8 Tips For Joining A Band

There is nothing wrong with playing guitar for your own enjoyment, with no desire to broadcast your efforts to the world, but if you’re looking for the next challenge, then the best way to level up your guitar experience is to get yourself in a band. With guitarists outnumbering musicians on the look out for axe slingers, competition can be stiff. Let's look at some key ways to ace an audition - surprisingly, its not all about the playing!

1. Practice To Perform

Now, we are not talking about pulling out your best hair thrashing and guitar whirling tricks and moves in front of the mirror here. The first consideration is how well do you know the songs? Learning the basic ingredients, riffs and parts, is one thing, preparing a song to performance level is another. Be sure to prepare your guitar parts to a level where you can play them without concentration; once autopilot kicks in you’ll be able to be able to enjoy the band experience more freely.

Can you perform those songs standing up? Tap dancing around your pedals and changing patches is also something that can throw you a curve ball in a band situation; giving yourself a few practice runs of the tracks using your live set up will let you know whether you are truly ready or not! Over preparing will allow you the freedom to tackle other performance elements such as bright lights, dark stages, sweltering heat or noisy or distracting audience members.

Know the structure of the songs too. How many times do you play that riff? Does the solo come in after the first or second chorus? Don’t rely on cues from the other instruments or lyrics - what if the band misses the cue? If anything else is still shaky, make sure the intros and outros are rock solid; its more forgivable to fall off your fretboard during a guitar solo than it is to fluff the beginning and end of a song.

If you aren’t feeling confident, or have lost confidence in your playing ability, then take comfort in the fact that learning your parts to a pro level will most likely put you ahead of the competition.

2. Expert Timing

Hitting the woodshed to get your sweep picking chops in gear may be a requirement of your duties, but prioritising your timing and rhythm over everything else is paramount. Nothing makes you stand out as the ‘new guy’ more than dropping out of sync with the rest of the band. Isolate your parts and practice them with a metronome or drum loop. Practicing with the original recording can mask a wealth of errors which, in turn will be exposed during a rehearsal.

The dynamic of a band scenario are quite different to playing along to recordings at home (even if you’re a veteran, this can be a shock if you’re out of practice!). Remember - the drummer is in charge, when in doubt follow them! He or she will also, no doubt, be the loudest thing in the room. Follow their dynamics and take note of the fills and cues they play to announce new song sections.

Timing, in a broader non musical sense, is important too. Be on time for rehearsals or meeting the band. Your reliability is being auditioned as much as your musical ability. Local music scenes are close knit, so gaining a reputation as a solid and reliable person will get you more gigs than your musical skills! The world is chock full of hugely talented players with their weekends free, all because they never show up on time (with the exception of vocalists who are expected to be late - its in their DNA or something!)

3. Know Your Diary

Passing the audition isn’t all about the performance. The chances are, the band either have an active schedule of shows, or intend on treading the boards pretty soon. If you’ve delivered a Steve Vai standard rendition of the chosen tracks, but are busy every Saturday night for the foreseeable future, you’re probably not going to be first choice.

Get your affairs in order, with the assumption that you‘ll land the gig. Pencil in your holidays, family birthdays, date nights etc; any dates where you may potentially be unavailable to rehearse or play shows. Have your diary to hand when you go to the audition too - you’ll look like a pro!

4. Rework Your Parts (If Needed)

Don’t become too attached to the learnt parts. Be prepared that you may be asked to play something in another octave or, if there is another guitar player, another register on the fretboard. The rehearsal process is about adaptability and compromise so don’t be surprised or offended if that clever riff you’ve been crafting is reduced to two simple power chords - the song comes first.

5. Use Backing Tracks

Getting those notes under your fingers is only the first step - the tip of the iceberg. The real work comes with syncing your efforts to music. Practicing along with recordings or original tracks is infinitely more valuable than running riffs on your own, putting you in a real musical situation. However, when it comes to preparing a performance, nothing beats a backing track!

Backing tracks give you a real world experience of playing with a band - you are the sole guitarist and won’t have the original guitar track to fall back on, hiding your mistakes or handing you useful cues. Without the troublesome presence of the singer, you can also learn the songs on a more intimate way, hearing the other instrumentation more clearly.

With over 1000 backing tracks, there’s every chance we have the ones you are looking for. Take a look .......

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6. Health Check Your Gear

Flat batteries, crackling cables and broken strings can derail a gig so don’t let your potential new band mates worry about your gear going wrong at the first show. Change (and stretch) your strings. Take spares of everything - cables, strings, batteries - anything perishable.

Test your gear in advance of your audition.

7. Set Out To Impress

Sure, you’ve only been asked to prepare four songs, but take a look at the band’s set list and add a few more to your trick bag; even if they’re not perfect, your effort will get you noticed.

Do your homework - look at the band’s website, social media, past/future gigs and general activity - taking an interest in the direction and promotion of the band (even a fun covers outfit) is going to earn you points.

8. Nice Guys Finish First

A devil-may-care, rockstar attitude may work for the guys who reach the top, but won’t set you in good stead when auditioning for a new band. Projecting the impression that you are someone who is easy to work with is a huge bonus to any established group looking to add a new member to their clique.

Be prepared to take criticism without responding negatively (no matter how tempting). Be amiable, adaptable and easy going. As much as your musical and professional capabilities are being assessed, your new band mates are deciding whether they are happy to spend time with you. Even the biggest bands often cite a personal connection as the reasoning behind choosing new members.

Equally, this is a two way street; if another personality within the band presents an instant clash with your own, then take this into consideration - remember, you’re going to be spending a great deal of time with these people!

The final thought on this is to keep sight of the main reason you are joining a band - its fun! This is music, not chartered accountancy, so approach this with a sense of humour and a playful outlook. Don’t fear mistakes and learn how to laugh them off. If live shows are making you nervous then this is simply the adrenaline rush which will eventually become an addiction. Work and prepare hard, but when it comes to the performance, just play and enjoy yourself.

If you're in the need of more motivational reading, check out these other articles from the Licklibrary Blog archive:

Licklibrary Blog - Tips For Returning To Guitar After A Break
Licklibrary Blog - Playing In Front Of People: Beating Those Nerves!

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If you are thinking of just tackling the main riffs first, perhaps this course will give you the head start you need:

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Learn To Play 20 Classic Rock Riffs