Death and Resurrection of a Band

Photo by Travis Hornung - Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

It seems that anyone who has ever been in a band has been through the experience of the end of a band.  Those endings can be a mutual good-natured parting, a dramatic collapse, or anywhere in between.  I’ve personally seen this process occur many more times than I care to remember.  I’ve both watched it happen and have been part of the cause of some of those more emotional endings. But what do you do when members dwindle off over a period of time? 

This was my situation not too long ago.  We had a four piece and gradually members began leaving for a variety of their own pressing reasons. Fortunately this was one of the good-natured break ups.  However this band was at a church and two services still needed to be covered.  Myself and the remaining singer were able to turn a bad situation into something better than we started with by using backing tracks.

I know – backing tracks are lame.  But an advantage we gained was a dramatic increase in available instrumentation.  This has given us a bigger sound and an ability to sculpt the sound to fit the style – something that a four piece would struggle to pull off.  Granted it’s a lot more work, but it’s been a great enjoyable learning experience – translation: It’s been a gas!

Armed with a laptop, a cheap interface obtained from Craigslist for $85, a good keyboard, bass, and guitars we’ve been able to pull off stuff I would have never tried with just drums, guitar, and bass.  A case in point would be Jennie Lee Riddle‘s Revelation Song made popular by Kari Jobe.  You’ve just got to have mysterious pads and big drums to pull that off.  Add stuff like electric guitar leads and an appropriately timed thunder-clap and all of a sudden you’ve got what I would call a real arrangement.

I started trying to put together two quality tracks each week, but that quickly fell off to one a week.  Even so after a relatively short period of time we have a library of 21 songs – and growing – to choose from.  Note that I’ll only use 3 backing tracks at the top of the service and wind down into more mellow songs on acoustic for the remainder.  Having the big full-blown orchestrations up front make a great contrast for the later stripped down, introspective songs later.  Tension and release – isn’t that one of the things that great music always employs?

The long and short of it is that although it’s been more work I’ve been able to continue to hone my recording/producing/mixing skills all while bringing the congregation some of the best that music has to offer – as opposed to trying to pull off something with less than adequate resources.

How’s that for turning lemons into lemonade?

Next up: How to quickly and successfully clear a room…

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