Sunday, May 12, 2013

How to find the right musical collaborators and avoid time-wasters


The first step to achieving your goals in most musical projects is to find the right musicians for your project.  Putting an ensemble or band together and keeping it together can be very challenging and frustrating. Often musicians put time and effort into working with others, and then things do not work out, leaving them back at square one. Time spent working with other musicians is a big investment, so it is best to know exactly what and who you are looking for, and to communicate expectations ahead of time. Here are some pointers from veteran singer, musician and educator, Lori Joachim Fredrics that just might save you months or even years of wasted effort.


If your goal is to perform and not just spend enjoyable time jamming, have an agreed time frame and stick to it. When joining a band that is not gigging, have an agreed limit to the amount of time you will spend rehearsing with the group before starting to perform. Make sure everybody is on the same page.  An example of a firm but flexible time frame for a function band might be “lets agree to be showcasing in four to six weeks of weekly rehearsals, have paid gigs lined up in within three months, and be doing one to two paid gigs a week by six months".  If you determine that progress is going in such a way that you will not meet your time frame, give a warning that permits others to remedy the situation.  If the situation is not remedied to your satisfaction and according to the original agreement, cut your losses and leave as soon as possible.


It might sound obvious, but people really fail to do it.  The traditional audition shows you that people can really do what you need. You need to know what people actually can do. What they claim to be able to do or what you think they might be able to do if they improve is of no consequence to a person who wants to get their show on the road. Need a singer that can memorize songs? Have them come to an audition and sing from memory. Need a guitarist that can learn repertoire quickly and easily? Send them a song list a week before and see how he/she does in that time.  A person’s claims concerning a good memory or the ability to learn fast should earn them an audition, NOT a place in a band.  A formal audition also shows you that your singer/player does not have debilitating stage fright. Many people have ended up wasting huge amounts of time collaborating with singers and players only to find out that their anxieties prevent them from actually performing. If someone can ace a formal audition, chances are that they will be able to perform in public.


Several times writers/producers have brought singers to my voice studio because they saw something special in their talent, thought they were right for a project and thought that with nurturing and lessons, they could become big stars.  WRONG APPROACH. The desire to be a singer must come from the individual. No one is going to do the kind of work needed to become a singer to make YOUR dream come true.  In fact, your willingness to invest in their rudimentary natural but undeveloped skill will psychologically PREVENT them from rolling up their shirtsleeves and working. You will NEVER get the dedication and commitment from a person who has not decided to become a performer long ago and put in years of effort into perfecting their skills.  Don’t try to create a star.  Hold auditions and choose the person who already has the biggest head start to being the star you need. Just because Berry Gordy took teenagers off the streets and formed them into successful groups in the 1960s, when people lived at a slower pace, had a strong work ethic and a long attention span, does not mean it can work now. IT NEVER WORKS NOW.


Working with musicians that have a similar level of experience and present life circumstances is usually the best policy.  When a group of college kids with an original band have a married drummer with a day job, he will not be able to join them on the road if they get a chance to tour. A pro singer with touring experience should join a working band with gigs lined up or form one with musicians from the working circuit, not waste time with inexperienced wannabes. This seems obvious, but mistakes like these are made all the time. Aspiring bands often take a pro or semi-pro on board and, with the best intentions, give false indications of their timeline.  The inexperienced band assures the semi-pro bass player they will be ready to gig in a month, when realistically it would take them half a year. In a month the frustrated bass player quits.  He loses a month of time and so do they. They get a new bass player and have to start the process from square one! Everybody loses.

The warning signs

1.Drugs and alcohol

Playing music is not about taking massive amounts of drugs and alcohol, especially these days. Music can be an excuse for people with substance abuse issues to glamorize their pathology.

2.Claims of contacts in the business that will facilitate stardom

Every wannabe seems to have a relative or friend of the family onto whom they pin their dreams.  That is bullshit, unless the industry person: 1. Checks out to be someone important with a track record; 2. Personally communicates intentions to help the band and backs it up with action by actually doing something like getting the group gigs through contacts and investing money.

Think about it. Every influential person in the industry has several untalented and star struck distant relations and friends of the family that they have to dodge. If you ever meet an industry big wig, they will tell you all about it.

3.Unrealistic goals

As a singer and teacher, I can tell you that there exists an inverse relationship between professional experience and the loftiness of the professional goals of the singer and/or his or her parents.  The girl and the mother of the girl who fails to secure a place, even in the chorus of a “pay to sing production”  is convinced her daughter will be a superstar.

The young performer, who against huge odds, is cast in the chorus of a West End show while still in her teens is likely to have a modest and achievable goal of understudying a leading role and maybe one day having a principal role, no mention of becoming a “name” star and certainly not a superstar.

It is the bands that have never played a single gig that think they will be the next Rolling Stones.

Ambition is NOT a credential.

4.Narcissistic goals

When you hear talk of fame, riches, stardom, etc, that is a warning sign.  Look for those who talk about loving to create and play music, if that is what you want to do.

5.Lack of personal humility

When you hear “I am the best guitarist around,”  “my songs are great,” “everyone else sucks -- I am the only good player around,” you know you are dealing with someone with an ego problem. Secure and skilled musicians let their playing speak for itself.  They let OTHERS, complement them and they don’t report those compliments.  Musicians who are cream of the crop in their “scene” become known and word gets out. They have nothing to prove, and they don’t have to toot their own horn. Those who speak ill of others will speak ill of you when your back is turned. Associating with them is simply not worth it.

I will conclude an appeal to readers to be ethical in their dealing with others.  Eventually, those who make empty promises have to face up to the people to whom the promises are made.  Unreliable individuals who let others down become known in the “small world” of music, so be considerate and honor your commitments.

Treating others well, as well as taking care of you own needs, will lead to better musical experiences for everybody. Happy playing!


  1. Enjoyed reading this article. You brought up a lot of valid points. Thanks!