[Callers] What to ask a band before the gig?

Dave Casserly david.j.casserly at gmail.com
Wed Feb 20 07:59:14 PST 2013

Hi Ron,

When I was first learning to call, Becky Hill suggested that, instead of
simply telling bands what kinds of tunes you want using the wide vocabulary
at your own disposal, ask bands what kinds of adjectives they'd find
useful.  As a musician, hearing that the caller wants a "marchy" or
"slinky" or "driving" tune set is very helpful, but hearing that they want
a "bubbly" tune is really not all that helpful.  Ask what language they'd
like to communicate in, and it can go much smoother.

I agree with Barb that simply sharing the dance card isn't the best
approach.  In dances where I play, apparently unlike Michael F.'s
experience, this is an extremely common practice.  But, in my view, it's
the caller's responsibility to decide how the dance should be.  Many dances
work well either with smooth, flowing reels, or bouncy jigs, and the mood
of the dance should be something the caller selects to fit in with the
evening's program.  That said, if the caller isn't giving me helpful
adjectives, I'll ask to see the cards, just so I can at least make sure we
won't be playing the bounciest set ever when there's a hey into a gypsy
meltdown, etc.

Also, I would echo other people's suggestions to find out which band member
you should be communicating with, and at the very least, what style of
music the band plays.  Getting a recording or two is even more helpful.
 You should know ahead of time not to ask an old-time band to play a polka,
and you should also know not to ask a band with no strings in it to play an
old-time tune.  It's a particular pet peeve of mine as a musician when a
caller asks for an old-time tune with every square dance, regardless of
who's in the band.  It might require actually looking at the moves and
figuring out what other music would work best with that particular dance,
but it's always going to be a better experience for the dancers if the band
plays music that they're good at playing.


On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 10:58 PM, Ron T Blechner <contraron at gmail.com>wrote:

> What sorts of questions do you ask bands prior to the dance, especially by
> e-mail / phone?
> A couple I like are:
> - Do they have particular music sets they like to play at certain times,
> like, to end the night, etc?
> - Especially if I haven't heard them before in person, what overall types
> of music do they enjoy playing the most?
> I'd love to hear your thoughts.
> Best,
> Ron T Blechner
> contradances.tumblr.com/ron
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David Casserly
(cell) 781 258-2761

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