So you’re hoping to join a band someday soon. That’s great!
What Kind of Band Should I Join?
You can be at any point in life and face this question. The quick answer is: it depends. But that’s not very useful.
So, let’s examine a few ‘how to join a band’ scenarios.
Scenario One: You’re in school and love jamming in your room / basement / garage. Awesome! So many of us started out right here. You may have friends who play instruments or are involved in musical extracurricular activities. They’re a great place to start. Maybe they need someone who plays what you do. Jamming with friends is the perfect way to learn the skill that all bandmates need to learn: staying in sync with each other. Joining a garage band can teach you the fundamentals needed for a more professional gigging hobby later.
Scenario Two: You’re decent with your instrument and can hold your own. You’re likely ready to be with a band that plays for money. The common place to start is on Craigslist. You can usually find bands looking to fill spots at any given time. But, Craigslist can be tricky: people can be…weird. Another place to look is at your neighborhood music stores. Stores like Guitar Center, Sam Ash, etc, many times have information boards where people can post openings and/or positions wanted. You can also find this at music studios. Ask the manager if they have a notification board.
While at the music studios, let the instructors know who you are and what you play. Tell them you’re looking for a band. Music teachers and studio owners tend to know a lot of the musicians in their area. It’s just a natural progression. If you stay in the area long enough and keep working in the music scene, you’ll get to know a lot of musicians too.
Scenario Three: you’re a professional with your instrument and are trying to establish a career in music. At this level, playing with gigging musicians may be tougher for you. Your skill level may require you to work with other musical pros to keep from frustration. Nothing wrong with that—just need to admit it. If you’re community has an orchestra or playhouse, those can be good places to start since all the musicians are highly skilled.
Another avenue that may yield some results is contacting band managers in your area. Generally, they are working on placing bands but they will inherently be interested in helping bands they promote to fill missing players.
Recording studios also work with professional musicians. Studio owners and managers can always give good info out on how to join a band.
Finally connecting with a band is awesome! Are there any other considerations you should be mindful of?
What Kind of Bandmates Am I Looking For?
People are all different and gelling is the most difficult aspect of playing in a band—especially when you’re joining. If you respond to a band’s ad and go for an audition, remember, you’re evaluating them as much as they’re evaluating you. Get to auditions early. It’s a good first impression and you’ll have the ability to interact before the pressure’s on. Try to engage with the members while setting up. Ask them where they come from, how long they’ve played their instrument, what kind of venues they play at, etc. Avoid politics and religion like the plague (unless that has a direct bearing on the band itself—e.g. Christian rock, Jewish band)
Good bandmates are good communicators. A band is a committed relationship—like a marriage or military unit. All members are counting on the others to play their parts, be punctual, and be willing to compromise. If members look out for THE BAND, then personal gripes and differences will take a back seat.
No band agrees on everything, so don’t ever expect that (good advice for band organizers). However, almost all bands start with or develop a leader at some point. This is important and a necessary step for successful bands. There has to be someone to make final decisions. Does the band you’re auditioning with have strong leadership? While it will mean compromise for you in the future, that guiding force will keep the band focused and gigging. If you like to be in charge, don’t join a band—form one.
Should I Form My Own Band?
Forming a band is work—no way around that one. However, it gives you complete freedom to determine the band’s style and function. Want to play Pop? Classic rock? Blues? Motown? Metal? Fusion? Your own material? Once that’s decided upon, potential members will know what the deal is and whether or not they are interested.
There are many musicians who play genres of music that they personally aren’t that crazy about for personal preference. Maybe you’re in that boat right now. But that’s cool…why? Because it’s about getting paid ultimately (unless you’re just messing around with friends and it’s a way to relax). And to get paid, your band needs to play music that people like. And people like what they know. I’ve seen college bands and various other idealistic groups that play deep tracks, b-sides, rare songs, their own stuff that nobody knows…and while that’s all well and good and there’s no hating on talent, if an audience is unfamiliar with what they are hearing, they most will likely move on. It’s just the way it is. Even famous bands that have made it big and have written songs that everyone now knows the words to started off covering other people’s music.
So if you want to build a following and a reputation, stick to the music in your genre that people know by heart or like to dance to. There will always be time to start adding original music into your setlist. If you have CDs or downloadable content, be sure to advertise it at all your gigs, offer discounts, or even hand out music for free. Get people used to your original sound and then they will get into it when they see it performed live.
So now you’re in a band….now what?
How Can I Add the Most Value to the Band?
All members of a band have a function—just like our own body parts. You can add a lot of value to a band by simply being considerate of other members’ needs. But there are always ways to contribute to the overall success and longevity to your band in addition to just being a good guy.
- Have your own transportation!
- Learn to sing backup
- Purchase equipment
- Help to book gigs
- Invite friends/family to gigs
Most Important: Have Fun!
Asking how to join a band is a question most musicians face. But it doesn’t have to be a mystery. Follow through on the recommendations above and you will find a band to play with in no time. When issues arise, don’t ever lose sight of the reason why you started playing music to begin with…to have fun!
I’d love to hear your joining a band story! Comment below 😀