I've been in a band for a couple of months, we got a few originals, 1 song that we really worked hard on making it sound finished, and the others soon will be sounding finished. The problem is:

I don't LOVE the sound we have

I like the sound, don't get me wrong, but I always always think we can sound better. I think the songs we have at the moment are good but not good enough. I feel that maybe one of the problems is that we haven't found our sound yet...

I get the feeling from our songs similar to "this just sounds like a couple of friends getting together and playing mediocre music."

Maybe it's just that I am the one composing the songs and I am very critical of everything I create. I was listening to a band called The Stone Foxes, specifically a song called "I shot Robert Johnson" and I thought "yes, you can hear these guys know what they're doing, they know what the song needs and where it needs it" and I want my bands songs to sound like that. We're kind of blues-rock/indie.

Anyway, I think another problem is that the songs sound too "noisy", too many things happening at one time and everyone sounds like they want to play for the whole song and that if they stop playing for a bar or 2 and make the song simpler it will sound horrible. I don't know exactly how to go up to my band and say "hey guys, our songs need to be simpler" and even if I do, I don't know how to make them simpler.

I really want to go for a bluesy sound, something like radio moscow, led zeppelin, jack white, those sort of things.

tl:dr : I think our bands songs are bad (the ones that I write mostly) and that they need to be simpler, and have more direction, but don't know how to do that.

Last edited by JimmyCraig at Feb 15, 2013,
The problem with any writing is you'll never sound quite exactly how you want. To make your orchestration more simple it's as easy as asking members to cut out parts and experiment. A key thing I find lots of bands are missing these days is dynamics.
You shouldn't try to find your sound. You are your sound, there's nothing to do about it. Don't try to sound like anything else. But of course you can improve your sound (if it's too noisy as you said, maybe re arrange your songs). Remember that you will find your style over time. Or maybe it's better to say that the style finds you. You will start to sound like a band. Maybe record yourself playing and show it to all members of the band and tell them the things you would like to improve. "This part here sounds too complicated, let's do this to it" etc. When the other members hear that it doesn't sound that good and you tell them how to make it sound better, I'm pretty sure you will start to sound better.

We have played with our band for one and a half years and now I start to feel like we really start to sound good. Before it sounded OK but we have improved a lot as musicians and the songs have had time to live. Now we sound much better than a year ago. (I actually hate most of our early recordings that we did a year ago. We are out of tune and the parts we play are sometimes awful.) I think recording yourself is a good thing. And showing the recordings to the band members. We do all our recordings with my Zoom H2 recording machine. It's not the best sound but it sounds pretty decent. If you don't have a recording machine, Zoom H2 isn't that expensive and the quality is pretty good, considering that it's in the middle of our room and we play all the songs "live" at our practices.
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Speaking from experience, generally it's best to talk. When several musicians start a band, they will all have different ideas on how they think the band should sound, ending in a very amateur, messy sound. The best thing to do is talk about what you want to sound like, that way everyone is on the same page, and you can work together to achieve a goal, instead of everyone doing their own bit for a song. Your sound can only evolve when it has that starting point, and it also helps to have people listening to similar influences when you're writing a song, even if they're from different musical backgrounds. One thing I'd recommend is having everyone in the band get Guitar Pro and learn to write their parts on that. When someone brings a song into a rehearsal, other members will often have a tendency to just play something that fits and stick to it, whereas actually writing parts out allows you to explore every possibility.

You should really take your time and work on your composition skills too, and make sure you get every song to perfection if you think there's something wrong with it, even if that includes getting rid of songs. One thing I'll say is that I know a band who've been together for half a year and have about ten songs, and they regularly slag off another band I know for having only written four songs within two years. The difference is, is the band with four songs have received plays on music channels and have toured with large acts, and the band with ten songs, are, frankly, terrible, and this amateur sound has recently split up the band. Don't be afraid to take it slow and get your songs polished.
You should be able to say to your band, "Lets try doing this one simpler." See what happens. You don't have to make any grand decisions about your direction - rather, experiment, and hopefully you guys will, as a band, discover something that comes together as your "sound."

All bands have to figure out their own sound. Don't freak out if it takes you a little while.
Dynamics can definitely be a big issue in most band settings, it's something I've always struggled with.

What's your line up looking like.

The big thing for me is the guitars, they either make or break a sound. And this is where the dynamics conflict starts. One big thing is that they don't necessarily need to be playing the same thing at the same time. It can really muddy up a sound. And then the volume battle on top of that.

The way I've been approaching it is have myself and other guitar player play a part of a chord or embellish it so there's an actual difference in what is being played and there's some contrast that way.

I love the Black Crowes for that example and it might be something to look at since your playing blues rock. The separation of everything is just awesome.
constant jamming. and talking.

jamming is very important, but the band i'm currently in didn't do much talking about what we're doing or what musical direction we were headed towards cause we jammed so much and eventually it surfaced that one of us isn't down with the direction and it's becoming this big thing

no one else agrees with his position, since the music we've made so far has been a collective and organic process (and we all really dig the music), but he wants to do stuff that's more "his thing"

it's shitty cause he's a good friend and a wicked guitar player, but it may come to him leaving to start something that he is actually interested in

this all could have been avoided by talking more perhaps
Wait.. you complain about them being 'mediocre' yet you want them to be 'simpler'..?

Well, I was in a similar position but I felt it kind of progressed naturally. You're bound to be a bit mediocre when you start, unless you're relatively gifted or lucky. Writing is a learning process and a skill like any other, you're seldom a good writer overnight. This applies to full bands, as well - you have to discover your strengths and weaknesses both as an individual and as a group.

If you want to accelerate your own improvement, you could try experimenting with outlandish and new ideas and incorporating them into songs/writing around them. Don't worry, you can take them out when the song's done if you don't like them! But try and break your comfort zone when you can, as it'll really develop your sense of style - and always seek input from both your bandmates and others. If you have someone you can bounce ideas off of that isn't in the band and won't a.) sugarcoat his responses or b.) steal your ideas, go for it! Just tweak and tune until eventually it comes naturally.

Otherwise, well it's just a practice makes perfect kind of thing.
It sounds like you guys just gotta keep throwing ideas out and seeing how each member responds. Talk to each other about EVERYTHING. Get into everyone's head about influences and favored techniques, all that. In my experience, when I write stuff, I more or less have an idea of my band members abilities and what they like to play and how far i can stretch those things. I also play them more or less fleshed out songs and listen to what they want to do with them. We also are at the point where we can bounce off one another without talking about anything, just playing. Getting to that point has to be a conscious, consorted effort.
Our ex guitarist didn't vibe with us because that he thought we were going to model the band's sound on the influences we had at the start of the band, not the ones we gained through playing and hanging out with each other, playing live and just listening to new songs and bands we discovered. He wanted to stick with a more, how would you say, "directly influenced by xxxx" sound and we wanted to sound like ourselves, for lack of a better word. People react to that a lot better.
After you get a few songs out, it'll start to gel and mix and you'l get to the point where you're digging what you're doing. There is no formula obviously, but after a while, it'll get there.
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I'm well aware, I'm just more used to people going the over-complicated route to try and capture a unique sound rather than trying to dial it back. Just seems a bit unexpected, but in no way is it a bad outlook.