Posted Sep 29, 2010 10:26 AM
Step One: Finding the right band members to play with.
If you're serious about starting a band with other people, make sure you find people who are equally serious about it. Nothing is worse than having a band member who wont show up to practice or is too lazy to learn the songs.
Make sure they are into similar music as well. For example, if you're playing guitar and all you like is Metal, do your best not to get involved with another guitar player who is into easy listening or acoustic music. Dave Mustaine meets Jack Johnson. Maybe you could make it work, but it wont be easy. Find people with similar influences.
I know it can be incredibly difficult to find people with the right intentions, but you've got to make sure they can actually play before you invite them to join a band. If your bass player can't keep up with the rest of the band, he should keep practicing and maybe think about joining a band later on when he gets more familiar with it. He will slow you down. If you have to teach one of the guys how to play his instrument before the band can start cranking out tunes, he's not the right guy for the job.
Step Two: Knowing Your Role
It's pretty obvious that the drummer is supposed to play drums. The singer sings and the bass player plays bass. If you happen to be in a group with more than one guitar player, decide who will be playing lead guitar for the most part. I hate it when I see a band with rival guitar players. Yeah, both guys can have a solo in the same song...sure. They can even take turns on different songs if they want to, but don't compete with your second guitarist. If you can write sweet riffs and hold down the rhythm and the other player can't, chances are, you are the rhythm guitarist. If you are a good lead player and you like to play lead, good for you, but if the other player is a better lead player, let him be lead if he's up for it. Put your ego aside for the sake of the band.
Drummers...No, you will not have a drum solo in every song. Play the songs and if there is time in the band's set, you'll get your solo eventually. Same goes for the bassist. Be patient guys.
Step Three: Tones
This goes for every member of the band. Your tone is incredibly important. Two guitar players will naturally have different tones, it's personal preference, but make sure it fits the mix or else the band will sound horrible. Invest in some kind of pedal to help you boost through the mix on your solos. Just because you are the lead guitarist doesn't mean you should be louder than everyone else for the entire song. Every band member should be in tune, even the drummer. I've seen people who get on stage and are out of tune and it kills the whole performance. Everyone has done it, it happens, but do your best to be prepared to play your set. Being in tune is a big part of that. You might say "Well, I tuned my guitar before I left my house." Remember, you most likely had you're guitar in a gigbag and it doesn't always stay in tune on the ride to the gig. Tune your instrument during sound check or right before you step on stage just to be sure.
Step Four: Music Theory
I'm not gonna sit here and write about how beginning guitar players can't shred through the Phrygian Mode at lightning speed, but there are some important aspects of theory that you've got to know if you're playing with other people.
When you are writing your own music, know what notes you are playing. Believe it or not, I was sitting in on a band practice one time and believe it or not, the guitar players were in completely different tunings, but were playing the same frets. One guitar player was watching the other and he thought he was playing the same thing, but he was in dropped tuning. This is absolutely unacceptable. It's okay for one person to be in dropped D and the other to be playing in standard, but please play the same notes. And this also goes for down tuning. If you're playing a whole step down and jamming through riffs for ideas to the other members, make sure they know what tuning you are in or nothing will sound good.
Another part of theory that you need to know is where the notes on the guitar are. Say I'm playing a lick in the key of C and I want the bassist to play in key behind the guitar section. I don't want to point out what fret C is. He should know these things.
Drummers should know basic time signatures. It's time consuming for another band member to teach the drummer what timing to play in, or have to get behind the kit and play the beat for him. Know you're basic stuff and you should save a lot of extra time and heartache.
Step Five: The Band!
I'm not sure if you noticed, but if you haven't achieved steps One through Four, you're not in a band yet. Too many "bands" "break up" before they even play in front of anyone. Don't drop out of school and put all of your time and effort into the "band" after second rehearsal. It may not work out. I agree that it should be important to you and you should take it very seriously if you want to do it, but putting too much hope and confidence into a group you just jammed with one time is a bad idea. Jam with the guys a few times and see if you are even compatible with them as a musician. Don't spend you're entire first 2 months of practice trying to think of a band name. I've seen guys who claim to have been in 5 different bands and I ask them "Sweet, Where did you guys play?" and they say something like "Well, the first 4 broke up before we played anywhere." The truth is, they had 5 "Bands" who had some of the problems that I included in Steps 1-4.
Step Six: The Music
If you've never been in a band before, it might be a good idea to start learning some cover songs as a band. This isn't always the case, but it helps the band lock in with each other. If you wrote a song on your instrument and you know it will be a killer song, it might not work out the way you envisioned because you don't have the same mind as the rest of the band. Choose a cover song that everybody likes and one that everybody has the skill to play. Tell all the band members to learn it for next practice. Everyone should learn their parts on their own time and then run through it at your next practice. I was in a band once where the singer learned the lyrics at practice. It's a waste of everybody's time. Learn your parts and then you can fine tune everything as a band.
Well, I really hope this helps at least one person. I'm no rocket scientist though, haha. Anyway thanks for reading and remember my words when you go to start a band, or at least try them and see how it goes. If I get good feedback on this article, I might do a second part, but I don't have the time right now.