Start a Band/Join a Band. Part 1

The biggest step is moving out of the bedroom onto the stage. Here's how you do it.

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There are thousands of musicians who never leave the shed. They can practice for hours in their bedrooms, lay down great songs on Cubase and reach astounding levels of technical proficiency. This is intended for those who want to play live and want to form their own band.

My first bit of advice is to be realistic about the people you will be working with and try to understand where they are coming from. Being in a band is a team sport and your personal skills are going to count just as much as your musical ones.

Bands fall into roughly two distinct categories, those with a strong bandleader and those that are more of a joint effort. It works this way because there are essentially two distinct reasons for wanting to play live. There are plenty of us out here who just love to perform, we'll swallow our pride and play just about anything to get up on stage and work an audience. Other people have creative ambitions as their main motivation for playing. If you don't recognise musicians' motivations you are going to spend more time fighting and sulking than playing.

This is over simplifying of course but you should recognise and try to understand the stereotypes. There are jobbing musicians who will just want to turn up and play, they may seem to be reluctant to practice and to lack commitment (they just want to get out in front of an audience) but they won't interrupt proceedings and spend time arguing about trivial details or have tantrums when their ideas aren't taken up. The creatives will do all of these things, because they really care about the music. Bands don't fall out because of the Alex Jameses, it's the Albarns and Coxons, Lennons and McCartneys who struggle. Creative people aren't going to want to play with you unless they have a big input into the music you play. This could either by adding to your songs, adding in their own parts (which you might not like) or by taking over half the set with their own songs (which you also might not like). The only way the jobbing musician can get what they want is to either find a creative or join a cover band, but they don't want a lot of hassle. They are likely to be easy to work with and a lot of fun but the cost of having someone so co-operative is that you will probably have to take all the responsibility for booking practice rooms, finding gigs, setting up PA, developing the sets etc. And you won't be able to pressurise them or they will just move to a band which is more fun. Someone with their own ideas and songs to play is going to be more committed but will have to have a fair say in the decisions, and you will fall out overnight if you can't share. 

Of course in real life people don't fall into neat categories. These are just stereotypes. I'm a jobbing musician but a born organiser. I'm happy to be a bandleader in one band and just go along for the ride in another band. Most of us like a little say though, even if we are playing someone else's music, but for a successful band the mix of personalities is actually slightly more important than the mix of instruments. If you want to get your new band out of the rehearsal room then the first thing is to make sure you understand the people. Oh, and you will need understand yourself.

So, step one is to decide if you still want to take on running your own band or if you want a partner. Or maybe you just want to perform.

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11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    bornindarknesst
    In my band I write all of the guitars and bass and then send the songs to the drummer to write drums, and then the rest of the band learns the songs. If the other guitarist wants a solo, I leave a space for him to write one. The bassist is cool to play anything pretty much, but he's also very helpful in band matters (finding venues, practice spaces etc). Also the bassist and I are both sound engineers so it saves us having to hire people externally to set up live gigs and record material.
    flanbass
    This is actually very helpful, im a cooperative partner, the keyboard guy in my band is the one doing all the work. Most of the time i just help him develop the songs, and i do my part by playin bass, but this guy has like a thousand things to do before we play an actual gig...Its ball crushin...
    nino.scholz
    Good article. At this point i'd say i'm 70/30 more a Jobber. That 30% creative side can be a pain in the ass - "NO EFFIN WAY I'M PLAYING NICKLEBACK DUDE!!!"
    Phil Starr
    I hope I made it clear I was describing stereotypes whereas most of us fit somewhere on a spectrum between those extremes. A lot of people in the forums never seem to think about their own personal needs or those of the people they are trying to recruit and you get a lot of avoidable clashes as a result. Just one more thing to think about when forming a band. Hope you enjoy the article
    mattjamesrenn
    I see myself as a passionate creative (everyone can be a creative dont give me the BS that it can't be learned, it can be unlocked by anyone). I think the greatest music made (bar some classical composers) is always co created. I would hate to be in A band where no one put input or gave criticism to my ideas or anyones. Unless you are solo you should except that other band members have input.
    Ephinsyrius
    You know have been in several bands, currently play with 3 aside from solo stuff.I have been the motivating force in some just played in others.I have played on street corners with strangers and people I have played with for 30 plus years. I do not care the roll I have to play in any playing situation, just love to play and create music with an open mind and open ears.
    Jacques Nel
    Good article. So true what you're saying. It's important to know from the start where you stand. You can't play with a group for years without giving input and then all of a sudden want a say in the group. I've been in a band where there was a leader but basically we all wrote together, in the end though it didn't work out because whereas I like hard rock and metal, he leans towards alternative and blues, so in the end everything I wrote was stripped down and yeah...never really worked out.
    JelloCrust
    This is one of the best advice articles I've ever seen on this website. It makes many others pain in comparison.
    Yakisobayum567
    I'm more of the creative dude, I love making songs and honestly, maybe to the point that i can't even work in a band environment, I want to major in recording Arts in the future, but it'd be cool to strike it big though. This helped a little with what I should do, expecting more :p
    Vassov
    im here cuz i dont understand the band thing? are we supposed to form a band with other ultimate guitar users? if so then how? im looking for a band, i play the drums and the bass if anyones interested