Ensemble Advice

I thought I’d come here because people have really good advice on this forum when I need it.

So this Friday we are performing an ensemble at a dinner to raise money for the squadron, and we are playing a few different songs on mainly guitar instruments. Squadron ensemble by the way.

I will be playing on both guitar and bass but switching over.

One of the songs which we have been practicing over the past 3 weeks or so was Seven Nation Army. It’s not a difficult song, any beginner can play it. I am playing the bass line on the bass. However, the issue I have is with one of the guitarists. I’ve known that he has not read any tabs or sheet music of the song to practice from and sort of plays “by ear.” He is very new to guitar and he plays trumpet in marching band where some others have had issues with too but that’s not my say.

While we have been practicing SNA (Seven Nation Army) he has been constantly playing in the incorrect key or constantly changing keys which are none of the original key. I have heard different version of the song in different keys but the singers and bass have adjusted to the key change, our ensemble however has not. So I am on bass playing the correct key and he is on electric guitar playing the bass line in the wrong key(s).

I and one other person have given him chords to learn which he has not learned and have told him that before he buys expensive equipment and rushes into tricky songs he needs to learn to play properly, which he doesn’t.

So of course with all this I am pretty frustrated so 2 weeks ago I offered to send over the correct tabs of the song. Last week I asked if he looked at it he said that he did but it’s too difficult for him. I then told him that I can show him how it’s played so he can copy me and he said that it’s different because I’m playing on 4 strings and he’s playing on 6, therefore they’re completely different notes.

Unless he tuned his differently which I don’t think so, both bass and electric guitars have the same tuning and notes just at different octaves.

At that point I kind of gave up trying to support him because we had to play that song. But this time, the Sqn Ldr in charge of the sqn ensemble was recording it and it was posted onto our cadet facebook page. Throughout the recording I genuinely wanted to cry. I was even contacted by 2 of my friends on the sqn (one who isn’t even musical) and asked what that disaster was. My mum even saw it (not musical) and said it sounded like a funeral song and that I should talk to the sqn ldr and explain that this one song could potentially ruin the whole performance. Bear in mind we’re raising money for our squadron too. The only issue is, the sqn ldr is that cadets’ grandmother, and if I am going to talk to her, I don’t want her to support him with the non-verbal reason that he is her grandson. He is doing well in other songs, but this one will not end well.

If this is confusing to read just let me know but I have mentioned that I will go speak to the sqn ldr in person with someone so that I have a witness in case I get a telling off or something. I am going to be as nice as possible about it but I feel like I need to be honest. If she does not listen to what I have to say or she is not happy with what I say I’ve also decided that I will go to my OC and explain the situation and that if no one will attempt to make adjustments to what I have said then I will be pulling out last minute.

It is something I really do not want to do. I love cadets and want to do anything I can to support my squadron but I cannot mentally handle the embarrassment if it does go downhill. I also suffer with autism and I cannot handle my emotions very well so if the performance does go badly it will most likely affect me for a few weeks, like things have done before.

Also to mention, I am a Sgt and my oc is a flt lt and in this situation I do not want to mention anything about rank. Even if I were a cadet I would still be doing this in support of my sqn and my peers.

I think the best approach to this situation would be to bring up your concerns with the Sqn Ldr.
Explain what the concern is, as well as what you’ve already attempted and offered to help the cadet in question.

Also, if SNA is the only issue in your set list, it may not be worth withdrawing yourself completely from the ensemble just for that piece. As a fellow musician, I can understand your frustration, and I hope it all works out in the end. :slight_smile:

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Firstly, sounds like a great idea to raise funds for the sqn. If you can, maybe help the cadet and advise them instead of throwing them in the deep end a bit - no criticism there just you said you play guitar too so would be able to help there. As @JPG mentioned speak to the sqn ldr, they should be able to realise it may sound a bit off if everyone else can. Good luck for the event :slightly_smiling_face:

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Could you not just suggest cutting that song from the set list? As a guitarist thats played as both ad a session guitarist and numerous live performances, sometimes songs just dont work and get the cut.

If at the end of day the song proceeds and it doesnt go well. It will be obvious the guitar is out of key and wont reflect on the rest of the ensemble.

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Bravo for doing something different in many people’s eyes - especially as it is obvious that it isn something that you enjoy.

How about going back to basics… if it’s JUST this song that’s causing the problem - be honest with the group, say you’re worried about it - and want to pull it.

If needed, play back the video to them - so one really wants to embarrass themselves needlessly.

As for the cadet that hasn’t practiced or learned how to play the song correctly - be polite, but be firm - point out that they have left it too late to practice it, so you’re pulling the song - frankly, you’ve all obviously put in a lot of practice to get this far - so be firm, but fair and explain that his lack of preparation means you can’t perform as a group.

Now take away the whole idea that this is abojt music - let’s say it’s your DofE… this cadet has barely done any of the training, has inappropriate kit and a poor attitude towards teamwork… what would you do?

You’ve repeatedly tried to help them, for whatever reason, they haven’t taken you up on your offer of help and support.

The bigger problem is that you’re worried what others will think of you - more importantly, you’re worried about what the Sqn Ldr will think - all parents and grandparents know what their kids are like - if asked, politely explain that you made repeated offers to help etc, but that they had still not upheld their end of the bargain…

Good luck with the performance!

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