Joining a band with no prior experience is a monumental step in any musician’s career. Whilst it might only seem like playing music with other people, you’ll be joining a tight-knit group of like-minded individuals and learning a range of new skills in the process.
Keep reading to learn all about:
- When to join or form a band
- How to join or form a band
- What to do once you’ve joined or formed a band
- Essential playing tips
- Extra equipment you’ll need
When To Join Or Form A Band
The fact that you’re reading this article is a good indicator that you’re ready to join or form a band. Many musicians mistakenly think they should wait until they’ve reached a certain level of technical proficiency before playing a band. The fact is that joining a band will improve your musical abilities tenfold, no matter how technically proficient you are. Playing with other musicians presents a phenomenal opportunity to speed up your technical proficiency and should be seen as such. For this reason, I’d advocate joining or starting a band as soon as you’ve mastered the basics on your instrument. I played guitar for six years before I started playing in committed projects; I only wish I’d started much sooner due to the significant effect it had on my playing.
In addition, playing in a band significantly improves your overall musicianship by teaching you a wide range of transferable skills. These include:
- Working as part of a team
- Learning to compromise
Finally, playing in a band is a huge amount of fun and a fantastic way to make new friends!
How To Join Or Form A Band
There are endless methods of joining or forming a band. However, they’re all based around simply finding a group of like-minded musicians. Here are the most common ways of joining or forming a band:
- School/college societies: If you’re currently in education, your school will almost-certainly have some form of music or band society. Societies often place a strong emphasis on collaboration and serve as a fantastic way to meet like-minded people.
- Your local scene: Becoming active in your local music scene is a great way to meet other musicians. If you live in a smaller town, it’s highly-likely that there will be a more populated area with a thriving music scene within an hour’s drive. Start going to shows and join relevant social media groups in order to stay connected.
- Online: There are several great online resources for joining or forming a band. My personal favorite is Bandmix, which is a classified ads site specifically for recruiting musicians. Craigslist is also a great resource, as are local Facebook groups.
Here are a few pointers on approaching musicians or expressing interest in joining an existing band:
- Make sure it’s the right type of project: Make sure that the other members have a similar music taste and level of enthusiasm as you do. Additionally, it’s important that everyone has the same aims going into the project. If you simply want to get used to playing with other people, it’s probably not the best idea to join a much more committed and experienced project. Be honest about your experience and your aims for the project upfront.
- Express genuine interest in others: Playing in a band is all about passion, commitment and collaboration. Expressing a genuine interest in what other people are doing will not only allow them to warm up to you, but also give you a chance to see if it’s reciprocated.
- Communicate your enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is key to a band’s success. Openly communicating your enthusiasm to play music will show others that you’re serious.
- Arrange a time to play: If you feel you’ve found a suitable project or even a like-minded musician, you should arrange a time to play together. Decide on a song or two between you, learn the material in advance and see how you click.
What To Do Once You’ve Joined Or Formed A Band
Once you’ve joined or formed a band, you might be asking yourself what to do next. Here are the next steps you should take:
- Find a rehearsal space: The easiest and most cost-effective option is to simply rehearse in a member’s basement or garage. This allows you to keep all of your equipment set up in a safe place in-between rehearsals. If you’re unable to rehearse in a member’s home due to potential noise complaints, professional rehearsal space can usually be found at low cost. If you’re paying for a dedicated rehearsal space, it can often be more affordable to block-book your rehearsals.
- Buy any additional equipment: Playing in a band often requires additional equipment, which is detailed towards the end of this article.
- Set a schedule: In order to make consistent progress as a band, you’ll have to take a consistent and organized approach to things. Arrange times to rehearse, update social media channels and complete any other band-related activities each week. If possible, it’s worth sticking to the same schedule each week in order to keep things simple.
- Delegate roles amongst members: As I’ve previously mentioned, playing in a band relies on effective teamwork. The best way to ensure everyone’s playing to their strengths and putting in equal effort is to delegate roles amongst members. If you’re going to be running social media channels, choose the most charismatic and creative member of your band to do so. If you need to do any admin-related work (such as emailing promoters or booking rehearsals), choose the most-organized member of your band to do so.
If you’d like a few more tips on what to do once you’ve joined or formed a band, check out our dedicated article.
Essential Playing Tips
There’s no doubt that playing in a band is different from playing alone. Here are five essential tips for playing in a band:
- Learn material in advance: Rehearsal should be used to perfect pre-learned material as an ensemble, not to waste time learning it from scratch. Plan what to play in advance and make sure you’ve learned it prior to the rehearsal.
- Hone in on a single element when playing: One of the main things musicians struggle with when they first join a band is keeping in time. Additionally, having three or four other people playing around you can often feel intimidating. My favorite trick to overcome both of these things is to hone in on a single element of the arrangement. Many people find the kick drum the easiest to focus on, although focusing on any single element will work fine.
- Play the song, not the instrument: When you’re rehearsing alone, you’re often focused on playing the instrument itself to improve your technique. By nature, this means your part will often be busier. However, when playing in a band, an overly-busy part can sometimes get in the way of the rest of the arrangement. Tailor to the needs of the song.
- Achieve a tone that sits well in the mix: This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Whilst you might be able to dial in a guitar or bass tone that sounds fantastic by itself, there’s a chance it might not sit well in the band’s overall mix. Focus on achieving a tone that sits well in the mix rather than one that simply sounds great on its own.
- Don’t rehearse too loud: Rehearsing at a reasonable volume doesn’t only save your hearing, but also forces you to pay closer attention to the arrangement. By nature, this’ll vastly improve your technique and enable you to better-identify problem areas.
If you’d like a few more actionable rehearsal tips, check out our dedicated article.
Extra Equipment You’ll Need
If you’re joining or forming a band for the first time, it’s well-worth investing in a few pieces of essential gear. Here are my top recommendations, which can be found on Amazon:
- Ear protection: Ear protection is crucial if you’re going to be rehearsing on a regular basis. Whilst cheap foam earplugs will adequately protect your hearing, they’ll muffle the sound to the point where it’s impossible to clearly hear the mix. My favorite ear protectors are the SureFire EP4’s, which fully protect your hearing without compromising sound quality.
- Drum stick bag: If you’re drumming in a band, you’ll often find yourself breaking sticks more often. Additionally, you might want to make use of brushes or different-weighted sticks. A drum stick bag is a great way to keep everything in one place. The Meinl Drum Stick Bag is great value for money and includes extra pockets for the rest of your accessories.
- Hard case: Hard cases are thoroughly recommended over gig bags due to how well they protect your instrument. ChromaCast offer a great value guitar case, whilst Yaheetech offer a great value bass case.
- PA system: If you’re rehearsing in a member’s house, you’ll certainly need a PA to run the vocals through. Ignite Pro offer a fantastic starter PA system that’s been heavily discounted.