How do you tactfully lead another musician to become a sharing musician? Egos are frequently both strong and fragile. If you're playing with someone who doesn't seem to be a sharing musician, how do you “enlighten” them? Read on about some of my attempts at making others aware of what their playing exposes as lacking.
Picture this: I'm rehearsing with some fellow players and they start a tune that they have written. They refresh each other on certain parts and the overall form of the song. The drums and bass kick it off followed by the keyboard about four measures later. Now, I am hearing this song for the first time. Because they have another guitarist who knows the song, I wait to hear what he is going to do. I sit there and wait, and wait, and wait. What am I waiting for? Waiting for the guitarist to pick out what part he will be playing; he is changing parts almost every four measures, but not in any pattern.
Now, I'm not trying to rock the boat, but after they notice that I'm not playing, the keyboardist says, "Michael, just jump on in!" So there I am, still listening and trying to feel out a part but the other guitarist is still switching parts and soloing. I figure I'll play a sparse rhythm part and I lock the part in with the drums and bass (who also will not settle into a bass part). The other guitarist switches up again and now the parts he's playing definitely is not working in tandem with my part so I stop again; after all, it's their song and I'm supposed be to be one fitting in.
Everyone finally stops and the keyboard and bassist both say, "just put something in there like you always do". Now at this point I've got to quickly try to nudge things toward a more productive direction without steering them or taking over their song.
I start off by stating an observation: I notice that the other guitarist is still working out a part so why don't I just wait until he irons it out. The guitarist says, "don't worry, just play". Now I've got to get them to see how playing and thinking as a unit will help the music.
“I really need you to find a part and lock before I come in so that what I play will complement everyone so you guys go ahead and lock first.” Now the keyboardist, who is actually the second guitarist, asks the bassist to stop just jamming and settle into a part also. The drummer is locking his part and the keys are locking.
Oh yeah, I didn't mention that both of the other guitarists take turns switching up on the keyboard. I noticed that when they are playing the keys they could lock a part but not when they were playing their main instrument, the guitar; and they both are good guitarist, they just have problems with the concept of playing consistent parts instead of staying off in their own world!
Sometimes when we are playing I'll take a short solo and they want me to take more solos. In fact their idea is that everyone takes solos on every song. I pointed out to them that everyone need not solo on every song and that sometimes I feel like I have to stick on rhythm parts because no one else is playing parts and that makes the music sound very chaotic! I tell them I'm satisfied holding down the rhythm when no one else will, my doing that puts some stability in the music and makes it sound like we are play a song and not just have a big Jam Session!
The next article will be about my trying to further nudge other musicians into thinking and listening becoming sharing musicians. Until then, take care.