Growing up, I knew the name of every single member of my favorite bands. I could have told you about their favorite movie and what their sign was. The band was a family, and I was a second cousin in my mind. There was something sacred about that.
Now I’ve been playing around for a while, and I have played with more than a few different folks over the years. When the band started to pick up some steam, someone would have a problem and drop out (or be insufferable to share a name with). Someone quitting the band can be a real show stopper (pun intended). Every time we start picking up the pace a little, a part of me gets fearful it won’t last. Truth be told, it won’t last. But that’s okay! I have learned to adopt a new attitude towards my community. One that looks a little more like a revolving door.
This has a negative connotation. But I want to brush it off and give the concept a good shine.
A better sense of community
I feel that this way of thinking can actually promote a healthier scene. Instead of being so closed off and jealous of someone using “your bassist,” understand that if you are playing with someone who is uber-talented, they might be beneficial in another group. By playing with other groups, they will sharpen up on new sounds and techniques. By locking someone down, you will be depriving that musician of some great opportunities, which will probably benefit you in the long run. By offering to play in other groups, at the very least as a fill-in, you are strengthening your ties in the community. It’s okay to not be at the helm all the time. In fact, I would say it’s good for you!
I want to touch on this again because it’s just that important to me. In playing around with a few different groups and artists from time to time, you’re going to be a better musician. You’re going to learn new leadership techniques in practice and during gigs. You’re going to open more doors for yourself.
It isn’t a plan until it’s written.
Most of us don’t need to have six months planned out ahead of time. But consistently planning your month out will only help you. I’m not saying you should fill every free moment. You just need to actually have it written/typed out on an app or a calendar. Don’t assume you’ll remember, you will forget something, I promise you that.
Open, honest communication
Not one person cares about what you have planned to release four years in the future. They pretend they do, but they don’t. I guess I’m trying to say, don’t overwhelm another musician with a five-year plan. Just be honest and open with them on how you’re feeling right now.
“Are we still good to record this track at the end of next month?”
“There is a show coming up on the 16th. Are you good for that?”
“I’m having a great time playing with you! Are you having fun too? Is there anything I can do to help make it better?”
Sure, that last one sounds a bit needy for my taste. The point is don’t assume, ask. Let each musician take a walk and carve out their own journey. Release that you might just walk the path for a short time. There are so many talented folks that you can bond with.
When it’s good, acknowledge it’s good and make something special while it lasts!
To anyone just starting out, be bold and ask to join! If you don’t ask, others usually won’t ask you. Include folks in some projects. You might just be surprised by how much they really add.
The older I get, the more “MY BAND” mentality can really hurt more than help. I encourage everyone I play with to do their own separate project or play with other people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my “Go-to’s.” I feel lucky to play with these amazing musicians. They are the protagonist of their story. Not me. That’s cool! Actually, that’s really cool!
All of this sounds great, so what should you do to make it happen?
- Talk to your friends that also play. Duh.
- Go out to shows (when everything opens up)
- Ask to play with other people. It’s that easy. Just ask to play with them and be okay with not taking the lead on a project.
- Get out of your comfort zone. First, you should ask your friends, but you shouldn’t stop there!
- Start listening and trying to play new styles of music on your own. Don’t know where to start? Ask acquaintances what they like to listen to.