Putting together my first “from scratch” band, tips/advice?

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by fjrabon, Oct 17, 2018.

  1. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 14, 2013
    I mostly play in a band that comes together for special concerts and society gigs. No originals. We’re all busy with day jobs. I transcribe and chart things, which cuts our prep time in half. We bring on younger musicians and singers, so the line-up changes a bit each time. Tips:

    One leader to run rehearsal.
    Politeness and compliments.
    Shared sense of humor.
    Shared passion for the details.
    Shared life circumstances.
    Thank you’s.

    These things go a really long way. We also never eat or drink until rehearsal is over.
    nojazzhere and JustABluesGuy like this.
  2. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

    Sep 2, 2016
    Houston, TX
    I want to be in your band! I have buddies I jam with on occasion. They think we’re a band, but then say things like “Man, I haven’t played since we got together and ‘practiced’ 3 weeks ago!” and prove that we are still just friends jamming and having a few beers.

    They definitely don’t know the difference between practice and rehearsal. It seems they ONLY practice when we get together.
    nojazzhere likes this.
  3. Commodore 64

    Commodore 64 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 1, 2010
    Kent, OH
    Cover bands perhaps. It all depends on the band's raison d'être, I suppose.

    But I submit that one can have a good time at rehearsals, (and at gigs). "Effective Rehearsal" and "good time" aren't mutually exclusive to me, so indeed we are at cross-purposes. And everyone who drinks or smokes at a rehearsal or gig should not automatically be assumed to be at "cross-purposes" with a successful band, either.

    The main point I take issue with is the insinuation of FAILURE is related to some behavior that is perceived to be unprofessional or not serious. It reeks of "holier than thou" (and probably, that isn't your intent), but that bugs me. It might mean your band fails, if that means you don't get paid enough. But it doesn't mean all bands fail.

    And I'm mainly making these points as an exercise to not discourage others. I got a late start on playing music. I've been in bands with old guys who are (or were) great musicians. Some of them can be downright annoying AF. Reliving their old days, not taking any advice as to what the crowd might want. One even insisted on playing Bad Moon Rising twice in the same set. You know cuz he knew what the crowd wanted, and he had all the "experience".

    I tried to tell him that the FOH speakers were clipping badly, and he had levels way too high. He kicked me out of the band. And then the audience came up to him and told him something was wrong with the sound. I finished that gig, and I played another gig or 2 with those "pros", who used music stands, chord charts and sniveled at me when I had a beer. But at least I knew my stuff without those crutches.

    I still play often with some of 'em. But not the dood who ran practice like a ****. And we sure as hell aren't doing covers of There's a Bathroom on the Right or using chord charts (see I can be holier than thou, too ;) )

    There's a band out there for everyone, even a noob who just plays well enough to fit in with some great musicians. And most people in the crowd don't care if you make a flub, or don't play intricate stuff (so long as it sounds good). And one dude tokes at weekly practice. We all have a beer or 3, too. And we're all friends and have fun. 3 of my best friends in the world at this stage of my life, in fact. We've played shows in Pittsburgh,PA, Wheeling, WV, all around Ohio, and even Olympia, Washington. I never dreamed I would even strum a guitar around a campfire and sing a song. I suspect by some definitions our band has "failed" because we don't really make money (Band funds about $1,200 in 5 years of gigging) and are on 18 month gig hiatus as of right now (life happens, old guys get cancer, have heart attacks, 60% of the population gets divorced, people get new jobs). But we have fun. And Fans. And we'll play out again someday.

    PS: Sometimes we'll cover an overplayed classic if we are last set and the bar is nearly empty and someone requests it [aka, Folsom Prison Blues]. Though sometimes it's fun to blow people's minds when a psychedelic garage country band busts out Electric Funeral at 2 AM.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
    Ben-Zion likes this.
  4. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 17, 2003
    We all know that rehearsal is more than bowling night with the boys.
    Notebooks and recorders are present and there are no excuses for not knowing what we worked out last time.
    It's not easy to find guys who are on the same page.
    For better or worse, we tend to operate like we're the real deal, even though we're just a local band.
  5. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

    May 27, 2013
    Take every beautiful note and bathe it in your finest oils of emotion and love.

    Sing every song as if the woman of your dreams wrote it specifically for you to sing.

    The leaf is not greater than the stem, and yet
    the flower blooms not without either of those.

    Leaders emerge on their own.
    A musical director is also a great co captain.
  6. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    Wow, I really like this.
  7. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

    Sep 4, 2008
    Hudson Valley, NY
    I am now kind-of unofficially/officially the leader of an actual band that just played their second gig today, and I've never been bandleader before so I really appreciate the opinions in this thread. Our thing is to be a trio (I do vocals and guitar) that plays a particular well defined kind of cover song - uptempo rock n roll from the dawn of the phenomenon (around Maybelline) ending at the Beatles / Dylan (1964). Nothing from the Classic Rock era. No schmaltsy stuff like Love Me Tender either. We have a bunch of other amateur musician folks that we know that we can and do on occasion play with, which can, it turns out, be tricky. None of us are super experienced or amazing musicians yet, so there's a lot of learning happening at all levels. The bass player plays an electric upright, I play an electric (my tele so far) and an acoustic. The drummer drums, sings backup and is messing around with playing a little keyboards on the side. We don't have the singing capacity to do a ton of harmonies yet, but we do try.

    We have a few guidelines that we set up and agreed to:
    1. The band is a trio that welcomes guests who want to contribute - but we book gigs according to the schedules of us three. Then we see if our friends will join us and come to a couple rehearsals. Any song we cover has to be playable by us three alone. That means no crazy harmonies, no songs where sax is crucial, etc.
    2. All of us have veto power over a song - if anybody really hates it, we find another song.
    3. Singer (me!) picks the key
    4. I'm not officially the band leader but as the front person of a trio I seem to get extra status automatically.

    Anyhow it's interesting and cool to see how these explicit ground rules have helped us to much more easily shape a band with a sound and a structure as opposed to being some people who jam and talk about getting gigs, and have hurt feelings about who picks what song and who has to play what. I can imagine another band having really different rules but I think that without any rules at all it would be near impossible to sustain and thrive and have fun.
    Harry Styron and mexicanyella like this.
  8. TequilaCaster

    TequilaCaster Tele-Holic

    Mar 26, 2003
    Between Time and Space
    Don't be a flake, don't suffer flakes either.
  9. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 26, 2012
    Troy, MO
    It's a new thing, taking shape, and you're excited about it and want to post. I get that, and envy you for being in that "possibilities abound" headspace. But my advice is, relax and let it happen, at least for a little while, without worrying too much about who will lead. Let it coalesce a bit. A leader will emerge, for better or for worse.

    Hopefully one of the things that will coalesce is that the bassist and whatever drummer you hire will be an ass-kicking tight unit with their ears turned on and attuned to one another, or develop into one fairly quickly. Pretty big hurdle, right there.

    Now, conventional wisdom over at Talkbass says that in almost any band situation, the first thing to do is fire the drummer. Why not fire the future drummer in advance, right now? Then re-hire him.
    BallisticSquid likes this.
  10. Kingpin

    Kingpin Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Avoid toxic personalities, no matter how talented they may be. You don't have to be best buddies with every bandmate, but a level of mutual respect and a shared vision of the band's goals has to be there.
    BallisticSquid likes this.
  11. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    Up North
    1) Be the Leader and use Your Name as the name of the band. Even if it is "Your Name" and .....
    2) OWN the PA system or, at least enough of it to do practice and do a gig with. Same goes for lights.
    Add Transportation and a place to practice too.
    3) You have stated the kind of Music you want to do. Follow through on it and stay on your flight Path.
    4) Be Pragmatic. That is how Business gets done. This will include adding and dropping Songs, Gigs and, Band Members as you see fit.
    5) Be sure to have an ample supply of Musicians who can fill in when one of the regular members can't or Won't play the Gig.
    6) Taxes. You Might have to face them. Know how to fill out the appropriate paperwork or, be prepared to pay taxes on everything you just paid your band!

    You are Da Man. Don't let them forget it.
    You don't have to rule with an Iron Fist all the time but, when push comes to shove, having a back-up plan in place will save you a lot of grief.
  12. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    May 12, 2013
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Based on mistakes I’ve made:

    1. For as much as it is in your control to do so, find people with similar musical taste.

    2. Audition everyone, even friends you have played with before!! (Even that killer drummer you knew back when can loose his chops)

    3. There MUST be a band leader. If not you, somebody.

    4. Establish how money is distributed upfront.
    (ex: If the drummer books the band he should get something for it etc,.)

    5. Establish band rules upfront.
    • ex: no buzzed playing at gigs.
    • rehearsal expectations (come prepared)
    • be at gig 1 hour prior

    6. Establish bands vision upfront.
    •We are a money making wedding band.
    •We want to play clubs once a week at the most
    •We are a cover/original band

    7. Dont rely on someone who is in multiple bands. Sorry, this has bit me too many times. Its an inevitability that there will be a conflict and it can cost you a venue. More of a problem if you do a lot of original tunes.

    Its been a struggle for us for all the reasons stated and some more I’m sure we will discover..

    Good luck!!
    BallisticSquid and ndcaster like this.
  13. fjrabon

    fjrabon Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 22, 2010
    Well, this just happened, lol. No plans to rehire him though.

    Auditioning two new drummers over the weekend. Everything else is going really well so far. And I’m actually pretty excited for both the guys we have auditioning. Both already seem like better fits and from the videos they sent me, more solid drummers.

    Then it’s just a game of how fast we can get to 30 songs. As much as we do the southern rock jam thing on a few songs, we can cover a gig with 30 and have a lot to spare.
  14. Rob77

    Rob77 Tele-Meister

    Jul 31, 2017
    Brisbane, Australia
    As others have mentioned there is a general need for a leader, someone at least to steer the ship. I find bands no different to work, life, etc. Some people are just "born" leaders, some are thrust into it. Take it as a positive challenge, and maybe take the task on. No matter what happens you will learn a great deal!

    Wish you and the band all the best!
  15. Doghouse_Riley

    Doghouse_Riley Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 11, 2016
    Democratic bands often fail. They wind up in mob rule where the more aggressive push around the more compliant.

    I'm the leader of my band. It's a benevolent dictatorship. I get input from everybody then make the decisions mostly based on what makes the song sound good and the band run smooth.

    I have this posted on the wall of our rehearsal space:
    1. Don't Be A D!ck.
    2. Be Here When You Say You'll Be Here.
    3. Handle Your Sh!te. Only You Are Responsible For You.

    I find that most band issues are covered by these 3 rules. There is another sign that says "No Whining" but that's more of a corollary to Rule 1. I have thought about adding #4 No Talking Politics. So far I've held off on that one.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
    BallisticSquid likes this.
  16. Derwood

    Derwood TDPRI Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Don't invite a member's spouse to join your existing band.
  17. PBO Blues

    PBO Blues Tele-Holic

    Jan 15, 2016
    Chatham County, NC
    That's all you got? Well, my friend, you got a lot. Especially when this carries beyond the band.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
    galaxiex likes this.
  18. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid TDPRI Member

    Nov 6, 2018
    The probability of a band democracy failing goes up exponentially as you add members. My duo was pretty democratic and it worked quite well. A foursome I was in was like herding cats and went absolutely nowhere.

    Band Vision was mentioned...and I think that's a real important one. Not only should it be established, everybody needs to buy into it and accept it!! In my foursome, we established a vision of "a gigging band playing modern rock with a nod to the classics". I never could get behind it because it seemed schizophrenic to me and only one person in the band was really into the modern rock thing. Some also seemed perfectly content just rehearsing forever with no gigs on the calendar. Eventually I left because I could see the band was going nowhere...which is exactly where it went.

    My current band, a five piece, is a benevolent dictatorship. Am I 100% happy with all of the decisions? No. However, decision are made and progress continues to move forward! Otherwise, it would be more cat herding. I am more than happy not to be in charge and let others have the headaches.

    Communication is really key. I think complementing your bandmates where appropriate goes a long way. It's also important to point out where things aren't working as well as they could and offer suggestions on how improvement could be made. If the egos are left at the door as suggested, this shouldn't be a problem.
  19. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Every time I read thread like this I marvel at how hard making live music seems to be for many. I can’t imagine doing it if it involved that many rules and that much struggle.
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