Saturday, June 07, 2008

how to form a band (and not kill each other doing it)

A lot of you kids have been asking me for tips on a lot of things, how to get a band started, how to get gigs, how to write songs and many others. Now I'm in no way an expert at these things, not even close, but I guess it won't be wrong if I write about what I think is the decent way to go about doing it. So here it goes:

1. Ask yourself WHY you wanna do this in the first place
This is a very important question to ask yourself, because the way you approach things will no doubt differ according to the reasons why you wanna do this. If you're thinking of becoming popular or a star in a short time, then maybe forming a band is not such a good idea, as personally I think it's a long, hard road, for most bands anyway. If becoming a star in record time is your reason, then it's not something I know how to do, as Couple's been around for 13 years now, and we're still nowhere near being stars! So maybe taking part in a talent/reality TV show might be a good idea. Hehe. But if your reasons include love of music, or a need to express yourself, or just to enjoy making music with friends, or by yourself, and playing live, and sharing an adventure, then let's proceed to the next question.

2. Ask yourself what do YOU like?
Some bands have democratic aspirations, yes, but I think it's normal for most bands to have one person, or at the most 2 persons, as the creative drive behind them. So, to these persons I'd advice them to just follow their hearts. I know a lot of people will answer, "I listen to everything", when asked about the music they like. But c'mon, even parents have a favourite child (even if they'll never admit it in public). So, be honest, and ask yourself what sort of music/genre(s) YOU like, and then go through with it. Remember the answer to Question 1 above? You're doing this for YOU, so have some balls and stick your neck out and show to the world - "This is what I love, and therefore this is the music I'm making - this is ME." Only then will your band have any shot at longevity, as only people who really love what they do will keep on doing it regardless of whether their band is successful/popular or not.

3. Do your research
Now that you've decided on what you like, delve into it wholeheartedly. Know it as best as you can. Devour as much as you can. Know/understand what makes you like it. Get a feel of how the songs are constructed. Explore the hallmarks and nuances of the genre(s). Better still, dive headfirst into music history. Make it a point to know as much as you can about as many genres of music as you can. At least that way you won't fall flat on your face, as you're less likely to proclaim that what you're doing is something 'new' or 'original' because the more you delve into music history, the more you'll realise that everything's  been done before. But don't worry, that doesn't mean that today's music is worthless, because you just need to realise that there's a world of difference between paying tribute to/getting influenced by someone and plagiarism. Just be true to yourself, do what you truly love, and you'll be fine. Don't burden yourself with all this lofty, big ideas about creating something 'new', 'original' or 'fresh'. Leave that kind of worrying to pompous assholes who think so highly of themselves that they think that everything they do must/should change the world. Music is a reflection of your soul, and if you're true to yourself whilst making it, it will come out, and that reflection of your soul in the music you make is already something unique only to you. What more do you want?

4. Be humble (Part 1)
Being in a band, like it or not, is an ego game. So don't forget to be a human being. And don't forget that your bandmates are human beings too. Never forget that at the end of the day it's your band's 'sound' that people will remember and pay attention to first, not how great the lead guitarist, or the bassist, or the drummer, or the singer is. Depending on the kind of music you do, some players might have to restrain themselves more than others, in order to serve the band's 'sound'. Maybe less guitar wanking is needed in certain genres, or minimalist drumming needed in others, so I'm sure there will be some people in this sort of situations who might think they're better than all that. That is why it's very important to do your research, so that you'll understand the fundamentals of what you want to do better. Always remember that it's the BAND that's most important, not the members. So be humble, and don't be selfish, as the band is not yours alone. If you still think you're better than the band, then quit that band and form your own band, one that you think can better serve your skills.

5. Know your strengths and weaknesses
Again, be honest to yourself and humble enough to admit what your weaknesses are. And of course, be humble enough not to overestimate your strengths. When you start jamming with your bandmates, pay attention to each other. Try to notice each one's playing style. Make a mental note of what each person's strengths and weaknesses are. Better still, talk about it with your bandmates. That way, you can write and arrange songs around that. Accentuate your strengths, and minimise or try to avoid the weaknesses altogether. The most important thing about a band is that it has to be tight. A tight as hell band playing the simplest of music is still a million times better than a loose, all over the place band playing 'complicated' music. Going about being in a band is not so different from going about living your life. If you're weak physically but are excellent with numbers, which would you choose, being a rugby player or mathematician? Easy, right? So, just apply that same logic when you're in a band!

6. Know when you're ready
This is the most crucial part. You've now written your own songs. You've been jamming a lot. What next? This is where you really have to be honest with yourself, AND ask your friends to be honest with you. Maybe you can demo some songs and listen carefully at home, or give some to your friends for them to listen to. The most important thing is to really decide whether the material you have or your live performance skills are good enough to be unleashed to the world. Put yourself in the shoes of the listener. Ask yourself, if you're a listener and you heard the songs, would you get excited by them? If you're the audience and you're watching your band's performance of the songs, would you like it? If you think there's still work to be done after you asked yourself those questions, then by all means do work on it. There's no hurry whatsoever to introduce your band to the world. Most of us get only ONE chance to impress, so make the best first impression you can. A great first impression will surely lead to something. Luck may have something to do with it, but I honestly think there's no such thing as blind luck. I heard this great phrase in a documentary: "Luck is when opportunity meets preparation." And I really think that's true.

7. Be humble (Part 2)
Like I said above, playing music is almost always all about ego. You might start out just to have fun with friends, but what happens when you suddenly have 'fans'? Egos can easily inflate, and when they do you can easily lose sight of things. So, always remember WHY you're doing this in the first place. Again, your answer to Question No. 1 above is very, very important.

So, there it is kids, a simple guide on how to form a band, and not kill each other doing it! I hope it'll help a little bit. Maybe I'll do another post next about how to get gigs or how to 'up' your band? Hehehehe.


The Great Groo said...

humble.... you? hahahhaha! mana gila kuasa style? :-P

amarhafizi said...

yeah!!! mantap la aidil!! wiwittt tQ!!!

Aidil said...

Apa la lu Mikh! Baca la betul2... the BAND comes first. Someone has to uphold what the band stands for kan? Heheheh

azwad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
azwad said...

This is good article. Some of my concern are;

1. I like a type a music but from feedbacks and my own observations, I'm not good at it yet. I'm better at another type of music that I played in college. I want to write like Bob Dylan but come out with pop punk tunes even when I ditched the power chords.

2. I agree about working together with band members especially when they have more experience. I let Ramzi prepare the arrangement for my songs and listen to his advice even when initially I didn't understand yet the idea. Is this a correct approach?

3. Do i really need to know the history of a type of music or the music that my favourite artists played? I only fell in love with Bob Dylan a few years back and I'm unable to comments on his 'incredible work' like "Basement Tapes" or the collaboration with Grateful Dead, "Dylan and Dead". I don't know enough yet. Doesn't make me bad to claim my songs are inspired by Bob? Perhaps I don't need to be specific about my influences but isn't that what people ask anyway>

4. I agree that we must improve first before making the introduction to the public. That's the reason I'm not promoting my myspace page except for comments from friends and good musicians.

Ok. see you at the gig.

p.s. our rehearsals is available at

Aidil said...

Azwad -

1. It's all up to you, and again it all depends on WHY you want to do this, and what do YOU want from it. Are you looking to please yourself, or are you looking for compliments from others? Haaa tu kena tanya diri sendiri! Hehe.

2. This also depends on what the BAND stands for. What the focus of the band is, etc, which is something you have to work out amongst yourselves lah. When talking about experience, don't forget, someone who's experienced at making pizza, doesn't necessarily can bake a good cake!

3. History is always important for us to improve ourselves, to take lessons from what's been done before, to make it easier to put things in context, and generally just to be better informed. But you can never know enough, right? It's always better to admit your influences/idols rather than pretending to be 'original'!

faizsaaid said...

very good opinion,

making a band, form a band,

rasanya kena tanya orang yang berpengalaman,

soalan pertama tu paling penting. sesiapa yang pernah ada band mesti tahu bab ni punya. lagipun main band ni best, fans byk, ramai orang kenal, dan sebagainya. tapi kekadang sakit jgk, masa ,duit, kerja terabai, study terabai.

jadi sume ni akan balik ke tujuan nak baut band,hehehe.

DEP said...

Excellent! Well written.