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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Playing as a band

By Infrogmation of New Orleans,
via Wikimedia Commons
Some people listen too much to themselves when playing with others. You've worked on your part, you've practiced, and you want to play it right. The last step is asking yourself "does this fit?"

In a 9/05 Guitar Player magazine article, Mike Stern was talking about some guitarists getting all excited about playing with a horn player because they can haul out all their chord inversions. He basically takes a less-is-more stance:

"When I'm comping and I'm deciding which chords to play, a lot of times I'll play the least amount of notes possible…I'm often playing no more than two notes from each chord."

I've been in situations where:
  • in a 7 piece band, everyone was playing multi note triads--the guitarist was playing a 5 note triad, the keyboard added a 7 note triad, etc. There was no sense of anything but a close chord voicing because every note was played in all the octaves starting from the root.
  • the backing vocal harmonies were louder than the lead vocals, and the harmonists were not listening to the phrasing being used by the lead vocalist, a situation I call "lead harmony."
  • an instrument would play the melody along with the vocals, so like the lead harmony situation, there were two competing interpretations for the phrasing
  • people playing "their part" when there are substitute players who don't know about, and aren't playing, the counterpoint that makes "their part" fit

Some situations that I like being in are the opposite:
  • a 7 piece band playing 5 note chords, each person taking one note and 2 people playing rests
  • 2 people playing 4 and 5 note chords as stacked chords. For example, a C maj7 chord can be played as a C triad and an Emin chord. This idea can also be applied if you let the bass take the roots, and you play the upper parts of a rootless chord.
  • taking the above idea for creating solos in a band setting where the chords are triads and 7ths. With the backing tracks playing the chord, build a solo on arpeggios that add the upper end--the 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths.
  • people that aren't afraid to play rests.
As with many things, less is often more.

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