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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Musicological Methods question

Is there a convention about the order in which to list performers in, e.g., jazz performance? It looks like Corry's Garcia Band Personnel page goes 1) leader and then 2) others in alpha order by last name.

I have been all over the map with this, and the above method seems sound, but I thought I'd get a sense of whether and how this has been conventionalized.


  1. I had never noticed this, but no, it doesn't. My band membership lists go lead instruments/Keyboards/bass/drums.

    If there is a vocalist it goes top line if they are a true lead singer (eg Rod Stewart) and after guitars if they are more harmony singers (Donna). If there are true backup singers (not part of the band) or a horn section, particularly a guest horn section, they are listed last.

    It's a strange accident that the Garcia Band is alphabetical after Jerry. If you look at my Weir lists (if readers of this blog ever do) you'll see it works a different way.

    1. I should add that the organizing principle is more or less front-line to back-line When you see a band and the horns or backup singers are off to one side, then they belong at the bottom of the list; if you see a band and the singers are an integral part of the band, or the horns are a big part of the arrangements (eg Tower of Power), then they are front-line as well. It is certainly subjective, but it is from the point of view of seeing a band perform.

    2. Is this kind of subjectivity standard? I guess I prefer just alphabetical after the leader, unless there is a well established convention that it should be otherwise. In other words, is what you describe just a Corry thing, or does "everybody" do it this way?

    3. Well, it's a Corry thing for sure. However, it is based on a detailed philological analysis, namely reading the back cover of just about every rock album for sale at Rasputin's Records from Fall 1975 until the early 80s. The principle I subscribe to was by far the preferred means of describing a band on the back of an album: lead instruments, rhythm section, drums last, then "adjunct" members.

    4. Interesting. I have to decide whether to embrace your (the album cover) approach, which I don't love because I don't particularly like hierarchies, implement something else (leader first, then alphabetical seems very democratic, almost certainly artificially so, but whatevs), or just keep using my mixed strategy of whatever comes off my fingertips.

    5. fwiw, the convention with jazz discographies/sessionographies seems to be to list by "leader" name first, then by a standard order of instruments: horns, then rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drums, additional percussion). The back-of-the-album convention applies here, too. I agree that it certainly reinforces a questionable European value system about the hierarchy of what's most "important" in a musical group -- if you look on the back of R&B or disco or funk albums, it's not unusual to see the drummer listed higher up on the list, for example -- but as a peruser of jazz discographies I find it useful because I know exactly where to look if, for example, I want to know who played piano on a particular session.


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