5 Things to Never Say to Your Bandmates: Tips for Playing in a Band

Ben Muller Career Advice, Getting Started, Getting Started, Music, Performing Arts, Tips

Being in a band can be tough. Learning how to work well with your bandmates is essential.

Getting better as a group, from recording to playing live to writing songs, takes patience and time. After playing in a regularly gig-ing band for three years, my bandmates and I learned how to work together effectively, and naturally, we learned some things NOT to do along the way. Along those lines, here are 5 things to never, ever, say to your bandmates:

1.  I know we have practice in 10 minutes, but I’m just really swamped with this nap right now.

To be fair, there are occasionally good reasons to miss band practice. But telling your bandmates last-minute that you’re not free is never okay, and skipping out is only acceptable if you have a good reason. Not only is regular practice the best way to get better, but practicing without even one member is ineffective. Even if the rest of the band has a great practice, they’ll have to spend part of the next one bringing you up to speed. Setting up a regular practice schedule is a great way to ensure you get regular practice, and ensures you can plan around scheduling conflicts ahead of time.

2.  (While walking onstage) Hey dude, what are the chords to this one again?

Speaking from experience, your bandmate will probably hurriedly whisper the chords to you and you’ll be mostly fine. The next time it happens though, you might get rolled eyes and take a solo in the wrong key. Knowing your songs inside and out is a no-brainer. That means paying attention during practice and practicing on your own to get them all down. While writing down chords can help when you’re first learning a song, be careful not to use that as a crutch, and get away from the paper as soon as you can. Rocking out is easier when you’re not glued to a piece of paper or forgetting the chords.

By: Incase

3.  If I didn’t write it, I’m not going to play it.

Finding a balance between covers and originals is a tricky business. After all, making a name for yourself will more likely come from writing good songs than playing someone else’s. On the other hand, a lot can be learned about songwriting by playing covers, from what progressions and structures make good songs, to what lyrics are effective and catchy. What’s more, covers can be more than just instructive; having a couple hours of covers in your repertoire means you can play events like parties and dances which tend to pay better and could lead to more gigs where you can pull out your original stuff. And just because a song isn’t yours doesn’t mean it can’t be original. Doing your own take on a classic song shows what your influences are, is bound to be a crowd-pleaser, and is a good chance to show off your creative side.

4.  I guess I’ll just noodle.

Writing a song as a band requires more than lyrics and chords. You’ll need to work out specific parts for each instrument that blend together while being interesting in their own right. Sometimes that means playing sparsely or not at all for a section. Random noodling, or playing just for the sake of having something to play, will make a song sound messy. Working out parts for each instrument can be time-consuming, but it’s well worth the final result.

5.  Jamming’s a waste of time. Here’s a full score.

While rarely necessary (if ever), a score can be occasionally useful. But jamming is hands down one of the best things you can do as a band. Improvising together — over a blues, a progression made up on the spot, an original, or a cover— will do wonders for your chemistry as a group. Practicing jamming sounds a little counter-intuitive, but working on playing and soloing over progressions in different styles and tempos will make you better at playing together, is an effective-songwriting tool, and is an easy way to extend your set if needed.

There you have it. With a little know-how and luck, and a lot of practicing, writing good songs and getting regular gigs is totally doable for any band that has the drive and commitment. Tune in next time for “Five Reasons You’re Doomed to Fail.”
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Ben Muller

Ben Muller

Musician, composer, and recent graduate of Amherst College, Ben is a Graduate Associate and Asst. Director of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra at the college. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Ben is pursuing a career in arts administration and film scoring and performs regularly in numerous vocal and instrumental ensembles.