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Playing in multiple bands?


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I enjoy the band I'm playing with, but the scope of the setlist is rather limited...mostly guitar-oriented rock from the past four decades.

 

Personally, while I still enjoy playing the stuff, there's a certain amount of "been there, done that" involved. I'm looking to branch out a bit, and do some stuff that's not quite so "guitar-centric"...namely the poppier, more dance-oriented stuff that's geared toward today's clubgoers. (In otherwords, music that's a bit more lucrative.)

 

Unfortunately, my bandmates have been somewhat resistant to the idea. They don't listen to it, they don't like it...and as they say, "We can't sell that stuff; it just isn't us." Which is understandable; after all, nothing burns you out quicker than being forced to play music you don't like. I'm not blaming them, and I'm not necessarily looking to leave the band....but it's become clear that if I want to pursue the more dance-oriented stuff, I'll have to find/form another band to do so.

 

The thing is, in my 30 years of playing, I've never worked with more than one band at a time, and I'm wondering what pitfalls I might run into. Booking conflicts is the most obvious and inevitable issue I'll have to deal with....and having played with these guys for years, I'm sure somebody will view the "other band" as a threat, like a jilted lover or whatever. I'm prepared to deal with those issues; what I'm concerned about other potential pitfalls that I may not have anticipated.

 

I'm sure a number of my fellow forumits have experience juggling multiple bands; any words of wisdom you'd care to impart?

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I feel ya. Got to that point about a year ago and kept my eyes peeled for younger players to front the older guys. Specifically a female front person and KB player. Found a younger female singer and younger lead guitar instead. They are both very enthusiastic about playing live and about the current stuff...extremely cool feeling for me.

Would have preferred a KB player but, oh well, can't be too picky. Found them and started a side project. Currently coaxing the classic rock oldster KB player along with the new stuff. So far so good, but just in case, keeping my eye out for a younger sub. Still keeping the classic rock thing going, but its not the future. Looking forward to gigging out with the new project very soon.

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Some people are perfectly content to be in one band for years and years, even decades. I applaud those people, but that has never worked out for me.

 

The band I have now is a lot of fun, but the material is a bit limited for me, since I have broader tastes. We bill ourselves as a 'variety' band, but it's within a set amount of styles that compliment each other (50s/60s, country, classic rock).

 

I also enjoy alternative, metal, punk rock and other heavier or more out-there music that would stick out like a sore thumb if I tried to play those songs with this band. Because of that, I want to eventually have another group that focuses more on the stuff the first band won't touch. That way, I'll get satisfaction from both groups.

 

I haven't really had two groups simultaneously gigging before. I don't consider fill-ins as the same thing. Last year, I had a trio and whenever we weren't gigging, I would fill in with a couple other bands whenever it was convenient for me. It worked out pretty well, although I'm sure the one band wished I was available a little more than I was. But, my band was my priority, so they understood and just found someone else for those gigs.

 

My attitude is that you go this route, you have to have one primary project and one secondary project and be clear to everyone which one is which. The best situation is that the secondary project is secondary for all people involved, and the same for the primary. If you have a mix in either situation, there will be hard feelings involved and cries of 'conflicts of interest' or whatnot.

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My attitude is that you go this route, you have to have one primary project and one secondary project and be clear to everyone which one is which. The best situation is that the secondary project is secondary for all people involved, and the same for the primary. If you have a mix in either situation, there will be hard feelings involved and cries of 'conflicts of interest' or whatnot.

 

This^^^. There will eventually be a day when both bands book a gig. If you take a "first come, first served" approach with both bands, both bands will eventually be pissed at you. The only way I can really see it working (and the only way I've ever done it) is make one band the priority and tell the second band EVEN IF THEY BOOK FIRST that yes, you'll do that gig but, should something come up with the priority band you'll do the priority gig so there needs to be a sub available.

 

My guess is you'll be able to juggle both bands pretty well while the new one is in the workup stage. Then when and if the new band is going well, you'll know which of the two you really want to stick with and you'll have to make a choice.

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good advice thus far and to add I would make sure that the projects are diverse enough that you'll never have a conflict of interest when it comes to booking. For example, I'm the singer/rhythm guitarist in a mashup band as well as the drummer in an indie rock band. The two would NEVER be on the same bill because they appeal to two different sets of people. I also have my original project but it gigs so infrequently that it would never interfere with anything.

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Exactly. I have seen some bands where half the members were the same (four piece for one, five piece for the other), and they played the same places and had the same style of music! To me, that's just greedy. It makes far more sense to have two completely different kinds of bands, in style and approach. And preferably plays on different nights as well: a Fri-Sa kind of band and a band that plays any other night, Sunday through Thursday. That would keep the conflicts to a minimum. Your approach with playing different instruments and fulfilling different roles (bandleader in one, bandmember in the other) also works well.

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I just started gigging with my 2nd band ostrich hat in the beginning of may. It isn't much of a problem with scheduling cuz the full band "There & Back Again" plays 2X per month usually on Saturdays. Ostrich Hat is a trio (me, our guitar player & our soundman on bass & vocals) that usually takes all the Fridays available.

 

Also our set lists are different (mostly). But even where they do overlap the delivery and presentation is different. OH is drums, bass and a acoustic guitar. Both bands play Bon Jovi tunes but they sound WAY different.

 

The key here is communication. Last year the guitar player & I told the main band we wanted to play more. Everyone else in the band said no because of work & family. 2X was enough for them. No problem, we then said we were going to go the acoustic duo route which then morphed into the "semi-acoustic" trio. :thu:

 

So far so good. OH has not had any problems finding gigs, and it is something I can offer the smaller bars in my area that don't have room or can't afford a "full band"

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I juggle a couple bands. I have a main project that plays 3-6 times a month, and then a secondary project which is a Deadhead/hippy jam band I've been with for 25 years that does maybe 4-6 gigs a year. I'm also going to start working with my guitar player's secondary project later this summer and fall that is more of a classic rock with a twist type of band. All 3 bands play completely different styles of music and different venues.

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I play in two bands, one is my own creation, the other is a group of older(than me) guys.

My band is original driven, but we do play covers. We practice twice a week normally, gig twice a month. I'm the singer/songwriter/bassist. That band takes a lot of energy, a lot of work to keep going.

The other band I play bass only in rarely practices, plays mostly covers, but makes much more money. A few members come and go, we may practice if we play with someone new, just a whole different approach. Compared to my band, these guys are top notch players who could jump in and play with anybody.

 

The drummer in my band plays in a band I was previously in for eight years, i quit because I couldn't handle the lead guys ego anymore.

I have to admit him playing in another band does cause problems, but try to have a stark contrast to the others guys "management" style, and always be the bigger better person. (all that entails is not fighting with my bandmates, and not having unrealistic expectations of them)

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I've got the main classic rock band and the Doors tribute with the same guys. On the side my main guitar player and I have tried to keep a stable female fronted dance band going for several years but we've gone through half a dozen singers. I have also been playing with a Motown band that does five or six shows a year.

 

I've had some conflicts and needed to find a sub for one band because I was double booked and a few times I've done an early festival show with the Motown band followed by a late bar gig with the classic rock band. So far it's worked out ok and it keeps me from getting bored.

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I play with two bands - both are essentially party band/variety acts. Comparing the two - one is male fronted, a little more edge, a little louder - it's been around for nearly 12 years (I've been a part of it for 2). The other is female fronted, includes a sax player, has stronger vocal harmonies, does a good job at keeping volume under control when necessary and can pull off an hour dinner set when necessary. The male fronted act typcially does beer tents and bars. The female fronted act leans towards private parties, low end corporate stuff and weddings. Both bands shoot for 1-2 gigs a month - and don't want to work any more than that.

 

The female fronted band tends to book events well in advance of the male fronted act - which has helped me avoid booking conflicts. To me the secret to making playing in multiple bands work are in the following:

  • Be an active communicator - keeping both bands aware of your availability to avoid conflict.

  • Be open and transparent about your other band(s) to everybody you work with. Better for you to tell your bandmates what your other bands having going on - than the have them speculating and about what you might be up to.

  • Always be 100% with the band when you're with them - that means showing up for rehearsals prepared, it means being there and putting your back into load-ins and load-outs, it means being an active member of the band.

  • Avoid anything that could be construed as a conflict of interests. You don't try to sell Band "B" while working with Band "A" or vice versa. You don't steer gig inquiries that arise from a performance with Band "A" to Band "B".

I've found this has enabled me to maintain my good standing with both bands without any real issues.
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I play in a bunch of different bands, as well as doing singles acts. I have my own oldies/classic rock trio that takes priority, but if I had to rely on that as my sole source of musical income, I'd probably give it up. I work as the hired gun guitarist for another oldies/classic rock band, as well as playing 6-string banjo and singing in a German polka band (which usually only works during October).

 

I've never really had a problem with scheduling conflicts. One of the guys in the polka band was kind of upset that I had taken some one-man German band dates in October, but I told him if he really wanted me for the band, he needed to get more gigs lined up. I can't just sit on the couch hoping I'm going to get called for a gig. I have to go out and find them for myself.

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I play in 2 bands, and as mentioned by David & others, I have clearly designated one band as the "Wife", and the other as the "Mistress" band. Band #1 always has first dibs.

 

I also make it clear with Band #2 that I can't practice much with them. By being completely honest in these ways, I sleep easy and have time for the REAL wife, instead of double full-time practices, and nobody in Band #2 complains if I can't be there for practices or gigs.

I also told band #2 that if they wanted to, I would take less than a full share of $. They said they would never do this, but by making that offer, I took the high road.

 

Paul

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good advice thus far and to add I would make sure that the projects are diverse enough that you'll never have a conflict of interest when it comes to booking. For example, I'm the singer/rhythm guitarist in a mashup band as well as the drummer in an indie rock band. The two would NEVER be on the same bill because they appeal to two different sets of people. I also have my original project but it gigs so infrequently that it would never interfere with anything.

 

 

Good points by everyone, this particular post hit home for me.

 

I play bass in one bluesy/hippy band and guitar/vox in a 3 pc post rockish band. the 3 pc is my heart and soul and still in the work up mode (i find loopers very confroooozing:freak:). If there were ever a date conflict I would choose the 3 pc because it is my baby. Same drummer in both bands. :idk: I miss the days when people didn't have feelings.

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I've played in multiple bands for about 3 years now. I'd say it's not nearly as complicated as a lot of people make it out to be. Here's what I've learned:

 

-Using google calendar, and sharing EVERY band / bandmates calendars is the easiest way to never have a schedule conflict. To not do it is just lazy on the part of whoever won't do it.

-Along with google calendar, the idea that one band is 'primary' and another is 'secondary' only causes hard feelings and sends mixed signals.. NO BAND wants to hear from you that they are 2nd best. This is a huge mistake I made at first. Luckily, I changed it to a "first come first served" scheduling rule on the calendar and told everyone that no band was more important than another.

- Know the material.. never come to rehearsal or a gig unprepared or less than stellar on the material... if you can't keep up with the different materials in multiple bands, then you shouldn't be in more than one. Never use a gig or rehearsal from another band as an excuse for not doing your homework.

- be up front and honest about why you are doing it with all parties involved.

 

To date, I've never had a scheduling issue, and have been in 3 bands at some points. I also do fill-in gigs when the opportunity arises. It's not an easy road to travel, and there are some downsides, and most importantly - it's a LOT of hard work, especially if you don't know a lot of common material. Feel free to hit me up with any specific questions

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-Using google calendar, and sharing EVERY band / bandmates calendars is the easiest way to never have a schedule conflict. To not do it is just lazy on the part of whoever won't do it.

-Along with google calendar, the idea that one band is 'primary' and another is 'secondary' only causes hard feelings and sends mixed signals.. NO BAND wants to hear from you that they are 2nd best.

 

IDK, when reading the other responses, it struck me that "first come/first served" isn't necessarily bad.

 

It seems to me that either approach could work fine, and you should just be open about whatever the actual situation is.

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Have a primary band, and everyone I play with knows it is the primary. I also prefer that everything else I do be less active than this band to make life work.

 

Have a 'side-project' and everyone knows that's a side-project. And everybody in that band is in other 'primary' bands as well. We gig maybe 8-9 shows a year at most.

 

Play numerous side/pick-up dates, almost exclusively with one of the guys from the side-project; he's in like 7-8 different projects all at once, and I don't now how he makes it work. I realized I just need to tell him firmly yes or no to availability and not leave the appearance of wiggle-room, because he's the type who'll book 4 gigs back-to-back for 4 different acts and then if need be, try to schedule 2 rehearsals back-to-back on the same night, etc.

Work in these fill-in gigs with him has amounted to approximately 1/2 of my gigging this past year; too much for my tastes, really, but they are generally more choice gigs, so...

 

 

Rarely, it's a juggling act. Most of the time, the primary band is booking further out, and the side-project is booking so rarely, all I have to do is fit the one-offs into gaps where possible. Where it's not, the gig gets passed on.

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I've been in 2-3 bands at a time pretty pretty much all the time for the last 15 years or so. Sometimes it's made my personal schedule rather hectic but I've rarely-if-ever had it cause tensions within a band.

 

With original stuff you can really only play a given market one, maybe two (tops!) times a month, and most of the bands I've been in have been active mostly at the local level, or at most one of them played regionally and did the occasional mini-tour. Even in that case was rare even at my busiest to have more than five gigs a month at the most unless some kind of touring was involved.

 

I could see it being a problem if more than one wanted to do some significant touring, but unless my situation changed drastically, my days of wanting to do more than the briefest of tours are pretty much over now anyways.

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For booking I always go "first come, first serve", and I make that clear to both bands.

With my original band we have a dry-erase board at the practice spot, and always write down the dates for EVERYONES gigs, so not booking those dates is clear.

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IDK, when reading the other responses, it struck me that "first come/first served" isn't necessarily bad.


It seems to me that either approach could work fine, and you should just be open about whatever the actual situation is.

 

umm... I first did the primary and secondary band thing and it led to hurt feelings. How many musicians / bands do you know that like to be told they take second chair to another band? I changed my approach to "first come first served" and it's worked for more than three years.

 

HOWEVER, I jinxed myself ... just today, I failed to put a small gig on my calendar on a weeknight, and around the same time I agreed to move a rehearsal date to that same date, neither on the calendar... so poof, suddenly I had a major conflict. I don't know if I did what was best.. but I decided to do the rehearsal simply because the gig can happen without me, but the rehearsal can't, so .. what can you do?

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umm... I first did the primary and secondary band thing and it led to hurt feelings. How many musicians / bands do you know that like to be told they take second chair to another band? I changed my approach to "first come first served" and it's worked for more than three years.


HOWEVER, I jinxed myself ... just today, I failed to put a small gig on my calendar on a weeknight, and around the same time I agreed to move a rehearsal date to that same date, neither on the calendar... so poof, suddenly I had a major conflict. I don't know if I did what was best.. but I decided to do the rehearsal simply because the gig can happen without me, but the rehearsal can't, so .. what can you do?

 

I'm "first come - first served" for gig dates. However, 99% of the time - I would have no problem telling any of my projects that I'm going to need to reschedule a rehearsal because a paying gig opportunity came up with another project. When it comes to scheduling rehearsals - there are a number of factors that come into play. If my "next show" is a gig with Band A - I'll make it known to Band B that Band A gets the priority in terms of choice of rehearsal night in the week leading up to the that gig (and that if Band A decides to rehearse on Wednesday - I'm available to rehearse Monday, Tuesday and/or Thursday with Band B (in other words, I virtually always provide an alternate rehearsal option). My bandmates in the various projects I work with have always been pretty good about it - if for any reason, simply because they understand that what goes around comes around.

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HOWEVER, I jinxed myself ... just today, I failed to put a small gig on my calendar on a weeknight, and around the same time I agreed to move a rehearsal date to that same date, neither on the calendar... so poof, suddenly I had a major conflict. I don't know if I did what was best.. but I decided to do the rehearsal simply because the gig can happen without me, but the rehearsal can't, so .. what can you do?

 

If i was in the band that booked the gig that night - i'd be VERY pissed off that you are leaving us hanging on a paying gig that we got in FIRST for - in order to rehearse with another band that got in SECOND. In fact - i'd have to think VERY hard to come up with a reason to not ish you the best of luck with your other project - and you are no longer required for our band. (I'm not trying to be an asshole....i realise its coming across that way tho - and for that i apologise).

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umm... I first did the primary and secondary band thing and it led to hurt feelings. How many musicians / bands do you know that like to be told they take second chair to another band?

 

I've actually been in a number of situations like that, and actually play with two projects where it's on the table that they are, currently at least, "secondary". When I joined one (and the case of another, when it re-started), I simply said right off the bat "a lot of my available time is being used by X, however, if you want to work together I'd love to work with you as time permits)

 

Everyone's different, of course, but it's worth noting that not everyone who forms a band wants to be super busy.

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If i was in the band that booked the gig that night - i'd be VERY pissed off that you are leaving us hanging on a paying gig that we got in FIRST for - in order to rehearse with another band that got in SECOND. In fact - i'd have to think VERY hard to come up with a reason to not ish you the best of luck with your other project - and you are no longer required for our band. (I'm not trying to be an asshole....i realise its coming across that way tho - and for that i apologise).

 

you definitely don't know the whole story.. but the gig is a 30-minute opener for FREE for another band. I didn't want to do it to begin with and only agreed to when I learned that I wouldn't have to work (weekday afternoon gig that I originally said no to.. ). So when I learned I didn't have to work, I said yes, (day before gig), then realized 3 hours later that I had rescheduled rehearsal with my coverband for that night.

 

My coverband can't rehearse w/o me. The gig CAN go on without me (solo instead of duo).. so considering all things .. it made more sense rehearse for a weekend paid gig vs. play a 30- minute free show where I'm not really even necessary...

 

So would you still throw me out?

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Communication with whomever does the booking is key. I once worked in three bands at once. As soon as I had one date lined up I'd let the other two bands know I wasn't available for that date. I had no trouble on the double booking side of things, but I definitely ran myself ragged juggling the three.

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