So you’re a musician and you want to become a live performing musician. You want to start a band and you’re not sure what instruments you need to get a functional band together. The beautiful thing about playing in a band is the fact that you’re going to be playing with other people. You won’t be a solo artist anymore when you play in a band. In fact, the definition of band is “An unofficial association of people or groups.” So I guess technically you only need two people to start a band. The first thing you need to decide is what type of music you’re going to be playing. If you decide you want to play hard rock then the lineup requirements will be different than if you are playing bluegrass. How many people you have in your band can really affect your band chemistry as well. Musician’s tend to have large personalities and the more you add, the more interesting and challenging things can become. Let’s take a look at some typical band lineups.
Previously I wrote about how all the instruments in a band are equally important. Especially in the fact that everyone in the band is going for something greater than the individual parts. Another obvious fact of playing is that all musicians are not equally skilled on their instruments. I do believe that no matter how skilled you are on your instrument you need to remember to keep an eye on the ultimate goal of a band which is to create great music, not to simply play a great part. That being said, it would be foolish indeed not to feature your more skilled musicians with more prominent roles in the band.
The other day I was talking to some young musicians that were just forming their first band. One of them asked me which instrument was the most important instrument in the band. This is a question I’ve heard a lot over the course of my career and I’ve had a lot of discussions with other musicians about which instrument is the most important in the band. Is it the Lead Singer? Everyone focuses on the singer when the band is playing right? How about the drums, you couldn’t have a rock party without drums. Everyone loves the lead guitar, always getting high-fives after a good solo. What about the bass, no bottom end means no rumble in the chest and it’s a lame show without some good shaking going on. Without decent keyboards the music loses it’s harmonic texture.
I always figured if I practiced long and hard enough that I would become a good enough musician that my skills would guarantee a successful show every time I played. So I practiced and I became a good musician but I found that a good show doesn’t just depend on musical skill. A good show is a collective effort between several different factors.
One of the biggest challenges you face in any band is keeping the band from falling apart. I’ve already talked about having a band leader but the fact of the matter is, the members are still there by choice. There are a lot of different things that can pull a band apart.
One thing that’s inevitable in a band is what I call the “Weakest Link” syndrome. I don’t care how good everyone is, someone in the group will be the weakest link. Let me give you a few names and just think about their role as the “weakest link”.
One of the things I’ve encountered in my career playing in bands is the importance of keeping everybody on the same page. One thing that is constant is the fact that things constantly change. The band may have started out with one vision, one goal and a clear path to get there. As time goes on and people grow and the band gets out playing in front of people those things will most likely change. Before long, the band that started out as a rock-n-roll roadhouse band is playing a bunch of country music and not everyone in the band is happy about that. Another thing that happens to bands is personality conflicts. They’re inevitable and unavoidable. Sometimes there are hurt feelings because of things that have been said or done in the heat of the moment. You can make it through these things as long as the band keeps the ability to talk to each other openly and honestly.
When I first started playing in bands I was very young, 14 years old actually. All the rest of the guys were about 3 years older than me. I knew nothing about playing live rock-n-roll and was more than willing to have the older guys show me the ropes. The leader in my first band was the Bass player. He was a great leader and we never felt like we had a dictator at the helm. That band was such a great experience that I’m still playing today because of it.
If you’ve played in bands for any length of time at all I’m sure you’re well aware of personality conflicts. A lot of very famous and huge acts have fallen apart citing personality differences or conflicts as the reason the band fell apart. Chris Cornell of of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave cited “Personality Differences” as a major reason for leaving both of those bands. Another famous example is Van Halen, Eddie has cited several times that the reason somebody has left the band was “Personality Differences”. I’ve seen interviews with Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth where it looked like it was all Eddie could do to keep from strangling Roth.
It’s something that you’ll never be immune to in a band. Part of the evolution of a band is the emergence of personality conflicts. When you start a band, everyone is on their best behavior. The members are nice and respectful to each other. You all share a common vision and in the beginning you’re focused on the same things. It usually doesn’t take long though for the differences of opinion to surface. The nastiness can come out as soon as you start trying to decide on a song list. It can get even nastier when you start trying to decide on a band name. Even deciding which harmonies each member is going to sing can bring out huge clashes between band members. Continue reading “Personality Conflicts and Bands”
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. Continue reading “A Lot Of The Time Playing In A Band Is Work”