A few weeks back I had an “OH NO!” moment playing mando at church. Usually I find out on Saturday what 2 songs we are doing for Sunday service, & usually I can figure out some kind of break for me to play in them. (Unrehearsed & unpracticed as a group until we actually play it) (I dont recommend that lol!). However this particular Sunday the banjo & 1 guitar were sick. So - last minute change of plans. There was 1 guitar left & me. I cant sing & play so it was up to the guitar guy. He chose the song “Because he lives” in key of G. I had never heard that song in my life & here we are going to play it for an audience. Yikes! Ok, I thought, ill just follow the guitar guy’s fretting, I’ll be alright… I’m kind of here now, so no turning back. Well that’s a nice plan till you realize he’s starting off with a break and your rookie self has no clue what chords to be playing during the break. Double yikes! So managed to muddle thru that with some kind of random sounding backup. Then realizing I was kind of always just a tad behind in chord changes since I was quite worked up & didnt know the song, I took to what I call “noodling” mixed in between chords. Not sure if that was a good plan or not but it mostly got me thru the song. Except for the awkward & fairly obvious part where I should have done a break but didnt, cue a double measure of chord & singer resume singing… by the time we finished the song I felt I could have made up a break but by then it was too late… So - what to do in these situations? like backing up a lead break to a song you’ve never heard before in front of live people when theres only 2 instruments? Also, Is it better to attempt a break (& possible train wreck) or just noodle along semi safely? Is noodling along thru a song a bad thing? I’m attaching a video that’s not really a video, it’s a live sound recording with a photo (of the sunrise in Canada) of the actual day this happened. The audio is low, sorry for that. (Cell phone in the pew) I think I can hear my playing improving as the song plays out. Maybe I’m being hopeful? Maybe I’m just paranoid… yes, I’m definitely paranoid…
Yalls thoughts & advice are appreciated, thanks!
I thought it came out good!
There are a couple suggestions I will make that might help you fine tune it a bit.
!. You don’t have to always play. There is no need to play on top of the singing…you can just throw things in between the words.
- Tremolo is a nice tool to use during breaks like the guitar player took…you can use it like an echo to each phrase he plays. It would pretty much be like what would be called “playing fours” (four beats / instrument) This also works for filling in between the vocals…
I guess you are really good to play an unknown song well! Sounds nice overall! One of my favorite songs. I have sung this in a church too long ago.
I only do that at a jam, and I either come out with something really cool, or (usually) just completely fail. At church, during the instrumentals I do some improv on electric guitar, but that’s completely different…
BTW I think it sounded good.
First, nice job on playing a song you’d never heard in front of an audience. A lot of folks wouldn’t have even tried.
Second, I think you did well enough that most people wouldn’t have known you didn’t know it.
I think you naturally fell into exactly what I would have done, which is make your chord changes 1 or 2 beats behind the change. Non-musicians rarely notice.
In the future, if you have time to chart the song out using the Nashville Number System before playing it, that might help.
Agreed, great job. Good advice above. Kind of building on the above advice, when I am in a similar situation, I stay out until I get an idea of the song. Worst case, I might not ever do much. Also, just me, but I’d likely say I want more time to prep. I personally am not comfy with not having a clue what I will do for a performance. All that said, I thought what you did was good, tasteful and very nice. Well done!
Thank you Dave!
I was kind of scared not to play cuz there were only 2 of us! Good to know that’s not entirely the case! I kind of thought playing over the singing was a taboo thing to do. But its also how I get an idea how to ‘figure out’ the song. Probably a bad habit I should work on… & Unfortunately with only him & I, it was pretty obvious . Will definitely experiment w the tremolos!
Thank you John!
Nope, I’m not really good, lol! This is my 1st string instrument - I’ve been playing almost 2.5 years now. Self taught, bad habits & all - I really need to go watch all the learning tracks at some point!!!
Thank you Harrison!
That’s exactly why I didnt take the break - was scared to totally blow it up, in church, in front of ppl! I do believe I could do it now tho, knowing how it goes.
Thank you Mark! @Mark_Rocka
I felt compelled to just go & do it - for me I think it’d have been alot worse to show up w an instrument & then not play it, that’s just me though! At least 1 of us knew the song - but if neither one of us knew it, (aka song request) no way! You are correct, they (church ppl) did not realize I didnt know the song till guitar guy mentioned it afterwards. (Made my day lol). I frequently find myself as you mentioned 1 or 2 beats behind the chord changes of slower songs, at least it dont seem as obvious chopping… thankful to hear non musicians dont usually notice! I regularly do the NNS watching guitar pickers hands when they’re capoed, it does help alot, though I’m shaky on the 2,3,6…
Thank you Mike!
Yeah, ideally it’d be great to have more time to prep for a song! Usually I have at least a day. plus this was a last minute change due to ppl being sick. We were supposed to do Easter Bros I didnt leave like I came & also Rank Stranger - (which I had worked out small breaks to both.) Definitely wasnt comfy w not having a clue what to do/where to go with it. The good thing is there wasnt any time to worry much …
Great job @Simone well done for having the courage to give it a go.
Simone, I think it is great achievement for 2.5 years or less! I can’t play guitar without music and practice.
Thank you @Archie! Glad you liked it !
Thank you again John!! Thinking back over what feels like the fastest < 2.5 years I remember how awkward just holding the instrument was in the beginning… and trying to get just 1 or 2 clean notes to sound without thudding them out with fat fingers, feels like I’ve come a long way since then but also not really cuz theres so much more stuff to learn & improve & that’s what’s so awesome about music !
Simone, the learning thing never ends unless you want it to.
I’ve been playing & performing diffferent types of music for over 40 years and feel I could fit wha ti know about music in a thimble…
Ok, so tonight I had an almost identical situation (voluntarily though) I brought my mandolin to a home group (housechurch) and joined the worship band, which was a guitar, a cello (1/2 size played by a very talented 12 year old), and my mandolin. I was unfamiliar with most of the tunes, so I mostly strummed along and followed the guitarist’s hands (I’ve gotten good at that) and I also pick up chord progressions pretty fast. On a couple of the songs I did some single note fills or chord walks, but that was mostly taken care of by the cello
@Dragonslayer thats Awesome! Anyone happen to catch vid or sound on any of it? Be great to hear it! I’ve gotten good at following guitarists hands as well, I get thrown off a lil on the 2,3,6’s though (as opposed to 1, 4,5) but with time hopefully I’ll improve. Got into another musical situation last sunday though… last minute thing again ! I’m actually trying to upload the sound clip with photos to YouTube now and it’s going painstakingly slow. Will post if its successful. Happy to hear u get chrd prog. pretty fast, I need to work on that!
No, no video. 2 3 and 6 chords also are tough for me, and they took a couple times for me to figure out, and also the guitarist kept changing from a Bm bar chord to the G bar chord, which confused me a couple times