Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 37

author: Van Hammersmith date: 04/20/2011 category: junkyard

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This Week: The two longest questions I've ever been asked get totally destroyed by my editing program, with sexy results [actual results not sexy].
Dear Van Hammersmith: When I first started playing the guitar, there was this amazing local rock band, formed by a couple of my old high-school friends, a cousin of mine, and another guy. Their band was an inspiration for me to create my own band, and they have always helped us, inviting us to open gigs for them, and spreading word about us. Recently, the guy who was the lead singer and rhythm guitar player quit their band. My two high-school friends and my cousin split up the band, but they're already making plans to begin a new band, and they invited me to join. This is a dream come true for me. I'm good friends with them, I've known them for years, and they all are exceptional musicians. The only reason why I'm hesitating is the drummer of my own band. Our bass player is my brother, who's a relaxed guy, and he doesn't have a problem if our band splits up. The drummer was always there for the band (and for me) since day one, who always shows up to rehearse with a smile on his face, who always supported my band-leading decisions. He lives somewhat far away, so he leaves his drum kit at the studio, so we can practice. This means he isn't able to practice regularly, and it takes a toll on his technique. He's good, but he isn't as good as he could be, and his growth as a drummer is really slow, due to this whole situation. I don't have time to be able to work on both bands. I have to choose: a band with great musicians, no drama, and good future prospects (they were about to record their first demo when their singer/guitarist quit). On the other hand, I feel an obligation towards the drummer who never failed me (despite his infinitely inferior technique compared to the drummer of the other band). It doesn't feel right to tell him I'm leaving our band for the other, especially after the personal sacrifice he made by giving up having his drum kit at home. Eagerly awaiting your advice, Pedro.
This is edited down from Pedro's original letter, which was six hundred words long. Something tells me he's not on Twitter. Pedro, I admire you pretense to loyalty. If it were me, I would explain the situation to my friend the drummer, and let it be know that it's a career decision, and isn't personal. Tell him you hope you'll still be friends, and that you admire and appreciate the everything he's done. Because that's what this is, right? A business decision. The shot at a better band comes along and you have to throw your other band away. That's the way it goes, right? Throw them away, like you were just using them all along... am I making this easier? Yeah, no one will blame you for moving on to the bigger band, especially if they do well. If they can't get their shit together, you'll be blamed for busting up your band for nothing. But hey, it's your band, right? And you've got to do what you've got to do. And yeah, it's possible your drummer might not get over it.
Dear Mr. Hammersmith, Chuck Norris vs. Bruce Lee. Let's do this. Oh and small town troubles, no one loves me, my guitar sucks, blah blah blah. Love, Jake.
I prefer Bruce Lee because I've never had to listen to his opinions about politics. We've just got Bruce's movies, his system of Kung Fu, and memories. Chuck Norris, on the other hand, hasn't made an interesting film or TV show in his life, but I still see him poking his head up and making stupid comments about karate chopping a canal to keep out Mexicans. How the hell is this guy culturally relevant? Like Shatner, Mister T., or now Charlie Sheen, he's making a living as a human joke. But for some reason people listen to him, and there's nothing worse for society than an idiot with a platform. I'm living proof of that.
Dear Van, I have a short question... I'm 28... Is this too old to start a band? I've been in a band since I was 16 but wanted a new one... Thanks. Roany.
Hey Roany. Thanks for keeping it short. I'll keep it short too. You're never too old to start a band. Find some other guys and have some fun. But... You're too old to get famous. The local bar circuit is probably the best you can hope for, unless you or one of your band-mates have other-worldly talent. But don't worry about that crap. Get out there and party, buddy.
Dear Van Hammersmith, All of the problems which you stereotypically answer are compressed and found in my band. So the band begins with me, a rhythm guitarist (who can't play rhythm too well), and a bassist. Later I find a drummer. Wait, who sings? I am a guitarist but I can sing also, right? Wrong. I couldn't. After six months later of failed auditions and no gigs, I pledge I will never sing again. So, the next year, I put on facebook "looking for singer", and some guy is like, "Hey! I'll sing! But I have zero musical experience!" and I think "Sure! That is completely okay! I'm sure you'll learn at an adequate rate!" He doesn't. Anyway, we get some gigs and a pianist too. After a few performances, suddenly everyone decides, "Wait a second, let's suddenly want to play our choice of songs and genres, down with dictatorship and stuff." Anyway, then, my bassist and another guy starts to think "this singer sucks, fire his ass" and I think, "No, he'll hate me forever, and that is a terrible thing." Is it possible to replace someone without them feeling terrible afterward? Then! another problem seen commonly: my band doesn't genre properly! Really, all six members have completely different musical tastes. Is it possible to quell other people's ambitions? How long can you suppress your band-mate's wills to freedom? Is it right? How can you convince them to play your genre? What do you do when talking softly fails, but then yelling loudly also fails? Is it even a salvageable situation? Sincerely, Mark.
Mark's original letter was seven hundred words long. What the hell, man? Go talk to your mom! I feel bad for chopping so much, but most of what I cut was weird, loopy ranting. I want to know what Mark was using when he wrote that thing. I'm guessing forty cups of coffee, some speed, some reefer, and three days of sleep deprivation. Dude, Mark, why would you ever ever consider leaving this band? This band is the absolute drama pinnacle. Mark, I'm going to be perfectly level with you. You describe yourself as a poor player. You make questionable management choices, you long to be a crazy band dictator, and your band is a bunch of cats trying to run off in different directions. No offense, but your band isn't going anywhere. You guys might play some gigs, but you're probably not going to have a career. And you're probably not going to find a better situation. Marginal players with god complex egos don't usually catch on. I suggest you hold onto the band you've got, because it sounds like more fun than dating sisters who own rival bars and hate each other, which I've never done, but I bet you would get a lot of angry sex and free shots. This band is going to provide you with a lot of humor material for the rest of your life. A band can be like a mechanical bull sometimes. Just ride it until it bucks you off.
Dear Van Hammersmith, I wish not to insult you, for I have been reading your Q & A segments for a long time, and I know the extent of your wrath. I was wondering, like a complete jackoff, what do you feel are options for bass deficiencies? There are no bass players in my city, and my band's sound is missing it. Do you think it would it be better to get a bassist later on the road, when we can sound better, or wait until we get one to play the shows we have booked? I look forward to hearing your most polite answer. Please don't call me Pubis.
What if I call you "The Pubis" instead of just Pubis? Would that be okay, The Pubis? Look The Pubis, if you've already gone ahead and booked shows, I would say you've made up your mind. Play the shows without a bass player, but make sure your show is solid. There are lots of bands that get along okay without a bass player. Pick one up when you can. Or work on converting a local frustrated guitarist. Or "make" a bass player (find an easily-led classmate, blah blah blah...). And I'm willing to bet you actually know a bass player but you don't want to ask him because he's weird-looking and he plays D&D. Well, he's probably nice once you get past the body odor, the mullet and the allergies. Give him a chance. I bet he's like, a tenth level elf bard bass player or something.
Hey Van Hammersmith, I've been playing guitar for two years now- I've got a fair amount of skill, and play in a band at my church. Not the ideal first gig for someone with my musical tastes (Mastodon, Ozzy, Megadeth, etc), but hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right? Anyway, here's my problem: when I started learning to play, instead of focusing on learning songs, I focused on building up my chops. And by "building up my chops," I mean "mindlessly doodling around on whatever lick I happened to think of, and never playing a song all the way through." It's due to that focus on technique that I developed the level of technique that I have (I'm not Rush-good, but I'd say that I'm better than average). However, when I finally realized my mistake and started to focus on learning songs a couple months ago, I found myself unable to play one all the way through. I know all the riffs to the songs, it's just that I can't seem to focus long enough to put the riffs together. The only reason that I'm able to play through a song with my church band is because we always have the music right in front of us on a music stand when we perform. I've never seen any professional-level artists-- hell, even cover bands-- that are always looking off music stands. What advice could you give me? I can honestly think of nothing else that I'd rather do with my life than play music, so any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Nameless Aimless.
Hmm, I see your problem, Nameless. You went to art college, but all you learned to draw was boobs. Not much good if you can't draw the rest of the lady, is it? You seem to be praising your weaknesses, and trumpeting your skill at mindless noodling. But what good is your strength and might if you can't punch a hole through a simple brick wall? I dismiss you, Nameless. Your Mindless Noodling Kung Fu will never defeat my Rhythm Tiger Shredding Kung Fu. So drop the sheet music. Stop making excuses and start rehearsing until you learn songs. Jeez, dude, it's all just counting. This progression three times, then this thing twice, back to that thing twice, bridge, back to the second thing twice, and so on. You follow me? And when you're struggling, look to your band-mates. Learn to exchange visual cues to indicate changes. You'll screw up less and the audience will think you're dancing. Really, what can you do except doing it? Pick a song with a simple structure and play along with the music without the music in front of you. Repeat until you get it right. This is how we all, learn, buddy. Jam through songs with friends. You'll get it. Remember, we learn guitar so that we can feel the awesome rush of being awesome. But to be awesome, you have to put in the work. You skipped a step, Nameless. Time to go back and learn that step.
More Van Hammersmith columns:
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Legacy Songs Artists' Discussions 01/09/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: How to Dump a Band Fiction 01/06/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals Fiction 12/24/2013
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 62 (Final) Junkyard 10/12/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 61 Junkyard 10/05/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 60 Junkyard 09/28/2011
+ view all
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