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Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette and Bandstand Decorum

July 2014

July 2014
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Dear Mr. P.C.:

I hate my playing almost all the time. What's worse is I don't seem to hate it any less even though I'm getting better. At least I think I'm getting better, when I'm not busy hating my playing. Is there something wrong with me?

—Having Absolutely Terrible Esteem


Dear HATE:

Instead of getting lost in self-loathing, try to focus on the times when you don't hate your playing. What makes those moments different? Do you really sound better, or is it just a matter of perspective? If it's just perspective, maybe you don't have better moments at all. Probably not.

With that in mind, getting back to your question: No, there's nothing wrong with you; just a lot of things wrong with your playing.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I'm a bassist with a problem. When I play with a drummer who is dragging, what exactly am I supposed to do?

—Drummer's Running AGround


Dear DRAG:

Common sense: It's always easier to push a slow-moving object than to pull it, especially when it's a stubborn, heavy load. In order to push your drummer, you'll first need to get behind him. That means playing slower than him; even more so as he drags harder to compensate.

Once you're behind him, give him a good nudge. He'll spring ahead and you can rush to meet him, propelling the tune forward before you slow down to get behind him for the next push. And so you'll proceed through the tune, perhaps jerkily, but buoyed by those fleeting moments between the rushing and dragging when time gloriously stands still.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

Have you ever noticed that the musicians who wear earplugs on stage play the loudest? Like drummers, or guitarists with big amps. They protect their own ears, but the rest of the band winds up with hearing loss. Is that actually okay?

—Damned Earplugs Are F***ed


Dear DEAF:

Do they wear earplugs to protect their ears from the volume, or do they play loudly so they can hear themselves through their earplugs? The answer is both, and once the earplugs are in, the die is cast; they'll never come out.

The only solution is for the rest of the band to wear earplugs as well. They'll immediately play louder to hear themselves better, and the overall sound will be balanced again, albeit at a screaming volume.

At that point the only people facing hearing loss will be the audience members, and it's the perfect opportunity for bundled merchandise: Free earplugs with every CD purchased! It will boost your sales—you've got a captive, even desperate, audience—and give them the protection they need.

Best of all, they can recreate the full concert experience at home—all they have to do is put in the plugs and yell at each another as they ignore your music blasting out of their stereo.
Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.

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