Help! Our Singer Thinks He's Billy Joel! (He's Not)
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame. Dear Fan,
Without consulting the band our singer has gotten himself a keyboard and started playing it in practice. He's got almost no piano abilities and is winging it, one or two fingers at a time and has a hard time singing while he's playing. That is only part of the problem! The keyboard sounds like super shitty fake piano. He brought in a couple half-baked new songs and wastes a ton of time at our practice tinkering around and trying to figure it out. The songs are all ballads because he can only play and sing OK if he does it super slowly. Our band went from being fun to being horrible and he doesn't even notice because he thinks this keyboard is the best thing to ever happen to us and it is kind of ruining everything.
Why qualify it with "kind of"? It is ruining everything. There is nothing worse, musically, aside from maybe poorly played blues scales on an electric guitar run through a chorus pedal, than faux natural piano, which should be reserved exclusively for playing "Theme From St. Elsewhere" in hotel lobby bars.
First off, my condolences that this is happening to your band. Second, why haven't you staged a full-scale intervention? Are you all on the payroll? Are you married to Mr. Keyboard? Oh my god--is this your office band and he is your boss?! Those are the only excusable reasons for not bringing it up. You need to confront him as a band and present him with a list of options and they should be something like 1. He cannot bring the keyboard back to practice until he can capably sing and play at the same time 2. Band practice cannot succumb to his dicking around, he needs to discover the magic of his keyboard on his own time. My guess is he is going to get super defensive, but you and your band mates need to protect your time and sanity.
You might not be able to keep the keyboard out of the picture forever, but you might be able to suitably shame him from bringing it back to practice for at least a few months.
Good luck, Fan
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