For the past year, I’ve been pursuing my long-time desire to put a band together. Finally.
Finally I say because this project has been kicking around in my brain for about 10 years now: A band to play my original compositions. The pieces are all in place and now the fun begins!...Right?
As I go through this process, I come across these wonderful – yet uncomfortable – situations that expose the most vulnerable aspects of my musicianship. Some are frustrating and some are humorous, but all are fixable with the right attitude and the motivation to make it happen.
Seven Helpful Tips to Forming a Band… lessons learned
Just like an athlete training for a high-profile sporting event, you need to step up your game with regards to your playing. This means refining your performance by smoothing out all of the rough edges possibly caused by busy schedules, unbalanced practice routines, and/or inconsistent practice sessions.
Whatever the cause, it’s time to bring your “A” game, put your nose to the grindstone, give it some elbow grease and other fun colloquialisms. This increased time with your instrument can only arm you with the tools to make your musical vision a reality.
Recording yourself is a fantastic way of gaining some perspective on many aspects of your performance and interpretation. This also provides a way for you to collect feedback from others (if that kind of thing matters to you...).
Practice is related to everything we do (and don’t do) as musicians.
2. Learn your music
I know that may sound a little funny, but I can’t stress how important it is to really know your tunes. It can get a bit frustrating and even a little embarrassing when asked about aspects of a tune that you’re unfamiliar with – especially if you wrote it!
But wait! This goes beyond just “knowing” your music – the notes, key, chords, rhythm, blah, blah, blah. I’m referring to getting inside the song and figuring out how YOU are going to make YOUR statement of YOUR song unique and musical. This means practicing all of the nuances that make listening to a great guitar performance inspiring.
This attention to detail will you help you better understand the musical context for the song. What kind of style is it interpreted to be? How fast? Who will/can play it?
3. Pick your group
The right chemistry of not only personalities but abilities and musical style is crucial to the formation of a successful band – a band that successfully makes good music.
This was a big stumbling block for me. I desperately wanted to start a group – but where do I start? Granted – I work at a music school so the question of where to find musicians wasn’t so much the problem as who is going to be the right fit.
Originally, the musicians I chose to join me were some of the best guys around. I mean, these guys are monsters on their instruments! Intimidating at first I must admit. Unfortunately, for all of the skill in the hands of these fine musicians – I had the wrong concept for these songs. It wasn’t working for me musically – super disappointing.
I remedied this with a lot of listening. Listening to players that inspire me is what helped me develop the final vision of what I want to create.
After a bit of searching (and a lot of Indian food), I finally settled on a group that has the same/similar musical tastes as myself. This made a big difference.
4. Dial-in your sound
Make sure you have the equipment to support your sound. Luckily, this is the other aspect that I’ve been concentrating on for the past year or so. Check some of this adventure in my previous post on customizing your guitar.
I made sure to get my guitars set-up and modified spent a small fortune in stompboxes, cables, amps, and other fun guitar/recording gadgets and doohickeys .
After the dust settles and the tears are dried with your credit card statements, you need to learn how to use your equipment. This means focusing on the sounds your going to use for each song.
Of course, don't just sit there and read the manuals and play rockstar in your bedroom. Get with your bandmates and start to figure out what works in the context of the musical environment that you're creating.
This step is going to be different for everybody. It'll depend on what your plans are.
5. Have a plan
Recording? Performing? Both?
Approaching your musical project with an idea of what you want to achieve is an important step to achieving your goal. Whether deciding to put together a band for live performance only, recording an album, or whatever else floats your boat, begin researching the information you’ll need to organize these experiences.
If your goal is to record an album (like me), than begin the research into the recording process and become familiar with what you will need to do to make it happen (studios vs. home, copyright, etc.). If live performance is your goal, begin to look into the places around your hometown, across the country, or even the world that would be a good fit for your brand of entertainment.
Whatever your end goal, there is no time like the present to begin preparing.
6. Keep rehearsals positive
A group of highly creative people in one place can be magical or a complete train wreck. The one ingredient that can spoil the whole experience is a negative attitude.
It’s easy to get a chip on your shoulder when it comes to your own compositions. Try to keep an open mind. Everyone in the band is trying to play something they like. Allowing for input into the process of refining a composition is a terrific way of helping your bandmates feel more personally invested in the music rather than just another hired hand.
7. Keep the momentum
Rehearsal schedule. Once the rehearsals get underway – discuss a rehearsal schedule. Try to avoid taking too much time between rehearsals. Email chains and group text messages keep things real simple.
Additionally, keep your band informed of how close they are to achieving your ultimate goal. Confidence and motivation will help to translate into a satisfying musical experience.
Got any interesting advice or sage wisdom from your personal experiences with bands? Feel free to comment below!