What should I do if I’m in a situation where the other guitarist in my band and the drummer present a new riff and I think it fuck’n blows? It’s like a ton of random notes, not appealing sounding at all, and definitely not catchy or melodic, which is what we are going for. I tried to say I didn’t like it but they keep saying WE LIKE IT. Seriously it doesn’t even go with our music at all!
Caught in a Mosh
Dear Caught in a Mosh,
Inter-band politics and song writing is something you almost can never get away from. Music is art and art is expression. It’s not unreasonable for someone to get emotional about his or her music. No matter what type of band scenario you’re in, you’re probably going to have to deal with something like this. So don’t fear it. This kind of tension is what writing music is all about, and it’s from this tension great riffs, songs, and records have been made. Its not easy for most people and even some of the biggest and sickest bands go through this all the time.
The first thing you need to do is search yourself. Do you really not like the riff/song idea or is there something else going on? Being in a band can be like being in perpetual high school. There are all sorts of little inter-band dynamics that can cloud both your and your band members’ judgments. So make sure you are pure at heart, and not thinking from that place in your brain that is still pissed cause the other guitar player can play the solo to Crazy Train better than you.
Next, ask is there something I can change in a slight way to make this riff not only more smoken’, but also more me? I have noticed that when this problem usually occurs the dude who thinks the riff sucks, doesn’t like the fact that there is none of his own ideas in the riff. It can be rough justice to face, but sadly, often true. Maybe add some sort of harmony, maybe you don’t like the chord progression, or maybe the riff should be faster or slower. Chances are if you are all into the same bands and clear about what type of band you’re in, there should be a way to tweak it and make it better.
Ok, what if the riff/song idea in question really does suck. In that case, what do you do when you’re presented a riff that “blows?” It’s important to be tactful, respectful, and most of all clear as to what you think is not working. When you’re working in a group situation you have to be able to work with other people, so make sure you hone in on what doesn’t work for you. That way you can work as a team to make the idea grow, or explore other options. A common misconception is that you have to make all these decisions right away. It may not hit you right away what isn’t working, so don’t be afraid to take your time while you’re writing. This doesn’t mean never commit, it just means if you need some time to come up with the critical feedback that is going to help push the song, that’s ok. So maybe keep the riff in the song as a placeholder just remember not to let it sit there too long. Bands often times don’t like change because it involves more work.
Its important to remember a band is a team, a gang, and a collective of individual voices singing together. You need those band mates and they need you. Who knows how many bad riffs I would have pushed forward if it weren’t for my band mates. Work together and find a way to communicate with your fellow bros. No one wants to be in a band with people who are unhappy with the music they are playing. No one wants to be in a band where the members are afraid to say they don’t like something. No one wants to be in a band that isn’t honest and real to what it is. So keep your band honest, communicate clearly, and be willing to share the burden of song writing. I promise it will be worth it for everyone involved when you write that first kick as song.