So, That's It? The Reasons Behind A Band's Break-Up

The downfall of a band, and how it happens. Make sure you have these 3 major things with your band: similar music tastes; you're having fun playing with you bandmates and someone who is playing better than you.

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You've got a band going with some of your good friends that you've known since you were little. Everyone in the band mutually agrees that it's going good and you couldn't possibly be having more fun writing and playing together. Your band has started soaring on a local level, played out a few times, and even gone to other cities and performed in front of audiences of thousands. There are people constantly asking for contact information, demo CDs, anything they can get their hands on concerning your band. Your band has put together a demo CD of about 5 songs, you're about to get yourself a record label and given airtime on a local radio station.

Then, you realize that it just isn't fun anymore. Maybe all the tedious hours you spent recording your demo has gotten to you. Maybe you've gotten tired of spending so much time with your band members that you were friends with that you can't stand them any longer. But you wouldn't want to just drop it and ruin everything for your other band mates now that they've come so far and are so close to attaining what they seek, would you?

I did.

I was in a band not too long ago with 3 other friends of mine, and that's exactly what happened to us. It wasn't my first band, but it was for everyone else. To understand how this all came about, you'd need a scenario of how we used our talents together in a band, and how we acted to each other in our everyday lives.

I was the lead guitar player and the backup singer. Everyone knew me to be the best guitarist they'd ever seen, the other guys in my band admitted to me several times that they were not as good of musicians as me and greatly respected me for my level of skill and knowledge of music. I appreciate most styles of music and am particularly influenced by bands like Metallica, SRV, Rush, and Van Halen, to name a few.

The drummer was only mediocre, and many also knew this. He wasn't good at varying his beats, and he scarcely did any impressive fills. Hell, my little brother could play drums better than him. All he was good at was keeping the beat. He was not very cultured as far as music goes, and therefore, his playing ability was also limited.

The bass player was a very quick learner, much like I was, and enjoyed the same styles of music as I did. We usually agreed on most things when we had discussions and seldom had any arguments when writing songs. Though he had been playing for the shortest time of the 4 of us, it was scary how much better he got every time we practiced.

Now for the final member: the lead singer. He was, by far, the most difficult to get along with. Not only did he not know very much about music theory, but also his singing voice was sub-par at best. He could have been much better if he had listened to the people that knew what they were doing when they offered him suggestions, but true to many bands' lead singer, his ego was growing ever larger (like it wasn't big enough to start with). He did play acoustic guitar and was extremely fond of John Mayer and other artists like him. I never cared much for John Mayer, myself. Because of the lead singer's seriously limited musical tastes, he only played about one kind of song that usually consisted of 4 chords or less and always in the only key he knew how to play in. Every time we would practice, he would constantly play the same damn C Major, G Major chord progression over and over until I wanted to kill myself (seriously, it was that bad!).

Now that you know our background, we can look into our downfall as a music group.

We had just returned from a show that we played in front of an audience of about 2500. It was a fun gig and afterwards, a man approached me and handed me a card for his radio station, saying that he wanted us on the air. I was only slightly shocked, though, because I knew we were a good band and we deserved to be on the radio. Our demo CD was finished and we planned to begin selling them as soon as we mailed the copyrights in to Washington

D.C.

Before this, we had several talks about where we wanted to go with our overall sound. We never achieved an actual result, however, and we continued to write progressively more boring and worse songs. I didn't want to put up with it! I considered myself a rocker and would not stoop to a level (or several levels) below me to play songs that I didn't enjoy playing. I grew more distant from my band, and began to come up with songs completely on my own (minus the lyrics).

Finally, I called a meeting with the 3 of them and I announced to them that I was leaving the band. I had talked about leaving earlier to the bass player and drummer, but not worked anything out. Whether the 2 of them told the lead singer beforehand what I was thinking, I'm not sure of, but when I told them collectively at our meeting, none of them had much to say except "Why?"

Indeed. Why would I take all of the money we were about to make, the friendships we had strengthened, and music we had written, and just flush it all down the crapper? I had several reasons for doing so, and hopefully, this will help those of you that may be in this situation, or have already experienced it and want to stray as far away as possible from your mistakes.

1. My musical ideas were not being used as much as I had hoped. More often than not, we were writing songs that the lead singer wanted to write. Songs that were usually slow, acoustic, and just outright boring. Not putting down acoustic music, though. I love to listen to great acoustic songs and solos, but the acoustic guitar playing I'm talking about is comprised of only a few chords and very little variety.

When I showed my new creations to the other band members, the bass player was the only one who supported my ideas. The drummer really didn't care and the lead singer was almost completely against it. Needless to say, they were rejected as a whole, once again.

There was a huge and obvious genre clash between the lead singer and I. He liked acoustic ballads. I like metal, blues, and funky jazz. Perhaps those can be combined without having to argue about how a new song should sound, but not in this band.

2. We began as a band that was set out to "make music and have fun." As we progressed, our goals changed to more of a "get things done, less time for fun" attitude. One of the original reasons I was in the band was to have fun, and now that it wasn't fun anymore, there wasn't much of a reason for staying.

3. I wanted to become a better musician. Sure, everybody does! I believe that there are many ways to accomplish this, but one that I have found to be true is to play with people that are better than you. (The other most effective and obvious way is to practice often and start slowly until you can increase speed without making mistakes) You won't get much better by playing with a couple of rookies that just started last Tuesday and want to be in a band because they know how to keep a steady rhythm for most of the time.

While the 3 of them used the argument that it was selfish of me to leave them when I was the one who could make or break the band, I insisted that it was time for me to move on and try to find some different people. At the time, I didn't care a great deal about how much it meant to them, because it was all about me! I was the hotshot guitarist that could blaze through these songs in my sleep!

I've come to understand now that I'm not the greatest thing ever since sliced bread. Whether I thought it or not, I was the one with the ego that needed to be humbled. That's what happened, too. I started listening to Steve Vai, Liquid Tension Experiment, and other progressive rock bands of that sort and it blew my mind how good they were! I couldn't believe how much they could do and how little I knew about music.

So, for a recap:

1. Make sure that when you get in a band, you have similar musical tastes. They don't all have to be the same, and it would make for a boring band if they were.

2. If you aren't having fun in your band, then there's no point in continuing. You're only torturing yourself. Unless you are someone that just started and is becoming frustrated with learning your instrument, you should find a band that you enjoy playing with.

3. Find some people that are better than you to play with. You don't want to end up with a mix of a Van Halen for a guitarist and a kid who just bought a $90 starter Squier guitar pack. You'll both become frustrated with each other and will ultimately result in the lack of passion for the band.

This is my first article ever for Ultimate Guitar. Send me some feedbac to jedi_chris17@hotmail.com.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Kick Me
    Weee, im the first one! Good article(I thought) . You sound kinda big-headed, though....
    numnuts
    kinda conceded, but i do agree with quitting when its not fun anymore
    Darkpsyde213
    You people spend too much time comparing yourselves to other more accomplished musicians/bands. That type of thing is best left to the critics. But even then the only opinions that matter are those of the fans and yourselves. If you like your music, it is only natural that other people will like your music. And if people like your music they will listen to it and attend your concert or buy your CD...maybe. Seek to continually improve your skills and music, then it will never matter who you are as good as or better than. Leave your own personal mark on music.
    Fiveball
    so...your band had different musical tastes, conflicts in writing, a crappy singer and a "mediocre" drummer...and u say people wanted to buy your cd and come to your shows??? It must have been really embarassing to play infront of 2500 people with such a crappy band. nothing will make a band suffer more than a bad drummer. Thats the driving force! if u knew your singer and drummer sucked, why did u even bother writing or recording with them??? U say u gave up "all the money you were gonna make"?? no u didn't. If your band sucks as bad as u describe, you weren't gonna be making squat. The entire article, i was dumbfounded about how egocentric u were. it sounds to me that YOU were the problem in the band. I know musicians like u, and they always get kicked out of my bands. U guys had a supposed "following", were playing infront of thousands of people, making cd's, and you have the GALL to complain? Fact is, if your band was doing as well as u said they were, u are a fool (either because u made music with guys who suck, or because u left an already successful band to go off and feed your ego. Well...it's your loss. There's a million other guitarists out there just as good or better than you (believe it or not) and i guarantee your band will find him and they will watch u from the top...on your way to the middle. PEACE!
    Fiveball
    oh, and Geldof the Grey, you make a fine point. The House of Blues houses a little over 2500 people probably. So with a crappy singer and mediocre drummer...they're play house of blues sized audiences. right. i'm not gonna call him a liar, cuz i dont know shit about him...but he is a fool...any way u look at it
    Fiveball
    oh, and for fatboy15, i've NEVER been at a point where i thought i was the next best thing. I think A LOT of people haven't thought that. i cant believe u think everyone has thought that way.I'm a good musician and have been in many awesome bands, and i've seen guys that i dont want to be...those guys that come to the bar acting like they are gods gift to music because their band played at that bar a couple times. I played that bar more than they did with 3 different bands, and i come in there with my friends and sit at the bar and order the same jack n coke(sometimes corona, haha) i always do. It's ok to drive yourself to be the best, but never sit there and think you are. Even when you've made it to the bigtime, keep a level, modest head...and peoople will think you are some sort of god...and want to, know more about u...and somehow, your popularity in the music world will grow EXPONENTIALLY. You see people like Fred Durst pissing people off with his huge ego cuz he thinks he has the baddest band in the world. Lets just say...he wont be around much longer as a musician. i guess i made my point. keep a level head
    UseYourBrain
    In many cases it is the lead guitarist with the ego problem. I have seen many bands brake up because of the guitarist. This is really a classic clash in bands. Van Halen is a good exanple of this. From what you wrote I doubted your singer had as much of an ego problem as you from the beginning because YOU thought you were the BEST guitar player ever and such. On the other hand if your lead singer was rejecting your ideas and not letting you be creative, you have a good reason to leave. I think your lead singer might have been jelous of you re playing ability also. It was really a good article except you re conclusion part after "So, for a recap" was really not important and if anything made it worse because it kinda hinted that you STILL need to be humbled.
    Fiveball
    Also, i got nothing out of this article, but a small migraine. If you would give people advice based on your experience...say dont join a band unless u are satisfied witht he level of talent and motivation your band has...and always always be open to communication and compromise (like frigginjerk said), cuz thats what keeps u guys making music. It's like having a girlfriend or boyfriend (without the sex...usually)
    Valhalla
    If your entire band sucked, then how did you get rather popular locally? thats what I thought, shut up idiot.
    MattyB
    way too long. Next time a similar article is written there should just be the major points and not a biography of the life of the author.
    Phalanx
    This article is only worth the last 3 points that you pointed out. You've obviously never returned to refute the arguments brought against you, so this brings my opinion of this all much lower than it already was.
    Mike1109
    Hey great article, you sound just like Guns N' Roses lol. Except everyone was extremely talented and got along except for Axl. It's great to read about a fellow-band struggling. Not great obviously but I can relate to it.
    Sloofus
    Not helpful but definately interesting. People love a good SOB story!
    GuitarGod610
    I'm the writer of this article. I didn't realize that I wasn't logged in at the time that I submitted it. I am Now returning to avenge myself for this monstrosity that I have to account for. When I said that my band played in front of 2500 people, I wasn't lieing. We played out several times in Wisconsin (that's where I'm from) during our existence. While I never really liked the lead singer's voice and he was told several times to learn how to sing better, and the drummer was not the greatest, we still made some decent music. During that time, I was convinced that everybody thought that I was the greatest thing ever, because that's what everyone in my band thought, so why wouldn't everyone else? That wasn't the case, though, because I was not the whole band, and just one person will never be a whole band. As much as they needed me, I still needed them, or I would be nothing. For my musical tastes, I started out listening to Rush, SRV, and Metallica. I gradually became more cultured and that's when I realized how much I sucked. I then started listening to artists like LTE, and Steve Vai IN ADDITION TO all the other bands that I began with. I'm sorry that it came off sounding like I was being egotistical, but I clearly explained that I was the one with the ego problem at the start and slowly that changed and then towards the end of my band's lifespan, I found out how much I had to learn. My attitude changed and even today I still know that I'm just not that good. I don't doubt that there are a million guitar players that can blow my ass out of the water.
    GuitarGod610
    I left my band because my music wasn't being used, but again, I did say that we had several talks about what we wanted to sound like. We attempted to compromise, but an agreement was never reached. We sort of, shoved that issue into a dark closet, hoping to never see it's ugly face again. Unfortunately, it was time that I said something, because I was at the end of my rope. All venues of communication were blocked with the lead singer. He simply did not listen. I guess you would have had to have known this particular person in order to know how it was, but I'm doing the best I can to tell you what it was like. The meetings we had just didn't do the job, and we never accomplished anything during the time that we sat around and talked about what we wanted to do. I agree that playing with people far better than you is a bad idea. I did not address this extreme in my article, and I'm sorry for leaving it out. As far as the musical tastes of the other band members, I didn't expect them to change their minds. That's just how things were and that's what things came to. I just found the wrong people, that's all. I apologize for this article being more of a few paragraphs of venting rather than this being a standard advice column. It made me feel better about leaving my band, because I thought I was doing it for the right reasons and this verified my reasons. Thank you for all your comments, and I'm sorry again for sounding like an arrogant bastard.
    musicmaniac2003
    who r the MOTHERFUCKERS who deleted my posts? You will soon meet ur death,for being so unfair and deleting for no reason. I had written so much!!!NICE ARTICLE ANYWAYZ.
    cannonball_900
    This post was nothin but a time waster...this is a guitar page...not biography and sympathy sharing...but neways...how could people like ur music if you had mediocre guys,eh?i dont believe..
    Jacksonjosh
    uh dude ive probably havent heard of you before or your band ever in my life so why would i give a shit about your life story?
    the fendernator
    oh thanks. i know your complete life story.but you didnt tell me what happened on 31st February did you? tell me im dying to know.id like to know every detail about you. oh wait you have already writeen it. beta bog off then
    SingingSabre
    So, why didn't you talk to them when you had problems? You could have talked to them before it escalated into the crisis of you leaving. Imagine if you had turned on the lead singer to new styles of music, the drummer to new beats and practice. There's a lot more proactive things (usually involving communication) you can do before you have to leave.
    SoapFragile
    Surely lead singers need to be at least a little bit big headed. It gives us that little edge onstage . Either that or mentally scarred or on drugs (check out how many famous singers are at least 1 of the 3).
    Kick The Cars
    I find it ironic that you complain about that singer's limited musical taste when you focus on 3 main genres and are not open to his acoustic style. Maybe the singer might have thought of YOU as having a big ego. I think that was selfish on your part and not exactly that smart either.
    Mr_Fooz
    i enjoyed it. good read. don't know if I benefited from it though
    Abe
    Hmm, thanks for your life story.....you sound bit big headed to be honest and the article didn't help me in any way.
    CK91
    yeah Abe, thats what I thought too. Although, I thought the part about not having the same musical tastes might be helpful somehow. And I thougth you just needed to release what's been on your mind and sounded like there is a bit of regret. Anyway, Good luck. And where U from?
    AlternRocker17
    the whole bit about being 'the best guitarist anyone has ever seen' is really big headed, even if you are you should never say it out loud like that. Maybe it wasnt them not conforming with your style but you not conforming with thiers i mean if three of them wanted to do one thing and you something else maybe it would say you were the one in the wrong band. Your not the only person in the band
    RandyFunk
    "Everyone knew me to be the best guitarist they'd ever seen, the other guys in my band admitted to me several times that they were not as good of musicians as me and greatly respected me for my level of skill and knowledge of music. " And you wonder why your band broke up?
    wAnNabE47
    I thought you were being totally big headed at the beginning when you were all like "Im the best" and then at the end you admitted you had a huge ego so you redeemed yourself. your advice is good for first time bands as almost anyone else whos already been in a band has come to some of the same conclusions and some that differ.
    garagerocker69
    a bit brag-y but good. more a stroy with lists than an article though. funny, i was jsut reading a comic this morning about a band breaking up
    one two many
    that article didnt really help much, cause most of the things that went wrong, it would be very hard to change them, like ppl arent gonna just change theyr musical taste just for the ske of someone else??? i dunno
    Geldof the Grey
    2,500? No band with a shit singer would play to that many people... If you're gonna lie, make it convincing! ie: I shagged impulce... lol
    fatboy15
    everybody who's saying 'you have an ego' needs to finish reading the article. he realized he wasn't the best, that he has alot more to learn, and compared to a lot of people out there, he doesn't know much at all. he had a big ego, he admits that could be a big reason why they broke up, and now he's less ego-ish. besides, less face it, we've all gone through a point where we think we're great, or the next big thing. i thought it was a good article. nice work
    Wizcid
    This article has next to nothing to do about what the title says. You should've called it: "My Sad Life As A Wanna-Be Rocker".
    metallivayne
    wow look at that...over there...whats that?....thats a big head!! its the biggest big head ive seen .. good bragging i mean article
    hvymetaldrummer
    you went from listening to "Metallica, SRV, Rush, and Van Halen" to "Steve Vai, Liquid Tension Experiment"... you sure have changed! 1 star
    Jessen
    I thought it was a great article! It kind of reminds me of my band, were having troubles, ( At a different stage though ), and our guitar player has an ego too. But ever since I introduced him to guys like Hendrix, Page, Vai, Satriani and SRV hes humbling. But i tottally agree with you, playing with people better than you helps alot. I used to be a metocur drummer, then I stareted playing with my lead guitar player, now I am easily one of the most talented of my band. ( Im not saying this didn't com without hours pf prac and hard work though). But, Great article man! One thing you didn't mention though, is communication, I think thats very important.
    frigginjerk
    it was a good read, but you ruined it in your conclusion. that's not the greatest advice you can give. of course you should deal with it if you're not having fun, that goes without saying. but if you try and play with people who are WAY better than you, then you will be in for some serious frustration. they will be frustrated with your comparatively limited knowledge, and you will be frustrated at not being able to keep up. i don't agree with all the people who are giving you bad ratings because they think you acted like a wanker (i think you did the right thing leaving the band). but that doesn't change the fact that you are just as guilty as your singer was. both of you were unwilling to compromise, and that was what your downfall was. lack of compromise. also, you talk about your drummer being really bad, and you said your singer's voice was mediocre at best." i'd like to know what kind of music scene offered you guys all that fame and fortune, considering you were a band with two so-so-talented members, boring acoustic songs, and internal unrest... i give the article 4 stars, because it was a good read, but you need to look at that experience from more than one perspective. if you don't learn to compromise, you are in for a lifetime of the same expereince. obviously THIS band was not working at all, but remember: COMPROMISE.
    Butterknife
    Good article. I like how you pointed out that lead singers have the biggest ego's ever. I really shouldn't say that, considering I play guitar and am the lead singer in a band. WHOOSH!
    Skugg
    awesome article and its so true that lead singers can be a pain the asscrapper. i 2 have just quit a band but we're no where near as succesful as you guys are
    Mike1109
    Well, after rereading your article I have come to the following assumptions. 1. You are probably a shittier musician than all of the others in your band. I'm betting you can barely play guitar and know very little theory. 2. Your band never played for 2,500. Bands that attract 2,500 people on their own usually make it. Besides if you have a mediocre singer then you definetly wouldn't get that many. There is a Metal show where I live of Local bands, theres like 5 or 6 each time and there's a few VERY good acts and the whole show only attracts 100-200 people each time. Don't bullshit, especially if its obvious.