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#1558089 - 11/15/10 07:17 AM Working with lesser musicians
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I was thinking about what others have said about not playing with musicians who are not good, or who are not in your level of playing.. but I am wondering is that really realistic thing to do as a working musician?

I remember talking to Ron Eschete, and a friend of mine who is touring with Natalie Cole, Jeff Hamiltion, and other established players, and they still talk about how they have to play gigs with musicians that are a lot less than their caliber. I also remember talking to Bill Childs about how he was dreading writing arrangement for this mediocre but very popular musician, because it was taking a lot of time away from the projects he wants to do.

I am not playing at their level by any means, which makes me think.. "if they are still playing with crappy players, what makes me think I can get away with not playing with crappy players myself?"

The problem is that the better you become, the more you ask out of other musicians, and chances are there will be less pool of musicians whom you enjoy working with. And in my experience there are only handful of musicians who are dedicated enough to practice and have desire to improve long after they graduate college.

So for me, playing with bad musicians is something I just have to deal with, but I try to play with good players whenever possible(and more often than not, I do), and I personally don't mind helping other people learn if they are willing to learn. In the end though, I think you end up with core group of like-minded people you work with regularly.


Edited by etcetra (11/15/10 07:18 AM)

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#1558187 - 11/15/10 11:02 AM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
Yes... but I rather doubt Ron Eschete and Billy Childs have to play with bad musicians unless they are having financial problems.

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#1558198 - 11/15/10 11:25 AM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas
With the pool of musicians around here, I have to play with them or play with myself. wink
_________________________
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#1558215 - 11/15/10 11:50 AM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21666
Loc: Oakland
There were undoubtedly better musicians who played with you before you got good enough that there are worse musicians to play with. Think of it as giving back!
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#1558224 - 11/15/10 12:07 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
bless their hearts. Yesterday I was the lesser musician.. giving TWO completely wrong intros .. wrong song.
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#1558294 - 11/15/10 01:59 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Jazz+

I've been to couple of Ron Eschte's gigs and some of the singers he works with are pretty bad. I can say the thing about many of my teachers I had who are just as established as Ron is. Anyways my point is that they do play gigs with people who are not really at their level, because these mediocre musicians somehow manages to get the gigs.

Studio Joe,

Same here.. there are like less than 100 musicians that IMO are competent, out of that, 30 that are actually good.

BDB,

I agree,but it really depends on whether they actually got the drive for the music or not. I think my teachers helped me out a lot because of the passion I had for the music, and I was willing to practice and learn. I like helping people, but it sucks when people don't appreciate it. The teachers I had helped me out only after they knew enough to know that I was one of them.. and I can see why now smile


Edited by etcetra (11/15/10 02:00 PM)

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#1558385 - 11/15/10 04:12 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
nitekatt2008z Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/08
Posts: 552
I guess I have been a bit lucky through the years because all the musicians I have worked with on paying gigs were good enough so a client felt justified in paying us for our services. We never had a time I can recall where a club owner or event planner would tell us the bass player sucked and we got canned from future gigs.

Now we had some situations where bands I was in lost gigs or got fired not for the music, but because of the band's image. Meaning a nice bar gig we did, the manager asked us to wear dark casual, but the drummer came in with tennis shoes and t shirt. We got canned because of it. In the past we have been in loud cover bands and got canned because we were too loud. I'm retired from that scene, no more ringing ears for me!!

The other toss of the coin is when a player is so good or even bad that they become a showoff, step on or interrupt the other player's solos. They play too much and don't listen or pay attention to the band's overall sound and work as a team player.

Sometimes working with a lesser musician with a good attitude, eager to learn, study, take lessons, always improving is better, versus the virtuoso who is an impossible prima donna individual difficult to get along with a lot of negative energy that rubs off on the other guys in the group.

For instance, you may have a pretty matched set of players, but the band want's to do Jaco Pastorious' "Teen Town" or Tower of Power's "What Is Hip." Every bass player I have worked with has told me those are challenging tunes for even an above average player. So I couldn't necessarily say a decent bass player was a lesser player if he/she couldn't pull off those tunes when they are cutting there parts ok in other areas.

katt

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#1558396 - 11/15/10 04:31 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
There is lesser as in not as good as you, and there is lesser as in irresponsible idiots. You should never agree to play with irresponsible idiots, but there's nothing wrong with playing with somebody who just happens to be not as hot a player as you are.

Do make a big effort to play with people who are better than you, on a regular basis.
_________________________
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#1559718 - 11/17/10 05:34 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: david_a]
Chris G Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/09
Posts: 737
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Originally Posted By: david_a
There is lesser as in not as good as you, and there is lesser as in irresponsible idiots. You should never agree to play with irresponsible idiots, but there's nothing wrong with playing with somebody who just happens to be not as hot a player as you are.


That is a really good point - the people to avoid playing with are the ones who are poor musicians or flakes and either don't realize it or don't care. One player who is out of time, out of tune or playing the wrong notes will make the rest of the band sound bad and there is not a whole lot you can do about it. I'd rather play with two people of comparable ability to myself than with one person who was way better than me and one who was really bad.

For me the most important thing in a band is that there is no weak link - I've played with people who were considerably better than I am but I'd like to believe that I've been a solid member of the band and not someone who drags the whole band down.

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#1566408 - 11/29/10 02:21 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
ILikeSonny Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/28/10
Posts: 17
So, your original question was "Is that really a realistic thing to do as a working musician?" I can't see how it's NOT realistic, in fact I can't see how it's not VERY important. It's practically a must to play with lesser musicians, and throughout history you see it often mainly as a means of maintaining the musical tradition. My professor had that experience in LA, playing with musicians that were "big names" at the time. He was only 17, but these musicians wanted to preserve what they thought of as an important musical traditions.

On the flip side, if the guy can't function on the gig... well I think that question answers itself. Perhaps a non-paying jam session at a cafe is in order.

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#1566701 - 11/29/10 10:51 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
ILikeSonny

I posted this thread because I asked similar question a while ago, and some people suggested working only with people who are just as good or better than you. But the more I gig the more I realized that things doesn't really work that way, especially if you are playing jazz in my country, where the pool of good musician is so small, and most money gig requires that you play with crappy musicians who somehow gets all the gigs.

But I am having hard time understanding how playing with lesser musician is part of "maintaining the tradition"... I mean I've done my share of rehearsing with crappy bands and older musicians as a student.. but I thought the whole point of maintaining the tradition was to play with those older established player who knows more than you, and show you stuff you can only learn in the bandstand? How can you learn that if you know more than the other guys?

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#1566729 - 11/29/10 11:33 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
Well, you can learn to become the mentor/teacher to them, and to not be too negatively affected by their inadequate playing, but rather to step into the role of the best player guy.

As a piano teacher, I have to do this all the time in lessons. Show them how to play by playing well, especially comping and playing excellent rhythm.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1566751 - 11/30/10 12:05 AM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
ILikeSonny Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/28/10
Posts: 17
Well, I would be really interested in who would tell you to only play with people who are equal or better than you. That's absurd in my opinion. Am I missing some context perhaps?

The importance of playing with others talented or not, is the idea of teaching/mentoring and keeping the musical tradition alive in people today. Music used to be a vital part of every day life bringing joy to people everywhere! It is GOOD for "lesser" players to play with better players like yourself, and it is good for YOU to play with musicians who are better than you. Have you ever thought that perhaps these players really look up to you and enjoy your musical contribution? So what if they suck. Every time they play their instruments and sing their songs, several things are taking place: They are being exposed to music, they are enjoying something aside from their every day jobs(if they are amatuers), they are learning, they are building frienships, entertaining audiences, getting creative, and YOU are facilitating that. That is something to feel good about!

You too, Etcetera have needs. I get that. You need to experience the joy, vitality, creativity, friendships too. If you are finding that you just cannot be satisfied without those opportunites, then I would recommend relocating. Meanwhile, you can still feel good about contributing greatly to others lives.

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#1567537 - 11/30/10 11:27 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
IlikeSonny

I understand what you mean, and I personally do enjoy working with "lesser" musicians as long as they are showing a real interest in improving. I really enjoy seeing someone improve and I am glad to be a part of that.

But having said that I also feel very weary about the fact that a lot of lesser musicians I chose to work with did not really go anywhere. They didn't practice what I asked them to do, they didn't improve and it seems like everything I gave went to waste. (I am not talking about people who are struggling to improve, but people who just don't bother to put even half effort I put to show them things.)

So I guess in that respect I can understand where my teachers are coming from. They seem rather protective/distant at first, (and rightfully so, because they've been burned so many times), but once they see that you are one of them, they will go out of their way to help you. I am really glad I've met people like that.

I also don't feel like I am really in a position to teach (other players), however.. I am still very much a student and I feel like I have my hands full trying to learn what I need to learn.


Edited by etcetra (11/30/10 11:29 PM)

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#1567548 - 12/01/10 12:04 AM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
ILikeSonny Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/28/10
Posts: 17
Waste? How many people who study music actually go on to be professional musicians? It's slim. Talk about a waste, my jazz professor KNOWS that I don't want to be a jazz musician, but he still is very dedicated to teaching me jazz, in addition to the other styles that I love. If you care so much about what you get out of it then quit playing with these musicians. If you don't care, and would like to keep inspiring them and teaching them and providing them with opportunities, then do that. I don't really understand the question anymore.

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#1568033 - 12/01/10 04:34 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
ILikesonny

My point isn't that complicated. I am not saying everyone I teach or work with has to become professional, The bottom line is, if you are showing other people something, you want that to have impact on them..and the person learning has to do their part by doing their homework. If they don't what's the point?

My arranging teacher was one of the most generous people I have met in my life, and he was willing to share his students everything he knew, once he sees that you really cared about this music.  He also told me that he used to be like that with everyone, but he became more selective about who he shares his knowledge with, because the students didn't really work on any of the stuff he showed them, and he even had a student took what he taught and were selling them as books without giving the teacher any credit.

Is your teacher teaching you privately or is he teaching you at school, is he getting paid or is he teaching you completely for free? BTW Working with lesser musician&showing them stuff and teaching a student(and getting paid for it) is completely different thing.

It's also important to take into account of the difference in people's ability too. If a better musician is working with you& showing you stuff, chances are they are doing so because they expect you to be able to "hang" with them within a reasonable time. If the level of ability is too different, then a teacher-student relationship is more appropriate.

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#1568051 - 12/01/10 04:57 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Being the lesser musician, my feelings are being hurt... wink
_________________________
Hamburg Steinway O, Nord Electro 4 HP
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#1568075 - 12/01/10 05:18 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
jazzwee,

We are all lesser musician of a greater musician smile



Edited by etcetra (12/01/10 05:32 PM)

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#1568076 - 12/01/10 05:22 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Just do what I do and play with yourself. smile
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1568078 - 12/01/10 05:23 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Then I guess, all of our feelings should be hurt excluding Chick, Herbie, and Keith. smile
_________________________
Hamburg Steinway O, Nord Electro 4 HP
My Blog

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#1568079 - 12/01/10 05:24 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: eweiss]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Originally Posted By: eweiss
Just do what I do and play with yourself. smile


Hmmmmm. Interesting choice of words. wink LOL
_________________________
Hamburg Steinway O, Nord Electro 4 HP
My Blog

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#1568086 - 12/01/10 05:33 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I think there is a confusion between a gig and teaching situation.. My original thread is about world class musicians working with lesser musicians out of necessity on GIGS, but the discussion seems to be about playing with less-experienced musician in general or in more of teaching/mentoring situation.

Whether as a sideman or a leader, I don't think anyone will last long working with a less-experienced player unless the money is is good, or if they other play has the potential to 'hang' at your level. Yes a good player might take a younger player under their wings and use you on their gig, but they probably won't do that unless exhibit some kind of potential.


Edited by etcetra (12/01/10 05:34 PM)

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#1569283 - 12/03/10 12:19 PM Re: Working with lesser musicians [Re: etcetra]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Originally Posted By: etcetra
ILikesonny

My point isn't that complicated. I am not saying everyone I teach or work with has to become professional, The bottom line is, if you are showing other people something, you want that to have impact on them..and the person learning has to do their part by doing their homework. If they don't what's the point?

My arranging teacher was one of the most generous people I have met in my life, and he was willing to share his students everything he knew, once he sees that you really cared about this music.  He also told me that he used to be like that with everyone, but he became more selective about who he shares his knowledge with, because the students didn't really work on any of the stuff he showed them, and he even had a student took what he taught and were selling them as books without giving the teacher any credit.

Is your teacher teaching you privately or is he teaching you at school, is he getting paid or is he teaching you completely for free? BTW Working with lesser musician&showing them stuff and teaching a student(and getting paid for it) is completely different thing.

It's also important to take into account of the difference in people's ability too. If a better musician is working with you& showing you stuff, chances are they are doing so because they expect you to be able to "hang" with them within a reasonable time. If the level of ability is too different, then a teacher-student relationship is more appropriate.


I can relate to that, and I believe it is perfectly relevant to gigging situations, as well as teaching situations.

Some musicians might not be on the same skill level as you, but they want to improve, and they are open to learning from a more experienced musician (assuming that they accept you as such). If you like to be around the person, it is worth it to put all your energy and enthusiasm into helping them grow as a musician, which elevates the project as well as the community.

If they aren't receptive to that kind of growth, it is really important to recognize that early and NOT waste your precious energy trying to help them.

The other side of this, is that we have to be humble and receptive to learning from better musicians-- and all musicians, really. If you live in a small community with only a handful of pro-level players, there is a danger of thinking you have to be the big fish in the pond all the time.


Edited by wavelength (12/03/10 12:21 PM)

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