Cover Band Soap Opera: The Art of Nonverbal Communication

When I’m playing a show with my rock cover band, and the music is at 115 decibals, it gets hard to communicate.  The lead singer and I can talk OK because we speak at close distances. But the bassist and I … well, that’s a different story. 25 feet separate us at any given show, so over the band’s three-year lifespan, the bassist and I have developed an intricate system of nonverbal communication. Below you will find a smattering of translations—most of them having to do with assessing blame when someone screws up.

Head nod: The song is wrapping up; prepare to end.

Elevated spinning hand: Keep it going; stretch it out.

Head motion toward guitar: Follow me on this musical stretch; pay attention to what I’m doing.

Hand horizontal to ground, motioning down: Slow down the tempo (or “play softer”)

Gritting teeth and making eye contact: Here comes the cool part; let’s break it down!

Tapping hand to own chest: I just screwed up; my fault.

Finger point to other person: You just screwed up; your fault.

Eyes wide, look of disbelief: I didn’t just screw up, dude—you screwed up.

Eyes wide, staring at other person
: WTF are you playing, bro?

Vigorous shoulder convulsion: I’m playing the correct &^%$! notes, bro. WTF are you playing?

Look of exasperation to the heavens: You have never once got this part right! It’s called practice!

Looking at ground, head shaking
: I can’t even think right now—I’m that frustrated. Please God, just let this song end.

Mimes typing on keyboard: I am putting out an ad on Craigslist to replace you! Just FYI…

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