View Full Version : Terrible singer in the band

Dec-10-2003, 10:29pm
I'm in a bluegrass band and up until mid summer, our male guitar player did all of the singing. He did okay, not the greatest but he got the job done. Well, he asked some chick he went to high school with if she wanted to sing for us because he heard her sing somewhere and thought she had potential. Well, she's been with us for several months and it still pains me greatly to hear and watch her sing. I'm a relatively new recruit myself but at least I've made a lot of progress in the past year. I'm afraid to say anything because I don't want to rock the boat in any way but I think I might quit the band if she is still with us by next summer because I'll be too embarrassed to play out with her "fronting" the band. I'd rather have our guitar player sing all of the songs with his gravelly voice. His voice has some character. One of my friends heard her sing (on a tape) and asked who was sleeping with her. No one that I know of. What should I do? I enjoy playing with the band and really like everyone. But that female singer really annoys me. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Dec-10-2003, 10:56pm
I have the exact same problem in my band (although the singer's a guy). In your case, just get her to read this post!

Dec-10-2003, 11:03pm
I don't think she gets online. I may just start dropping hints to the others in the band and see if maybe they have some doubts. She also wants us to do some cheesy country song "My Vida Loca". I don't know if I can take much more. Good luck in your situation.

Dec-10-2003, 11:17pm
There comes a time when you just have to speak your mind honestly with the other members of the band. I'd do it one on one and definitely not in front of the girl. Maybe you'll find out that nobody is too thrilled about the terrible singer. Worst case scenario is you leave the group, which you'd want to do anyway if the singer stays. Best case, the band decides to part ways with the singer.

Does the guy who sings call the shots for the group, or do you make group decisions together?

Dec-10-2003, 11:22pm
Yeah, it really is the guitar player's band but he is pretty democratic most of the time. He does make it clear that if a person doesn't have the committment then they're out. This lady has missed quite a few practices. I know if he was faced with a decision of either her or me he'd pick me. He's pleased with my playing and progress. Even though she annoys me greatly I still don't want her feelings to get hurt.

John Flynn
Dec-10-2003, 11:22pm
Been there! It is hard to give you a definitive answer without knowing the group dyanmic. Are the guy and the girl really good friends or even romantic? If they are an item, you'd probably have an uphill fight. Also, how many of the other band members feel the same as you about the singing? Are there any natural leaders in the group who could champion this cause? Do not take a stand on the singer issue until you know how the group feels.

One starting point is to get a good recording of the band, just under the pretext of "seeing how the group sounds." Make sure the singer is loud and clear on the recording. Also, perhaps do a couple of tunes where the guitarist sings, "Just to see how it sounds." Then set up a situation where the band can relax and just listen to the recording at performance volume on a good sound system. Watch the body language. When the singing starts you can tell who is liking it and who is not. Then you will have an idea of who is agrees with you and who doesn't without having yet taken a stand. The recording alone may start a solution in motion, but you can't count on that.

In my fantasy world, I would prefer to be up front and just say what I thought about the singing at this point. But no one ever does that, in my experience, especially if there is a "special relationship" in the group. But if you get some indications of like-mindedness among the others, build a coalition and a plan, through individual conversations one-on-one with each bandmate that seems to feel the same.

There are lots of possible strategies you can decide on if you have group support: One group I was in hired a "coach," ostensibly to help the whole band with its sound. He spent a lot of time coaching the singer, though, and it helped a lot. Other strategies include having the guitarist sing, letting her sing backup, or just telling her that it isn't working and send her on her way, etc. If you can't get group support though, you will eventually have to decide if you can live with it or not. There are other bands.

Dec-10-2003, 11:31pm
No "special relationships" can be detected. Anyone who hears the tape from our October practices says something negative about her singing. I did mention that to our guitar player but he didn't seem to catch what I was saying. Perhaps I need to be blunt with him.
Thanks for the good advice. Things will have to wait though since next practice is at her house.

John Rosett
Dec-11-2003, 12:43am
a couple of things that have worked for me in the past;
1. give her a different address for your next gig- preferably in a different town.
2.tell her that if she wants to sing in the band, she's gonna have to play banjo. (careful- this one can REALLY backfire on you)
3.next time you travel, just book one hotel room- one night with all the smelly guys should do the trick.
good luck, john

Dec-11-2003, 12:44am
I'd get the rest of the band together without her and talk it over. If all are in agreement tell her up front!

Dec-11-2003, 4:04am
Could you not suggest singing lessons to her? At least then you can be honest with her and give her a second chance at the same time.

Dec-11-2003, 6:19am
A good recording is the way to do it. We have a woman at our church that feels entitled to do some solo singing because she is taking voice lessons. Well, lessons or not, some people are just tone deaf. The looks in the congregation are quite telling when she flats every note she attempts to hit.
One day, we decided to make a recording, right off the sound board. It was put in her mailbox with a note saying "thought you'd like a recording of your song".
She was mortified and hasn't sung since.
While it may sound mean, some things can't be done by some people. Life's not fair- I mean, I'd love to make $4 million a year playing basketball, but I was born a 5'9" white guy. I've gotten over not being allowed in the NBA, she'll get over not being able to sing in front of people.

Bruce Evans
Dec-11-2003, 7:17am
but I was born a 5'9" white guy.
Wow! That's amazing. I thought I was a big baby at 26 inches. Your mother is one helluva woman.

jim simpson
Dec-11-2003, 7:59am
It must have been a really long delivery. I like the idea of sending her a tape. The other option is to turn off her microphone. Does anyone remember the episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Barny wanted to sing and the group had someone behind the curtain providing the voice. Barny thought it was his own.

John Flynn
Dec-11-2003, 9:17am
Here's an idea: Print out this thread, highlight the title in yellow and put it in your case. Then when you have that practice at her house and you are packing up to go, "accidentally" drop it on the floor and leave it there!

Dec-11-2003, 9:22am
You could make some recordings of a practice session, and then listen back to it, and give every player and singer honest feedback. If she is as bad as you say she is, probably she can hear it for herself on tape, and she can work on her voice.

If you don't make clear to her that you don't like her singing, how is she to improve it in order to fit the band?

hope this helps http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Pete Martin
Dec-11-2003, 12:09pm
One thing to think of: Do you want to be lifelong friends with people in this band? I've seen stuff like this turn friends into people who won't speak to each other...

Sometimes it is better to find another ensemble.

Dec-11-2003, 12:26pm
"If she is as bad as you say she is, probably she can hear it for herself on tape, ..."

For those of you advocating letting her hear herself on tape, be advised that there are many, many people out there whol can't tell the difference between good singing and bad singing, even if it's themselves. I know of several "singers" who were told by their tone-deaf mothers that they have a great voice, and they believed it the rest of their lives, subjecting friends and family members to undue torture in the process. This whole taping thing may work, but it may backfire if the screecher likes what she hears.

I'd have a talk with the leader, and tell him you are not happy with the direction the band is going lately, and you are thinking about dropping out. When he asks for more details, lay it on the line, diplomatically "I don't think that ___ is adding the the band sound, and I liked it much better when you were doing the lead singing. I think that having her front the group is holding us back."

Dec-11-2003, 12:59pm
You could get about 10 people from this site to call her and tell her that they heard her sing and beg her to quit. What are Mandolin Cafe friends for anyway!

John Flynn
Dec-11-2003, 1:32pm
Buy a dog. Play recordings of the group for the dog and train the dog to howl every time the lady sings. Then start bringing the dog to practice!

Scotti Adams
Dec-11-2003, 1:40pm
..jst tell her she need to stick to singing tenor..tenor 12 miles away.... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Bob Borzelleri
Dec-11-2003, 1:44pm
Is her singing having an adverse effect on your ability to get gigs? #If not, you might consider that appreciation of her voice is a subjective thing. #If you have experienced a downturn in gigs (particularly repeats), then you suddenly have a business decision rather than a music appreciation question.

Here's a strange idea. #Give the venue manager a "feedback" sheet to fill out. #What worked? #What didn't? #What might we do to improve our presentation? #Perhaps dangerous territory, but if she really is a problem, the folks who part with their $$ in order to get you to play might have something worthwhile to say.


Dec-11-2003, 1:45pm
Flowerpot makes a good suggestion. We had a similar situation with a banjo player who wanted to sing. We had our first gig, and he was flat on everything (he was singing baritone). Comments from the audience and all about how flat he was. We ended up having a band meeting, and suggested that the other 3 singers in the group do the lead and harmony singing on MOST songs, and let him have 1 or 2. Those 1 or 2 would provide him with something to work on vocally, and we were going to add more tunes for him to sing as he started nailing his other 2 songs. Well, he wasn't happy with this situation, but since we had the band meeting, everyone had the opportunity to voice their opinions. He was the only one not in agreement and ended up quitting because of it a couple weeks later.

It will be nearly impossible for you to address this without hurting someone's feelings. The only way would be for you to quit, but do you want that? It's difficult for a band to get to that point of being able to be constructively critical of each other's performance without people's feelings getting in the way. But in my opinion, its essential in making a decent band a great band.

Dec-11-2003, 2:05pm
I agree with most of the people on this board. #I haven't been around mandolins that long, but I've been in choirs (in one form or another) for about 20 years. #The fact of the matter is, there's no way to approach this without hurting someone's feelings. #She has unfortunately been told she is good and she must feel really strongly about that if she's going to get up on a stage. You are going to provide overwhelming evidence to the contrary. #Even the most easy going people are offended when people they care about criticize/reject them, no matter how gentle the blow is.

The democratic method has always worked best in my experience, when you talk to others in the band to see how they feel. If they agree with you, have a band caucus and see if you should get her: 1)to sing more quietly, 2) voice lessons, 3)voted her out, or 4)a dog to harmonize with. #I think going directly to the leader and giving him a friendly ultimatum may turn him off, especially if there is a "special relationship" brewing that he hasn't told you about yet. #It's best to have all the cards on the table before you say you're thinking of walking.

Dec-11-2003, 2:13pm
A bluegrass banjo player dies and goes to heaven... (no that's not the joke)...
Once he gets there, St. Peter points to where the heavenly band is forming.
The guy goes there and sees all of the greats that ever lived... John Duffey, Lester Flatt, Jim McReynolds, everybody!
Bill Monroe was fronting the band, of course.
"Bill, this is some kind of band! I mean, you've got everybody here! This is great!" "Yeah," Bill replies, "it's okay."
The banjo player is shocked. "OK? This is the greatest band ever!"
Big Mon replies, "Yeah, the band's great.
But see, God has this girlfriend, and she sings."

Bill James
Dec-11-2003, 3:41pm
If one of the other band members had an affair with her, then broke it off after a few months, she may be uncomfortable and leave. That way it would be her idea to leave.

You could draw straws...

Dec-11-2003, 3:51pm
That'll probably happen anyway...(g).

Dec-11-2003, 3:59pm
Thanks for all the great suggestions. I think I will approach our guitar player and then see what he thinks since it was his idea to recruit her. I highly doubt that he has a "special relationship" with her because his wife plays bass. The banjo player definitely does not have a relationship with her.
We will be playing out a lot this summer and we've got our instrumental stuff down really well. This could open us up to some good paying gigs. There is a big picking party this spring and all the bands take turns on stage. My fear is that having her sing will blow any chances for us to network with other bands too. I'll approach this as tactfully as I can and post back as to how it went.
Thanks again for the suggestions.

jim simpson
Dec-11-2003, 9:53pm
I really like this thread! (my 2nd contribution) A group I once played with was booked at a little festival in Central PA. There was a group that featured a female lead singer who was unbelievably bad. I believe she was/is married to the mandolin player. They probably had the best look of all the bands in terms of their clothing and they were fine instrumentally. They even had cd's to sell! I found one of their cd's in a sale bin and bought it for a laugh. It is funny and painful to listen to. She sings an Allison Kraus song that produced the biggest belly laugh! They continue to gig and now have 3 or 4 cd's out. I can't for the life of me understand how they continue to get work when I know how she sounds.
I am not naming them as I feel it would be a bit mean spirited on this forum.
Peace - Jim

Dec-12-2003, 7:38am
Maybe take a caring approach and suggest vocal lessons. #Lets face it, it was your guy who invited her and encouraged her to join the group in the first place.

Dec-12-2003, 2:59pm
I would talk to the other band members and get a concensus. If the majority agrees, talk to her. There's not a pain free way to go about something like this but it can be done gently and in a caring manner. I would like to be a singer myself but I'm not. I can carry a tune just fine, but I have terrible vocal quality so I stick to what I am good at. We all need to realize this at some point. Good luck with the situation.

Ken Sager
Dec-12-2003, 5:50pm
Time's a wastin...

Life is too short to spend it worrying and fretting about a crappy vocalist in your band. Say something to the whole group. Get it out in the open. Air out the laundry and set it all straight. Pick yer cliche and stick to it.

You aren't doing yourself or the band any good by not at least talking about, if not resolving, this issue that has the potential to push you out of the band.

Have fun with it, either way it goes.


Dec-12-2003, 5:53pm
Be like the guys in Spinal Tap and tell her you're going in a "new direction".

Or, tell everyone you know who plays in a band how great a singer she is, "when she's not nervous". Some other band will audition her, and, assuming she was just nervous that night, take her off your hands. This is called the "Maverick Method" http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Bob Sayers
Dec-12-2003, 9:33pm
In the "if you think you've got a problem" department: This link reminds me of a humorous story I heard a few years ago from a blues afficianado, here transposed to a bluegrass context. (BTW: I apologize if the punch line offends anyone.) Bob

A famous bluegrass artist woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone stumbling around in his bedroom. "Who's there!?!," he inquired.

"It's just me, Buzz Busby," came the reply.

"Buzz, that can't be you. You're dead!"

"Well, yeah, but I got a little bored up in heaven and came back to see some of my old pals."

"Wow!", exclaimed the first man. "What's it like up there?"

"Well, it's been pretty good. I'm playing some with Don and Red. And Duffy and I go out for drinks every once in awhile. And, of course, Bill and Lester and Carter and Chubby and the gang are always playing up a storm."

"Wow!!!", the first man exclaimed a second time. "But you said it's just 'pretty good.' What's the problem?"

"Well, I hate to bring it up, but God's been dating some chick who thinks she can sing..."

Dec-14-2003, 7:02pm
Just treat the singer and band with dignity and honesty...don't "play games". If you feel some lessons might help suggest that otherwise share your thoughts fairly. Good luck.

Dec-16-2003, 11:00am
Thanks for all the great suggestions. #I think I will approach our guitar player and then see what he thinks since it was his idea to recruit her. #
Hey, keep us posted. I, for one, would like to hear how this turns out.

Dec-17-2003, 1:56pm
How do you tell anyone they can't sing or play? Once, the rest of the band ran out after practice, leaving me to tell the last guy that we didn't let him sing more because of complaints from the audience (he asked, I didn't volunteer, by the way). He quit shortly thereafter, and hasn't spoken to me in six years. We played in his home town recently, and I had one of the other guys call and invite him to join us for a song. He came, wouldn't talk to me, and it turns out he gave up playing music (he could play, but not sing). I felt even worse, but we were a better band.
We had a dobro player who could sing better than any of us (when he remembered the words), but couldn't play in tune worth beans. Also thought he could take breaks on songs he had never heard before. He was a good guy, and we gave him four years to improve. The audience liked him, too, and seemed to overlook the out-of-tune playing, but maybe they hadn't heard a dobro before. Finally, he started coming to gigs but not to practice, and again I had to be the one to tell him it wouldn't work (I guess I'm the leader). Painful again, but we were a better band afterwards.
Then we had a bass player who yelled at people - profanity and all. There were times when you didn't want to be standing next to him. One day he stopped showing up. He decided he needed a break, and I agreed, hoping we would find a replacement before he wanted to come back, and we did - with a week to spare.
Now we have four guys that get along, plus a fifth as a fill-in or additional member. I subscribe to the Bill Monroe method of never firing anyone, but it sometimes takes awhile for things to work out. If the audience doesn't like something, they will let you know, or just not come to see you, and you will figure it out and take action. Otherwise, we always enjoyed playing the music, and that got us through the times when things were not as good as we would have liked. We also had some interesting experiences and stories. It all works out, I believe, but not always quickly - or quickly enough.

Dec-17-2003, 2:19pm
I've learned a lot about sparing feelings from the advice that has been given. #Nicely done on all the responses, group.

Now, what I want to know is this off-key gal a looker? #'Cause if she is, you may want to keep her for props. #You know, a pretty lady, who can bring tears to a glass eye, will usually do wonders for a band's stage appeal. #Just train her to lip-sync to some other nightingale's voice. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Dec-17-2003, 6:44pm
Not real purty either. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif

Dec-18-2003, 10:29am
I subscribe to the Bill Monroe method of never firing anyone, but it sometimes takes awhile for things to work out.

Dec-18-2003, 10:31am
Now, what I want to know is this off-key gal a looker? #

Give us a break!

John Flynn
Dec-18-2003, 10:49am

I support your negative reaction to the question about whether she is a "looker," although personally I took the question as facetious and got a laugh out of it. I do think there is an ironic point to be made from it. I have to 'fess up and admit that despite myself, I had the same question creep into my head reading this thread. I think it is human nature. Also, if you look at who gets to make CDs now in bluegrass, it is undeniable that right or wrong, for female lead singers, looks are a huge consideration. Intellectually I think it is wrong and I wish it weren't so, but it is. I also have to admit that while Rhonda Vincent sings fine, I'd rather watch her than listen to her.

Dec-18-2003, 11:27am
Good looking or not, teach her to dance....everyone loves watching a dancer.

Dec-18-2003, 11:49am
Now, what I want to know is this off-key gal a looker? #

Give us a break!

I didn't mean for anyone to take my post seriously. Johnny got the "jest" of my intentions. Just trying to lighten the subject a little bit, that's all. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Dec-18-2003, 11:37pm
I think I'm just resigning myself to the situation. #We'll see if the Bill Monroe method works. #This lady seems to really get a lot out of singing in a band whether she's good at it or not. #I'm really getting a lot our of the band too. #Maybe I'm being too critical and judgemental. #
Here's a little more background on her: #She grew up with our guitar player and his wife (who plays bass). #They're all in their early 40's. #The lady we're speaking of was injured in a car accident several years ago and received a big settlement (hasn't really worked since). #Her older husband works for an oil drilling company and makes good money but he's gone a lot. #He and she just built a nice big house too. #Now you may be wondering what relevence this may have but just keep reading.
Tonight at practice she wanted to play "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles. #We worked on it and she sang of course. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #Anyway, read the following lyrics and tell me if I'm reading anything into the situation. #Those of you who have followed this thread may have some insights.


Dec-19-2003, 1:20am
I've been following this thread, but I gotta say you lost me here. Unless you're saying she needs an outlet, or a place with some emotional support, and you feel sorry for her so you don't want to deny her the chance to be in the limelight. But I'm glad you've resolved things in your mind... although this turned out to be anti-climactic after all the schenarios folks brought up. I was ready for some drama! Oh well, if you're enjoying it, great for you. Good luck.

Dec-19-2003, 1:37am
A simple word of caution and perhaps wisdom. Every musician I worked with because I felt "sorry" for them just ended up using me as long as it was a free ride. When the ride was over, they never attempted to maintain contact. Somehow, I am still friends with most of the good ones. Go figure.

I'm not even sure what the above means, but I guess the moral is that true friendship is built upon exchange, and that means receiving as well as giving.

Once I was in a band with a female vocalist. She got sick and we hired two replacements. The band wanted to fire the regular female vocalist. I held firm and said no. Why? Because I felt sorry for her. She needed the work and her dad had just passed away. Because of me, the band kept her. Well, down the line, due to economics, we decided to go back to being a four piece. She was only working a couple nights a week with us anyway by then. When she left, I was the bad guy. She never even knew I had fought for her so hard and she never forgave me. This is what feeling sorry for someone will do for you. Be very careful with that, I say.

Dec-19-2003, 9:29am
For those of you advocating letting her hear herself on tape, be advised that there are many, many people out there whol can't tell the difference between good singing and bad singing, even if it's themselves.

Just listen to the American Idol rejects who think they are so great.(some not all)

Bill James
Dec-19-2003, 9:58am
She grew up with our guitar player and his wife (who plays bass). #They're all in their early 40's. #The lady we're speaking of was injured in a car accident several years ago and received a big settlement (hasn't really worked since). #Her older husband works for an oil drilling company and makes good money but he's gone a lot. #He and she just built a nice big house too.

I don't know what to do about keeping/firing her but I think we can turn that into a country song and make millions!

Well the band kicked me out cause I couldn't sing or play.
And I tore up my car the other day.
My old mans always gone oil drillin'
But I got a young buck that's always willin'.
My car may be a wreck, but I got a big ol' check.

Nashville here we come!

Pete Martin
Dec-19-2003, 1:41pm
A couple of Portland OR oldtime players wrote a song called "They Kicked Me Out of the Band" a bunch of years back. One of the funniest songs I've ever heard. Anyone heard about this one?

Dec-19-2003, 1:51pm
No but Bob Black -- banjo player with the Perfect Strangers and ex-Bluegrass Boy -- has a hysterical song called something like "Canned by the Best".

Dec-19-2003, 2:09pm
In our band, our former bad singer insisted on singing The Long Black Veil at our next gig. After practice, the rest of the band asked "what are we going to do about it?" Actually, I think they asked what I was going to do about it, and I said we would put the song in the 3rd set, where we could play it after everyone hopefully liked us, and we could tape it and play it back for him. We played, we taped it, and played it at our next practice, and he said, "Great - not as bad as I thought." We were back to square one.
Next gig, we started playing, and I realized I had put the song 4th in the first set, when we were still establishing ourselves with the audience. I leaned over and asked "do you want to sing it, or do you think I should?" When he said I should decide, I unhesitatingly replied, "I'll do it." As I mentioned before, within a couple weeks he was gone (from the band, not dead).

The sad part was that he and I started the band together, and he was the one who brought me back into performing after a 12-year hiatus. Even years later I feel bad, even if it had to be said. Not everyone can sing, and even those who can should realize that they may not be able to sing everything. I've heard a few tapes that made me realize some songs weren't for me, and we sometimes pass a song around a few people before finding the right singer.

Back to the Bill Monroe method, he may not have fired anyone, but as I understand it he hastened some departures by not talking to certain band members for days or even weeks - except perhaps to walk by them and mumble "you're not cutting it." I sure wouldn't have wanted to hear that from him, or even anyone else, so we just wait things out - for weeks, or months, or whatever it takes. #

Any band is not just a group of musicians, but in the best situations they are also friends, and you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. We also feel that rather than trying to achieve a particular sound, we try to build something out of everyone's individual abilities. Sometimes it takes awhile to utilize everyone's strengths, but we have fun, and people like the music. As long as you get something out of it, keep going.

Dec-20-2003, 10:00am
I don't know what to do about keeping/firing her but I think we can turn that into a country song and make millions!

The Eagles song pretty much covers it. As she was singing it I thought, "Okay, I think I'm beginning to understand some things." And I was cringing inside as we played the song.

I don't feel sorry for her but even though she's the newest member of the band, apparently she's been around a lot longer than I have so I'm just going to pick with them until I meet some other like minded pickers. Sorry this has been so anticlimatic for those of you looking for some drama!

John Ritchhart
Dec-29-2003, 10:31am
Are you guys doing this for money? Do you need the money? If you're trying to put a wage earning band together then skill assessment should be part of the process. You probably ought to do it on everyone. If you're just doing it for fun then I'd go ahead and date her. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Dec-29-2003, 11:22am
Well, I'm married plus she's too old and too homely.:D
We don't make much money. Its mostly a learning experience for me. A year ago I could only play open chords and a few melodies now I'm chopping away and playing leads on dozens of songs. So I think I'll stick with it in spite of the annoying singer. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Dec-30-2003, 6:35pm
Hey, I'm new to this board but joined to chime in (thanks Dave for the heads-up, and no, this dilemma is NOT about me)-- I agree with a lot of the other folks--

If you like these people, don't burn bridges-- if you really want to play hard and seek musical perfection, leave and find others - People join (and leave) bands for all kinds of reasons-- but if you're in any kind of small community, try to keep it civil--

My favorite current band (four people) has the following reasons for its continuing existence, at least from my POV:
-- Three of us are learning new instruments
-- All of us are improving our ability to sing harmony
-- One of us (me) is singing some leads for the first time in her life (They asked me! #I resisted! I swear!)
-- All of us are singing/playing tunes we would never have thought of on our own
-- Three of us are learning to play in better tune (can't do anything about the accordion)
-- One of us is getting time away from his teenagers
-- Two of us are pretending we have social lives
-- One of us is avoiding thinking about drinking and why he can't do it any more
-- Three of us are getting to play in public more than we ever have before
-- One of us is learning to play with others instead of being just an incredible solo act
-- All of us are getting to be friends and extended family to one another. No small thing in this e-universe.

So... why are you there? #And why do you think the others are there? #And... #would you be happy to be in a musically better band with less-friendly folks? #What might this band be forgiving you for that you are lacking?

Good luck with your decision about what to do!

John Flynn
Dec-31-2003, 1:29am
I know I may have posted with a different tone earlier, but I agree with Tallgirl. I had a conversation recently that is appropos. There is a lady in my area who has played for many, many years with some of the legendary old-time players in the Midwest. Most consider her to be both a great fiddler and a great guitarist, plus a pretty fair banjo player. I have a lot of respect for her wisdom.

I had privledge to visit her at her house since this thread started and she told me something that has really been running around in my head. She said that her biggest regret in all her years in music is that she has never been able to maintain a good band over a long period of time. Groups get together, burn bright for a while, do a CD and a bunch of gigs and then burn out. The breakups are never over music. They are always over social and business issues. Her advice to me was that if you can make a band hang together as people, hang onto to that band for dear life. The music issues can always be worked out if the group can just stay together as a group.

Dec-31-2003, 2:52am
Bands always come and go, but the best music I've made is with people who I got along with as friends - not that we are always really close, but we talk about things, have lunch together now and then, and they might even go to concerts or festivals with me so I don't have to force my wife or daughter to accompany me. We are serious about the music, and when everyone gets along they enjoy playing together, and they should play better and work to make the group sound better. It works for us.

We are talking about bad singers. Singers can improve if they are willing to realize (or be made to realize) that they need improvement. Practice improves singing just like playing, but I think singers have a harder time realizing that they need to work on their craft - it's not just pitch, but timing, phrasing, diction, and more. The choice of songs also makes a difference - there are a lot of songs I like that should be sung by someone (anyone) other than me. Their voice is an instrument just like every other one in the band, and good singers in every style of music know that. I recently saw a show by Bob Paisley and his band, and Dan Paisley actually got applause for his singing on a couple verses, just like the instrumentalists got after a hot break. I never saw that before, but he deserved it, too.

If you like playing with someone, help them along and give them a chance to get better, just like you would like someone to do to you. If they can't sing, encourage them to play. If they can't do either, or you can't get along with them - that may be another matter.

Dec-31-2003, 10:53am
oh, oh, oh-- two more cents! If you want to stay in this band, here's something to try-- I play occasionally in a contra dance band with a professional classical musician (clarinetist) who plays fiddle just for fun. He is SO much better than the rest of us in terms of his knowledge and ear, and I must say, in his ability to encourage us to be better ourselves.

He never criticizes. He looks for the good and catches it and points it out every time. If I play a good break, he hoots and hollers with pride. If I screw up... nothing-- he just keeps playing hard and dragging me along in his wake. This band is recreation for him, and he refuses to allow anything negative to make its way in.

So, is there some song this woman sings better than others? Parts of songs that go well? Is part of her range better than others-- does she do better Bonnie Raitt than Emmy Lou, for example? Try finding the good--however small-- and praising it-- can't hurt, might help-- and might help you feel better about her too (I know I've been overly perky here, but I do feel your pain...)

Good luck!

Tom C
Dec-31-2003, 10:55am
I don't have that problem. We all sing lousy. Once in a while you must drink alot and play lousy. (Like tonight! -not performing, just partying)

Dec-31-2003, 12:40pm
Yep, we'll all be singin off key tonight! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

Michael H Geimer
Dec-31-2003, 3:01pm
You've got some good wisdom in your post here. I really like how you pointed out everyone's motivation for playing together in your group. I think that is the real secret of leadership; understanding the motivations and goals of the people you hope to lead.

I have been in a lot of bands over the years - not as many as mandodude, but then who has? I've heard doors slam, voices raised, even seen some tears roll. I finally started to see that we - as bandmates - somehow feel OK saying really awful things to our friends because we think their shortcommings will keep The Band from achieving this or that career goal. Rarely true IMHO.

There are a lot of ways to get gigs, get singed, make money, etc. There are compartively few ways to find and hold onto long time friends, and a friend is much more valuable than many of those career goals.

- Benig

Feb-01-2004, 9:05pm
Update: We gave her a chance to be a part of the group and grow because we knew that she was enjoying the experience but after a while she started losing interest. We discussed the matter and decided that she would be more of a hindrance if we continued with her singing. I guess things worked out. She'll probably be bummed for a while but our guitar player said she'll get over it. Its a tough call, we'd like to give her an outlet so she can get out of her house once a week and have some fun but on the other hand it will be better for landing gigs. She'll probably sing a couple at the local 4th of July gig that way she can shine for the hometown crowd.

Feb-03-2004, 3:24am

thanks for the update. i'm sure i'm not the only one here who wondered "what ever became of that beleagured bandmember with a bad singer?"....

Now who's singing?

John Flynn
Feb-03-2004, 7:24am
Yeah, thanks for the update. This has been one of the better threads in a long time and I wanted to hear the ending also.

And I would also like to add to the feedback about Tallgirl's post. I think it was very poignant and on point. As I told her in a PM, I made an email out of it and sent it to my band. I got really good feedback on it.

Aug-19-2004, 10:01pm
Postlogue: The "terrible singer" ended up hanging around until the present day, performing with us, much to my chagrin. #Life went on. #At the end of March my wife and I split and she moved out. #The next four months were the worst four months of my life (we both had a lot to figure out). #Early in July, we decided to give things another shot (sorry about all the personal stuff-you'll see where this is going). #We've had our shaky times but I think we'll be okay. #Anyway, tonight my wife came with me to band practice. #The "terrible singer" wasn't there so I had my wife sing with us. #Everyone else in the band loved my wife (she must have learned to sing while she was gone) so she is now going to be our new female singer. #She's really excited about it. Our guitar player said he was just waiting for someone better to come along (I know, that sounds harsh http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif ). #His wife is our bass player. #He said bringing her on as bass player was the best thing for their marriage. #So, there's a nice dramatic twist for all of you reality show fans out there. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Aug-19-2004, 10:24pm
Man, that is a happy ending to the start of this thread and I hope the marriage goes great!

Aug-19-2004, 10:41pm
Yeah no kidding. Life has a funny way of working things out huh? Good luck to you two!

Aug-20-2004, 8:23am
Interesting story, are you folks playing bluegrass? I've been in two bands with husband-wife combinations. It is an intersting dynamic from the outside. Having couples in a band seems like a common occurance in bluegrass. My wife is no big fan of the music, nor does she sing or play an instrument.

Aug-20-2004, 8:58am
Get her in touch with an old time band...none of us can sing and no one expects it! Actually, if she just loves the music, perhaps encouraging her to play an instrument of some kind. You never know, she may have some potential there. I would love to sing, but know that I can only do back-up....wayyyy back, where the mic barely reaches, but I love playing the music and being part of the group. It all depends on whether you like her as a person or not. If you do, and let her get up in front of an audience sounding terrible and thinking that all of you think she's great, she is going to embarass herself and never forgive you.

Aug-20-2004, 10:56am
Personally, I would refuse to have anyone in my band who doesn't play an instrument, here's a few reasons why:

A: they usually want everyone to learn a song that they want to sing, regardless of difficulty, key, etc, not to mention they can't teach it to anyone because they don't know the chords or structure.

B: inexperienced singers who don't play instruments tend to be off key a lot because they don't have anyway to practice alone and keep a good tone. They think that singing to themselves in the shower or singing along with a recording is just as good as actually playing and singing at the same time.

c: they usually develop ego's far greater than everyone else in the band and believe it's all about them. Front men/women need to be really great if they expect a good group of pickers to back them up.

d: most lead singers hate standing around while the pickers play instrumentals which are especially crucial in bluegrass.

e: last, but not least, they skip lots of practices because they usually feel like they can just show up, sing their parts, and everything is great. They don't realize their voice is an instrument that needs to practice just as much as a mando/guitar/etc.

Just my 2 cents based on experiences with multiple bands and multiple people in my own band. You could potentially approach your situation from this standpoint and maybe convince the guitarist why she isn't cutting the mustard.

Aug-20-2004, 11:01am
My wife and I are in a stringband together and our lead singer/guitar and bass player are also married.

Aug-20-2004, 12:08pm
1st, maybe I am misreading things, but if you are a band, playing for money, how come nobody has recorded a gig and done a post mortem??? #If you do the professional thing and record a gig once in a while, for analysis purposes, you may find out the banjo player is the most musical! #But, knowing how EACH OF YOU performs is valuable information.

2.) Has anyone thought about getting her a Janet Jackson costume? #When the costume 'malfunctions', nobody will be listening to her anyway. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

jim simpson
Aug-20-2004, 9:28pm
I was approached by an older fellow recently at a gig where my band was ready to play. He asked me if we let guests join us on stage to sing a tune. I told him no, that we had a prepared show and were hired as such. He then gave me a cassette of himself and told me that If we played the gig next year, that we would want him to sing with us. I thanked him and said I would look forward to listening to it. Well on the long drive home I popped in the cassette and tried to contain myself. He sounded like Ralph Stanley on a bad day, he had no sense of timing and came in too early throughout the selections. I wouldn't have minded his singing quality so much if he could have at least sang in time with the backup band. I really think he is typical of a lot of folks that have no clue how bad they are (think American Hero tryouts). I don't mind some rough edges in any sort of roots/folk/bluegrass, etc. but there has to be a level of talent to be able to participate. Now if my band does this gig again, what will I tell the old fellow about his tape?

Mark Normand
Aug-21-2004, 7:46am
This is still a great topic. I am so jealous of you married couples that play together. You are miles ahead just for that reason alone. Nothing like having an instant band anytime you want to pick/play! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Aug-23-2004, 10:28pm
Every now and then our group plays shows for a local country music promoter (a real character himself, but that's another story), where we are expected to let people from the audience sing with us during our later sets. I haven't met anyone yet who can keep a beat or really sing in tune, drunk or sober, and there is always a bit of both. It happens after we have played a bit and established ourselves with the audience, so it doesn't hurt our reputation, and people like to see their friends on stage, no matter what they sound like. We always go away with a few new stories to tell. One guy really wanted to join the band, and didn't want to take no for an answer, offering the additional bonus that his "old lady played the accordion."

I would rather have a bad singer sit in than a harmonica player any day.

Aug-25-2004, 6:58pm
Bringing the wifey or girlfriend into the band is always a bad idea. "Relationships" have a long history of breaking up bands.
A Yoko-No-No. #That's what we call it. #Never works out.
Mama and the Papas, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny and Cher, the Beatles...Culture Club.

Dan Cole
Aug-25-2004, 7:49pm
Someone else needs to step up to the plate, loose the inhibition and be a better singer. I can sing, just don't like to. Too embarrassed I guess, should get over it.

Aug-28-2004, 6:24pm
I would rather have a bad singer sit in than a harmonica player any day.
Amen to that!!

Feb-14-2005, 9:07am
Another update for y'all. I almost feel stupid posting this but, what the hell. I found out that the main reason my wife (ex now) left was to have an affair with an old college boyfriend. When that failed, she came crying back. I tried to forgive her for the sake of my kids but couldn't do it so filed for divorce and made her move out (in September). Guess who picked up the slack on singing? Me and the banjo player! It forced us to work on three part harmony so now we sound better than ever. Plus, we just got an incredible fiddle player who also sings. Things have a funny way of working out. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Tom C
Feb-14-2005, 11:09am
Sorry to hear about the marriage. Glad to hear about the band. As an older gentleman said to me after a breakup..You get yourself a gold fish and a postitute and when the gold fish dies...you get another one

Feb-14-2005, 3:06pm
Things have a funny way of working out.
Man, my mom used to say that all the time!

Feb-14-2005, 4:30pm
Well, being Valentine's Day and all, I should add that I've been dating an amazing woman for a few months. She's a strong, incredibly loving, kind, and loyal woman. I couldn't ask for anything more especially since she really digs bluegrass and going to festivals. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Feb-14-2005, 4:50pm
WOW! What a story. Hope it continues good for you. But next time, just tell 'em they can't sing (or play or whatever). Not everybody can. Life isn't always fair but it is usually equitable.


To: Tom C

What's a 'postitute'?

Feb-14-2005, 4:54pm
Does she sing?

Feb-14-2005, 10:53pm
Maybe Tom C. meant "pastatute." That was Johnny Carson's punch line for a joke he once told, based on a true story, about a woman who was trading sex for spaghetti.

Feb-15-2005, 10:04am

Feb-15-2005, 11:52am
Bringing the wifey or girlfriend into the band is always a bad idea. #"Relationships" have a long history of breaking up bands.
A Yoko-No-No. #That's what we call it. #Never works out.
Mama and the Papas, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny and Cher, the Beatles...Culture Club.
The Greatful Dead. Wasn't the woman singer the wife of the drummer? I was never impressed with "what's her name" (see I forgot her name - maybe Donna).


Feb-15-2005, 12:11pm
Donna Godchaux was the wife of the keyboard player, Keith Godchaux. They were members of the Grateful Dead from '72 to '78 and though she had an impressive background as a backup singer in Muscle Shoals, Memphis and even Nashville she didn't really add much to the band. Sometimes she would make me cringe wondering what she's doing up there.


Feb-15-2005, 5:29pm
I say if you want to have your wife in the band start a family band! I started one 4 years ago when we had our first child... well, it's still in the development stages and we still have one banjo player to go but s/he should be here in a few years. Our guitar player is due in June. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif My 4yo and 2yo are both fiddle/mandolin players, they don't know it yet though.


Feb-15-2005, 6:48pm
My daughter has a fiddle and an electric guitar. Guess which one she favors? The electric guitar http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif . Nothing wrong with rocking out once in a while but I still have hopes that she'll become a great fiddler!

J. Mark Lane
Feb-16-2005, 6:03pm
I liked Donna Godcheaux and I thought that period was one of their best. Saw them live at the end of the 72 tour, with her, and it was maybe the best performance I ever saw them give. Tremendous.

As of the story of this thread...sheesh. Thanks for telling it. I'm now much happier about my own life.


Feb-16-2005, 6:10pm
One of my friends heard her sing (on a tape) and asked who was sleeping with her. No one that I know of. What should I do?
Maybe you should start sleeping with her? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Looks like you need to start looking for another band. This situation is a train wreck waiting to happen!

Feb-21-2005, 9:31am
glauber, You just made me laugh out loud. This place is hilarious !

Feb-21-2005, 12:49pm
They had a special on NBC last night about Saturday Night Live. One of the music groups that was playing and guess who it was, the Grateful Dead.

Was that Donna up front singing with them? Or did they have another female with them. This was around 75 or so.

She actually sounded pretty good with them.

But someone said something about a family band. I play guitar and mando now. My wife sings and plays piano and my son is wanting to learn the guitar. We are expecting the next boy in the next week or two. I guess it'll be a toss up between fiddle and banjer for him.

Yall pray that he'll like the fiddle. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

J. Mark Lane
Feb-21-2005, 4:43pm
That was almost certainly Donna Godcheaux. I don't know of any other female singers, and that's about the right time for her. Listen to "Europle '72" and you'll get a good sampling of her (and Keith). IMO, that's one of the best albums they ever released.

Feb-22-2005, 8:07am
I had that one for years and after moving around so many times I've lost it somewhere.

Feb-22-2005, 8:12am
Donna Godcheaux's vocals grated on my nerves (and ears). YMMV.

Mar-16-2005, 4:06pm
Donna G's vocals were okay in the studio. Couldn't sing fer squat live. Off key a lot and didn't know her limitations and would end up screaming (of course Bobby never knew his limitations on slide either and would occasional sink into what I could only describe as pterydactyl screaches when singing).

I also found Kieth's piano way to plinky plinky for me. Some of the mid-70s JG Band stuff with him on piano makes me cringe.

Mar-17-2005, 11:20am
This thread is like a an afternoon TV soap opera that you see about once a month.

Mar-18-2005, 1:24pm
Maybe a little alum in her coffee.

Mar-18-2005, 6:05pm
Yep, I'm glad some people got entertainment value out of my predicament. I can now look at it with some degree of humor. Thankfully I'm free of the woman (ex-wife) who created so much upheaval in my life. Now things have settled down quite nicely.

Peter Hackman
Mar-19-2005, 2:08am
Make her join the Board and read this thread.

Seriously, bringing this problem to public attention
is, to me, utterly unethical.

Mar-19-2005, 8:30am
Emabarrasment will do the trick. When she starts singin everyone stop playing the instruments and stare. It will make her feel just great. There is nothing like knowing that you are wrong. It makes it feel like you dont exist. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Mar-19-2005, 11:49am

Mar-21-2005, 1:08pm
Seriously, bringing this problem to public attention
is, to me, #utterly unethical.
Geeez, next yer gonna be tellin' us we can't post in our underwear, huh?

Mar-21-2005, 2:06pm
In the spirit of not letting this thead die, I'm reminded of an interview I saw of George Clooney about filming "Oh Brother Where Art Thou". He related that before they got Dan Tyminski to voice-over his singing, he went into the studio and actual tried to belt out Man of Constant Sorrow. He thought he doing really well and then started looking around the studio and noone would make eye contact. He finally figured out that his singing sucked. He did mention he was quite embarrassed to be a Clooney and not be able to sing.

Mar-21-2005, 2:13pm
A wooden stool with Whoopie cushion!

Mar-21-2005, 3:57pm
Donna G's vocals were okay in the studio. #Couldn't sing fer squat live. #Off key a lot and didn't know her limitations and would end up screaming (of course Bobby never knew his limitations on slide either and would occasional sink into what I could only describe as pterydactyl screaches when singing).

I also found Kieth's piano way to plinky plinky for me. #Some of the mid-70s JG Band stuff with him on piano makes me cringe.

I have the Dead's movies, and agree completely re: Godchaux. The Dead had weird taste in keyboard players, too. #Granted, Pigpen could only play R&B, but who cared? #Keith is less than wonderful most of the time, but occasionally had his moments. How they ever got Bruce Hornsby in is beyond me. #Technically proficient, but everything he plays sounds the same.

Ever hear about Linda Eastman and Wings? #She'd sing, but they'd shunt her mike out of the mix. #I've heard some tapes of her in front, the band in the background, and it is impossibly vile. #No sense of riddum or pitch.

Chip Booth
Mar-28-2005, 12:02pm
To the Donna discussion I must add that (although I haven't listened to Europe '72 in a long time and don't really remember her being on it) I never liked her either, but she was better in the studio. While '72 is a "live" album it is basically only the instruments that are live. Most of, if not all, the vocals were later overdubbed in the studio.

I have one rule about singers. No singers. No singers who don't play an instrument that is. With only one exception, if they are truly great musicians (even a singer can occasionally be a musician) and they must be beautiful, gender not specific http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif Wouldn't you know I play in a band now led by two women singers who are a bit on the frumpy side http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Apr-03-2005, 10:29pm
Try the "Robert Blake Method"