Starting A Band For Beginners

I've seen a lot of kids and teens looking to start playing music with other people and hopefully be pretty successful, but I've seen some that are just going about the wrong way. If you're trying to start up a group for the first time, read this article and hopefully it will help.

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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.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Ghefly
    Why do guitarists get a solo every song but a bassist can only have one per album? That is just instrumentalist. Equal opportunities for all musicians! I can make a more interesting bass solo than most guitar players my age.
    Mr.Feather
    Very nice article. You know your stuff. One thing... Your = belongs to you. You're = you are.
    p_a_morgan
    dial-a-death wrote: I tend to disagree with "everyone should know theory". My theory is absolutely dire, but it still doesn't stop me jamming with my friends, whether it's our own stuff or covers. And it doesn't stop me improvising with what "sounds good" rather than "what should be played with it". If no-one knows much theory, but you're all playing in the same tuning or adjust so you're still playing the same notes rather than frets, then it doesn't really matter whether or not you follow scales or chord progressions. Just play what sounds good to you and show others what you're playing. I'm not going to sit there and say "then play an A" and have them go "there are 20 different A's I can play on the guitar".
    Yeah. Well, like I said in the article, you don't necessarily need to know all that much theory to play. Some is needed. You said you don't want to have to tell the other person which A to play...It's not that big of a deal. An A is an A
    travs2448
    T7E wrote: I think having a good rhythm player is better then having a good lead player. Lead players are everywhere but good rhythm players who actually want to play rhythm and like it and are good at it are way better.
    When i was just starting out playing a while back i had this idea drilled in my head that i was gonna be a lead and ONLY a lead player. but something hit me one day idk what but it just did. i guess i just lost my ego. I would much rather prefer to be rhythm player any day over lead i get so much more enjoyment out of it.
    p_a_morgan
    seemeel wrote: Pretty solid article. Pretty consistent with my experiences so far. I formed the last band I was in, originally with the intention of playing lead, but a guy auditioned who blew me away, so I did rhythm instead. And it worked really well. Gigs are something you should talk about in the next article. I had previously played other instruments in school bands, so I was no stranger to performing. But I know when I did my first gig as a guitarist, I wasn't prepared for a lot of the stuff that happens routinely, like sound check even. It was pretty embarrassing and amateurish.
    Yep, Part 2 is posted now! Check it out
    p_a_morgan
    Steve08 wrote: p_a_morgan wrote: So....Should I do a second part? I've got some more to say, but if this one isn't so hot then I wont haha.I think this is pretty good stuff for the most part, but you left out one of the most important things: writing GOOD material and figuring out a good process for that. In addition, having the assertiveness to tell someone else if their riff/bassline/beat sucks is VERY important, imo.
    I just submitted my second part and it goes into the writing process a little. Keep an eye out for it to be posted and let me know what you think.
    Steve08
    p_a_morgan wrote: So....Should I do a second part? I've got some more to say, but if this one isn't so hot then I wont haha.
    I think this is pretty good stuff for the most part, but you left out one of the most important things: writing GOOD material and figuring out a good process for that. In addition, having the assertiveness to tell someone else if their riff/bassline/beat sucks is VERY important, imo.
    crazysam23_Atax
    KasperBass wrote: So....Should I do a second part? I've got some more to say, but if this one isn't so hot then I wont haha. Yeah, You should. Maybe with a part about getting gigs and stuff!
    I 2nd this. And, btw, we get it, people. Enough about rhythm and lead.
    seemeel
    Pretty solid article. Pretty consistent with my experiences so far. I formed the last band I was in, originally with the intention of playing lead, but a guy auditioned who blew me away, so I did rhythm instead. And it worked really well. Gigs are something you should talk about in the next article. I had previously played other instruments in school bands, so I was no stranger to performing. But I know when I did my first gig as a guitarist, I wasn't prepared for a lot of the stuff that happens routinely, like sound check even. It was pretty embarrassing and amateurish.
    a7xb4d
    p_a_morgan wrote: So....Should I do a second part? I've got some more to say, but if this one isn't so hot then I wont haha.
    Definitely do a second part
    jm911
    one thing to add about the rhythm and lead guitarists is that they should also respect each other when playing. one should always complement the other, not upstage him or her. this actually goes for all the instruments in the band.
    p_a_morgan
    So....Should I do a second part? I've got some more to say, but if this one isn't so hot then I wont haha.
    fatdadd10
    i agree with most of this except the bit about never letting inexperienced people into the band. My band is basically made up of a few good friends and we didnt want to break that by inviting some stranger to play rhythm. However, we did know someone who plays drums that wanted to learn guitar so we agreed to help him out and its turning out really well, although it will be a while before we can perform anything tough with him playing. It doesnt matter. We feel more confident as a band this way and it shows. As for the bit on no competing solos... usualyl id agree but there is nothing more exciting than a massive rock off between two guitarists, crossroads style. Or in my case, a bassists vs a guitarist.
    KasperBass
    So....Should I do a second part? I've got some more to say, but if this one isn't so hot then I wont haha.
    Yeah, You should. Maybe with a part about getting gigs and stuff!
    krypticguitar87
    I agree with somethings here and others I don't nesecarily agree with.... when my band got together our drummer had only played the drums on rockband, and that was only for about three months.... we taught him everything about tempo and timing..... he feels as though it was more beneficial to him to learn that way. Although he did catch on rather quickly, after only a year of playing he could bust out Travis Barker and rush by ear, and learn them in only an hour or two.... Aother thing I disagree with is needing to like the same music and have some of the same influences..... The other guitarist in my band loves metal, any metal and thrash from the eighties suits him fine....I on the other hand live in the world of grunge and nu metal, with a heavy interest in classic rock, and we make it work. our singer is in to punk and alternitive, the drummer is into rap and hip hop, and the bassist is into southern rock.... there is a litte crossover, but we all enjoy very different types of music, and i think that allows us to musically explore new areas.... Finally I'm not sure what you mean by knowing your role, every member of my band does thier own part. For example, i've written lyrics and basslines for some songs, the singer has writen drum lines.... i mean every other practice we do an exercise where we play someone elses instrument, just to gain more of an appreciation for it... We've actually came up with some really sick songs that way... and the two guitars do both lead and rhythm.... we just split it up by the feel of the song.... if the song feels like it needs a really technical solo, then the other guitarist will play it, and if it feels like it needs a more melodic solo then i'll take it... I think forcing each member into a specific role makes it more difficult to become creative, since there is never actually a fresh perspective on it.... Besides these things I think this was a really good article... In your next one I hope you touch upon why it is important to choose people that you can get along with.... there is nothing worse than being in a band with an egotistical singer or lead guitarist once you start to make money..... it's the worst to hear "I deserve more because I'm more important, they came to see me!"....
    jm911
    i agree with the guys who say guitarists should be able to play both lead and rhythm. i think guitarists talk to each other to decide who plays what (thats judging from my experiences, although im not totally experienced) and the competing guitarists thing is kinda true. its sort of a natural instinct. i guess its alright as long as they dont hate each other and thats all they think about. the competition between guitarists usually shows that they respect each other and subconsciously wanna make each other improve. i've experienced (and still experiencing)this with one of my friends and we've kinda developed this connection/chemistry/whatever you wanna call it. *not in a gay way lol other than that, great article. i found it helpful
    JMan513
    I agree with the knowing theory part ive only played in two bands before one we only had about three practices and then because the singer didnt like the way i made alot of my guitar riffs sound grungy, but anyway in the band im in now weve recently lost the second guitarist because she didnt know anything about guitar... she didnt know the strings the frets the chords, how to read a tab, or how to make two parts sound amazing. It got really tiring of me saying "oookkk now play the 3rd fret of the e string no not the b string the estring its the first sting of the guitar and thats not even close to the third fret" the sad thing was was that she was an awesome guitar player wen she made her own stuff but she didnt know anything wen actually trying to make a song with another guitar part. also i dnt really care for the rythm/lead guitar part because i personally am ok just playing rythem because its easier fpr me and because i hate trying to make solos for rock songs that my band makes and having it come sounding like a blues riff.
    chadgrooms
    Hey all, 15+ year band/scene vet here. What is it REALLY like to be in an active band? Check out my blog post. No spam intended...just a good article with a little more insight from a different angle. http://bit.ly/5-scene-problems
    Damaged Roses
    dial-a-death wrote: I tend to disagree with "everyone should know theory". My theory is absolutely dire, but it still doesn't stop me jamming with my friends, whether it's our own stuff or covers. And it doesn't stop me improvising with what "sounds good" rather than "what should be played with it". If no-one knows much theory, but you're all playing in the same tuning or adjust so you're still playing the same notes rather than frets, then it doesn't really matter whether or not you follow scales or chord progressions. Just play what sounds good to you and show others what you're playing. I'm not going to sit there and say "then play an A" and have them go "there are 20 different A's I can play on the guitar".
    It would be a lot easier to play what sounds good if you knew the many different ways of how it could sound good. And stop complaning about the lead/rythm guitarist role. Compete means someone wants to play lead, for example, knowing that he does not play as good as the other guitarist, but still insists on doing so...
    Axel95
    Hey guys, I got a question. what if I can't find anyone that i know who can sing metal or heavy rock? plus, metal and rock are not really welcomed in my place. so, its more like being a band with no gigs. thoughts?
    scarypear
    I've been in a band for a while now and all I can say is even though I'm rhythm guitar... together we dish out some pretty bad-ass tunes. To be honest it doesn't matter what your role is in the band, they are all equally awesome and fun. I used to play bass but switched cause i'm a lot better at guitar lol. but honestly i think you missed one big thing: Have Fun With Your Role
    musicman0001
    well, there are certian parts i agree with, in my band we had a singer who couldn't come to practices, but she was excellent, so one time at practice i kinda sang and everyone liked it, so we're stickin to that, and our old bass player couldn't keep up with the band, but there are three of us, drummer, and two guitarists. I believe that we can both do rythm and lead, when we do covers or originals we play rythm and switch lead parts and everyone loves it. Good column though
    T7E
    I think having a good rhythm player is better then having a good lead player. Lead players are everywhere but good rhythm players who actually want to play rhythm and like it and are good at it are way better.
    Daysleeper_05
    There's a difference between Musicians and people who play Music. If you want a decent band, try and find the former. Everyone needs to be devoted to their instrument as much as they are devoted to being successful. It kills me that some are soo enthusiastic about being in a band and yet they won't strive to contribute or get better because they think the 'more talented' members will carry the weight.
    LolCatGuitar
    Iron maiden anybody? Both guitarists played lead and rhythm. They would often switch solos, trade rhythm spots etc...
    hildesaw
    To me, its super important that all members of the band have a pretty good grasp of theory. When my band first started out, the bass player was decent technically, but knew little theory. It was so difficult to try to explain riffs, or progressions. It ended up being: "Ok 5th fret on the A string, then 3rd on the E string, etc". Once I started teaching him theory, everything came together so easy. Song writing was better, we could do more complex stuff. That's not to say everyone needs to know theory, but it helps.
    p_a_morgan
    glitched wrote: tbh i find it compleatly impossible to play in a band where one guitarist is playing awsome melodies and the other spends all of his time on the e string. i think alternating lead/rythm roles is an absolute must
    I agree with all of you guys. The only strictly rhythm player I can think of is Malcolm Young of AC/DC. I don't think he's ever had a solo, but he says that the way he likes it. Maybe his confidence in his lead skills just aren't very high and he likes to play rhythm. I'm not too hot of a lead player, myself, but I'm always working on new techniques. I play bass now, but when i played guitar, I played with some really skilled guys and there'd be no way I could keep up with them in the lead department.
    glitched
    tbh i find it compleatly impossible to play in a band where one guitarist is playing awsome melodies and the other spends all of his time on the e string. i think alternating lead/rythm roles is an absolute must
    DesertEagle
    As a guitarist I don't really mind who plays what as long as it benefits the song our bassist might write something on the guitar and Ill handle bass duties if it works, but i agree that you cant have two rhythm and lead players one should play rhythm the other lead they can swap but as long as they play seperate parts and acknowledge one is the other.
    p_a_morgan
    Lord_Vhailor wrote: I don't really agree with statement about lead and rhythm guitarists. The thing is that you should be able to play both. But right, in the beginning things look like you pointed out. Also, about guitarists competing with each other. We as guitarists feel some kind of urge top compete. It's kind of natural to me. I find it uncomfortable to play in a band with a guitarist on lower level than me - because I don't get enough motivation to get better and I don't have someone to learn from... That's my point of view.
    I get what you mean...but I've played guitar in bands and I was never really better or worse than my six string counter parts, but I learned from them and they learned from me because we had different styles and techniques overall. And I know A LOT of players who feel the way you do, I've just never been one of those people to try to be in the spotlight. I'll play the tambourine if needed as long as the music sounds good. Haha.
    Leather Sleeves
    I agree with the cover thing. Some people think you're wasting your time learning covers and should focus on the original stuff but I've always found it to be a good way of "converting" the one guy I'm playing with who is sort of into to different stuff. They always come around. One problem I've had with covers though is that with certain people it takes too long to actually get the songs down, but it comes back to what you said about actually having them learn the songs on their own. I get so tired of trying to play and conduct at the same time.
    SlayingDragons
    Huh, I couldn't agree more with the music theory part. I absolutely hate when I jam with someone, and they don't know the slightest amount of theory, so it's not really a jam, it's more of a bunch of noise, or me trying to figure out what he's playing to come up with something to play along to it, because he doesn't even know what key he's playing in.
    p_a_morgan
    "I'd say from personal experience, you have a good point on absolutely everything in this post. I've learnt it ALL the hard way haha" Exactly man, that's the main reason I posted this...maybe to help people to not go through what we have haha. If I knew what I know now back when I had first started..I'd be a lot further along than I am now.
    JohnyStroyer
    oh mannn thanks for this I just joined a new band n were starting to get really serious with all this
    A-G-guitarist
    I just quit my band that I've been in for 3 years, and my drummer is EXACTLY what you pointed out in point 5!
    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.
    The stupid kid's gonna seriously **** up his life if this band falls apart now. He's just starting year 11 and is set to fail his GCSEs from how little he gives a shit about school since this band started when he was in year 8. I'd say from personal experience, you have a good point on absolutely everything in this post. I've learnt it ALL the hard way haha.
    Lord_Vhailor
    I don't really agree with statement about lead and rhythm guitarists. The thing is that you should be able to play both. But right, in the beginning things look like you pointed out. Also, about guitarists competing with each other. We as guitarists feel some kind of urge top compete. It's kind of natural to me. I find it uncomfortable to play in a band with a guitarist on lower level than me - because I don't get enough motivation to get better and I don't have someone to learn from... That's my point of view.
    1942JIMI
    My band just broke up, and im trying to start a new one I have to show them this lol
    shred_wizzard
    I would advise having one member of the band who can play both guitar and drums to help with writing. oh and the bass player should write bass lines and try to harmonize a little with the guitars, if they just play the root notes they become somewhat unnecessary
    dial-a-death
    I tend to disagree with "everyone should know theory". My theory is absolutely dire, but it still doesn't stop me jamming with my friends, whether it's our own stuff or covers. And it doesn't stop me improvising with what "sounds good" rather than "what should be played with it". If no-one knows much theory, but you're all playing in the same tuning or adjust so you're still playing the same notes rather than frets, then it doesn't really matter whether or not you follow scales or chord progressions. Just play what sounds good to you and show others what you're playing. I'm not going to sit there and say "then play an A" and have them go "there are 20 different A's I can play on the guitar".