Learning how to play music with other musicians is one of the most valuable things you can learn in your early development. When I was a much younger man, and beginning my path in music, it seemed like all the kids in my neighborhood played one instrument or another. Bands started forming around the all important articles of who has the drum kit, and whose parents were cool hearing segments of out of tune Nirvana riffs being played in their garages, spare bedrooms and attics on a Saturday afternoon. Not many of us were enrolled in any kind of formal music program, but we did slowly learn things over the years that slowly band rules.
RULE NUMBER ONE: SHOW UP ON TIME
Rehearsal time is hard to come by, no matter what age you are. Respecting others time is extremely important. There is no bigger drag than hauling your half stack down a pair of cement stairs, waiting around for an hour and fifteen minutes, and then only getting to jam for twenty minutes before you have to pack up and leave. Don’t be that guy (or gal!)
RULE NUMBER TWO: BE PREPARED
So, you’re on time. Heck, you even made it early, tuned up and set up your gear to be prepared for the actual rehearsal time (note the pro tip in there). So what do you do with two hours of rehearsal time? Well, we quickly learned in my first band, L. Bandito, we needed to actually be prepared for the rehearsal. We usually picked a cover song, or a section of a song to work with the week before For a bunch of eighth graders in 1996, this more often than not meant learning a Nirvana song. We spent months learning Smells LIke Teen Spirit before we could finally play it with any conviction. This meant the drummer had to work on the drum groove, the bassist learned the bass lines and the guitarist learned the riffs before we stepped into the room. This actually ties in nicely with rule number three...
RULE NUMBER THREE: LEARN COVERS
It’s a really good idea, and a time tested method of learning how to play with other musicians to learn covers in the style of music you want to play. My current band, The Big Lonesome, is an original rock band from Boston, MA, but in rehearsals we still routinely jam on cover songs we enjoy (Guided by Voices, Radiohead, Rolling Stones, Wilco, etc), because its a really great way to focus on playing together. We routinely work with substitutes in the band, and playing a cover song is an easy way to hear what someone else can do, as opposed to getting caught up in the individual flares each member brings to the table.
RULE NUMBER FOUR: DON'T PLAY WHEN SOMEONE IS TALKING
Holy moly, this might be the GOLDEN rule on this whole list. We spend as much time talking as we do playing in rehearal. When someone is talking, absolutely do not play your instrument. It’s disrespectful to the person talking, and the rest of the group as a whole. Nothing is more frustrating than watching the guitarist noodle away unplugged (we can see you), and then mess up the next part of the song, because she was not listening to something the group was talking about.
RULE NUMBER FIVE: PRACTICE IN SESSIONS
Just like we work on in private lessons, its often better to practice sections of a song, as opposed to running the whole thing down, just to fall apart at the place you always do. Having trouble locking in the bass and the guitar groove in the chorus? Does the singer keep forgetting where to come in on the second verse? These are the things you should be focusing on - starting where the mistakes are happening, fixing them, and than backtracking a little bit. Once you get that chorus groove down, maybe it’s worth trying the section before, and into the chorus.
I hope some of these help! We will be posting more ensemble tips over the next several weeks. Commonwealth Music School is offering its first ever ensemble program during April school break (4/16/18 - 4/20/18). Space is limited, so if you are ready to take your playing to the next level, and learn how to put together your own band, contact us today at (781)985-6680, or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.