So you have been playing for a while. Locking yourself in the bedroom memorizing your scales and modes seems to have finally paid off. You feel that you are ready to conquer the world. The only thing stopping you is the fact that you don’t have a band. Of course you can go solo but it’s not “rock n roll” and not as exciting.
Being in a band is really fun but you need to put a lot of hard work into it. I guess your effort determines how successful the band is going to be. Finding a band is like fishing from a dating site. You want someone with similar taste, skills, attitude, etc.
The first step is to know what you want. It’s like going to a supermarket without a shopping list. Also it’s important that you have a goal, enough confidence and skills as they will sus you out as much as you would with them. Here are some tips in starting your own band.
Best if you can find someone you already know like a family, friend from school, neighbour, etc. as it will speed up the process of gelling. Gelling is when you put all your musical tastes, abilities and characters together and see if fits. The more you gel the better you sound.
If you don’t know anyone, put an ad in your local newspaper, local music shop, facebook or any social networking. Be honest. Mention your influences and what you want to achieve with this band. Will it be a covers, original or a mix band?
Naming the band
Think of the band as a product. You can’t sell anything in the market if it doesn’t have a name. Choosing the right name is critical and should be dealt with carefully as your chosen name can make or break you.
Practice, Jam, Watch
Practice as much as you can with the band. Make it enjoyable but focused as your rehearsal can just turn into a complete waste of time playing jokes or a chitchat session. Jam with other musicians as you will learn new tricks that you can later on use in your own band. Watch as many live bands as you can so you can gauge how your band is going plus it’s a great way to get inspired.
Writing your own songs
If your heart is set on doing covers then you can skip this section. There is nothing more rewarding than getting applauded playing your own songs. The road is like an endless highway but I guess that’s what makes it interesting, the journey to the unknown. There’s no money in it as the clubs generally wants a covers band to please their paying customers.
What I did with my band however was sneaked in a couple of originals here and there and sees the crowd’s reaction. This way I get paid, I get to develop my originals and develop my own sound in the process.
I know of bands who stuck to their guns doing their originals and now gained some followings doing front acts and playing at various festival events. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The first thing you will be asked when looking for a gig is a demo cd. In this day in age where a decent recording gear is so affordable, there’s no excuse anymore for not having a band demo let alone a decent one.
Other uses of recording
1. To gauge the progress of the band. Have we improved since our last rehearsal?
2. You can use it when developing a sound and get fresh ideas. I think I should use my wah pedal in the chorus.
3. An audio/visual diary you can look back in the future. Now son, this is how I met your mother… lol
From Garage to Stage
Playing in the comfort of your garage is so much different to when playing on stage. A lot of people have stage fright but it gets better the more you do it, trust me. The secret is practice. If you know your materials back to front then that’s three quarters of your worry gone and the rest will just follow.
Promote, promote, promote
Tell your family, your friends your neighbours, your teacher, everyone you can think off about your band. The more people know about your band the more chance of you scoring a gig. The thing is if your band sucks then everyone will know as well so you better get your stuff right first before you start promoting.
Never give up
You will be turned down, discouraged, laughed at (hmmm, not likely but still possible) along the way but you shouldn’t give up. Just like the saying goes it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. A musician’s life is about getting turned down and getting up.
Is this what you really want to do?
Goals do change with individuals circumstances. Musical and creative differences, egos, time constraints, etc. are one of the reasons band breakup. There will be some disagreement but that’s ok as long as you guys are willing to compromise. Remember this is their band too.
One of the biggest misconceptions of being in a band is that you can play whatever you want to play. I met this bass player in college and I remember him saying that he’s a bit disappointed that he couldn’t play the stuff that he wanted to play. Apparently the rest of the guys prefer to play something else and the singer is really picky and only likes to sing in a particular genre. “The band has a regular gig playing covers at this club and that’s the only reason why I’m still with them”, he said.
Don’t get put off however as every experience is different. I guess we all need to be a bit flexible sometime. Being in a band is like being in a relationship. It’s give and take.
Revisit your goal as a band to refocus. Is the band moving in the right direction? Are you still happy? Do you still have the fire in you? I hope you don’t end up like the bass player I mentioned earlier.
Music is the food of the soul and if you keep feeding it junk then eventually it’ll die. Always remind yourself why you took on music in the first place. There’s no point squeezing an orange when it’s all dried up. Be adventurous, explore all possibilities and grow with each experience. It’s not all about the money but the joy you get out of playing in front of an audience.