How To Start a Band

February 16, 2009

On the surface, starting a band might seem like a pretty simple proposition. But the reality of the situation is that starting a real band - you know, the kind that has actual songs and plays actual gigs - can be a lot more complicated than it may seem. To pull it off successfully, it actually requires a certain level of savvy in many different trades - from economics to psychology, and everything in between. So if you're ready to graduate from the Guitar Hero stuff and try your hand at the real thing, you're gonna need to learn some of the tricks of the trade.

By Brad Iger

The following article does not represent the opinions of Spike TV or its affiliates.


Step 1 - Learn to Play


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Of course you don’t have to play like Jimmy Page out of the gate to get started, it does help if you have some of the core basics down. If you want to play guitar, learning the major and minor chords, pentatonic scales, and power/barre chords will allow you to play 99% of what you hear on the radio, and should give you enough to work with to conjure up some song ideas. All the chord and scale charts are available on the 'net for free if you just look around.

Another option for those with a penchant for simplicity is to just play bass. Since there isn't really any chords involved, you can learn how to play some simple songs within a matter of minutes. Look at it this way: if Sid Vicious could do it, so can you. I mean the guy could barely stand up most of the time.

Aside from that, finding guitar players is easy - everyone wants to play guitar - so if someone opts to play bass instead, you've overcome a major hurdle right from the beginning.

Step 2 - Get Some Decent Equipment


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The first time you jam with a drummer, you'll quickly realize that the practice amp your mom bought you for Christmas probably isn’t going to cut it.

Start checking Criagslist for used gear – there’s tons of it on there. Do your research and figure out what sort of gear compliments the kind of music you want to make. Purchase accordingly. Keep in mind that, typically, you get what you pay for with musical equipment. If you buy really cheap stuff, it’ll probably end up costing you more in the long run when it breaks and you have to repair or replace it.

Step 3 - Start Recruiting


Source: Craigslist

Once you’re equipped properly, it’s time to find some people to jam with. While it never hurts to put some flyers up at your local guitar shop, if you live in a region covered by Craigslist, this is without a doubt your best bet to find some like-minded musicians.

When you start jamming with various people, there are some vital factors to consider. Of course, it never hurts to have someone in the band whose parents have deep pockets, because it will always benefit the band as a whole when the chips are down. But more importantly, “chemistry” is absolutely paramount.

If it comes down to a choice between the dick who plays like a rock god and the guy who’s actually pretty cool but has minimal chops, go with the latter every time. Musicianship can be learned, but usually jerkoffs are jerkoffs forever, and putting one in the mix of a band situation can have a really negative impact on the whole thing.

Step 4 - Find Somewhere to Play


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So you’ve got song ideas, real gear, and some people to jam with. Next the item on the checklist is the practice space. While your folks might tolerate you and your cohorts making an unholy racket in the living room once or twice, unless they’re incredibly tolerant (or played in bands themselves) they probably won’t put up with it on a regular basis. And if you live in an apartment - forget about it. You need a practice space.

So here again, Craigslist is your friend. Find a month-to-month lockout space in your area and move your gear in. Practice spaces are fairly cheap and shouldn’t cost you more than say, $75 bucks per band member, if you share the lockout with another band (or two, space providing).

It can’t be over-emphasized how important a practice space is – having all your equipment set up and ready to go when you walk in the room, and being able to play as loud as you want, whenever you want, will do wonders for the speed that which the band evolves. And despite how cheap it is, there’s a strange sense of trying to get your money’s worth from it that promotes getting in there and playing often. So schedule regular practice times and stick to them.

Step 5 - Write Some Songs, Record a Demo


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So now all the pieces of the puzzle are there. Time to start writing. Take the ideas from strumming in your room way back when, and turn them into songs.

When you've got, say, three songs done - record them. It doesn’t needed to sound like you recorded it at Abbey Road studios – you just need something usable for the next step. Just stick a microphone in the center of the room and record it to a 4-track.

Step 6 -Make a Web Page


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Hey look at you – your band has a demo! Ok now it’s time to get that demo into the ears of some people that can get you some gigs.

Thank Satan for the Internet because this must’ve been a major pain in the ass back in the day. Now it’s almost effortless – just get on MySpace, create a page, and slap those demos you just recorded on your webpage.

Start adding everyone you know to your friends list and throw some photos up also. While it may seem somewhat futile initially, this page is going to be the easiest way for people to access your band and your music, so it’s actually important that you take into consideration what you do with the medium, because that’s the first impression most people are going to have of your band.

Step 7 - Contact Venues, Play Shows


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So now it’s time to actually pull the trigger – start adding local venues to your MySpace friends, and while doing so, start asking for gigs. Someone will book you. You will freak out. You have a gig coming up. Better finish that set list!

Once you’ve played that first show, you’re band. A real band, instead of being one of those “bands” that get together once every 4 months and make noise in someone’s garage as an excuse to tell girls they’re in a band. No kid, you’re doing it the hard way. A hat tip to you, good sir.