HOW TO START YOUR OWN BAND (PART 1):
FORMATION & FOUNDATION
Bands are a prime source of inspiration for many guitar players out there, both young and old.
As your guitar skills progress, it is often a logical step to start thinking about forming a band, especially if you know people who have some musical flair as well. So how does one start a band?
There is no set way to start a band, as bands like The Killers, U2, and Hanson, have all proved.
You can start a successful band in a variety of different ways
- Putting an ad in a newspaper
- Playing with your mates
- Getting the family involved!
However, all good bands have one thing in common -- a solid foundation.
Creating a solid foundation for your band is important to prevent structural failure (commonly known as splitting up!) down the track.
Continual success for the band (whether you judge that by the amount of gigs you play, the enjoyment you get out of jam sessions, or the amount of hits on your website) is largely dependent on getting all the components right from the start. This is the foundation.
Building on a faulty foundation will produce a shaky structure at best. It is therefore wise to iron out even the smallest issues in the band from the very beginning. Here are a few tips to getting a band started and building a solid foundation.
The first components to think about are the people, the music, and the instruments.
They all need to meld together seamlessly for your band to get off the ground. Decide what music you would like to play, decide on the people you would like in the band, and know what instruments those people play. Difficulties will arise if the people in the band don't want to play similar music, or you wind up with three drummers and no vocalist, or if you all have different ideas.
Talk in depth with the people you would like involved in the project. Once you have that sorted, do you have the minimal instrumental requirements for a band? The basic band will have a vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. At the very least, do you have these covered? When you have the right people, and have sorted out their roles, it's time for a jam session.
The jam session is where creative difference, individual playing styles, and personal thought processes will become apparent. It will also be one of the most crucial times for the band, as differences of opinion frequently arise. Be patient! Your first jam session could be difficult as you learn each others styles and habits. Take notes on the events of the jam session. Also allow solo time for each individual member, letting them voice their thoughts as well.
Finally, you need to open up channels of communication between band members now! Band members should have the opportunity to express their thoughts on the other members playing styles, as well as the general direction of the band, and the music that the band is playing. It will be impossible to survive if you take each others advice and suggestions as criticism. Don't site Oasis as a reason to continually feud. It is only a very special kind of relationship that can turn feuding into productivity!
When the band feels harmonious, and the jam sessions are going well, it is time to belt out some tunes.
Avoid doing original material first! Producing original material is a complex task at the best of times. It should not be attempted immediately by a fresh band. Instead, get a list of five simple cover songs that everyone in the band likes. Get band members to write a list of five simple songs on a piece of paper. From each list, allow the band to vote on one song to play. Everyone will then have a song from their list, and everyone will be happy with the songs chosen.
Finally, take it one song at a time. Allow plenty of time to get a song right. If one is clearly not working, move on or leave it for another day. But be prepared to put what you learnt in your jam sessions to good use. Take notes, keep communication lines open, make suggestions. You're band should now be well on it's way to belting out some solid tunesÖ you're thinking about performing live now right?
CREATING THE BAND (PART 2): THE EQUIPMENT
Your band is now up and running. You're beginning to churn out the tunes like a well oiled machine.
Perhaps you have even attempted one or two original pieces. It's decision time!
Do you stay as a fun band, playing for self satisfaction only? Or do you take the next step up and see what you can make out if this?
For those squarely in the latter, your first task will be to pick up some serious equipment and get used to using it.
This is a crucial time in your bands life. Some serious group decisions will need to be made. Have a band meeting to discuss the matter of equipment.
Make sure everyone has a voice. Most importantly, remember that solid equipment is the most important thing after the talent of the band.
The equipment you go for will depend on the type of music you play. Do your research thoroughly!
Guitar Tips recommends guitarists look at Ibanez, a Marshall stack, and Digitech or Boss multi effects racks. Make sure you are careful with your choice of PA equipment.
"One of the most important aspects of your overall sound is your PA equipment. Simply put, it is a set of speakers (large ones, small ones, foldback ones) and a sound mixer to plug it all into. My personal recommendation is to have all players go through their usual amp equipment but turned down slightly. Then plug everyone into the PA equipment and have someone mix the sound for you from their position." - Chris Elmore; owner of Guitar Tips Online.
You should also think about running everyone through the PA system after running them through their own equipment. This will create a good overall sound.
The rumor that PA systems are only for vocalists is not true. Get everyone plugged into the PA system and make sure that you have someone in the know at the mixing unit.
Their job is to ensure that all band members are in the right place and at the right level in the overall sound. Here are some general tips for producing a clear sound:
- Lead Guitarist: Must be loud during his lead breaks.
- Bass Guitar: Always follow the drummer's bass drum
- Rhythm Guitar: Not be too loud
- Drummer: Ensure that a foldback amplifier and speakers are placed next to them so they can hear the band in front of them
- Vocalist: Always the most important.
Must be clearly heard above everyone else
- Keep all volumes on your guitars slightly lower as it prevent feedback.
Remember that you must be confident and familiar with your equipment before you try a live gig.
Try performing in front of friends and/or family first. Once you are comfortable with your performance, it's time to try your hand at a live gig in front of the ever-demanding public eye!
CREATING THE BAND (PART 3): THE GIGS AND PUBLICITY
There are many ways to create public awareness of your band. The most obvious are publicity, competitions, and live performances.
The easiest way to make a name for your band is to enter competitions. Donít be too selective about which competitions you enter. Any publicity is good!
The more competitions you enter, the more experience your band will get playing under pressure. You may also want to try putting your hand up to play at functions or at public events, like school fetes.
Organizers are always looking for cheap entertainment, and itís a great opportunity for the public to hear your sounds. Who knows what type of people the audience may include!
When you first start playing in public, avoid original songs. Popular cover songs are much safer, as they are just that Ė popular! Play them well and the audience will warm to your band. Once you have built up an audience, then you can slowly try mixing in original material.
Even though playing cover songs may go against your creative processes, remember that if you want to make it as a live act, you are at the mercy of your audience. You must do everything to attract and hold your audience. A proven formula is the cover song. Find ones that genuinely reflect the type of band you are. This will give the audience a feel for your band without hitting them full on with your presence. It is easier to build up a fan base this way.
Just because you are playing covers doesnít mean that you canít be unique either. Research other bands, see what they are doing, and do things differently. Play against the norm. Itís a lot easier to attract attention when you are swimming upstream. Your uniqueness will stand you out from the crowd.
A large part of attracting an audience is publicity. Make sure you play to this by getting as much publicity as you can. Local media is a good start. They are always looking for a new story. Contact your local newspaper or radio station before gigs or after any success in competitions. Tell them what you are up to. Often they will find an angle to it and it may lead to some much needed free publicity. Developing your own website is always useful as well. It may come as a shock to newbies, but the fact of the matter is that the product only counts for 10% of the success. 90% is advertising and publicity, so do what you can to spread the word!
No matter how popular the cover songs you pick are, or how frequently you perform, your band will fail without performance consistency. After working so hard to attract an audience, you donít want that audience labeling your band as inconsistent. There is no excuse for a bad day in the live music industry. If youíre going to take this seriously, make sure you have had enough practice, and air out any problems (be they technical or personal) before you hit the stage.
Now you have all the parts to forming and maintaining a successful band! It can be a tricky process. There will be ups and downs for any band. The test of a good band will be how they survive the lows. Keep working at it, because the highs completely over shadow the lows.
Remember: Guitar Tips love to hear about your success stories! If you have used Guitar Tips and have managed to start a band, drop us a line and tell us about it!