Welcome to the next fury inducing or happily recieved article. This will most likely be my last column on the common mistakes of people this will either evoke cheers or sighs, I'm hoping for sighs. I've decided to not add any tips or suggestions on what you should have has equipment or amp levels because I say experiment.
Find what works for you, don't limit yourself to sounding generic. Look at most death metal bands most sound very similar and the vocals are usually unintelligible. Opeth has Progressive music and acoustic sections of songs thus separating themselves from the pack. They did this by doing their own thing, not what everyone else is doing. Of course you shouldn't book shows at the local metal/hardcore venue if your band sounds like Good Charlotte no matter how spiky your guitarist's hair is.
Common Mistake #5 - I can play "insert band here" perfectly!
Audition for guitarist: "okay just play what you want." "okay, [starts playing And Justice For All]" "No something of your own" "Um...[thinks hard] well I can play any Metallica song including the solos perfectly" "No can you play original stuff?" "Hm [starts to play Back In Black] I've never had to" "Can you write a song?" "No...but I can play Stairway To Heaven just like the recording"
Been on either side of this convo? If it does you have had an encounter with the dreaded Copycat guitarist. The kid who spends his/her entire summer vacation learning to play entire albums and not writing any material of his/her own. This guitarist is a band's worst nightmare because he would rather sit in a corner and strum "The Drapery Falls"'s acoustic section than play your band's new song. Or worse yet not come up with even an original riff in a month.
The copycat guitarist is a close relative to the Add guitarist. The guy who will screw off all practice or god forbid stop in the middle of a song. Both guitarists can kill a band or even a friendly jam session. Learning a few covers is fun and helps save a gig if your band is limping. For example if your playing to a bunch of college kids pick covers that will go over well like Pavement's Summer Babe, or if you're feeling adventurous Sonic Youth's Teenage Riot (only if you have the properly tuned guitar of course).
There are always exceptions, but generally if your band is dying onstage pick a song that most people at the concert know and then try to save some dignity. If you play Isis's "Weight" to a bunch of high school students don't expect them to recognize it. Also if you play a Metal crowd don't break out an Sublime song, you're liable to get you ass kicked or given plenty of trouble as you pack your gear up. Only learn a few covers if you learn too many you run the risk of subconsciously copying riffs. A very good way to land you in court by the way.
Common Mistake #6 - I only listen to [insert genre of music]. Limiting your musical tastes is one of the worst things you can do for your playing. Whether you play guitar, drums, bass, or vocals, it will benefit your playing if you vary your selections. If you listen to only black metal then you will be stuck in a rut of playing just black metal sounding riffs with no creativity. I myself cover a fairly wide spectrum of music. From Pink Floyd to The Locust to Nine Inch Nails to Shadows Fall to Nirvana to Slayer to Dead Kennedys to Most Precious Blood to Dillinger Escape Plan to Mogwai to Joe Satriani to Sonic Youth to Pavement to The Velvet Underground to The Beatles and so on and so forth.
All that mixing has an interesting effect I can draw from all these different styles and use it to my advantage. How many fans of Grindcore do you know that adore Pink Floyd and Mogwai? I harness the almighty power chord, the energy of punk, the density of noise rock, the melody of The Beatles and the intensity of metal, and throw it into a blender. What comes out is unique I must say, but sadly since I am a complete idiot and cannot figure out how to use a 4 track recorder you won't be hearing my stuff anytime soon.
You must know your roots, if you listen to a band that was influenced by Metallica you forget that one of James Hetfield's favorite albums is The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds". Also any band that incorporates more than two time changes a song in been influenced by classical music either directly or indirectly. and no band would have been anything but pop without The Velvet Underground. The Creators of alternative music. In the sixties the Velvet Underground sang about being addicted to heroin, waiting for a drug dealer, a woman who sleeps around, and this was too ectreme and scary for the hippies. To date their debut album has sold less than two hundred thousand copies.
You don't have to like jazz but without it dissonance would have never been implemented as much as it was. I'm not saying you have to like so and so, I'm just saying respect your elders and at least give some of it a listen.