"A lot of bands whine about the road and how tough it is."
— Dimebag Darrell
Dimebag was the man. It's horrible he had to go like he did.
But hey, was he right when he said that...
In this post we're going to take a look at what you need to know to create a band that actually works and lasts, and some of the advice I wish I knew beforehand.
Check out the infographic at the bottom for a quick reference.
I know I've wanted to play in bands even before actually learning to play. Yes, I was that kind of guy who wants to be CEO of the company before even starting to work in the mailroom.
My top motivations starting out were not only my favorite guitar players, but also their bands.
Who in their sane rock mind wouldn't like Guns N Roses?
Of course, who wouldn't want to create the next GNR?
Here's the thing. Playing solo in your bedroom is fine. It's relaxing, fun, and it will help you a lot if you have anxiety or even emotional issues. That is perfectly OK.
However, in my mind, playing an instrument and not playing in a band is too similar to a marathon runner not willing to make the last mile "because I already ran enough", and I've thought that way from day one.
I'll be diving into the many benefits of playing in a band at a later time, but for now, I'm going to assume you too share the same intention as me, and have been thinking about creating a band, or maybe you've already been in some bands that did not work out.
Let's start with the tips, shall we?
The band is a commitment.
This is possibly the most important piece of advice I can give you regarding bands.
I get it, we want to play in bands because it's a thrill, and because it feels great to play for people who actually like your music and come to the gig because they want to see you perform.
However, this does not mean it's all fun and games.
This is the second most important reasons why some of the bands I've been with did not work out. You need to be commited to the band and the music. If you are not practicing the songs at home, not showing up on time to the rehearsals, and not hanging out with the guys, then my friend, you are not fit for a band, and I do not care how skilled you might be; it will be meaningless.
It's irrelevant if you are a busy person; we are all busy. This does not mean, of course, that you might go through a rough patch at some point; this is fine, but do not mistake that with a chronic lack of commitment.
You will need at least two hours a week to rehearse, and at least a couple more hours (2 or 3 usually) to practice the songs, as well as lyrics if you sing as well.
Make it a priority.
There is no excuse here. If you think you don't have enough time, then download my free eBook by signing up to my email list and I'll show you that you can make the time if you really want to. Where there's a will, there's a way.
This applies to every member of the band, of course. If you notice someone else falling into this rabbit hole, do something about it before it goes out of control.
Beware of toxic people.
Among guitar players, this is a pretty common issue that does not seem to be nearly as common with other instruments.
Some people seem to just not be cut for playing on a band. Usually this means that they just cannot cope with others, might have some issues with relating with people, or else.
However, the main problem I've come to realize is the most toxic of all is EGO.
It's just sooooooo common for guitar players to suffer from rockstar-wanna-be-itis. Although this fades considerably with age, it seems to have its peak at around 20 years of age. I've met such a high amount of egotistical guitar players that it makes me cringe just thinking about it.
Ego is a bitch. I know, I've also been guilty of it in the past. Don't get me wrong, you need some ego to push you forward, otherwise you will have a hard time motivating yourself. The problem comes when it goes too far and you suddenly start considering yourself to be better than the rest of your band.
I'll tell you a little story that happened to me to illustrate this point further.
I was about 26 years old when I experienced one of the worst examples of this. I'd just auditioned for a rock/metal band. The band consisted of the usual rock formation: singer, drummer, bassist, and one guitarist, so I joined to make the duo guitars. The guys were happily with the way I played, so they accepted me onboard.
The problem is that the following day I got an email from the other guitarist, that went something like this:
Hey, Max, great that you joined the band!
However, I wanted to make it clear that you don't have to focus on solos. You are the rhythm guitar, so focus on the riffs, and later on we will see about the solos.
There are a couple of things wrong in this email, both in the lines as between them. I'll highlight the two most important.
It's easy to tell what was really going on behind the scenes with that guy. He wanted to be the star. He wanted to be the solo artist. He wanted to be the frontman of the band. Unlike what people who claim that the Law of Attraction works would claim, I'm afraid merely wanting something will not make it come true, ever.
The other thing is that he was clearly bullying me. It's OK to divide the tasks within the band, but it's totally different to impose something like "you are the rhythm guitar". I never joined any band to fill any box position, nor am I planning to any time soon.
My advice? If you find any examples of this, either resolve it without delay (even better if it's with the rest of the band members present), or just quit. You'll thank me later.
Write down the songs.
Some bands team up to make covers or tribute to other bands. This is fine, I've been in such bands too, and playing your favorite songs is a blast. Playing your favorite chops in front of a crowd is crazy!
However, if the band wants to make their own music, there is a small, but important, caveat.
In my experience, it's very easy to fall into the trap of re-composing each song on every rehearsal.
This is very common, and usually begins by a couple of guys not remembering exactly how many times the verse goes before the chorus, or if the solo takes 4 or 6 measures, blah, blah. Following that, the bassist says:
"Hey guys, I think it would be cool if we played something like this before the bridge, and then something like this during the solo, and..."
At that moment, unless you take action immediately, the whole band will start drifting away from rehearsing into composition mode, and there are very few things that are less productive than a whole band composing a song in a small time frame. Trust me, everyone tries to make their case about why this should go here and that should go there, and it is a waste of time.
Whether you like to compose songs on your own or with your friends, remember that you cannot be re-composing them all the time, and at some point you will have to say enough, or else you'll never finish your songs, and even less practice them until they are flawless.
Once you get to the point in which you think the song is good enough (this is a topic for another time, though), write it down and give a copy to every guy in the band so they can practice it.
...and make sure nobody forgets about the first mindset!
Make sure everyone is practicing at home so that when you get together you are not wasting time and money doing what you should have done before.
That's it, guys!
If I had known some of this advice before...it would have been much better. But hey, better late than never, right?
Let me know what you think on the comments below.
Check out the infographic if you want a quick reference.