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How to be a successfull musical ensemble

Featuring 'Queen' and other artists

Gina Freeman

on 18 October 2012

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Transcript of How to be a successfull musical ensemble

Featuring Queen How to be a successful
musical ensemble The forming of Queen happened by chance. A small band based in Ealing, West London, called 'Smile', consisting of a drummer (Roger Taylor), a bassist (John Deacon) and a guitarist (Brian May) lost it's singer and a very close friend and supporter, a young music enthusiast from Zanzibar stepped in to have a go. The legend that is Freddie Mercury joined and together they all created Queen. Queen As far as I can see, how successful a band becomes comes down to 4 different major factors with a variety of sub elements within them . I am convinced that all four of these elements were used and embraced by Queen which is why they became one of the most successful bands of all time and despite the death of Freddie in 1991 the band still function as if he is still with them. They were the champions The First Factor : Teamwork and Respect One of the reason that Queen became so successful was the teamwork that they put into the band and the respect they had for each other.
Each band member had a different idea of how they should sound as a band. Brian May preferred a heavier, more guitar orientated sound, where as Freddie preferred lighter music and was convinced he was going to get the nation to be inspired by ballet. The fact that they all had different ideas didn't hinder them though, it helped them to create some of their greatest hits. Instead of letting differences get in the way, they embraced each others styles and made it work. An example of this is when they wrote 'Another One Bites The Dust'. This song came from the bassist John Deacon. He was a massive fan of funk and disco. Despite the fact that that era of music wasn't popular at the time and that wasn't exactly the direction they all wanted to go in the rest of the band threw themselves into it and the song became one the biggest hits to top the charts in American of all time. Communication comes in a few different forms, all as important as the other:

Communication between The band and the management team/record company,

One of the managers, John Reid, had a particularly good relationship with the band, sharing mutual ideas and eccentric personalities, not to mention that much like the lead singer himself he batted for the other side. From the very first moment they were open with each other and from then on they had a functioning and well grounded working relationship. In the video John Reid says the first time he sat down to dinner with Freddie he said to him 'Freddie, I want you to know I'm gay, I hope it doesn't make you uncomfortable' and Freddie simply replies with 'Darling, so am I!'. Second Factor:
Communication Communication between the individual band members.

The communication between the band members is one of the most essential factors to being a successful ensemble. Without this how is each individual supposed to know if they are doing things right or wrong? Or how are you supposed to know if the other band members are happy? You can't. Simple as.

During and American tour in 1974 Brian May became ill with Hepatitis. When he returned to the band after his long recovery he came back with a load of ideas and a lot of things he wanted to change in songs. During an interview in 1983 on BBC Radio One he was quoted saying "I did sort of get them to change a few things which I didn't feel were right and I also asked for a couple of things to be changed which they said “No You’re Wrong” and they were probably right".

They all understood the limitations of each other through
communication and they all made decisions together,
this kept them grounded and functioning happily. Communication between the band and
their audience/fans.

Queen had this fantastic ability to connect with their audience, mostly down to the power and the presence of Freddie. Rosie Horide, from disc magazine, who did Queen's very first review commented on Freddie's stage prescence saying "it was like nothing I had ever seen, he could turn his hand and raise it and the audience would stand up"

They also remained loyal to their fans. Most bands of that time would pack up and jet to LA to live after the first hit album, but they prided themselves on being a very British band, which went down well with the loyal fans. In the 80's Brian May started to notice that the audience
was starting to sing along. This led his thought process onto thinking about the other responses that the audiences could do, they couldn't really dance around much as the space in the concert and gig spaces was pretty tight and pretty cramped, but they could clap there hands and stomp their feet. Thus, 'We Will Rock You' was born. Even before Queen was formed Freddie was constantly following and helping out Smile, motivating them through the hard times and the financial problems. He would always be in the wings telling them it was a great show and pushing them to do better. Factor number 3:Motivation Determination pushed Queen through a lot of the hard financial and emotional times. Before switching managers to John Reid, Queen were barely making any money at all. They were all living in bedsits and living off other people's food. This is when they started to notice that someone in the management company had just bought a Rolls Royce of their money. Despite many set backs in the financial ares they pushed on through it, determined to make their way and evidently, it must have payed off.

Freddie Mercury had always been determined. Before he joined Queen he would say to all his friends, 'One day I will be a pop start'. After some emotional stress people started to think that he has given up on that dream, but one day in the pub he turned to his friends and said 'I'm not going to be a pop star, I am going to be a legend' and this was the attitude he maintained until it became reality. Factor 4: Determination Of course they aren't the only things that make a successful ensemble. The funk brothers were a group of the best Motown musicians from Detroit that were scouted out by Berry Gordy in 1959 from the jazz and Blues scene.

They were the grooving background to pretty much every Motown hit record ever.
These hits include: 'Baby Love' - The Supremes, 'My Girl' - The Temptations, 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' - Marvin Gaye, 'Aint No Mountain High Enough' - Diana Ross, 'Midnight Train To Georgia' - Gladys Knight and the Pips and many many more.

After all of these hits, they had played on more hit singles than The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Elvis and The Beatles combined which makes them the greatest hit machine of all time. The Funk Brothers The thing that made the Funk Brothers so successful was that they were so versatile. The 'Official' funk brothers, as listed in their documentary, consists of 13 members, but over they years there have been at least 40 different musicians switching in and out for different things.
The Official 13 are:
Richard 'Pistol' Allen - Drums
Jack Ashford - Tambourine, percussion, vibraphone, marimba
Bob Babbitt - Bass
Benny Benjamin - Drums
Eddie ' Bongo' Drew - Percussion
Johnny Griffifth - Keys
John Hunter - Piano + Initial band manager
James Jamerson - Bass
Uriel Jones - Drums
Joe Messena - Guitar
Earl Van Dyke - Piano
Robert While - Guitar
Eddie Willis - Guitar What made them successful Despite having many of the same instruments,
including 3 drummers, at the same time,
and 3 guitars at the same time, each individual bought a different style to the table.
This was a massive key to their success, this meant they could cater to every style of song.

For example, out of the 3 drummers, Richard ' Pistol' Allen was heavily influenced by the rock 'n' roll style, Uriel Jones specialized in Jazz and Benny Benjamin was famous for his particularly varied and dynamic playing style. Very much like Queen they bought something
new to the forum but instead of it being a person, it was a style of recording. Their trademark was to have doubled piano, bass and vibraphone. This trademark became popular and sought after in recordings. The difference between them and Queen though was their decision to happily be in the background. Queen wanted to change the world with their music. The Funk Brothers were in 'The Shadow Of Motown'. It was their choice to be the heartbeat of it all, and not have their names up in lights.
You can hardly say they were not successful, they were very very successful, just in a massively different way. Professionalism and accuracy were also key factors in
their success. Because they were such skilled musicians in Live Performance on recordings they were well sort after by many. Tom Petty, 'a long haired boy in a short haired world', Mike Campbell, Benment Tench, Ron Blair, Scott Therston and Steve Ferrone made up Tom Petty and The Heart breakers.
They were famous for the sounds of the south, the jangling guitars and the Rock 'n' Roll.

Origionally Tom was inspired by a film starring Elvis Presley called 'Follow Your Dream' and that is what he did and he is living the dream still today. Tom Petty and The Heart breakers Tom Petty and The Heart breakers should have failed from the word go. They weren't very good at communicating, they always argued, even over stupid things such as cereal, they were in and out of trouble financially, they played the law and fought against their management and record label, they had bad attitudes and then what success they did have caused strife in the group, yet they were one of the most popular bands to this day.
So how did they manage that exactly? Technically... Well... They were determined beyond belief. Tom worked day and night to secure financial security for the band, even declaring bankruptcy to get out of their contract to alter their situation.

All of the band members were passionate about what they did and they took the connection to their music very seriously. Other artist loved their passion and supported them in times of need. Bob Dylan rescued them out of a diabolical 2 year recording session to go on tour around the world. This saved them and when they went home they went into the studio and came out with an amazingly successful album.

They also made the dicision to make Tom the main focus of the band, despite this not being a unanimous decision at first, they all became aware of the positives outcomes of this decision and it gave them a definite direction. And finally, the amazing talent of all the individuals.

Each recording, song and live performance is brimming with talent. The suspense Tom creates with his music in live gigs is incredible and holds the audience in his grasp.
His unique vocals and the complimentary sounds of each and every component in the band propels them into a special and unique experience to behold. If you are to include all of the elements I discussed at the beginning then you get an all rounded, successful band with a direction and a legacy like Queen.
Even though The Funk Brothers were very very successful, they achieved it on versatility, skill and passion.
Tom Petty shouldn't have made it but her did, down to his talent, charisma and determination, although the odds were stacked against him for a very long time.
And the other types of ensembles I have mentioned succeed continuously, and have done for a lot longer than any other types of ensembles
All extremely successful, all in very different ways. Conclusion We can't forget about the other types of ensembles though, They work in very different ways.
Jazz orchestras, string groups, orchestra pits, soul bands and other similar groups use many of the same techniques.
Communication is still an obvious factor. Instead of a front man/ band leader they will generally have a conductor. Visual communication while performing is vital within these types of groups because they take all sorts of instructions from them, including dynamic alterations, different parts, when to come in and so on.

Communication with the audience is very different as well. Most classical ensembles will not have any communication with the audience what so ever except to receive applause at the end of songs/movements/jazz solos. Orchestra pits don't even get to look at their audience, like a session band they are supposed to be in the background and are supposed to add to the performance without being the main focus.
The songs they perform generally aren't written by them either, in the rehearsal process they won't need to discuss songs and write them between them, they will need to be accurate on already famous pieces. Jazz groups are slightly different because they will need to practice soloing where they will need to go over soloing techniques with others and be constructively criticized to improve.
They still need to motivation and the determination that all other musicians need. Although most of the people in these groups aren't dealing with screaming fans following their every move and the public eye seems to be a lot more distant, they still need the commitment to show up to every rehearsal, the dedication and motivation to study each song and the patience to deal with the process of putting all the pieces together. Teamwork and motivating each other is also a major factor. These types of groups are judged as a whole by the audience, if one person makes a mistake then its a mistake on a whole. As a team they need to motivate each other into getting up and carrying on, pulling each other through it, just as they would have done in Queen.

The respect for each other is the same throughout as well. For example in jazz the musicians must respect each other and let them all have their space and freedom to complete their solos how they want them without cutting them short or putting them off.

Although, in this music there isn't as much to discuss in terms of taking risks and exploring where to go next, this differs from in rock bands. In rock and pop bands they are all going with the changes and developing their styles in time with the world. These types of ensembles here do it very much as it always has been done, traditionally. Queen communicates with the audience,
Jazz bands communicate with each other and
an orchestra pit communicates with the conductor.
This all happens on stage, but off stage, they all communicate with each other to get the best of their situation and to be the best that they can be.
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