How to Form a Band – Top 10 tips

My Top 10 tips on how to form a band, from first rehearsal to getting out there and gigging.

Tip #1: Get together with Friends

If you don’t all get along, there’ll be problems sooner or later. Trust me. I’ve been in various bands with the same drummer for years, a school friend. We can criticize each other and argue all we like, but we’ve got that friendship behind us, and understand that we are only after what’s best for the band.

If you don’t know someone in a band, it can take a while to build trust. Will they pull their weight? Are they reliable? Having a band consisting of friends makes things easier from the outset as you already know the personalities involved.

Of course, you could also just advertise. Indeed, the most experienced, professionally minded musicians will recruit members, or join existing bands in a more business-like manner, but then the band is in danger of becoming just that, a business, with a CEO calling the shots, which of course, eventually takes all the fun out of it. Doing things as a business also means it’s more difficult keeping the band together, as the various members have no sense of loyalty to each other.

Tip #2: Sort out a practice room.

Arranging a practice / rehearsal space that is handy for all can be difficult, especially if you live far apart from each other, but once put in place the band will move forward more quickly. Some options are:

  • A Member’s home. The ideal situation is to rehearse at one of the member’s places (e.g. a garage), as that’s not only free, it gives you the freedom to practice whenever you want, for however long you want. The drawback of this method is, of course, that you’ll need all your own equipment (pa, guitar amps, drums etc).
  • A function room in a bar or other public building. Another good option could be a function room in a bar etc. whereby you could strike up some sort of deal with the manager or landlord, for example giving them three free gigs a year in exchange for regular practice sessions. This may not be as flexible as option 1 though, as you are tied down to the owner’s schedule.
  • A dedicated rehearsal room. The most expensive option, but probably the easiest when starting out as most places will have in-house equipment (p.a., drumkit and amplifiers) you can use included with the price.

Tip #3: Pick songs you love

Playing songs you aren’t passionate about becomes a chore, and once it becomes a chore you’ll get sloppy, then mistakes will slip in. It’s no fun going through the motions playing songs you have little or no interest in, especially in front of an audience. They may not take to kindly to a half-hearted, low quality performance, particularly if they’ve paid an entrance fee. It only takes one punter to give bad report of you to the manager of the venue, which could cost you bookings both here and at other venues in future. It’s a lot easier to get a bad reputation than earn a good one.

On the flip side, if you pick songs the whole band are passionate about (easier said than done). The audience can sense it, you’ll put more into the performance and everyone’s happy.

Cosmic Spaces Pirates Live

Cosmic Space Pirates – Live

Tip #4: Improve together

It’s unlikely all members of the band will be at the same level. You may have an amazing drummer, singer and guitarist, but the bassist is some way behind (to begin with) and is restricted to simpler songs that are easier to play. It’s important to bring them up to the more experienced members level, through encouragement, so that the band can learn together and improve the overall quality. One way to do this is to pick a few songs that none of the members know so that everyone is learning those songs at the same time and pace. Once the ‘junior’ member has the bit between his/her teeth, their confidence and enthusiasm will explode, maybe even surpassing the other members, and they’ll grow to become a valuable asset.

Tip #5: Record practices/rehearsals

Critically analyse your practices and rehearsals. What works? What needs work? You don’t want to wait until you’re playing in-front of an audience to realize a song isn’t quite right, or just plain sounds terrible. Use your phone or tablet, even video the performance to see how ridiculous you look, put on a performance, analyse that. It’s all beneficial in polishing you up.

Tip #6: Put yourself out there

It’s hard to get your first gig and to get publicity in the beginning. So put yourself out there….

  • Take some promotional photos and create a bio (description of the band, material covered, background and influences). SELL yourselves in a positive light, be confident, but always keep it in the third person so as not to sound too over-confident and fake.
  • Set up a Facebook page and invite the band’s pool of friends for starters. If you’ve done some decent rehearsal videos stick them on as this sort of thing is invaluable.
  • Do gigs / festivals for charity, you’ll get a big audience and a lot of valuable exposure.
  • Promote yourself at open-mic events.
  • Share gigs with a more established band.
  • Sign up with various promotional companies that are tied in with the venues . onthecasemusic.co.uk is a local example.

In this day and age, it’s my opinion that the demo CD has been replaced by social media, and in particular Youtube and Facebook. Venues want to see and hear the band easily to make a decision.

Also, investing in a website at this early stage isn’t really necessary as you’ll be getting far more exposure from existing social networking sites (and word of mouth) anyway.

Tip #7: Invest in gear.

Here’s an example of the minimum equipment you’ll need when starting out (This doesn’t include any of the guitarist’s, drummer’s, bassist’s or keyboard player’s equipment).

  • A mixer. To start with, you’ll need to mic the main vocal, backing vocals and perhaps the bass drum.
  • 2 Active (powered) speakers + speaker cables to mixer. You can upgrade to bass bin etc later on.
  • A monitor + cable to mixer. It’s a good idea to use another active speaker as the monitor, so that it can act as a spare if one of your main speakers goes down.
  • Mics + mic leads
  • Power Cables
  • Power Extensions
  • Mic Stands
  • Speaker stands
  • A modest set of stage lights.

Tip #8: Put on a show

  • Plan the set and rehearse it to cut down on the errors. Practice makes perfect.
  • Decide on a opener that’ll create impact and showcase the band in their best light.
  • Try and build up to your best songs at the end of the set.
  • Group certain types of songs together to create some momentum. I.e, if the audience is up dancing, keep them dancing with up-beat numbers.
  • Talk to the audience, involved them, get them up on stage and make them feel part of the show.
  • Be courteous and respectful to everyone. You never know who’s listening.
Cosmic Space Pirates - Live at the Queen's Head, Cullercoats, England

Cosmic Space Pirates – Live

Tip #9: Hone your set to your audience.

You’ll think some songs sounds great in rehearsals, but nobodies interested when it comes to playing them live. Listen to your audience feedback. Give them what they want (within reason). Add in some suggestions and come back next time with an even better set. Come up with some sort of theme, if the 60’s rock n roll numbers are going down well, put more in, if a certain style is bombing, leave them out.

Tip #10: Have fun

Playing and performing should be fun, it should be something you look forward to. Once it starts becoming a chore, a means to an end to pay the bills, people can tell, including the audience and the more importantly the guy that hired you. Showing passion and enthusiasm for the music is very difficult fake, but could be one of the main reason the band gets re-booked.

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