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Advice, Please - Tribute Band Wants to Start Writing


Joey Ace

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I'm in a very successful tribute band.

We're seven adults with non-music careers, who all have much past musical experience. Our band is playing many festivals and some clubs and corporate, and is well received.

 

We are now planning to branch out into writing our own material.

(No delusions about leaving behind the suce$$ful tribute project).

A CD will likely be recorded for release next Spring.

 

I'd like some advice on how to proceed with this effort.

There already is an excellent thread on how to start writing a song, so that's not what I'm asking. I'm looking for tips on how we can successfully collaborate.

 

Some members may not be interested in the writing process. That's cool.

Those that are need some ground rules established at the start, to avoid future pitfalls.

 

Thanks in advance.

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I'm not sure what sort of ground rules you might be looking for. But I can speak a little bit from experience. I'd say the most typical forms of collaboration in a band setting would be the following:

 

1. One writer comes up with a song, puts together some kind of demo on his/her own and brings the finished song to the band on CD. Everyone listens to the CD, learns their parts and then makes suggestions about how their own part (or potentially others) could be improved. "Hey, what if I change the bass line to THIS for the chorus?" Or, "that line needs a vocal harmony," etc.

 

2. The jam-session method: set aside a portion of your practice/rehearsal time for writing and start jamming together. Maybe the guitar player has a cool riff that you want to build upon or the piano player has a great chord progression, etc. You start there and start building the composition/arrangement together. At some point, lyrics need to be written. In my experience, most bands have one or two designated lyric writers (some might have more). Those writers then sit down with a rough recording of what you came up with during that jam session and begin to work out the lyrics. Or perhaps, one of them takes a recording home with them and works on it alone.

 

3. One member of the band comes up with a song, but doesn't flesh out all the parts. Perhaps it's just piano and vocals or guitar and vocals that are brought the band. Usually the writer has some ideas about what the rest of the band should be playing/singing, but there's a lot of freedom given to the band to develop their own parts to complement what the writer has already come up with. So, during a rehearsal, the writer presents his/her song to the band and then everyone starts to play along and the song develops gradually with input from everyone.

 

How you guys will go about it depends largely on the personalities and chemistry between the individual musicians/songwriters involved. Some people don't collaborate well because their skin is too thin and they can't handle it when one of their ideas isn't immediately accepted by everyone. Others work great in a collaborative setting because the ideas of others stoke their own creative fires. You'll need to figure out what kind of chemistry you have and what works best for your band.

 

Hope that helps.

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This is kind of an interesting situation... first time it's come up here. I'm going to have to ponder this -- although I don't think the actual advice would be much different from a regular cover band that wanted to start writing together. But that hasn't really come up much, here, either.

 

Let mas ask this:

 

Is anyone in the band already writing much?

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You need to be very clear about how you assign songwriting credit. Does a changed bass line mean that bass player gets credit? If the guitarist suggests a different title for the song, does he get credit?

 

Some bands just credit the whole band (Van Halen), but many do not (The Beatles). I mention those two bands because they both started out as cover bands.

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Stack's point may seem a small one.

 

But lack of clarity in writing credits has driven apart a lot of bands, and destroyed a number of old friendships.

 

Just a week or so ago I was talking to one of my old neighbors who'd been in a very successful regional band in the late 60s and early 70s, had some hits, but then been beset by post-success problems -- dueling touring versions of 'the band,' unauthorized releases of material, song credit problems.

 

My neighbor has been helping put together a movie documentary on the band, got everyone sort of more or less together for shoots and some shows, and put together a companion album... but that was where the problems started all over again, and it was all about revenue and songwriting credits.

 

Here were all these guys with lives of their own, careers of various kinds, but the band was, for all of them, a big deal -- at an important time of their lives -- and this movie is likely to be the way the band will be remembered -- and they're bogging down, once again, on arguments over who contributed what, whose idea was whose -- 40 years later. And, while pretty much everyone was excited and on board at the beginning, a lot of them are feuding again, and the project is hanging together by threads.

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Are you going to be writing music in the style of the band you are 'tributing'? If not, you need to make the original music band a new (side) project IMO. Who wants to go see a Shaggs tribute band and have them start playing some of their own non-Shagglike songs? As a side benefit, if some of the members of the tribute band can't write or aren't interested in the new project, they don't have to be a part of it, but the money-makin' tribute band carries on just the same.

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Are you going to be writing music in the style of the band you are 'tributing'? If not, you need to make the original music band a new (side) project IMO. Who wants to go see a Shaggs tribute band and have them start playing some of their own non-Shagglike songs? As a side benefit, if some of the members of the tribute band can't write or aren't interested in the new project, they don't have to be a part of it, but the money-makin' tribute band carries on just the same.

 

 

Too true. It's a rare tribute crowd that will indulge a tribute band's creative efforts during the tribute gig.

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Are you going to be writing music in the style of the band you are 'tributing'? If not, you need to make the original music band a new (side) project IMO. Who wants to go see a Shaggs tribute band and have them start playing some of their own non-Shagglike songs? As a side benefit, if some of the members of the tribute band can't write or aren't interested in the new project, they don't have to be a part of it, but the money-makin' tribute band carries on just the same.

Man... I just came back here to suggest giving the side project original band a different name to avoid product confusion, etc. Nothing to keep you from co-marketing them but, yeah...

 

Maybe you could open for yourselves. ;)

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Thanks for the replies. Please keep them coming.

 

To answer a few questions...

 

We intend to write in a similar style to the band our tribute is based on.

It is fortunate that this band (Canadian Icons "Blue Rodeo") have a very wide musical spectrum. They've been around since the 80s, and you can hear influences from hard rock to country to jazz in their songs.

There's currently about 15 videos of us on YouTube if you want to see what I mean. (search Youtube for "Blue Rodeo Tribute")

 

As such, it's a great group to tribute, and I don't expect too much difficulty writing songs that fit into one of the styles.

 

It's also apparent that the band's work is not as well known as the typical Tributes (Beatles, Kiss, EVH), except by the most hard-core fans. Given that fact, I don't expect slipping in an original per set would be a problem.

This will be determined on a case-by-case (gig-by-gig?) basis.

 

There are no members that have been "writing a lot", but I totally understand the need to give proper credit. If any has song that they crafted, there's no way they'd want the credit split seven ways. These are the kind of "ground rules" I'm seeking.

 

The reason for the original project is we gel together well as a band, and now that the Tribute act is together, another challenge will be a welcome change.

 

There are fans who ask if we have CDs for sale, off the bandstand. It would be nice to say yes.

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Stack's point may seem a small one.


But lack of clarity in writing credits has driven apart a lot of bands, and destroyed a number of old friendships.

 

 

LOL - been there. Take this advice pretty seriously. Take a few minutes to talk about songwriting credits now before you get mired down in the details.

 

My opinion on collaboration is that someone has to take the initiative to run with a song and move it forward. I've seen so many situations where the collaborative effort turns into a log-jam and nothing really happens.

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In my opinion, two people have to have something that makes them able to work together. Their different styles have to work together. You should write your own thing, then have your friend work off of that or re-do it somehow, or just add on to it. Be creative and relaxed about it, and if they start re-writing it too much in your opinion then just let it go until you find that part that you both agree on. When you're all collaborating, you have to have your separate instruments blend in together well. You have to be able to compliment each other's instruments and styles. That's all I can tell you. Go with the flow, and work off each other's material. Come up with songs together, but not all at once. Smoke some pot, drink some beer, eat some steak. Relax, and let the energy come to you and flow through all of you.

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