Making music as a "group" is one of the most rewarding things a musician can experience. It can also be a challenge.
As a beginning guitarist you will spend countless hours locked up in "practice" mode, with no one else around. No one to hear the blurbs and bloopers.
Just the thought of going from your safe cocoon of a practice room into a situation where other people will be listening, and yes, maybe even criticizing, can be nerve racking.
There are, however, some things you can do to minimize the pain, and ease into the world of playing guitar with a band.
Start SlowSome people risk going into "musical shock" when transitioning straight from the practice room to a band rehearsal. It can be too much at one time, and what should have been an exciting new experience winds up on a sour note. (pun intended!)
It is sometimes better to just ease your toes in the water and get slowly acclimated before diving in.
A good first step to prepare for playing in a band would be to get together with a friend that plays an instrument. Even if it's another guitarist, the act of sitting in the same room with another player and playing songs together will begin to open some doors for you.
It is also a good way to work on your improvisation skills in a low stress environment. Share some riffs and take turns playing some leads. Learn how to interact with another musician.
Once your confidence level has increased, check out some local music stores for impromptu jam sessions. Many stores will provide a place for musicians to gather play "in the round" with everyone taking a turn to play.
These jam sessions are often attended by players of various skill levels and you rarely find players intent on "out doing" each other. These are often nice social get together's where many long term friendships have been formed.
Plan AheadMany band relationships are formed on the spur of the moment. A chance run in with another musician and next thing you know, they are getting together to jam and talking about forming a band.
Even though "spur of the moment" is common in the music business you can still prepare yourself for when it hits.
You probably have an idea of what kind of music you like playing and what type of band you want to play in. Prepare for that direction by learning every song you can that would be useful to a band of that genre. Have a song list ready of songs you know and what key you play those songs in and only set your sights on playing in a band that has common musical goals.
If you are shooting to play in a blues band, don't waste your time, and everyone else's, by agreeing to try playing in a band that does 80's dance music.
Sit InGo out to clubs and see if you can sit in with bands. Follow some rules of etiquette and don't be pushy or insistent. Some bands are receptive to other musicians sitting in, and others are not.
If you are invited to sit in, only stay on stage for a song or two, and don't try to "take over the show". You want to be asked back and sometimes sitting in with a band can lead to a permanent gig if someone drops out. You want them to remember you, but in a good way.
Always take your own guitar. Most guitarists will let you use their amp, but may be reluctant to let a stranger play their guitar. And never change the amp settings if you are using someone else's rig.
Be PersistentOne of the bands I play in is a six piece band with a female lead singer. There was another female singer that used to come out and watch the band play. She had no experience playing with a band but occasionally we would invite her up to sing a song or two. She did a nice job and continued to come out and see the band. Sometimes we would get her up and other times we didn't, but she kept coming out, night after night, and quietly hoping for a chance to sit in. She made friends with everyone and was never pushy.
One day, without warning, our female singer decided to quit the band. We immediately called the singer who had been sitting in and asked if she wanted to fill in while we decided on a replacement singer. She happily agreed but within a few weeks she came out of her shell and knocked everyone's socks off. We never even thought about looking for another candidate.
Her persistence paid off and she is now living her dream on stage!
Playing in a band is a constant balancing act between personalities and egos. Musicians have a way of loving each other when things are going well - and lashing out at each other when things get tough.
We are a different breed, and a good rule of thumb when playing in a band is to leave the ego at the door.
Just Do ItIf you know you are ready to play in a band then there is really no substitute for getting out there and doing it. You will learn more about playing guitar from being on stage and playing in front of real people than you ever will playing in your practice room.
So if playing in a band is on your radar screen, then in the words of Nike, "just do it".
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