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"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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April 16, 2009 | When requesting a song from the band

We'll take a break from seriousness this week and enjoy this humorous, tounge & cheek nugget brought to our attention by Chip Smith, Nashville's (official?) Second-best Jazz Whistler. The topic here is how audiences should to deal with performers, advice from the veteran entertainer perspective. Many of you may have already experienced these. Enjoy:

When requesting a song from the band, just say "play ... my song!" We have chips implanted in our heads with an unlimited database of the favorite tunes of every patron who ever walked into a bar and all songs ever recorded so feel free to be vague, we love the challenge.

If we say we really don't remember that tune you want, we're only kidding. Bands do know every song ever recorded, so keep humming. Hum harder if need be... it helps jog the memory, or just repeat your request over and over again.

If a band tells you they do not know a song you want to hear, they either forgot they know the tune or they are just putting you on. Try singing a few words for the band. Any words will do. It also helps to scream your request from across the room several times per set followed by the phrases, "AW COME ON!" and, "YOU SUCK!"

Exaggerated hand gestures expressing disapproval from the dance floor are a big help as well, such as the thumbs down or your middle finger up put-downs are the best way to jog a band's memory. This instantly promotes you to the status of "Personal Friend Of The Band." You can bet your request will be the next song we play.

Entertainers are notorious fakers and jokesters and never really prepare for their shows. They simply walk on stage with no prior thought to what they will do once they arrive. We don't actually make set lists or rehearse songs. We mostly just wait for you to yell something out, then fake it.

An entertainer's job is so easy, even a monkey could do it, so don't let them off the hook easily. Your request is all that matters. Once you've figured out what genre of music the band plays, please make your requests from a totally different genre. The more exaggerated the better. If it's a blues band playing, yell for some Metallica or Slayer or Pantera. Likewise, if its a death-speed metal band, be sure to request Brown-Eyed Girl or some Grateful Dead. Musicians need to constantly broaden their musical horizons, and it's your job to see that it happens.... immediately.

The best time to discuss anything with the band in any meaningful way is at the middle of a song when all band members are singing at the same time. Our hearing is so advanced that we can pick out your tiny voice from the megawatt wall of sound blasting all around us. And we can converse with you in sign language while singing the song, so don't worry that we're in the middle of the chorus.

Musicians are expert lip readers too. If a musician does not reply to your question or comment during a tune, it's because they didn't get a good look at your mouth in order to read your lips. Simply continue to scream your request and be sure to over emphasize the words with your lips. This helps immensely. Don't be fooled. Singers have the innate ability to answer questions and sing at the same time. If the singer doesn't answer your questions immediately, regardless of how stupid the question may seem, it's because they are purposely ignoring you. If this happens, immediately cop an attitude. We love this.

When an entertainer leans over to hear you better, grab his or her head in both hands and yell directly into their ear, while holding their head securely so they cannot pull away. This will be taken as an invitation to a friendly and playful game of tug of war between their head and your hands. Don't give up! Hang on until the singer or guitar player submits. Drummers are often safe from this fun game since they usually sit in the back, protected by the guitar players. Keyboard players are protected by their instrument, and only play the game when tricked into coming from behind their keyboards. Though difficult to get them to play, it's not impossible, so keep trying. They're especially vulnerable during the break between songs.

If you inform the band that you are a singer, the band will appreciate your help with the next few tunes, or however long you can remain standing on stage. If you're too drunk to stand unassisted, simply lean on one of the band members or the most expensive piece of equipment you see. Just pretend you're in a Karaoke bar. Simply feel free to walk up on stage and join in.By the way, the drunker you are, the better you sound, and the louder you should sing. If by chance you fall off the stage, be sure to crawl back up and attempt to sing harmony. Keep in mind that nothing assists the band more than outrageous dancing, fifth and sixth part harmonies, or a tambourine played on one and three and out of tempo. Try the cowbell; they love the challenge. The band always needs the help and will take this as a compliment.

Finally, the microphone and PA system are merely props, they don't really amplify your voice, so when you grab the mic out of the singers hand be sure to scream into it at the top of your lungs, otherwise no one will hear what a great singer you are. Hearing is over-rated anyhow. The crowd and the sound guy will love you for it.

As a last resort, wait until the band takes a break and then get on stage and start playing their instruments. They love this. Even if you are ejected from the club, you can rest assured in the fact you have successfully completed your audition. The band will call you the following day to offer you a position.

Approach the band while they are setting up their equipment. This is a very boring time for musicians and having you on stage will give them someone to talk to. Ask them if they are "playing tonight? What time do you start? What kind of music do you play? Where else do you play?" Plus, this is the only exercise they ever get and those extra steps it takes them to walk around you will make for a better workout. Go ahead and turn on their amps and play their instruments. It will give them the opportunity to hear what they will sound like. A good sound check is an important part of the gig. And don't forget the microphones! Give a good and loud, "Check, 1, 2," in each mic about 20 times. That'll also give you the chance to give a "shout out" to your buddies at the bar and tell that joke about the Jews.

Be sure to let the guitar player know that you have a guitar "exactly" like his. When he says, "Please, tell me more", you say, "It's brown, just like yours!" And don't forget to tell everyone in the band about your cousin who has a 1955 Martin and a 1959 Gibson guitar. Every band member is fascinated by the fact that there are people in the world who own vintage musical instruments. The fact that you are related to one of those people will absolutely blow them away! You'll be their new favorite fan and will have made life-long friends.

Nothing will boost a band's ego more than having you dance to their music. Wait until the dance floor is empty and hop up there by yourself and start getting down! That'll show the crowd what they're missing. Be sure to position yourself right in front of the singer's microphone stand. Every time your elbow bumps his stand, the mic will hit his teeth and the two of you will be moving in perfect sync. This looks great!

Buy a round of drinks for the band. A nice big shooter will get them rockin'& rollin'! Five shots of Triple Sec won't cost you much.

It's hard for a band to compete with a televised sporting event. They probably want to watch that soccer game as badly as you. Remind them that they can take a break any time so you all can catch up on the latest scores and highlights.

Don't forget to tip! A lot of musicians live on their tip money. Be sure to first wave the money in their face. You have to make sure they see you are tipping. It's a good deal for you both since that dollar you dropped in the tip jar is worth at least 6 or 7 requests.

When you request a song and the band says he does not know the song, don't you believe them. So, when told, "We don't know that song," reply, "Yes, you do!" This exchange will go on for a while:

"We don't know it."
Yes, you do!"
"No, we don't."
"Yes, you do."
"No, we don't."
"Yes, you do."
"No, we don't."

Now, hit them will the clincher:
"Yes, you do. I've heard you play it before."
"No, you haven't. It wasn't us."
"Yes, it was."
"No, it wasn't."
"Yes, it was."
"No, it wasn't."

Don't give up! Keep this up for 10-15 minutes until the band admits the are lying. It's a well known fact that bands spend hours memorizing and rehearsing songs that they never intend to play. Your perseverance will impress them and they will gladly play the song.

Posted by Ted at April 16, 2009 3:41 PM

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