5 Reasons Why You Might Want to Ignore The Advice From Part 1
Let’s face it. Being in a band can be tremendously rewarding, even if you never make it big. Making music is a great way to pass the time, and it doesn’t get better than doing it with your friends.
I’m not surprised if many of you are tempted to reject the recommendations, I made Part 1 of this series where I posted five reasons you shouldn’t start a band.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing in a band as an adult, and if that’s what make you happy then I hope you’re not deterred by my previous post. However, hopefully you’ll consider the advice I provided and use it to your advantage in way that minimizes those down sides so that you can optimize the amount of enjoyment you have.
Reason 1: You won’t be happy unless you’re in a band
This blog tries to help adults figure out what aspects of music make them happy so they can on those activities in the limited time they have. Perhaps you’re a person who just will never be satisfied with anything less than being a traditional band. Maybe you’ve read some of the other posts I’ve written and decided those suggestions just aren’t for you. That’s cool. You do you!
If you’re in that boat, you’ve probably already had some success playing in bands. You’ve felt the rush of live performance and you’re not willing to give that up. That’s awesome, you’ve found your path. If this describes you, then you’re better prepared than someone who just taught themself how to play during the pandemic.
However, if you’re one of those new players you should not have any delusions that being in a band will be easy. Assess your commitment level, if you’re not all-in, then consider trying something else first.
Reason 2: You love to perform in front of an audience, live, in real life
I always took note of the first person to hit the dance floor when I would play gigs. That person came to the show determined to have a good time. She starts the party and others eventually join in (it’s always a lady). Things snowball from there.
Spotting that first dancer always reminds me why we perform. All artists want to make people feel something, and spontaneously bursting into dance is a very clear person indication that someone is having a great time. You’ve helped that person escape their troubles, at least for the evening, and that’s a wonderful service to humanity. You should be proud. I always was, and I still miss performing when I spot the first dancer a gig that I’m not playing.
I can recall a gig that had an entirely different emotional impact. My college band was booked at coffee shop in upstate New York, just a few days after the terror attacks of September 11,2001. It felt wrong to play a show knowing that some everyone in the audience was still in shock, and so many in our community were still mourning. The band and I debated whether we should cancel the show or not. Ultimately, we decided to play the gig because we knew we could help people heal.
We reviewed our setlist and swapped out a few songs that wouldn’t really set the right tone. We also added a cover that we’d never played before “Let it Be” by the Beatles. We never had a chance to rehearse it beforehand. I can’t recall ever playing a song live before or since where we had no rehearsal.
I had some jitters about playing such an iconic and beautiful song unrehearsed, especially during such a serious gig. So, I snuck out the door and went to the park across the street to practice a little bit before our set. I might have gotten through the song once or twice before a kid, probably about 13 or 14 years old rolled up on his skateboard. He listened for a minute and nodded along without saying a word. When I finished, he started peppering me with questions about guitar and what it’s like to play in a band. Truth be told, I was in absolutely no mood to chat with him. I was trying practice, but he seemed over joyed to pick my brain about the guitar. Eventually he told me that he had just gotten a guitar and he learned to play a Green Day song. I relinquished my guitar to him and asked him to play for me. His clumsy fingers fretted the chords correctly, but he couldn’t quite move them with the right timing. When he finished, I applauded, he handed the guitar back to me, he was beaming with pride, and I was proud of him.
Eventually he jumped back on his board and rolled away so I returned to the coffee shop and played the set. Eventually we came to “Let it Be.” It started out surprisingly strong despite the lack of rehearsal. All was going well until the singer cued me up for a solo. I’ve never been a very confident improvisor, so this gave me a beat of panic- but just a beat because my brain shut down and the fingers took over. It wasn’t the best solo you ever heard by any means, but it was melodic, expressive and I didn’t play any dumb notes. The crowd loved it and the guys congratulated me after the set on it.
I know this was a long story, but it highlights so many of the things that I loved about performing, the personal connection with an audience, the personal connection with the kid in the park, the flow of a moment that overwhelms you both emotionally and creativity. These are all benefits you can get from performing live. There was also something special about bringing joy into a world that needed it as badly as people in New York did that week. I honestly believe that decisions like ours, to play that gig, are why the terrorist can never win. Despite their efforts to destroy us, we persevered with strength, beauty, and hope.
Reason 3: You have a group of like-minded, dedicated musicians who want to play
Maybe you already have a bunch of folks in your life who are eager to play. The sun, the moon, and the stars are aligning, and it just makes sense to start a band. You may have stumbled into a situation that is just too good to pass up.
If this is the case, I recommend that you schedule a few jam sessions to see how it’s goes on a trial basis. Speak to all the members and try to get a sense of what everyone wants to get out of the band. Are you all aligned with what you would like to achieve? It may be turn out that people aren’t as aligned as you think, but you won’t know that until you start testing the waters. Can you feel momentum building? Ride the wave and see where it takes you. Maybe you’ll be surprised.
If it turns out that your band members aren’t as dedicated as you are, you may be in an unenviable position of having to replace someone if you want to continue making progress – but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
Reason 4: You live in place with ample opportunity
Not all areas of the world are the same. Some cities like Nashville or New Orleans have a tremendous number of venues where bands can play. Of course, areas these cities are also saturated with extraordinary talent who want to play in those venues. If you live in a place like this, you may find yourself incredibly inspired to make music but may find the barriers to booking shows entry unsurmountable.
On the other hand, there are plenty of towns around the U.S. that have a bar or two that are happy to let local bands play. You might even happen to know the owner if you live in such an area. It might be a reasonable goal to score a monthly gig with your country covers band in a place like that. In my experience, the pay for gigs like that isn’t enough that you can quit your day job, but that’s not your goal it might be enough. Maybe you’re happy play for a bucket of beers. By all means, if that make you happy, ride that wave as far as it goes.
One more thing to consider is that even though the clubs in your area might be willing to hire you once, they may not hire you again if you can’t bring a good crowd out to hear you. Make sure that your musical style is something that is palatable to the community where you play. Your death metal band may have trouble building an audience in areas that have a strong preference for jazz. That doesn’t mean you can’t find success, but you will probably have to spend additional time and effort promoting yourself.
Reason 5: You need a means of expressing yourself that you can’t do any other way
Singing is not a skill I’ve ever been very successful developing, but I love songwriting. One of the challenges I face is that if I want to ever hear my creations, I need to have a partner who can bring it to life. That doesn’t mean I need a band per se, but as long as I’m recruiting a singer, I might as well work with a drummer too (drum machines and virtual drummers are cool, but they’re still no substitute for the real things).
There are numerous ways to collaborate both virtually and in real-life. These may be great options for you (I’ll write more about them in Part 3 of the series). However, there is something special about forming a band with like-minded musicians who learn your style and preference and can play off them intuitively, especially when you’re all in the same space in real life. Being in a band is in a lot of ways a like a good marriage, and over time you can really develop synergy and learn to play to each other’s strengths and support each other to compensate for weaknesses. This is much less likely to occur with temporary collaborations.
Some people just have a need to express themselves, and perhaps a band is the only way for you to do that. If you find that you can’t adequately express yourself without a band, then do it.
This site encourages you to explore the many musical hobbies you can try. Starting a band is one hobby that many of you have probably considered, in fact, it is probably the first one many of you have considered. It’s a wonderful way to spend your time, and I encourage to try it especially if the topics I wrote about here outweigh the challenges I wrote about in Part 1.
I hope some of you have made up your mind and now you’re sending texts trying to schedule your first rehearsal with your future band. I hope you’ll post a video of your first show in the comments below.
However, if you’re still sitting the fence, that’s cool too because I have a lot of suggestions to help you key in on other ways that you can get the thrill of performing without all the effort of starting a band.
Be sure to check back for Part 3 of the series where I will share a few of them. Also be sure to check out my other posts because those will give you other musical hobbies that may be just as fulfilling and that may be better suited for your lifestyle.
If you want an alternative take on what it’s like to be in a band check out this video.
2 thoughts on “Hobby #2: Start a Band”