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The Hardest Part of Playing in a Band: The Other Members
Written by Kotornut

I'd like to talk about something that everyone who plays music has to deal with, but rarely gets talked about. How to choose band members. I've been playing a while and from an early age started playing in bands. When I was young it was all about friendship and naturally all the band members were good friends of mine. As I grew older, I realized that my tastes and the tastes of my friends continued to develop and, usually, there were more differences than similarities in what we liked and wanted to play.

From these complications, I quit the most successful band I was ever in and gave up music for a year. Once I finally got the itch to play again I went about it the same way I had always done; I looked for a band. Now like I said, I had given up music for a year and spent another year or two just casually playing on my own, that's what reactivated my playing itch. Now, I didn't care to be a rock star or "get signed," like I used to. I just wanted to play my own music and have a good time all the while sounding good in the small situations that I was playing in. But as innocent as it sounds, it was terribly difficult to find anyone else on the same page. Whenever I did find someone there was always some huge personality difference between. At the least, it made us feel awkward with each other and at the worst made us dislike each other (I'm an adult, there was no fighting).

The question still remained, what to do about the members in my band? Well, I'm still struggling with this one but I believe I'm coming to a bit of a solution.

  1. Write your own music to the fullest you can as one musician.
    I mean if you are writing a song on guitar, go ahead and write the other parts as well. The bass, drums, lyrics, keyboard or whatever you can actually write. If you can only do bass and guitar then that's enough, but try to push yourself musically in the process, you will be rewarded.

  2. Try to record what you have so you can show it to others.
    It's important to have a presentation when looking for people to play with. Your description may bring about the image of your musical direction to you, but to others, it might not be so clear. Think of it a bit like selling something. This is especially important if you want to play original music and not just be a cover band. My main problem here in Japan is the lack of people wanting to write originals. The culture breeds copy cats (not an insult, they're the best at taking an idea and making it better. For example: cars). So I need to be very specific when talking about my musical direction, or else I'll always be stuck playing Whitesnake covers (not that that's bad, it's just not me).

  3. Don't worry about making friends so much.
    Of course, it's good to have a great rapport with people you are working with, but you don't need to hang out everyday and party all the time. Even if you're on tour you can get along with people without them being your best friends, just think about it like your workplace. The things you should worry about are musical chemistry and the other member's sense of responsibility and commitment to the band. It's obvious that drug habits (including alcohol), legal problems and little things like constant lateness and flippancy are destructive to relationships of any kind. So even if the guy plays like Eddie Van Halen in the Roth years, find out if he parties like Eddie Van Halen in the Roth years.

  4. Share your goals.
    Even if you just want to have a good time, make sure that the goal is shared by the other members. Too many times one guy will have the idea that this was all just a hobby while everyone else thinks that they're going for the big time. Or the opposite situation. Just be open and honest without being arrogant or negative.

  5. Work on your character flaws.
    It's no secret that I can be an idiot and a jerk, just ask my wife. These things get in the way of my relationships with other people. Once you are in a band it's important to know you are not infallible and can screw up musically and personally. Tyranny never produces any good, so don't be an obsessed overpowering one man show.

    Also, don't let your ego get in the way. Too many times in my life I though I was the shizzy on the guitar and have created a lot of stupid drama over it. Be humble and flexable and try to work as a team even if you are the leader. A good leader leads with the freely given cooperation of the followers not with forced obedience. So keep your head on straight, listen to others and be humble but honest about your skills. Be firm to your your desires without being a jerk and stick to your direction without treating the people around you like a horse with a bit in its mouth.

  6. Music should be fun.
    Never ever forget this. If it isn't fun then sell your gear and do something else. Also, music is not a competition. I get so wrapped p in who's better than who sometimes, but honestly music is an art and those who have mastered it should be at service to those in pursuit of mastery. I'm for competition on the sports field in all ways, but in the concert halls and in the studio or practice area it's a community of people doing what they love.

If you can keep these in mind you might be able to have a successful fun time playing with others. But it's good to remember that people's moods and tastes are constantly changing, even your own, so expect to see difficulties arise in the process. People will come and go and your songs will change, but that's alright if you keep it all in perspective. The best musicians actually learn to use that process for their benefit. So have a great time playing and remember rule number 6 above all the others.

Kotornut, who's friends call him Louie, is an active member of the Jemsite forums and a frequent community blogger.
 
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