Ensemble Technique and Band Etiquette Harry Pellegrin pellegrinlowend.com

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Ensemble Technique and Starting a Band (Part Seven)

Okay, today I got the following email from an unknown source. My friend Tommy Walsh at bronxmusicians (a dynamite site, by the by) had sent out a list of 'Gig Realities' which someone quickly responded to in humorous vein. Tom's original commments are numbered, the responses are in red. I'll make some additional comments myself. You see, even though humorous for the most part, there is much truth and wisdom presented.



1. When you are drunk, you just THINK you play like Eric Clapton. When in fact, you sound like Big Bird on a zither. When we stopped drinking on stage was when we got good & started making $$$!

2. Bands are still making the same money they did 25 years ago. Not really -- $1500 for a 30 minute opener for Charlie Daniels Band is an improvement!

3. People don't want to hear your 10 minute guitar/drum/bass solo no matter how good you think it is. TRUE

4. People will always say you are too loud and they are usually right. When we lowered our "stage" volume the band improved. Tell your drummer to hold back & the lead guitar(s) to turn down

5. Most people are not there to listen to the band. If you play dumps ,yeah. Don't take just ANY job. Better to play less for more.

6. You may think you're the opening act but you're really the sound check. Openers are NOT sound checks for headliners.A national head-liner does not use the same board as the opener.

7. Everyone wants to hear "Mustang Sally" no matter how many times you've played it in the past. True. Except it's "Johnny B. Goode"

8. Secretly you enjoy playing "Mustang Sally" cause it's easy to solo over. OK, I guess so...

9. A good way to send people to the restroom is to announce the next song is an original. Don't say it, play it. Originals are good if they are about girls,cars & the JOY of rock-n-roll If they're about YOU or why the man is keeping your band from making it..they're BORING!!

10. When you are hired to play an event what they really hired was the use of your PA. We don't play anywhere w/o a house system. There are plenty of them around.

11. At the end of the gig most folks couldn't tell you three songs you played the entire night. As long as you get paid and they had a good time who cares?

12. The more complex a song is the less people want to hear it. 100% True. Save the King Crimson for your basement

13. Most people don't even know the name of your band. See answer # 11

14. People will enjoy a bad band if they at least act like they are having a good time on stage.

15. Anything having to do with music takes a back seat when your first child is born, (band members without children will never understand this one). Yeah,but they grow up fast so enjoy and you can return. We did.

16. At some point someone will request "Freebird". It doesn't matter if you play a banjo in a Spanish band & wear a sombrero, it's going to happen. Last time, the guy yelled it from a tree.

17. "Girlfriends" with tambourines are annoying. No girlfriends in the band

18. Anyone with a tambourine is annoying, (this includes cowbells). Davy Jones does alright(better than alright, really)

19. The "Chicken Dance" & "Play that Funky Music White Boy" are staples at weddings. Live with it. One reason we don't play weddings...

20. If you play enough bars & beer joints, you will eventually get flashed ...by the ugliest woman in attendance.
TRUE & I've got the pix to prove it!!! Here's a hint: get the band to clean-up(look as good as possible) don't tune up on stage(get tuning locks) DON'T play RIFFS from songs the band DOESN'T do and Most Important someone needs to be the "star" and everyone else's job is to make him LOOK GOOD  deal with it It's called being a pro..if you're not the lead singer or lead guitarist you're not the star     When you upstage your star the whole band looks stupid Also : If you're over 35 and you're taking pix of the band 1)Shoot in B&W 2)Shoot the band from above, looking up 3) Anybody w/ bags under their eyes needs to where sunglasses 4) DON'T Stick your 40 yr old mug UP in the lenses for a close-up. Do yourself a favor!

What's the Pellegrin Slant on all this? Well, let's take a look at 'em one at a time.

Number One. Yes, one drink before a gig can settle the butterflies -- but it should stay at that: one drink. Alcohol reduces one's inhibitions, but it also spoils judgment and coordination. A plastered player is a non-player.

Number Two: Very few of us open for Charlie Daniels on a regular basis. With the growing number of DJ's and the percreption that 'canned' music is perfectly acceptable for a good party, musicians are having to work for less money than inflation would seem to indicate. Even so, a good party band with a decent following and a good reputation will pull the bigger bucks. Still, the money just doesn't seem to be out there any more.

Number Three: Amen. Long solos are everyone's signal to go out for a smoke or a leak or another drink. If you can't say it in twelve bars, it probably is overblown hyperbole anyway.

Number Four. Marshall stacks in a 100 capacity bar aside, if it's too loud, you're too old or the room is too small. Be sensible and see my article on stage volume and using it wisely.

Number Five: A typical bar or club has its regular patrons and chances are they are there every weekend and they didn't come to see you. However, look at these regular patrons as a chance to build your fan base. Play to them as if it is extremely important to you that they have a great time. If they do, you'll be playing there again -- and this time they might have come to see you!

Nunber Six: In a small local venue, if you are an opener, you are less than a sound check. In fact, your sound and lights will be distinctly under par when compared to the guys who the soundmen work for. Even some very insecure headliners on the international circuit will scuttle an opener's sound--especially if the crowd should happen to like them. I've seen it happen.

Number Seven: Certain songs are standards. Some have been overplayed, but everyone likes something familiar. The key is to either do the song so well that it sounds like the recording or change it up a bit so that you make it your own. If you take this second track, be absolutely certain you actually add something, not just butcher the tune for the sake of change.

Number Eight: Mustang Sally is a great tune for solos, but keep it to 'once through' -- no fifteen minute guitar breaks. Beside the boredom factor, unless you are an improvizatorial god, you'll use every stinkin' lick you know in one massive solo!

Number Nine: Originals? Make sure they don't suck -- and many times just because those three chords sound good together, it doesn't mean you've written the next BIC lighter anthem. And never announce them!

Number Ten: I don't quite get. Why would anyone need a sound system unless they want to hear music through it? If you play a place with a house system, make sure they don't take your total cut of the door for a 'rental'. Bastage club owners pull that kinda crap all the time.

Number Eleven: Amen. It doesn't matter one jot whether or not they remember your tunes, your solos or your name -- if the crowd leaves happy, you've accomplished the most important part of your mission. It's all about the music, man.

Number Twelve: Not always true. There was a band called 'Emily' back in the Bronx/Lower Westchester in the 1970's that did Yes, ELP and Moody Blues covers. They were rather popular, but I think they must've gone broke buying equipment!

Number Thirteen: Once again, see Eleven.

Number Fourteen: Always, ALWAYS look like you're having a good time and never cringe or make faces at clinkers. It is your visible countenance and attitude that lets most non-musicians 'know' how good you are. A confident looking band can 'sound' much better to Joe Public than a morose bunch of super-technicians.

Number Fifteen: I can't add more.

Number Sixteen: Yup. Stairway to Heaven too (thirty years ago.)

Number Seventeen: Girlfriends and wives have scuttled more bands than prison terms or drug abuse. It's called the Yoko Syndrome and while it might be a misnomer, the effect is all too real. My ex wife pushed me to quit a band and I left (see AIR RAID.) I shoulda stuck with the band!

Number Eighteen: Especially in the crowd!

Number Nineteen: Don't play weddings??? You're missing the big bucks (and REGULAR income...)

Number Twenty: He can't have the pics, I do! Overweight drunk women will be more than happy to flash the mamma bags at you. A friend of mine always yells "Please, please... cover 'em!" Hey, it's part of Rock 'n' Roll! Be happy it's the chics and not the guys! (and the tops and not the bottoms!!!)




  LOW END  By Harry George Pellegrin.  The first in the Gary Morrissey series of mysteries.  Dealing with modern subject matter in the classic style of the 1940's Mystery Noire masters--think Raymond Chandler in New York in the 1980's...  LOW END is the story of a drug addict who is murdered after he believes he has found evidence of a major government conspiracy.  Is it only drug-induced paranoia?  Might be, except his paranoia could be considered justified: he was murdered, after all.  Friend Gary Morrissey takes it upon himself to find out just what happened and lands himself in the crosshairs.
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Classic Guitar Method  Composed, written, transcribed, edited and arranged by Harry G. Pellegrin: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.
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DEEP END: The Wreck of the Eddie Fitz  By Harry George Pellegrin. A mystery novel. Involving a semi-professional musician and a Kreyol death cult, DEEP END takes the reader from the bottom of Long Island Sound to the steamy streets and Blues clubs of New Orleans. Alternative spirituality does battle with the common working man.  Published by PAB Entertainment Group in association with LULU.com.
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What's New? The New Album!

Hey, the new album is out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my olf album from the late 1980's.

Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track...


Available through www.BATHTUBMUSIC.com...

...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational -- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) Please visit the Relfecting Pools page on this site or www.bathrubmusic.com.

LOW END What's new with the book that came out over a year ago? After being on back-order at Amazon.com for what seemed like a century, it is my uinderstanding that copies are once again shipping. Barnes and Noble's website is once again stocking LOW END.

DEEP END, the exciting sequel, is being shopped by my literary agent even as we speak.

The Guitar Sessions:Weekly tech tips and exercises to help the guitarist improve. This feature has really taken off. Each week a new page is posted with either an exerices to get the left and right hands moving more efficiently and effectively or an interesting pice from the standard repertoire , demonstrating a necessary technical ability. Judging by the hits these pages receive, you guitar players love this feature!

The page is updated every Thursday. Visit the 2004 Archive as well!


My Mission, My Policy

In my opinion, the murder mystery genre reached its zenith in the 1930's and 1940's. The novels penned in those decades were taut, no nonsense stories of people in life and death crises, people who did not flinch when confronted with overwhelming odds or overwhelming emotion. Some of these tales could be hard-edged and hard-boiled, but the heroes invariably had a soft side as well.

I believe that over the years, in an attempt to mimic real life, the writers of murder mysteries--and most other literature, for that matter--have lowered the standards of excellence set by such authors as the gritty Raymond Chandler and the sophisticated Dorothy Sayers. Many authors misinterpret smut for romance and brutality for strength.

My novels aspire to the standards set by the 1940's mystery writers. My tales are as real and grimey as the mean streets that spawned them. Even so, and though they deal with modern issues, you will not find gratuitous sex in my characters' relationships. Sex may be alluded to, but it is never allowed out from behind closed doors. You will find that my books are entertaining to a broad audience--I have had positive comments from teens to grandmothers. One reader was surprised when I told him that there were no obscenities in the book he'd just finished. He hadn't missed them! A good story doesn't need such unnecessary 'embellishment.'

I have conducted book signings at churches, country clubs, libraries and even a street corner (don't ask!) and I've never been called to task for, or ashamed of, my work. Pick up a copy of my latest novel and see if it isn't a good read!

Harry Pellegrin


As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit www.makeNYNYagain.com and rebuild America!



About My Site:

This site is a way for me to commemorate and celebrate a life and lifestyle that is now extinct. Why extinct? Is it that Thomas Wolfe " You-can't-go-home-again " thing? Is it because life is so much different now that what we experienced in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's is no longer relevant? Yes. No. Yes and no? Definintely maybe ! Why do I always start these little essays with questions?

At first, the main thrust of this site was to promote my book. It is a worthy goal; the book tells a good tale and eveyone who has read it finds it entertaining and thought-provoking. With that sole goal, I went live with this site back in August of 2003. What happened next is what makes this site truly valuable.

There are people I grew up with, attended school and with whom I played in bands -- neighbors, friends, good family -- who I hadn't seen since I moved from the Bronx in 1986. Divorce had forced me into exile, time and distance conspired to seemingly turn this into a life sentence. Thank the muses for the internet! This site wasn't live for more than two months before I was reunited with Paul Silvestro , a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in seventeen years. His brother Larry , the guy who had turned me on to playing guitar and taught me the things about music that matter the most, now with him I had no contact since 1983. Twenty years! Too long. I felt as if a part of my soul had been restored -- a part that had been missing for ages and had long ago been written off. But more was to come.

Anthony Pernice, Art Clement , Mike Moretti -- all reunited to me.

The 1960's weren't good to a number of us -- many of us had our personal demons to exorcise, be it substance abuse or the insidious hedoniosm of the times. but through it all, we were isntilled with a vibe, cast in an artistic mold--call it what you will--but uinless these same environmental stimuli are exactly reproduced, there will never be another crop of people quite the same.

This page delves into what we experienced and how we incorporated these experiences into art, music, literature and life . I've paid tribute to my neighborhood, the Wakefiled section of the Bronx. The Discords -- Larry Silvestro and Artie Clemente's first band in the early mid-sixties-- they're here with their matching outfits, Fender, Hagstrom and Gretsch guitars plus those impeccably precise five part harmonies.

Of course, there is an homage to Leo Fender and his magnificent designs, the Telecaster © and the Stratocaster ©. I officially declare C.L. Fender an honorary Bronxite. Thse instruments have literally changed my life and the way we all hear music. Check out this page on my site.

Rory Gallagher , whom I saw play in 1973 and who has influenced me ever since--he has a page here as well. He has gone on now, but the impact he made is still rippling outwards, changing how we interpret the blues.

Untermeyer Park in Yonkers and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are included on this site. We were kids interested in a good ghost story and both these places were terrific for providing a few innocent and fun goosebumps.

...and of course, my book!

Please enjoy this site. Nose around. Anyone can find something here to read and get a chuckle.




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