Thoughts about the style
The other day I wrote about the length of a song if you are going to do guest appearance with a house-band – today I’ll write some thoughts considering the style … Should it be country, rock, jazz or classical? Fortunately, there are no definitive answers. Basically, it is only your good taste that determines the type of song you should choose.
The style in combination with the type of band
You will never get a four-piece band to sound like either a symphony orchestra or big band – just like you will never get a four-piece live band to sound exactly like a programmed Lady Gaga production. At least not if you only have little rehearsal time. It’s another story if you have budget and time … then almost everything is possible, with sequencers and stuff, but with a tight schedule and budget you have to consider things thoroughly.
A super Big Band track that you think is cool to sing, can often be rearranged so that the development, intensity and energy is conserved. Themes previously played by a huge sax group, may also work as a simple vibraphone, guitar or piano line. If the musicians aren’t stuck to lots of pre-defined roles, and instead can contribute with personal things, you will often get a great result and get more energy across from the stage.
I rearranged some of my material from my Funky Flavas album when I did a guest appearance with a big band. And it is also possible to boil a big band arrangement down to fit a jazz quartet – but it might be more difficult to get a 4 piece combo to sound and work as a giant classical orchestra. This will often end more like a piano version with some add-on’s. It can work … as long as you don’t expect a giant symphony version.
A well-programmed song, as we may know it from the radio, can often also work fine live – if the whole result isn’t defined by the exact sound of a drum machine or a specific synth sample. A good example of well working examples could be from Michael Jackson’s catalog … They will not sound exactly like the recorded tracks, but the songs always have some great groovy drum parts and a recognizable bass line that will keep the groove going and have lots energy.
It’s great with such recognizable elements and a relative simple construction. You can try and see if the song works well just with an acoustic guitar … if that’s the case you’re probably on the right track … this make me think of an unplugged version Chris Cornell did of “Billy Jean” years ago – an awesome makeover … it doesn’t have to be that drastic, this was just meant as an example of how a good song works almost no matter how you arrange it and with a small line-up.
Hope this will inspire you and make you reconsider what songs you can sing and play in different constellations. Next time I’ll write about the tempo … yes that’s important too.
All the very best