No doubt about it. And it works best if you have someone in the band who knows how to entertain a crowd without being obnoxious. If you've ever seen Vince Gill or Brad Paisley live, they are masters at pacing with clever things to say and stories to tell between songs.
Unfortunately very few local bands can do it. What I see most of the time is the singer mugging for his friends while the rest of us are like, “Shut up and play a song!”
 

Gene O.

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Something often ignored is that a singer freed up to just sing is better able to work the crowd and make the band more engaging.
I tried having my brother (the singer) play rythm in our old grunge band, but it didn't really add anything that wasn't happening with me playing both parts. And he wasn't coordinated enough to play bass when we were between the second and third bass player, so I dialed in the amp to get some low mids and we were a 3 piece with no bass for a bit. My rythm playing has never been as tight as it was then. I played rythm and lead, sang backup, and was the timing anchor (the drummer listened for me because I was better at staying on it...)
And the singer got to move around and interact with people in the bars while singing, which made us better to watch.

Singing lead in the last 3 bands while playing guitar has made it hard to be a visuallly engaging singer or guitar player. I'm tied to the mic so can't dally too long jumping off the drum kit or riding the upright bass, and I have a guitar in my hands and can't manuever and gesture like a proper front man.

So I'd reccomend leaving her with the flute (which I get winded playing, can't imagine singing too) and being freed up to front properly. Unless she doesn't help load and unload equipment, then she needs extra work. ;)
I agree that being the only one carrying the melodic/rhythm parts makes you a better player, and that translates into a better sounding band. I also agree with the notion of the lead vocalist that doesn't play an instrument can be the focal point of the band an engage the audience. Our singer does that... to a point. But she sometimes has a hard enough time keeping track of where she's supposed to start singing a chorus or come back into a verse that she can only do so much interaction with the audience.

I think the real trick to a successful trio (or any band for that matter) is a great drum sound. I like a larger band for variety but there is certainly a lot more work for trios and duos.
We have a great drummer and bass player. They make my job so much easier.
 

jrblue

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Forget the "simpler is better" mantra. That is a meaningless generalization. You don't see orchestras just tossing out members to become smaller. You don't see many solo performers producing tunes with no one else on board. Simpler is often simpler, but not even that sometimes. What are your priorities? If having a solid, manageable, and consistent core group is your practical need, go with that and ditch those who cannot do this. If you want versatility for different situations, then you could have a cadre of associated performers who may or may not be able to join you when you want -- but you can't count on them. If you don't want to spread your performance money too broadly, then keep the numbers down. If you want max proficiency (or to set at least a basic minimum) then apply that standard. Nobody, including the biggest acts on earth, gets or even tries to get all these things. But don't just assume that simpler is better. The whole history of the creative world shows otherwise.
 

Cpb2020

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My kids play as a trio. They’d love to have keys or a second guitar, but as you said, there are benefits to simplicity in regards to scheduling both practices and gigs. Even more so when the band mates live together.

There are fullness gaps in what they play for sure, but I didn’t know enough when I was planning a family to have a 4th kid:



Edit: I should add that they’ll have another player join for a song or two. And that seems to be more manageable re practices.
 
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Gene O.

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Forget the "simpler is better" mantra. That is a meaningless generalization. You don't see orchestras just tossing out members to become smaller. You don't see many solo performers producing tunes with no one else on board. Simpler is often simpler, but not even that sometimes. What are your priorities? If having a solid, manageable, and consistent core group is your practical need, go with that and ditch those who cannot do this. If you want versatility for different situations, then you could have a cadre of associated performers who may or may not be able to join you when you want -- but you can't count on them. If you don't want to spread your performance money too broadly, then keep the numbers down. If you want max proficiency (or to set at least a basic minimum) then apply that standard. Nobody, including the biggest acts on earth, gets or even tries to get all these things. But don't just assume that simpler is better. The whole history of the creative world shows otherwise.
Not really as much a mantra as it is just a question. Not sure what orchestras have to do with us, a small town pop cover band, but don't they break down into string quartets, chamber music ensembles, etc? Our priorities are to provide good music that audiences and those that hire us are happy with, and satisfies our musical expectations. Our cadre of standby fill-in musicians is just the 2 mentioned, and we could do just as you say and use them only when the need arises. But even fill-ins need to be rehearsed, and someone that is only being used occasionally may not want to rehearse for te occasional gig.

We actually had both of them on a gig last night, which was probably overkill. The other guitarist said if we use both him and the keyboardist in the future, that he would just play acoustic. That would work well, because the songs in which he played acoustic weren't so muddied up.

Also, as mentioned in several replies, fewer band members means more than just a simple sound, it means easier band logistics.
 

ReverendRevolver

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Not really as much a mantra as it is just a question. Not sure what orchestras have to do with us, a small town pop cover band, but don't they break down into string quartets, chamber music ensembles, etc? Our priorities are to provide good music that audiences and those that hire us are happy with, and satisfies our musical expectations. Our cadre of standby fill-in musicians is just the 2 mentioned, and we could do just as you say and use them only when the need arises. But even fill-ins need to be rehearsed, and someone that is only being used occasionally may not want to rehearse for te occasional gig.

We actually had both of them on a gig last night, which was probably overkill. The other guitarist said if we use both him and the keyboardist in the future, that he would just play acoustic. That would work well, because the songs in which he played acoustic weren't so muddied up.

Also, as mentioned in several replies, fewer band members means more than just a simple sound, it means easier band logistics.
All true, and big band and orchestral setups are sized by venue. Having a string quartet playing a large theater is possible today because it can be amplified. 300 years ago, when many classical music "standards" were written, the whole arrangement was made with a line of violins and much fewer bassoon/oboe players, because of the actual sound and volume levels desired by whoever was holding the pen at the time of creation.
Chamber music ensembles would have to adapt and get it "close enough" the same way your local bar band would have the lead singer play cowbell for don't fear the Reaper or hair of the dog.

Adding musicians in fact ONLY sounds good when everyone stays in thier lane. If the horns in a Ska band play when it should only be vocals bass and drums, it sounds like poo. Foregoing the horns entirely make it not much of a Ska band. Sometimes you do it right or not at all.

For the situation and application described, 5+ people don't seem needed. I'll defend simplicity. And I'll take a horn or a sax player over a keyboard player if I can swing it too.......
 

HaWE

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All true, and big band and orchestral setups are sized by venue. Having a string quartet playing a large theater is possible today because it can be amplified. 300 years ago, when many classical music "standards" were written, the whole arrangement was made with a line of violins and much fewer bassoon/oboe players, because of the actual sound and volume levels desired by whoever was holding the pen at the time of creation.
Chamber music ensembles would have to adapt and get it "close enough" the same way your local bar band would have the lead singer play cowbell for don't fear the Reaper or hair of the dog.

Adding musicians in fact ONLY sounds good when everyone stays in thier lane. If the horns in a Ska band play when it should only be vocals bass and drums, it sounds like poo. Foregoing the horns entirely make it not much of a Ska band. Sometimes you do it right or not at all.

For the situation and application described, 5+ people don't seem needed. I'll defend simplicity. And I'll take a horn or a sax player over a keyboard player if I can swing it too.......
While I like the idea of a trio because of simplicity,I also like bands with more members and instruments ... ( spontaneous thinking of the Blues Brothers Band,The Grateful Dead,Allman Brothers Band etc ...) and now I am just dreaming :
if I could choose I would like to have a band with bass,drums,piano / organ plus a pedalsteel and me on guitar ... but it is only a dream :)
 

String Tree

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My band will need to make some decisions going into next year. The core is the girl singer, bass player, drummer and me. The 5th member is a 31 year old guitarist that is quite talented and adds a lot of the band with his acoustic/electric guitar and lead/harmony vocals. But he's got soooo many irons in the fire and this band isn't at the top of the list in his priorities. Consequently we've had to get a sub for him for a number of gigs, and that has been a keyboardist who is pretty decent, but has his own faults when it comes to keys. He gets an A+ for putting in the work, but a B or B- for execution (sometimes he just doesn't get the style or feeling right). However, he does a pretty good job with harmony vocals, although his vocal range has suffered age-related reduction like mine.

We may cut the young guitarist loose and just use him for unrehearsed fill-in work, and cut the keyboardist completely, and just go back to where the band started - a trio with a lead vocalist. It would make a lot of sense in that simpler is better in regards to rehearsal and gig availability, band decisions, setup space and, of course, pay.
Where it becomes a little difficult let is the fullness of the sound. We don't play much or any of what I would call "rock". It's pop and dance-y covers that usually have lots of instrument parts and harmonies. A couple weekends ago we played a gig as a 4-piece and, as you would imagine, no one noticed a missing piece of the band. But we, the band members, do. However, we made some small adjustments in how we played a few songs - i.e. let the bass & drums start a songs instead the guitar rhythm, which has to drop out for a melody line. In other words, layer songs differently.

In some ways the idea of a small back sounds intriguing, whereas an 8-10 piece band with outstanding vocals and horns sounds like a dream. I'd love that dream to come true, but I probably won't. So maybe I should embrace th idea of being the sole provider of the bands instrumental harmony.
Simply put, Simple has always worked for me.
If the people you mentioned aren't All-In on the project, stick with the ones who are.
YEP!!!
 

Quarter1969

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Have not been playing in a band situation for a few years but I'd toss my opinion here as a food for thought. When it comes down to money, the whole equation gets simple - the best option financially is to have a 1 man band if the audience really needs a "live" experience at all. If you care about logistics, get rid of the drummer and use some electronic gizmo instead. It seems to me that an exercise like "how many band members can I fire before anyone can spot the difference" makes not much of a sense. I know it may sound difficult to achieve but I'd stick to the sound you want to have and then figure out how many players and what instruments you need to have to achieve it. Once you get the sound that makes your band special and stand out, try to convince the bar owners to pay more for the more enjoyable experience. If you don't miss a second guitar much, than I'd ask myself if we utilize the two guitarist on stage set up to the fullest? Think of early E-Street Band - it's the overall wall of sound (aside from great songs and lyrics and the Boss's charisma) that made them stand out. And if managing larger band scares you, get some coaching or reading on team management - it's a skill to be learn, not a thing that should limit your chances to get the sound that's in your head. Think of the one guitar Rolling Stones gig - would you rather decide to manage Ron Wood and Keef, no matter how difficult it might be, or sacrifice the sound for the sake of peace?
 




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