“Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life.” - Keith Richards
In recent years, nearly half of all guitarists taught themselves how to play the guitar. Getting started with a band isn’t always an easy thing. That said, there’s no need to play like a professional in order to start playing with a band.
After a few months of regular practice and maybe a few private guitar lessons for beginners, you can start playing as a duo, trio, quartet, etc. Playing in a group will allow you to progress and also help you keep practising when your guitar teacher isn't there.
So whether you play acoustic guitar, rock guitar, jazz guitar, blues or just interested in playing guitar solos, don’t hesitate to start looking for other musicians to play with. Maybe you’ll even produce your own album...
Why Join a Band to Play Guitar?
Music is, above all, designed to be shared. Therefore, it’s completely natural to learn to play the guitar, get a band together, and perform on stage.
Of course, music can also be used as a private outlet for your own emotions but you’ll see that constantly studying music theory might get quite boring after a few months.
Motivation is key to learning how to play the guitar and if you’re always learning on your own, you run the risk of losing that essential motivation. Getting a band together can help you avoid this “musical loneliness”.
As soon as you’re able to play a few songs, chord progressions, and you’ve built up your confidence a bit, it’s recommended that you start looking for other musicians and show them one or two of your own riffs and licks.
If you want to improve your guitar playing, you need to share your music. Involving other people in your music is a great way to stay motivated.
If one member of the group doesn’t pull their weight, the whole band suffers. Playing in a band allows everyone to suggest their own original songs and play as a group.
Playing in a band also allows you to take a look at your own playing and musical style. It’s a great way to develop friendships with other musicians who share the same musical tastes as you.
Where Can You Find Musicians?
As a beginner or an intermediate guitar playing, it’s recommended that you find a band rather than trying to make it as a guitar player on your own. It’s easier to learn guitar by joining a group that already exists, practises regularly, and already has gigs lined up.
So where are these musicians hiding?
Music schools, maybe... If you’re taking guitar lessons with a teacher in a music school, it’ll be much easier to find other musicians.
There’s often a noticeboard for bands looking for members. While there are usually more guitarists than drummers, bassists, etc, it’s always worthwhile having a look.
Even if you’re teaching yourself how to play the guitar, you can always head to a music school to look at their noticeboard to find adverts for private lessons, guitar instruction, and bands looking for musicians.
Musicians can also be found in music stores, which also sometimes let people leave notices on a noticeboard. If this isn’t the case, you can always strike up a conversation with someone who’s buying drumsticks or strings for their Ibanez or Fender.
Practise rooms are also a great place for finding musicians. Don’t hesitate to pay them a visit. Finally, thanks to the internet and social media, you can find local bands and musicians via Facebook. There are also forums and websites for finding band members. In most cases, adverts will specify the type of musician they’re looking for, the style and genre, whether or not they gig regularly, etc.
Auditioning for a Band
In many cases, even for amateurs, you’ll probably have to pass an audition before joining a band. Just like an interview for a job, you’ll need to prepare yourself for it.
Experienced bands looking for a guitarist will probably be pretty picky. They’ll have an idea of exactly what they’re looking for. Additionally, guitarists are pretty common. They’ll be spoilt for choice. Make sure that you’re overprepared for their audition.
How do you prepare for an audition?
Firstly, ask the band what songs they play and whether they play their own material or covers. If they play their own music, ask them if they can send you it so you can work on it. If they do covers, you should also ask what they cover so you can practise. Even if the band tells you to “just show up”, you should probably still ask for what they play.
Never show up unprepared. An audition is an opportunity for the band to evaluate your technical abilities, of course, as well as see what kind of person you are. More often than not, musicians will already have a pretty clear idea of what they want from their band. Be friendly, smiley, and relaxed.
If you aren’t chosen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re rubbish. It might be that you just weren’t right for the band and that also means that not being part of it isn’t a bad thing.
Similarly, if you are accepted, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did I get a good feeling from them?
- Are the band’s objectives clear?
- Is the band’s level right for me?
Here's some food for thought: as counter-intuitive as it seems, undergoing auditions is as big a benefit to playing guitar as being able to express yourself emotionally: how else could you measure your skill and passion as a musician, if not before your peers?
How to Play Guitar in a Band
When you’re part of a group, each practise session is also like a guitar lesson. In order to play together, there are a few things you’ll need to do.
The bassist and guitarist both need to be tuned up else everything will sound awful. Using an electronic tuner is a pretty good idea. If you play with an acoustic piano, it might be worthwhile tuning to that.
It is also a good idea to have a well-tuned ear - among other reasons, so that you can pick up on lyrical nuance and your bandmates' tonal expression.
Respect the Tempo
The most difficult thing to do when you play in a band is to keep in time throughout an entire song. Some musicians tend to speed up while others tend to slow down.
While a drummer usually sets the tempo, you can also use a metronome if your drummer is inexperienced. As a guitarist, your job is to play along to the drummer or the metronome.
The tempo can vary from song to song, making playing in a band very interesting. You also need to listen to one another to make sure you’re all in time.
Stick to Your Role
When you play the guitar on your own, you can do whatever you want, play more loudly, quietly whenever you feel like it. However, in a group, everyone has a role to play.
The drummer needs to keep time and provide percussion. The bassist is halfway between rhythm and melody. The guitar needs to let the bassist do their thing. The guitarist’s role is to either play rhythm or melodies.
It mightn’t be obvious at first, but it’s essential when it comes to playing in a band.
Louder isn’t always better! You run the risk of damaging your hearing and not actually being able to hear what’s going on.
You need to adapt to the other instruments. Every musician needs to adjust the volume of their instrument in accordance with the other instruments.
Consider making a note of your settings so that you can quickly find them again at your next band practice.
Lowering the volume will also allow you to hear one another more easily. Beginners often make the mistake of being unable to hear the other members of their band and only listening to their own playing.
It’s very important that you play along with the other instruments, especially the drums, rather than playing over them.
Finally, the key to a good band is communication. Like in relationships, you’ll need to compromise.
Remain humble and don’t constantly fight for the limelight. Accept criticism of your playing and provide constructive feedback to the other members of your band. Of course, everyone needs to be considerate of one another. Calmly express any disagreements and work on finding a solution that works for everyone.
Remember that everyone is looking to express their creativity through music; you must give your bandmates their turn to shine!
Being in a band can be an enjoyable experience that will allow you all to forge fond memories together. The most important thing when choosing your band is to communicate and make sure everyone’s moving in the same direction.
So grab your gear, it’s time to find a band!
Superprof wants to hear your thoughts: for what reasons did you pick up the guitar?