10 Things Every Young Band Should Hear
I have coached bands for well over a decade. Some of the bands I have coached know these lines by heart. They might be on my tombstone. Until then, enjoy some sage advice that young bands can never hear enough:
1. Tap your foot. No really, tap your foot. When a young musician gets on stage, the excitement and nervousness causes them to forget the basics. Some players rush, some lag, and some skip beats. That’s why it’s so important to put the rhythm of a song into your body and not your brain.
2. Sing the chorus in your head before you count off the song. The chorus is the most important part of a song. Starting your song too slow or too fast won’t show up until it’s too late to fix. So sing the chorus of the song in your head before you begin, and you’ll have a chorus that is comfortable for everyone. This is especially important if you have just finished a faster tune and everyone is amped. There’s always enough time to take a breath and get your bearings.
3. Run with the carousel before you jump on the carousel. If you are at a standstill and try to catch a carousel with your hand, you’ll hurt yourself. If you run next to it and match the pace, you can hop on with no problem. The same is true when you enter a song. Let’s say your song begins with a sparse piano intro. Just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you don’t belong in the groove. Spend the first verse getting with the vibe of the song. That way you’ll enter on time and with the appropriate dynamics.
4. Lead singers, beware of your precious long notes. Let’s say we start a ballad-y song with just a piano and a vocal. You take your time, really leaning into those lovely long vowels. You’re feeling it. And then you get to the chorus and it feels lifeless and flat. Why? You slowed your band down, and it came back to bite you. Don’t be that singer- the one with no sense of tempo. Keep time yourself and everyone, including you, will sound better for it.
5. Don’t noodle during band practice. I know you love your instrument (guitarists) but your nervous energy makes people think one of two things: This guy didn’t practice enough, or he only cares about his solos. The best musicians already put in the work, so they don’t need to steal everyone else’s time. Band practice is for the band. Noodle at home.
6. If the song “feels wrong” check the bass and kick drum. The beating heart of a song is the groove, which lives in the bass and kick drum. If that foundation isn’t solid, no synth pad will fix it. Strip everything away and get the bass and drums right. Groove it for a while, then start adding instruments. You’ll thank me later.
7. Don’t argue about what will and won’t work in a song. Try both options and listen. Young bands talk their arrangements to death. If you have a creative idea, ask your band to play it and watch their faces. If it doesn’t work, at least you’ll know. Maybe it will lead to something cool. But don’t waste time arguing.
8. If you aren’t to the groove by the second verse, people are allowed to leave. Unless your song is the next “Bohemian Rhapsody”, you need to get on with it. You’ll know you’ve reached the groove when the drummer is playing his kick, snare, and hi-hat, and the bass is in full.
9. Drummers, the bridge is a great excuse to leave the cymbals alone. The louder the cymbals are, the worse the band sounds. Cymbals leak into every mic onstage and eat guitar and vocal frequencies for lunch. So give everyone a break during the bridge, and your last chorus will actually sound big, not exhausting.
10. Learn to wrap a cable properly. Everyone, learn under/over cable wrapping, and how to break down a mic stand. Everyone.
Find that groove and have fun.