Playing In A Band Tips

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Introduction To A Different Musical World

Playing In A Band Can Be Challenging Yet, At The Same Time, Rewarding. Things Usually Start Off Well But Over Time, The Behind The Scenes Issues Can Take There Toll. Apart From Personality Conflicts, Reliability & Leadership, There Are Issues of Time Availability For Rehearsal, Transport, Payment, Musical Direction And The List Goes On! Each of These Can Be Cause of Concern With No Easy Answers. On A Positive Note However, The Comradery Experienced, The Joy of Making Music & The Sound The Band Produces Can Compensate For Other Issues. The Music Holds The Band Together.

Often A Band Is Formed By Like Minded Friends or Acquaintances Sharing Similar Musical Interest. This Means That Band Members Have Some Understanding of Each Other And The Musical Styles of Individual Band Members. This Is The First Hurdle To Overcome And An Important One.

Not Only Does A Common Musical Interest Impact The Musical Styles But Also The Selection of Songs, The Sounds And The Tone The Band Is Striving For And, More Often Than Not, The Type of Equipment Purchased on Our Musical Journey. Let's Briefly Look In More Detail At These Points.

Musical Styles

The Sound

Often Referred As Genre, The Styles Cover A Broad Spectrum From Classical, Blues, Rock, Pop, Metal, Country, Folk, New Age And The List Goes On. When We Listen To Music or Begin Learning To Play An Instrument We Develop A Liking For Particular Genres And The Overall Sound And Tone Associated With Those Genres. As An Example Contrast Soul Music With Metal, Now That Is A Contrast!

To A Listener, Soul May Sound Smooth & Relaxing, Whereas Metal May Sound Harsh And In Your Face! There Are No Rights or Wrongs, Just Individual Preferences. Those Preferences Are Important, As In Our Mind, These Sounds And Tones Become Familiar And Enjoyable.

It Is These Sounds & Tones That We Aim To Emulate. To Do That , We Purchase Particular Types of Instruments & Equipment And Experiment With Different Setups And Equipment Settings. This In Itself Can Become A Never Ending Journey!!

Illustrating This Point, It Is Interesting To Note That Most DAW's Provide A Means of Comparing Your Recorded Mix to A Reference Track of The Music Genre Your Recording Is In. This Attempts To Guide You In Mixing & EQ, Developing A Recorded Sound In That Style. Does This Cramp Your Creativity? Hmmm. . . . .

Associated With Genre Is The Rhythmic Feel of The Music. Compare A Blues Shuffle to A Folk Ballad. The Swing of The Blues Shuffle & The Repetitive Beat Is The Blues Contrasted To Say, A Folk Ballad Style.

Song Choice Or, If You Write Your Own Material, Is Influenced By That Genre. So, Musical Direction Becomes Important.

Usually, Over Time, The Band Finds Its Direction, Develops Its Take On A Genre And Importantly Its Unique Sound. This Applies To Individuals And Even, The One Person Band!

The Tone

It's All About The Tone! Chasing The Tone And Reproducing It Can Become A Life Long Obsession!

For Me, The Blues Tones Produced By Great Musicians Was My Obsession, Until I Realised That It Was Really The Tone Stuck In My Head, That I Was Really After! Release The Beast Ha Ha. . . .

I Still Twiddle The Knobs And Go Tone Chasing But At Least My Ear Is Trained Better Now, To Know What I'm Listening Too or For! Trying To Duplicate The Creamy Blues Leads or Sparkling Rhythm Guitar Can Be A Great Challenge But Don't Obsess Over It - Now, What Will This Setting Do . . . . . Doh! At It Again!

You Know, After Many Years, I Still Have The Shimmering Sound of A Stratocaster Plugged Into An Early 60's Black Face Fender Amp Stuck In My Head! Back Then, My High School Friend Didn't Realise The Musical Journey He Was To Start Me On! Many Purchases Have Been Made Since, Chasing That Tone.

Ok, So Each Genre Seems To Have Its Own General Tone, So What?

Instruments & Equipment

Tone Often Is A Guide To What Type of Instruments & Associated Equipment We Accumulate. Notice That Word Accumulate, Cos That Can Be An Obsession Too!!!

As An Example, Acoustic Instruments Go Well With Folk, Soul & Some Blues. Rock, Pop, Some Blues & Metal Are Synonymous With The Electric Guitar. So If We Are Into Blues Then A Stratocaster or Les Paul Style of Guitar Would Give A Typical Tone. Similarly, The Choice of Guitar Amp Assists In Chasing The Tone. An Amp With A Clean Channel or With A Gain Control As Well As A Master Volume Control Can Aid In Getting The Desired Tone. If You Want An-In-The Face Tone, Then An Amp Stack May Be The Way To Go.

Other Instruments Such As Drums Have Similar Choices, Bright Raspy Snare & Cymbals For Rock & Metal Compared To The Smooth Mellow Tone Required For Blues. Keyboards Are Often Very Versatile With Numerous Patches For The Tone Seeker. I Use A Hammond B3 Organ Emulator With My Synth Connected via Midi To Get That Type of Tone But Can Readily Dial Up A Strings Patch Or Other Synth Types, All With The One Instrument.

Guitar Pedals Are Another World of Choices! For Blues, An Overdrive Pedal & Delay Pedal Go A Long Way. For Rock, Maybe Distortion Pedal, Fuzz Pedal & Delay. The Choices Are Endless And It Coms Back To The Tone You Are Chasing.

Bass Guitar Selection Is Another Art Form. Trying To De-Accumulate, I Chose To Go With The One Bass Guitar And A Dedicated Bass Guitar Pedal. I Can Both Tailor The Sound I Want & Store It For Future Recall.

So, When We Form or Join A Band We Have All of The Above As Our Personal Musical Baggage. That's Understandable And Is Part of The Musical Journey. The Same Applies To The Bedroom or Garage Artist, The Busker or The Single Performer. In This Case, The Discussion Goes From Between Band Members To Trying To Make Up Your Own Mind About Suitability of Instruments & Equipment.

Bring All This Together In A Band Situation, It's Understandable That Experimentation Is Going To Take Place And Maybe, More Purchases :)

Application Within A Band

Ok, The Band Has Come Together. The Instruments & Equipment Are Appropriate For The Sounds & Tone of The Band, Now What? The Band Normally Has A Rhythm Section Comprising Drums, Bass & Rhythm Guitar Supported By Lead Guitar, Keyboard & Percussion And Of Course, Vocals Usually. The Rhythm Section Is The Foundation With The Other Parts Adding To The Overall Assembly.

Now, This Is The Tricky Bit. How To Get All These Parts To Come Together To Produce A Song With Interest. The Big Curse Is Trying To Control The Volume & Tone Of Each Instrument. Often You Can't Hear Your Part Clearly So You Up The Volume. Other Band Members Do The Same And Now You're Into A Volume Race. The Result Is A Lot of Noise & Not Much Clarity. Ah. . . ., The Front of House Technician!

Most Bands Don't Have The Resources For A Technician With The Big Mixing Desk To Sit In the Crowd And Control Individual Parts Volume And EQ. Being Aware of The Musical Spectrum, Where The Kick Drum Fits, Where The Bass Fits, Where Rhythm Guitars Fit, Where Snares & Cymbals Fit, Where Lead Guitar & Keys Fit Is A Good Start. What Volume Should These Be? You Don't Want To Drown Out Those Parts So Generally, Getting The Rhythm Section Balanced Is The First Step Then Add The Other Parts In Sympathy.

Even A One Person Band Can Have The Same Problem. Can't Hear The Snare Clearly or The Bass Guitar Is Lost or, Can't Hear The Guitar Much And Before Long You Are Into A Volume Race With Yourself! I So Often Complete A Set of Tracks & After A Day or Two, Listen To Them Again, And Become Aware That The Bass Is Over The Top, Or The Snare Is Too Bright & Loud! Beware The Volume Race!!

EQ Is The Same. Kick Drum Is At The Low End. Cut Some of The Bass Guitar Bottom End For The Kick To Come Through. Similarly, Rhythm Guitar. Don't Have Lots of Boomy Bottom End Cluttering The Bass Guitar So Cut That Area. Also, Don't Have Lots of The Bass Guitar Upper Frequencies In The Rhythm Guitar Area.

Being Your Own Front of House Technician Is Not An Easy Task, That's Why The Pro's Leave The Job To Someone Else, With Better Objectivity. Read More About Mixing Song Parts.


Whether A One Person Band or In A Group, Identifying & Resolving Issues, Solving Problems & Rational Decision Making Become Key Skills And Help In Every Day Life As Well. Oh Yeah, Being Able To Play Is Important Too!

You Don't Need To Be An Expert Band Member, Many Songs Comprise Only 3 Chords & Down - Down - Up - - Up Down Strumming. Don't Sweat Over How Well You Are Playing, Just Do It & Have Fun.

Recording Your Own Tracks & Loops Can Be A Great Vehicle For Learning New Techniques & Can Show How Combining Different Parts Can Make The Whole Sound Pretty Good & Much Better, Than Those Parts Alone.

Read More About Mixing Parts

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