The Intangibles of Forming a Great Band

Forming a good band is more than just being able to play the songs. Here are 9 tips to help make practices and the band better.

Ultimate Guitar
I've been playing guitar for 12 years, dabbled in a bunch of bands (good and bad). Every person is different, and what works for one band may not for the other. But here are some things that experience has taught me that will make your band practices effective and your band even better:

1) No alcohol (or other drugs) at practice!

I know this may seem like blasphemy, but I have seen more bands destroyed by alcohol than anything else. If you are going to be pushing each other to improve, critiquing each others songs, tensions are going to run high at some points even while sober. It's healthy, and it happens. But with alcohol in the mix, it makes people say stupid things, it makes them do stupid things, and generally leads to a lot of bickering and in-fighting that should not happen. You wanna sit around and have a few afterwards? That's cool. But showing up or getting trashed during practice only leads to trouble, and it doesn't make you play better.

2) Beware of the musician who says "I'll play anything"

First off, this statement screams, "I just wanna play and make money." If you find someone on Craigslist or know somebody who says this to you, be wary about bringing them into the fold. I've seen this happen too. They say this, then you present a blues song you wrote, and then they say "I don't like blues." Ok, then you just contradicted yourself. Or worse, they play it even though they hate it, and then they quit with no warning because they hate playing the music. Not everybody in the band has to like all the same bands, or even like all the same styles you do. But you need everybody to at least enjoy their own parts, and dig what you do.

3) Work with people you would normally associate with

If you are clean and sober, and you are playing with a bunch of junkies, things probably will not go so well. Ask yourself if these are the type of people you would hang out with on a Friday night if you didn't know them through the band. If the answer is no way, then this isn't the band for you. Even if the music is great stay away. #4 explains why...

4) Bond as individuals outside of band

Go bowling once a week. Go for pizza on Friday nights. Hold a movie night every now and then. Go camping once a month. Just enjoy hanging out outside of the band setting. You don't have to be the best of friends, but remember that you are going to be working with these people, a lot. You're going to be criticizing each others work. If you can't get along as people, then there is no way this is going to work.

5) Be honest with each other, brutally if need be

This is where #4 is most helpful. If you really don't like a song, speak up. If somebody is playing something wrong, tell them. Don't just call them an idiot and tell them the song sucks, be constructive and tell them WHY you don't like it. If you get along well with each other, this kind of criticism won't be taken personally and will improve the songs your band is putting together. If you are the kind of person who does not respond well to criticism, music may not be your thing.

6) Find out what everybody's ideal goal is

Do you want to sign to a major label and end up on MTV? Do you want to sign to a smaller label, but have more control over your own music and image? Are you just looking to gig once or twice a month? Having different goals in mind is not a band killer in itself early on, but if everybody is not on the same page when things take off, it can lead to trouble.

7) Take practice seriously

Practice can be fun, but if somebody is constantly showing up trashed, showing up an hour late, or just not showing up without a phone call, it ruins practices and needs to be fixed. If it's you, you're killing your chances of being in a successful band. For some reason, musicians seem to think that this is ok behavior (and for some reason, it's often the drummer:-p). People who are unreliable or cannot be counted on don't last long in new bands. Also, if you aren't going to be at practice, have a good excuse. People get sick, you get stuck at work, relatives pass away, the car's transmission falls off, hey it's ok just call and let people know. But excuses like being hungover, not feeling like it, or my girlfriend and I had a fight 3 days ago and I still feel kind of bummed out (real!) are not going to fly.

8) Don't do it for the money

Seriously, doing it for the chicks is a better idea than this. If you expect to make money playing music, odds are that you are going to wind up disappointed, frustrated, and bands who do it for the money often don't get along when there isn't any to be had. Cover bands may make a little bit to start, but won't get the good gigs until they build a good reputation. Original bands, don't expect to make anything in your first few gigs. You know why AC/DC can charge $90 a ticket? Because they're AC/DC. This is a business where there is a direct relationship between payment and reputation. People aren't likely to pay a $5 cover charge for a band they never even heard of. Plus, bars aren't going to pay much if they are unsure if a band will draw a crowd. Some money is nice, but it's takes time and patience before you can even earn a little.

9) Love the music

If you and your band can't be happy playing what they do, all the other tips are null and void. You cannot enjoy doing what you do if you don't enjoy what it is that brought you here in the first place.

23 comments sorted by best / new / date

    to add on rule 4: bond with all members equally too. That's hella important.
    This was really helpful, and pretty much everything you said was true. Keep up the good work. ;D
    Darnoc84 wrote: No Chicks At Practice, Sickning Waitin For Your Band Mate To Finish Being Lovey Dovey
    This!!! My one and only band had to implement the "no wives" rule for practice because our rhythm guitarist and vocalist spent too much time ****ing around with their gf's. The worst part was the 2 girls would sit in the studio with us and not say anything, just sit there for 4 hours....
    It sucks being so young that you can't post a craigslist aid or else your going to get raped. I lived by a registered sex offender for quite a while. At the moment I have two options 1) Good friend who sucks at bass, and his decent drummer friend 2) Really good friend who knows less about bass then I do. Both suck for a decent guitarist
    HAHAA! 1 man band performing because of the chicks and loving the music! Keep it real, my fellow ****hunters!
    No Chicks At Practice, Sickning Waitin For Your Band Mate To Finish Being Lovey Dovey
    Me, my friend (Pianist!) and his friend (the DRUMMER :O omg!) are forming an band. Can't find a bassist though. We're all under 15, and can't find an damn singer. I love Finland! This Rocks out loud! Good to know this stuff!
    Solty Dog
    Very nice. A few of these are responsible for my unsuccessful attempts. One other thing I would mention is to avoid the "My Band" logic. Everyone needs to have an equal say. One member should not carry more weight because he owns the PA.
    That's all true. And yeah, the cellphons should be turned off too during practise/bandmeeting!
    That's a really true list especially when you said the drummer's are usually late we had a band break up because the drummer showed up 2 hr.'s late
    your 110% right. drugs and booze ruin practice. if you wanna have fun and make great music party after practice. Awesome article. BMR
    another tip everyone seems to miss on is to turn off your cellphone we had a band practice and our drummer was on the phone for an hour and a half its was madning
    everything you wrotre is true i have been practicing with some friends since two months ago the rule 4 is really true
    your 100% right. if you bring mood altering !@#$ to a practice, your gonna alter everything, from relationships with bandmates, to the music u put out.
    My band uses energy drinks instead of drugs and alchohol (we're all straight edge anyway). But the drinks are just as bad: when he has too many mountain dews or a Nos or two, he starts drumming in 7/8 at around 300 bpm. Not good for hardcore punk. The most important tip in this article, in my opinion, is to love the music. You can work around hating each other, but if you want to play death metal and you're in a funk band, it just won't work. out.
    I've tried and failed to form bands and the people i've teamed up haven't done these things. P.S Are there any musicians ads I can put up on internet?
    JBEADAM: That may not always be possible. But the point is to make the effort, even if you know they are going to say no. If you hold a regular movie night, and don't invite the bass player, that is going to send the impression that you don't want him around. You may not mean to give that impression, but it will. Like I said, you don't have to be the the best friends in the world, but at the very least enjoy one anothers company.
    It's greatness If I'd count it, my band wouldn't exist right now
    and for some reason, it's often the drummer:-p
    this was the reason (#7) why we kicked our former drummer ... so true btw, nice article! helpful
    But its impossible to bond with everyone equally. There will always be someone who you are closer to than the others. Good one
    not sure if forum rules apply here but I'll go for it. As for all members bonding equally, I say nay unless you're the singer. I'm thinking of the science that when two musicians play together, their brainwaves sync. I will think that that connection would be greater if the same two musicians were close to each other. The bassist and the drummer would have the greatest benefit from being close. Same with the keys/guitar(s), and heck, the singer would be best lined with the most prominent musician in the band (say lead guitarist or upfront bassist, just to make them both downplay their egos outta care for the other)