You’ve got your passion for music, a group of talented musicians, and a dream of taking the stage. Congratulations! You’re about to embark on an exciting journey as you dive headfirst into the world of being in a band.
Starting a band is an adventure filled with creativity, camaraderie, and the thrill of making music. But, like any great endeavour, it requires careful planning and a solid foundation.
In this blog, we’ll be your guide as we explore the essential first steps you should take when forming a band. From defining your musical vision to creating your rehearsal schedule, we’ll cover it all. So, let’s dive in and uncover the key ingredients to kickstarting your musical journey!
1. Define Your Musical Vision
The very first thing you’ll want to do is determine the genre and style of music you want to create. Establishing your band’s unique sound and identity is what will help you stand away from your contemporaries and allow you to grow as an artist.
Reflect on Your Influences
Make a list of your musical influences, including artists, bands, and genres that inspire you. Consider what you love about their music and how it resonates with you. Pinpoint exactly what you like about certain tracks. Is it the lyrics, the chord progression, the artist’s attitude, or something else?
Identify Your Unique Sound
Explore what sets you apart from other musicians and bands. Consider what elements of your music are distinctive, whether it’s your vocal style, songwriting approach, or instrumental choices. Many artists feel the need to be the next ‘fill in the blank’ but in fact, remaining individual is better for fan retention and longevity.
Experiment and Jam
Spend time experimenting with different musical styles, chord progressions, and rhythms during rehearsals. Allow creative freedom for band members to explore new sounds together. Each band member is going to have creative ideas and suggestions on the band’s direction. Embrace everyone’s input and feel it out. You never know what could come from each idea.
Define Your Genre and Style
While it’s okay to blend genres, try to identify the primary genre or style that best represents your music. Consider how you can put a unique twist on that genre to stand out. What is it you do that feels exciting and fresh? What story do you have to tell?
Visualise Your Brand
Think about the visual aspect of your band, including your logo, artwork, and stage presence. Ensure that your visual identity aligns with your musical vision. You can take to websites like Pinterest to help you understand your brand on a deeper level. While your brand can change and evolve as you do, when you start out, having a clear message and sense of who you are as a band will help you grow a fanbase quicker and more steadily.
2. Set Clear Goals
Goals help you to understand the steps you need to take to achieve your big dreams. Discuss and agree on your band’s short-term and long-term goals. Define what success means to you, whether it’s playing local gigs, recording an album, or going on tour. Not every band’s goal is to be global superstars!
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals
Distinguish between short-term goals (those you want to achieve within the next few months) and long-term goals (goals you aim to accomplish over the next few years).
A great way to do this is to develop SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). An example of a SMART goal is something like “We want to book 6 shows or gigs within the next six months.” This will help the members of your band understand what needs to be done in all areas of the band.
Specificity and Clarity
Make your goals as specific and clear as possible. Vague goals can be difficult to track and achieve. Define what success looks like for each goal, so you’ll know when you’ve reached it. For example, a vague goal would sound like “We want to release an album at some point.” A goal like that is too open-ended and you’ll most likely find it difficult to visualise the steps you need to take to reach it.
Prioritise your goals based on their importance and feasibility. Identify the most critical goals that will have the most significant impact on your band’s progress. For example, one of your first goals may be to perfect a cover song. When bands first start, cover songs are a great way to feel out how you work together as a group.
Break Goals into Steps
Divide larger goals into smaller, actionable steps. This makes them more manageable and less overwhelming. Let’s say, for example, you want to pick a cover song to play. First, each member of the band could select 5 bands that they would want to cover, and then, if anyone aligns, you can pick a specific song. The larger and more long-term the goal, the more you’ll want to break it down into bite-size pieces.
Be open to adapting your goals as circumstances change or new opportunities arise. Sometimes, the path to success may require adjustments. Luckily, goals don’t have to be set in stone once you’ve decided upon them. Remaining open to change will help you understand the band and its purpose much more.
3. Create a Rehearsal Schedule
Once you understand your musical direction, and you’ve set some achievable goals, you can establish a regular rehearsal schedule that works for all band members. Set goals for each rehearsal session and stick to a productive routine.
Set Regular Rehearsal Days and Times
Determine how often you’ll rehearse. Typically, bands rehearse anywhere from once a week to several times a week. Choose specific days and times that work for all members as consistently as possible. Being random and spontaneous with your rehearsals will lead to inconsistent practice and the inevitability of members not being able to make it.
Schedule rehearsals at least a few weeks in advance, if possible. This allows band members to make necessary adjustments to their schedules. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re texting your brand group chat with “How about tonight?” This can lead to a lot of frustration and the quality of the band will suffer for it.
Set Goals for Each Rehearsal
Before each rehearsal, establish specific goals or objectives you want to achieve. This could include learning a new song, perfecting a specific section, or preparing for an upcoming gig. Be prepared for some members to be more advanced than others. You may find that while someone can pick up a new riff easily, others may need more time. Be patient and understanding with both yourself and your fellow band members.
Practise Individual Parts
Allocate time for individual practice and refinement of parts. This allows each member to work on their specific contributions to the songs. Individual practice doesn’t have to be done together. If you have a free evening, this would be the perfect time to whip out the guitar and noodle through the new song you’ve decided to cover.
Consider recording your rehearsals, especially when working on new material. Listening back can help identify areas for improvement. Many new bands can get ahead of themselves thinking they sound much better than they are. While there is nothing wrong with having confidence in yourself and your band, it’s important to remember that it’s the audience that you need to impress.
If each member has a phone (and we’re pretty sure you all do), everyone can record near themselves as well as from far away to get a sense of where needs work. It may not necessarily be down to poor playing, a string may need tuning, or a key may need altering that you wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t recorded yourself.
4. Write Original Music
Now that you have been rehearsing for a while, you will start to get ideas for original songs, if you hadn’t already. Collaborate with your fellow band members on songwriting and composition. Record demos of your original songs to document your progress.
Inspiration and Song Ideas
Seek inspiration from personal experiences, emotions, social issues, or any topic that resonates with you. Keep a notebook or digital document to jot down song ideas, lyrics, melodies, and chord progressions as they come to you. Inspiration can strike at any time, so keeping a pen or your phone handy at all times is essential.
Melody, Lyrics and Song Structure
Start with either a melody or lyrics. Some songwriters prefer to write lyrics first and then create a melody to match, while others work the other way around. Experiment with different melodies and chord progressions until you find a combination that fits the mood and message of the song. You can also familiarise yourself with common song structures, such as verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. However, don’t be afraid to deviate from traditional structures if it serves the song’s narrative or emotion.
Collaborate with other band members. If someone in the band has a great idea or a musical riff, explore how it can fit into the song. Experiment with different instrumental arrangements and harmonies. Sharing song beginnings amongst the group can help take your music to new levels and inspire new ideas.
Feedback, Revisions, and Polishing
Seek feedback from trusted friends, bandmates, or mentors. Constructive criticism can help you improve your songs. Be open to making revisions based on feedback. Sometimes, asking a trusted friend who doesn’t have a musical ear can help you understand how your music will translate to an audience. Fine-tune the song’s lyrics, melody, and arrangement until you’re satisfied with the result. Pay attention to transitions between sections and ensure a smooth flow.
Performing and Testing
If you have the opportunity, integrate your original songs into your live performances to gauge audience reactions. Live performances can also inspire further refinements to your songs. If and when you’re playing the song live, try and record it to see how it sounds on stage. How you sound in your practice space compared to how you sound live could encourage you to make changes.
5. Develop Your Repertoire
Once you’ve been practising regularly to refine your sound and performance, you can start building a repertoire of songs, including originals and covers. This is what your set list will be built from when you start playing live gigs!
Identify Your Strengths
Recognise the strengths and abilities of each band member, including vocal range, instrumental skills, and songwriting talents. Use these strengths to your advantage when selecting songs. You only want to include the tracks you can play the best.
Choose a Mix of Covers and Originals
Decide how much of your repertoire will consist of cover songs and original compositions. Cover songs can help you connect with your audience, while originals showcase your creativity. Pick cover songs that resonate with your musical style and audience and perhaps put a unique spin on them. Ensure that the songs you choose are well-suited to your band’s instrumentation and vocal abilities.
Test Songs Live
Play your songs at local gigs, open mic nights, or small shows to gauge audience reactions. You can use live feedback to refine your repertoire and help you understand what your audience wants from you. If you gig consistently, you’ll find that certain tracks become expected of you in your set and fans will get excited for when you play it.
Maintain a Repertoire List
Keep a list of all the songs in your repertoire, including lyrics and chord charts. Update this list as you add new songs or retire old ones. After each gig, make notes on which songs got the best reception and which ones you may want to consider swapping out.
Adapt to Your Audience
Pay attention to your audience’s preferences and reactions during live performances. Be prepared to adjust your repertoire to better connect with your listeners. After all, the listeners come first (at least when you’re growing) so understanding and playing to their needs is a great way to encourage more people to come along.
6. Market and Promote Your Band
Now you know who you are, your goals, and your sound, it’s time to think about marketing yourself. Share your music online through platforms like SoundCloud or Bandcamp. Think about designing a band logo and visual branding.
Create a Professional Online Presence
If budget allows, build a band website with your biography, music, photos, dates, and contact information. Consider your website a hub for everything your band gets up to. It doesn’t have to be anything flashy, just a place where you can put all your info.
Regularly update your social media profiles with content that reflects your band’s personality and music. Interact with your followers, respond to comments, and engage with other musicians and fans. Share behind-the-scenes content, such as rehearsal footage, studio updates, and tour diaries. Create music videos for your songs to enhance their visual appeal.
Collaborate with Other Artists
Collaborate with other musicians or artists on projects, which can help you tap into their fanbases. Guest appearances on each other’s tracks can be mutually beneficial. You can also collaborate on other things aside from music. For example, if you’re performing at a venue, you can do a collaborative post on Instagram to reach both users’ audiences.
Network and Gig
Attend music industry events, local music meetups, and networking opportunities. Build relationships with other bands, promoters, and industry professionals. Start by playing local venues, open mic nights, and small gigs to gain experience. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing. If you can get to know people in your industry, you’ll be amazed at how those relationships can benefit you.
Utilise Music Distribution Platforms
Use distribution platforms like DistroKid, TuneCore, or CD Baby to reach global music markets. These platforms can help you get your music on major streaming platforms. This will also help get your music on places like the TikTok and Instagram music library meaning you and others can easily share your music on social media.
Invest in Quality Equipment
Acquire and maintain good-quality instruments and equipment. Ensure that your gear is reliable for live performances. If you’re finding yourself in need of a new microphone for your social media content, consider investing in one. As you progress through your career, you can’t be afraid to purchase equipment that will improve the quality of what you’re putting out.
Handle Band Finances
Open a separate band bank account to manage income and expenses. Discuss how band expenses and revenue will be shared among members. Inevitably, your band will begin to spend and make money. To keep things professional, keep those finances neat so no singular person shoulders the burden of monitoring, payments, and distribution.
Finally, Stay Committed
Stay dedicated to your band’s vision and goals, even when faced with challenges. Communicate openly with band members to address any issues that arise. After all, this is your dream and the only person that can keep you on track is you. There will be times when you feel like giving up but don’t succumb to that feeling.