Professional Habits that Should be a Part of Every Amateur/Semi-Pro Band

danondrums

Well-known member
Setlists...
The thing I'm mostly jealous of really pro bands is that they have a set list and they stick to it. They don't deviate except on rare occasions and that's that.
I've always had set lists, but often someone in the group gets cute and wants to switch it around based on how they feel the audience is reacting.
In my experience this has rarely helped improve a show and simply never worth the confusion it can cause the band and also the downtime that it creates between songs.

Do you have any characteristics of really pro-bands that you wished your group would take on?
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
I think any really good band (whether pro, semi-pro or accomplished amateur) can deliver a outstanding musical performance under less than ideal situation. In other words even on a bad night everything is good (the mean average is set high). Conversley a weak band can only deliver when everything is perfect (but this rarely happens live) they are bedroom musicians not real players. A good player listens but also throws appropriate ideas into the pot and interacts positively with everyone.
 

beatdat

Senior Member
I've always had set lists, but often someone in the group gets cute and wants to switch it around based on how they feel the audience is reacting.
Our guitar player says we should be expected to do this when we play live, but in the few shows we played last year, it didn't happened once. I like to stick to the set lis we've come up with as we put a lot of thought into which songs to play when.

To play consistently tight no matter what the situation. Including being wasted ;)
Gotta' have goals, right?
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
1) Don't wait too long between songs. Bands I play in are guilty of this often and it drives me crazy.
2) Don't noodle around on your instrument between songs. I hate when drummers do this, like they're bored and can't help themselves.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
Never had a problem switching around the list. Singer would all of a sudden say to the rest of us....Twist and Shout...or I Gotcha...or....and we'd all just do it. I guess if you know the song you can play it at any time, eh? We also never screwed around between songs. Maybe a few jokes or something, but no long periods of tuning, smacking the drums, etc. Audience hates that crap as much as much as I do.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Put on a show, don't just stand there. There is nothing worse than watching a band that doesn't seem to be into their own material.

Make eye contact with the audience. Lots of cool stuff goes on out there. They are watching you, under a microscope. Stop staring at the floor, your snare, the guitar player, etc. And string players, stop watching your fingers the whole show.

Singers need to wander the stage if possible. It's their job to work the crowd. The crowd isn't just front and center.

Choreograph something. It doesn't have to be over the top or cheesy. Think Iron Maiden with the guitar players standing next to each other raising and lowering the guitar necks in unison as they headbang. That stuff looks cool.

And finally, look the part. If you are a metal band, don't show up in a suit. If you are a classical guitarist, don't look homeless.
 

beatdat

Senior Member
1) Don't wait too long between songs. Bands I play in are guilty of this often and it drives me crazy.
2) Don't noodle around on your instrument between songs. I hate when drummers do this, like they're bored and can't help themselves.
Put on a show, don't just stand there. There is nothing worse than watching a band that doesn't seem to be into their own material.

Make eye contact with the audience. Lots of cool stuff goes on out there. They are watching you, under a microscope. Stop staring at the floor, your snare, the guitar player, etc. And string players, stop watching your fingers the whole show.

Singers need to wander the stage if possible. It's their job to work the crowd. The crowd isn't just front and center.

Choreograph something. It doesn't have to be over the top or cheesy. Think Iron Maiden with the guitar players standing next to each other raising and lowering the guitar necks in unison as they headbang. That stuff looks cool.

And finally, look the part. If you are a metal band, don't show up in a suit. If you are a classical guitarist, don't look homeless.
Everyone of these points should be bulleted at the top of the thread.

Except for the suit part. Trust me, I can rock one.

Never had a problem switching around the list. Singer would all of a sudden say to the rest of us....Twist and Shout...or I Gotcha...or....and we'd all just do it. I guess if you know the song you can play it at any time, eh? We also never screwed around between songs. Maybe a few jokes or something, but no long periods of tuning, smacking the drums, etc. Audience hates that crap as much as much as I do.
It's a good skill to have, but works better for cover bands, don't you think?

We definitely do that at rehearsals, and our guitarist talks about having to do that during shows, but its never come to that. Mind you, we've only yet to play up to a one hour set.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
It's a good skill to have, but works better for cover bands, don't you think?
I don't think cover bands plays into this. Familiarity with the music by the audience is key. Granted the song list should have dynamics, like tempo, volume and time signatures, but don't over think it. I remember the days in radio when you didn't play female artists back to back, or 2 songs by the same artist within an hour or hour and a half, no back to back instrumentals, etc. Make your list, stick with it, but be flexible at times if need be.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Play for your audience and not your ego, that's what you get paid well for.

Get good quality gear and keep it in tip top condition and have your own transportation. Don't rely on anyone else other than yourself.

Be prepared to play in any situation to any kind of audience and perform regardless.

Dynamics, tuning and volume in general, 3 often ignored biggies.

We have a set and we stick to it, messing with it means more work. As for material you can either learn it note for note or become a master blagger but have the confidence to pull it off.
 

jansara

Junior Member
Pro is more than just set lists, it's all about mental attitude and discipline.

You're not in a bar or saloon. You're performing a top-flight show at Carnegie Hall or the Lincoln Center. Doesn't matter what it is that you're playing.
 

flamateurhour

Well-known member
Communication. To me, having respectful, professional, timely, and patient communication within the band is the most important thing, and can have a massive ripple effect on almost all aspects of the band and can be a true deal breaker when it comes to longevity of a group.

Typically to me, bands delve into the "professional" realm when all the members have their homework done. They know the songs, play well together, dress professionally, show up on time, don't get wasted, do their best to charm the crowd, and know when/how to rub elbows with the crowd afterwards. That stuff is just a given. But I've been in groups that were by all intents and purposes a professional outfit, but the communication was garbage and the group was a ticking time bomb before it ever got off the ground and the way members communicate (especially in group text messages) can be a huge green/red flag for me.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
When should a band be more flexible with the set list? When the audience is more or less familiar with the music?
Yeah. More or less. Sorry. Couldn't help being a wise ass. I don't think it matters as long as the music is good. By familiarity I'm talking with the band mostly and their song list. Personally I think it's more important what you open and close with.
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Have a soundcheck song. The very first gig I performed, we were musically tight and raring to go. We had set up and the soundman (who wrote a review of the gig for a local website) asked us what we were soundchecking with. We didn’t know. In his review he said that because of our confusion he was worried how the performance was going to go. In the event the actual gig itself was a triumph (he said soo :) ) but a lesson learned.

Re : the set list. Possibly it’s more about respect to your fellow band members. If you’ve all agreed on the song order and someone has typed, printed and perhaps even laminated the consensus opinion of all band members, why change it? What’s the likelihood of a last minute change from something that’s always worked, working better?? I was In a band where one member routinely would switch songs around purely because he could and (IMO) it gave the impression to the audience that he was in charge. Sure if you’ve got an AC/DC song coming up in a couple of songs time and a stag do of 12 guys turns up dressed as Angus Young’s then by all means bring the song forward as they walk in the door. But not because one guy is wearing an AC/DC tour shirt or because a band member “thinks” they now better.
 

MustangMick

Senior Member
Couple of things that can help.

Don't play the Chords / Drum beat for the next song before that song starts (Thats what rehearsal was for)
Try to group songs in blocks of 3 - Less gap between songs / if you have dancers they don't leave the floor because of a Guitar change etc.
Smile - Look like you are enjoying yourselves
If someone makes a mistake, don't "band-stare" at them - Its happened, move on.

Mick
 

danondrums

Well-known member
The thing people probably don't realize is that there are many undiagnosed musicians on the autism spectrum and if it messes with your clarity of mind when it feels chaotic that things start changing it's not your fault. On the other hand, the gift of many on the autism spectrum is if they know the setlist, have practiced in that order, their performance is often flawless.

The attitude I read here from some who think you're not a good musician because your performance suffers a little when someone abandons the set list and starts calling out songs they feel like playing is laughable. :) Sure, the audience may not notice when your first 4 bars lack the conviction and confidence you normally have, but I promise they feel it. It's the difference between "that band is good" and "wow, i felt that."
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
The thing people probably don't realize is that there are many undiagnosed musicians on the autism spectrum and if it messes with your clarity of mind when it feels chaotic that things start changing it's not your fault. On the other hand, the gift of many on the autism spectrum is if they know the setlist, have practiced in that order, their performance is often flawless.

The attitude I read here from some who think you're not a good musician because your performance suffers a little when someone abandons the set list and starts calling out songs they feel like playing is laughable. :) Sure, the audience may not notice when your first 4 bars lack the conviction and confidence you normally have, but I promise they feel it. It's the difference between "that band is good" and "wow, i felt that."
As I said earlier, and with some additions, it’s not the abandoning of the set list per se, it’s a) the lack of respect shown to the other band members by one member deciding that their spur of the moment idea trumps what was rehearsed and crafted, b) the long pause/indecision/argument as band members start discussing on stage why they’re changing the plan, it’s not what people want to see, and c) what if the song that gets switched has a segue or transition with another song that the band runs into later and says “oh oh”.
In one of my current bands it’s not unusual for the singer (who’s also one of the guitarists and who took responsibility for pacing the sets) to turn around to the three of us and make a snap change. Not a problem as I trust his decision making, we work as a team and it’s an agreement we have. Often the decision will be to drop a slower paced song to keep the energy up rather than swapping songs around. But that’s totally different from me or another band member shouting up because we’re not feeling it or have had a bright idea. One person’s stick in the mud is another person’s attention to detail, if we’ve spent an hour sequencing 30 songs and several subsequent gigs fine tuning what does and doesn’t work and what needs to be moved, then any perceived advantage one person might think there is in altering that is surely outweighed by the band’s smooth performance suddenly hitting a brick wall.
 
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