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Playing In A Band

A successful band is more than a group of good musicians – There are many other factors besides musicianship that affect the success of a group. Today I would like to outline some of them so that you may avoid the pitfalls and problems that all bands face when trying to achieve success.

Firstly, I would like to talk about group direction. Before anyone even thinks about picking up their instrument, the direction of the group should be discussed and agreed upon. There are a few different directions a band can go. A ‘60/40’ group is one that plays approximately 60% old pop standards and 40% ‘top 40’ tunes. A band heading in this direction will play most of its gigs at dances, hotels, weddings etc. and can be assured of a steady income. Recognition for a band like this will probably be restricted to a local level.

Another direction a band can head is to play mainly original material and aim for a recording contract and tours. A band heading in this direction will not make a lot of money until they are well known.

When starting a group, it may be better to go with a ‘60/40’ group to gain experience and money for better gear. Whichever group you decide on, make sure that you all agree on the number of musicians, the types of instruments and the style of music that you are going to play.

You must choose a style of music that everyone in the band enjoys. It is a good idea to listen to other established groups playing live to gauge the popularity of different styles and to get a feel for which genre you would like to play in. Once you have decided upon a style, stick to it. You will notice that your crowd will get smaller because you are playing to a niche market; but you need to remember that you can’t please everyone and it is far better to give really pleasing shows to a select group than average shows to many.

It is extremely important to think about the structure of your group. Basically, a group can be broken down into two parts – the ‘rhythm section’ and the ‘lead section’. The ‘rhythm section’ includes the bass guitarist, the drummer and the rhythm guitarist. It is the job of the rhythm section to lay down the beat of the piece of music. The drummer and bassist should work together to set the beat up; the rhythm guitarist should fill the beat to give the whole rhythm a full finish.

The ‘lead section’ includes the lead guitarist the vocalist and other things like the keyboardist etc. This section should work together to embellish upon the beat that the rhythm section sets up.

It is important that each member does their part and does not over do it. You must remember that you are working as a team in order to achieve a combined sound.

If your group is really serious about getting out and playing and making a real impact on the music scene, then you should spend a lot of time on rehearsal – probably more time on that than anything else (apart from maybe sleep). It is important to be organized and to not let each other down as bands often breakup over commitment issues. When you start rehearsal, make sure that you have a goal for the session and that you keep record of what you achieve.

Rehearsal is important but I really can’t stress enough to you the importance of playing to a crowd. You will gain 20 times the amount of experience on stage as you would in the rehearsal room. Work on a good stage appearance and think about the things that you are going to say to your audience. It is most important to connect with your audience. You should practice these things in the rehearsal room.

It’s not all band work - you need to practice by yourself as well. Think of it as your responsibility to the other members in the band to keep your skill level up/increasing and to know your parts as best you can before you get to rehearsal. You will save countless hours if you work on band music outside of band rehearsal.

The most important thing when it comes to making a successful and tight band is unity. If the band works as one, it will achieve good things.

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