If you want to have fun and be successful with playing with others, you need to learn the 8 tips on how to play with a band. Therefore, I’m going to list, from my 40 years of experience the most important points. To get into the band of your choice and not get booted out. You will need to be able to play basic chords before you play with others, so check out this link if you need to get started.
Finding a Band
In any team sport, there are unwritten rules that you need to learn. The quicker you learn them the less you will annoy everyone. The other band members are there to have fun as well. Needless to say, you won’t be invited back if you break these rules and you will never know why.
- Checkout your local bands
- Ask at the music stores
- Canvas friends and family
- Speak with your guitar teacher or at school
- Get on the internet and find people to skype to play with.
Bands come in all shapes and sizes and can include orchestral instruments, such as the flute and saxophone. My dear friend from Topflute has some excellent tips on finding new members and groups to play with, so check out her post on ‘2 ways to create a music group.’
Rule 1 – Wait to Be Invited to Play
This may sound counter productive but I’m not saying just sit around hoping someone asks you. What you need to do is, take some time thinking about what sort of music you want to play, then go out and watch your local bands. Be friendly. When they ask if you can play, be humble (even if you are brilliant) and say you would like to play with other musicians. If they are open to letting someone come and try out, they will suggest it.
You need to have already decided if you want to jam just for fun or to play gigs. Although, the rules about turning up on time for rehearsals and being a contributing member of the band still apply.
It’s easy to pick an amateur because they will cancel a practise, not learn the charts and want to be the leader when they are not qualified. You need to pay your dues and earn respect.
Rule 2 – Put your Ego in your Back Pocket Forever!
Just lose the attitude. There will always be someone better than you.
Have you ever noticed, that most of the famous musicians in the world are quick with a compliment and slow to criticise? This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, especially if they have worked on their talent.
But, if you are ever going to learn anything and blend into a band as a true team member, you will need to develop a learning attitude. One that respects the other talented musicians you are playing with.
- Make sure that your guitar and amp are in working order, every time
- Have your music or charts in a folder, ready
- Take a music stand and seat if necessary
- Ask where to set up your gear and do it quickly and carefully
- Put your guitar case and bags out of the band space
- Take instruction and ask for advise
- Don’t ever turn your instrument up louder than everyone else
Rule 3 – Be on Time to Play with the Band
Everyone is busy! So why do some people think it’s OK to be 10 minutes to half an hour late to a rehearsal? It is an insult to other professionals to ever be late. Do you want to be known as unprofessional? Your reputation is your currency to playing with top musicians. Protect it!
You will not get a second chance to prove yourself. Make a good impression, every time. Be known as that reliable guy/girl.
This tardiness can seriously impact on you being invited to jam or play with a band. Even worse, if a band is considering who to ask to play at a gig and you are known for being late. You won’t be asked. There is enough stress in performing, without wondering when and even if a band member will turn up.
If you say you will be there, be there early!
Rule 4 – Never Miss a Rehearsal or Cancel
There is a saying I have heard in many a band, when someone is late or cancels.
‘There had better been a death in the family.’ Does that sound tough to you? It might, but that is the reality.
If you want to be part of the team, you have to be a team-player.
A band will understand if you have to reschedule once, maybe twice under extreme circumstances. But if they feel, that you are cancelling just because you can’t be bothered or Shock! don’t think you need the practise. Then you will be left off the list to be asked. No one will tell you that you are making it difficult for them. Accordingly, it will be considered just too complicated to get you to come. So you won’t be asked again, ever!
Rule 5 – Know Your Part in the Band
Playing in a band is all about blending. Yes, individuals will have solo parts during a song but it is very noticeable when one of the musicians doesn’t know the song. Before you start looking around for a band to play with, choose the music you like and start learning the chords.
Some bands use simple charts, so you can follow where you need to go. But it will be more fun for you if you already have played these songs at home. When you are watching a band, take a note of the key songs you like. Then find the chords on the internet and practise. If you aspire to playing lead, it is simple to get a backing track of the song or play along with the original and practise what you would like to showcase.
Support the Singer and stand out
If you will be singing or there is a singer or two. You will need to listen to them, to know when to start, stop and add to the whole song without being annoying. Each member of a band is an accompanist and takes turns at leading or is the foundation support for the music. An accompanist who sees themselves as the star, will soon be left out of the band.
Be nice, work hard to be a great guitarist. Stay Humble.
Professional singers will only work with band members who listen and respect them for their talent and they can get you replaced. Great singers have worked just as hard at learning to sing as you have worked at learning guitar, so respect them.
Playing with a band takes commitment and an ability to adapt and learn. It’s also terrific fun when the chemistry is there and friendships grow. By listening you won’t rush the song or the singer, as they need room to be creative too.
Bass and drums tend to support and keep the song moving forward, they are often the engine that drives the tempo. As a rhythm guitarist you add fill and interest to the tune and support the solo guitarists or the singer.
When you turn up for rehearsals be ready with your charts to play, be organised. If you are playing rhythm, you want to support the lead guitarist or singer not drown them out. Look for harmonic ways to add to the song by choosing chords that are between the bass and the lead. Take the time to read more about playing with bands.
Rule 6 – Listen to Each Person in the Band
It is very easy, when you first start playing with a band to be so focused on your playing and trying to get it right, that you stop listening to the band. Therefore, it is very important that occasionally you stop playing and listen to the drummer, hear the bass player, see what the lead guitarist is doing and plan how you can support the song.
There is an art to listening, which you can practise at home with your favourite music. Pick a song and in your head listen just to what the bass player is doing. Then, do it with the drum rhythm and finally the guitarists. Choose what you would play to add something fresh. If you are not sure, than do some research on licks or rhythm chords, until you have a clear idea and have practised them.
Listen and respect any advice offered by the other musicians. Sometimes, it’s hard to hear criticism but you really are there to learn and add to the whole. You want it to be fun for everyone. Mostly, you will be dropped a hint to turn down your guitar or have more variety in your solo or be more in time with the music. Take this advice on-board and work on it at home before the next jam. Everyone will be impressed.
My dear friend who has a lot of experience in playing flute in an orchestra, has some extra tips on listening to the other musicians around you. You can read her awesome post about it.
Rule 7 – Just For the Girls
There are a few extra challenges for women wanting to play with a band. To get a spot as a rhythm guitarist, you will have to be very good to get a tryout. If being a lead guitarist is your goal, you will have to be outstanding as a guitarist and very persuasive to be given a go. It is unlikely that you will have the same chance to just try as the young men.
One way to get a chance is through family or friends. Try asking where you do local guitar lessons. Go in talent competitions, so you can showcase your abilities. Ask at your school music department. Check the local music shop boards for audition opportunities.
It is a tradition that the men form the band and the woman are singers. For some strange reason, not related to ability, women are considered to not be able to play guitar well enough.
Because many female guitarists are singers as well, there has been a tradition of women only learning enough guitar to play along with themselves. To be chosen as a guitarist for a band you will need to show that you are a great rhythm or lead guitarist, not just a singer.
If you are brilliant at both playing guitar and singing, it would be best to talk about playing guitar with the band first and keep your singing ability quiet until you know them better.
Rule 8 – Have Fun
Playing music with a band would have to be the most fun you can have with others. It’s a community share of talents, laughs and being creative. A very joyful time and something you can do all your life. You will learn to negotiate for songs that you like and have the joy of playing with some very talented musicians.
Whether, you want to make a career of being a full time guitarist or just have some fun jamming. These 8 tips on how to play with a band will mean you enjoy yourself and are asked back and recommended for some great gigs. It never hurts to act like a professional and learn the rules.
I would love to hear your stories and help. If you have any questions on playing with a band or want to leave your own personal story, leave a comment below.
Wishing you enormous success.