I’ve been playing in bands for 27 years but I still remember how great it was starting out playing in a band. I remember when it put me on top of the world just to make it from the start to the finish of a song together as a band. We’d be stoked and play the song over and over loving every minute of it. We learned the songs just for the joy of playing them together. After we had some songs down then naturally we wanted to play some gigs. So we played a few school assemblies and did a few songs and had some great success. Once you’ve played in front of an audience then everything else becomes a quest to get back onstage in front of a crowd. This is where the whole process of learning songs and preparing for the show starts to become work.
It really is work to take a new song and break it down, learn your part, memorize the lyrics and then make it all come together as a band. When I first started playing it didn’t seem like work so much because it was just great to be able to play a song. But once you get that taste of playing for an audience it’s easy to just get in a routine and keep playing what you know so you can get out and play for a crowd. There’s a tendency to learn enough songs to play a gig and then just go to the next gig and repeat the same show. That’s fine for a while but pretty soon people realize they’ve seen you doing the same thing over and over and they start to get bored. Then the players in your band start to get bored because you’re just going through the routine. It gets old playing the same 40 songs over and over.
My point is you can’t forget to constantly improve your act. That can be as simple as learning new songs on a regular basis. It’s work but that’s what we get paid for. The reward is an excited crowd of people coming to see you and knowing that they’re not going to see the same exact show they saw the last time they came out to see your band. If you keep people coming to your shows then you’ll keep getting gigs and you’ll keep making money.
I’ve seen many bands fall apart because one person in the band stopped working. It’s a testament to how important it is for each and every member of the band to learn their parts when you see a band fall apart because one person continues to not learn the songs. So if you’re getting stuck in a rut then make a goal to learn a new song this week. You have to make the time and just get it done. Memorize those lyrics, learn that solo, get the chord progression and song structure down. Don’t rely on cheat sheets either because that just looks unprofessional.