What musical skills do I need to be in a band?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Corvid, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. MickeyJi

    MickeyJi Member

    Oct 10, 2005
    Yup. At 59 I sometimes feel like having run a marathon after playing a long gig, especially outside if it's it's hot.
  2. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    Yup, especially work on your core/abdominals, which helps with the back strain of loading in/out and a guitar hanging on you for 4 sets.
  3. Jazzydave

    Jazzydave Seeker Silver Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2008
    Do you own a metronome? If so, learn some patterns and work on them. I like doing sweeping patterns (3 notes/string scales) and other fun exercises which will keep you stay nimble but also get your rhythm in check.

    Something I used to do when woodshedding was turn on my favorite DVDs (this was before YouTube) and play along with it, even on the songs I didn't know. I mostly do solo acoustic shows, even to this day, but have had success jumping in with various bands over the years and making it happen because of this. Of course the vids are more predictable after awhile than performing live, but who better to learn from than from the pros? I focused primarily on the rhythm parts so I could get the groove down and LISTEN to the other musicians, then I'd move on to the leads.

    Check out some of the John Petrucci vids on YouTube, even if you don't play his style. His approach to the instrument has been at the center of my own studies for years.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
    Corvid, Thumpalumpacus and A-Bone like this.
  4. briwinters

    briwinters Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    I teach a lot of adult students who want to take steps towards playing in their first band. The first and most important thing I tell them: chase after experience. Any opportunity to play music with anyone else, just say yes. Don’t worry if they are better then you, don’t worry if they are worse then you, just go do it.

    I know OP has said he wants concrete things to practice and there are things he can work on there. Learn whole songs not just snippets. Work on keeping focus when playing repetitive parts. Making solid timing a priority....it will make everything you do sound better instantly. Not stopping when you make a mistake, not adding extra beats when you make a mistake. Learn how to play a 12 bar blues in multiple keys, learn how to teach someone a 12 bar blues....you'll never have no songs to play with someone you’ve just met if you do.

    But the best way to sort out what to practice on your own is starting to get experience playing with others. Don’t overthink it, just go do it.
  5. RLD

    RLD Member

    Aug 16, 2010
    I have a weekly jam with some guys who are less experienced than me.
    The thing I see most is lack of timing and sense of dynamics.
    Being able to accent a tag on the upbeat is difficult for some beginners.
    Being able to divide a beat into 16th notes...1 e and a, 2 e and a, 3 e and a, 4 e and a...and play those accents is important.
    Also being aware of laying back in a verse or intro and building for a chorus...lots of beginners just chug along at the same volume all the time and think they have to play all the time.
  6. Blanket Jackson

    Blanket Jackson ¿Qué Hiciste? Silver Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2009
    Brooklyn NY
    Listening. Listening to what the other players are doing, where they are going, changes in feel or tempo.
    I can't count the number of bands that I have seen that, in spite of having skilled players, were completely unenjoyable to experience because they were not listening to each other, or to where the music was going (or could be going).
    On the other hand, I have seen a few bands that, in spite of having limited skills as players, were actively listening to each other and to where the music was heading. They, by contrast, made for an exciting and memorable experience, and they gained a following.

    Listen. Always listen.
    Jp2558, BlueRiff, MickeyJi and 4 others like this.
  7. BlueRiff

    BlueRiff Member

    May 19, 2016
    My advice is with limited practice time with goal of being in a band:
    • Prioritize practicing songs vs. technique for now. Let song practice identify what technique you're missing then work on those gaps separately.
    • Play along with the recorded tunes you'll be playing while listening closely to the other instruments on the tune - this DOES help for live playing. Keep doing this until you know the tunes back and forth.
    • Play and sing each tune three different ways (different rhythm patterns, chord voicings, etc.)
    • Always use a metronome when practicing songs or technique w/o recording - rhythm and timekeeping are critical!
    • Build up your tune repertoire for your band auditions.
    • Decide the role you want to play in a band and communicate that. If its rhythm and vocals - great. If you can play lead role as well - better. Being able to sing and play is pretty valuable vs. just guitar.
    • For solo work - if you're just starting in this area - first learn the songs' melodies/verses/choruses as solos on guitar. Then start to expand on these melodies into improvisation. There is a ton of material out there on scales to use etc. Keep it simple first - quote the melody on each tune and be confident in that - then go for soloing off the melody, then take it further.
    I would avoid practicing scales and technique in a vacuum with the limited time - prioritize what you need now to play in a band and backfill needed technique over time as you learn your limitations. Good luck with your goal!!
    Corvid, Kreso, Thumpalumpacus and 2 others like this.
  8. milli vanilli

    milli vanilli Member

    Mar 3, 2013
    high volume. anything else is a luxury.
  9. Funky54

    Funky54 Member

    Jun 12, 2009
    A practice place the guys can come to
    Plenty of beer for the guys to drink
    Lots of PA the guys can use
    A van for transporting

    Oh, a tuner.
  10. JosephZdyrski

    JosephZdyrski Member

    Feb 21, 2019
    You mention you only have an hour a day....

    Well that’s not that much honestly so my question is do you watch tv, YouTube videos etc. if you do just have your unplugged guitar on your lap when you’re chilling. Just play around with even if your just doing the same blues lick over and over. Or maybe try to play along with the songs that pop up during show or on commercials ... running scale patterns ..anything ... Just put in time with the guitar. Practicing doesn’t have to be some formal thing it can just anything that gets you comfortable on your instrument.
    sasa likes this.
  11. HughesP

    HughesP Member

    Jul 4, 2006
    There are some good thoughts here, so I’ll try to avoid what is already said and add:

    1. Practice playing standing up! I’ve seen lots of new players struggle with this transition so don’t underestimate the challenge if you normally practice sitting.

    2. Timing is critical - people are more likely to notice if something doesn’t groove, or worse yet, has serious timing issues/starting stopping etc than a few bum notes. A few things that you should be doing are practicing with a metronome or drum machine. A really great exercise I was taught for developing stronger timing is to set a metronome at half the speed you want to play then imagine the clicks are beats 2 and 4 (in 4/4). You then have to figure out where beat 1 is. If you can get it, it is GREAT at improving your timing because you are supplying beat 1, but the metronome still keeps you honest about the overall tempo.

    3. Practice rhythm guitar playing lots. This is more than 90% of the gig, even if you are a lead player

    4. Practice singing while you play. Even if you aren’t going to be the singer, learning to multi-task while you play is super important. Live, you need to be paying attention to the other musicians, your surroundings (ie: watching out for that drunk guy getting to close to the band), etc. you don’t have the luxury of being able to just focus on your playing.

    5. Develop your ears - learn as much as you can by ear. Your ears, not your fingers, are a bigger part of what make you a musician.

    6. When listening to music, start paying attention not only to the guitar, but to the other instruments and how they work collaboratively. Nailing the guitar part like the recording isn’t always the best choice if the other band members aren’t playing note for note.

    7. Find some opportunities to play louder. Playing guitar at band volumes feels fundamentally different than at home volume - somethings feel easier (typically more sustain and natural compression) others more difficult (no more hiding, your sound will change and your technique flaws are likewise also showcased more). You might not have the ability to do this until playing with others - be it a local jam, playing with a bunch of other guys, etc, but it is a paradigm shift.

    8. Someone else mentioned having good sounding, reliable gear - I’ll second this, and add some caveats: reliable and good sounding don’t necessarily mean having the most expensive gear. Lots of players play gigs every day with a MIM strat and a blues junior. But whatever it is that you have, get to know your gear really really well. At a gig or jam your focus needs to be on playing, not fiddling with amp and pedal settings. I know lots of guys who won’t gig with a piece of gear until they have played with it at home and in rehearsals for at least a month before it debuts at a gig. Practice playing the gear you are going to use in your first few gigs.
    Jp2558, sasa, Corvid and 5 others like this.
  12. bluesmeanie

    bluesmeanie Member

    Aug 8, 2008
    Start learning some songs -- complete songs, that you can play from start to finish without cheating (looking at tab, lyrics, etc.) Load of "guitar players" can play riffs out the yin-yang, or shred like demons, but to be in a band you need to be able to play songs.

    Learn to sing if you don't already. Even if it's just backing vocals you'll be more valuable. Practice singing and playing at the same time, if it's not something you're already doing.

    Have decent gear and know how to operate it.

    Practice playing chords in different positions all over the neck. Practice playing three- or even two-string versions of common chords all over the neck.
    Corvid, Kreso, ZMoney and 2 others like this.
  13. IGuitUpIGuitDown

    IGuitUpIGuitDown Member

    Nov 5, 2009
    Your first band will probably be MUCH better than mine was. We played "covers" except I was the only one actually playing the songs accurately on guitar. The extremely inept bassist and drummer (who had "played" together before I joined) invented all of their own parts and note patterns and did not play what the original bassist or drummer played in those songs.

    I was thrilled to be in a band until we actually started playing.

    So if any of you think your band members suck because you cannot play ________________ , at least you can play ONE song. I couldn't even get to that with my first "band."
    ZMoney likes this.
  14. CactusWren

    CactusWren Member

    Feb 12, 2015
    Tempe, AZ
    My opinion: learn all the rhythm parts and riffs for as many songs in your genre as you can. Try to put in enough time so that you've internalized it. Don't spend too much time on leads and improvising, because in most bands, that's a minority of the duties and takes the most time to get down. What you want is a wide-ranging ability to handle the guitar parts in songs. Part of getting that is sampling how other guitarists in bands have done that, and practicing it.
    Corvid likes this.
  15. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2005
    Learn to learn songs by ear. Don't rely on tabs or chords you find on the Internet. Most of them are wrong and many aren't even in the right key. There are good and bad videos on Youtube. Some will help, some will hurt. A good ear will let you tell the difference.
  16. sev_reed

    sev_reed Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Here ya go...

    In all seriousness, head over to Musician's Institute in Tokyo and establish private lessons with one of instructors. No need to formally enroll. You will advance light years faster than with self study. Youtube and books could be helpful supplementally but are absolutely no substitute for a real teacher who knows what he/she is doing. I did the same thing with MI Hollywood. Changed my life.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  17. AbePhroman

    AbePhroman Member

    Dec 6, 2011
    Vineland, NJ
    I support this thread. I'm an elementary teacher and have a pretty busy schedule but still carve out about an hour a day for practice, even with a newborn. Mostly at night when everyone else is asleep. I'd love to be in a band someday. When school is in session I take a lesson once a week with the school music teacher. I wouldn't downplay getting some lessons. I have improved much faster when I have a structured environment instead of just wanking away. I would also create a spreadsheet with the dates and want you intend to practice. I also log the tempos so I can slowly speedup what I'm learning. Then going back and looking at my chart I think, "Wow, I haven't checked that off in a few days. I should practice that." Instead of wank, wank, wank.
    RicardoUK, Corvid and ckfoxtrot like this.
  18. whatizitman

    whatizitman Member

    Nov 21, 2018
    Here I am. Rock you in the Daddy Cave.
    Playing complete songs. Use a metronome, backing tracks, or play along with your favs. Learning rhythm and playing in tune is one thing. Playing music is an entirely different thing altogether. Understanding ensemble can take lots of time with others to master. For now, just get used to playing complete songs, end to end, without stopping or slowing down for any reason. Make a mistake? Keep right on playing, and learn to come back in cue with the rest of the "band". If you want to solo, practice stopping and starting on cue, concentrating on licks played in rhythm first and foremost.

    Focus on that, and you'll be ahead of 90% of Guitar Center Amp Testers.
  19. IGuitUpIGuitDown

    IGuitUpIGuitDown Member

    Nov 5, 2009
    I hear you!
  20. Steve Hotra

    Steve Hotra Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2007
    Camas WA.
    Like others have mentioned:
    Play in tune
    Play in time
    Play / mesh well with fellow band members.

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