My Advice for Bands Just Starting Out

 

I wrote this a few years ago and it got passed around MySpace when it was the “In” thing. I even had a German recording studio ask for permission to print and post it in their studio…I updated it some and hopefully you can find some of it useful. It’s timeless free advice………..

Chuck

 

First off, this is just my observation but it does come from experience…Where you are at now, I was once there too. I want to share with you my two cents worth and hopefully you can gleam some of it and make use of it. It can’t hurt and it will surely help you avoid some of the common mistakes that new bands make. The following aren’t in any particular order…

1.Music is an attitude. But only have the attitude after you have taken the stage and the house lights have gone down and the stage lights go up. That’s when you play to kill..Walking around before hand with the rock star attitude and thinking your band is the best thing since slice bread and treating all the other bands like they are lower than you will only get your lunch ate by another band…It will happen, trust me, I was cocky once too…

2.I have noticed a lot of young bands these days usually have top notch gear when they play. I have seen 15 year old kids with Gibson Les Paul and full stack Marshall Amps. First off, I’m glad your parents or grandparents set you up with the cool gear. I had to work after school to get mine, but that’s ok too. However, if you can’t play them, they won’t make you sound any better. Your gear will look great as you go down in flames in front of everyone…Learn how to play before you choke on stage. Now you don’t have to be the next Eddie Van Halen by no means but do your homework…I once auditioned a guitar player that had the look, the gear, and the “Attitude”. He was all talk. I ate him for lunch and sent him packing. I would have been ez on him except his rock star attitude needed adjusting…So study your instrument. Watch other bands. Use the net, and back away from the Xbox, ps3’s or whatever is the latest and greatest game console on the market…

3. Getting your band together. Always start with your friends and then spread out. Find people that like the same music you do. Try them out. If you can actually play and they can’t, you may need to move on and look somewhere else. If they are better than you, stick with them and learn as much as you can. But in letting band members go as you search for the next Slash, be polite and just tell them the chemistry isn’t right or something. Don’t tell them they suck, they may go home and practice and the light bulb may come on in their head and then you’ll be eating socks trying to get into their new hot band next month…This happens every day, so watch what you say..

4. I am a guitar player too, so ***ATENNTION GUITAR PLAYERS*** Tuning your gear on stage is one of the most unprofessional things you can do. I saw a young band the other night and those two guitar players re-tuned after every couple of songs. So while you are there twisting the tuning keys and your amp is at full volume, you will lose the momentum, lose the crowd, and it’s annoying…Make sure your gear stays in tune. If you change strings before the show, you will need to stretch them. Play them hard, do hard bends on them but do it back stage or in the dressing room… When you are tuning, tune up into the note, not tune down into the note..If your axe will not stay in tune, get it worked on or replace it. If you have to re-tune, get an in-line tuner that is silent..It takes the guitar offline while you are in the tuning mode so no one can hear you . Your singer can do his job of rallying the crowd while you get in tune and no one will ever know.

5. Stage clothes are important. Think not? Look at all the bands that are now on the radio. They look like a band. They look like their music. Like they all were cut from the same cloth..Dont have a surfer dude in the band and a guy that dresses like Marilyn Manson and another guy that dresses hip hop.. Try to look like you all got your clothes out of the same band box.

6. Use the tools that are available to you. I played with a young band a couple of months ago that was good, but had no website. Come on, MySpace/ facebook is free so there is no excuse. I asked for their website address because they wanted to travel with us and I could contact them later. One of the guys in the band said, “We don’t have a website yet”. What does it take, 30 minutes to set up a MySpace/facebook account? So get to it. At least have a page there…It’s a place for your fans to check you out after the show and also next week when they tell some of their friends about your “rawkin” band.

7. Remember, the music business is tough. 99.9 % of all bands never make the “Big Time”. The odds are stacked against you, but it’s also like winning the lottery. You gotta play to win. So play, and play and play, and keep playing. As your friends stop playing, you keep pushing…You’ll never know if you give up…

8. All band members: Don’t stand on the stage and jam while you are waiting to have someone announce your band. It is unprofessional to stand up there and have everyone checking their instruments. If you need to check your guitar amp, wait until the sound man calls for you to. You want to sound good? Then let the soundman do his job. He can’t get the levels right if you are up there jamming on your favorite song while the bass player is playing his favorite song and the drummer is warming up to his favorite song and they aren’t the same song. One musician at a time should wait on his Que from the soundman and then check his sound.

9. And while we’re on soundmen. If your best buddy from high school wants to run sound for you, make sure he knows what he is doing. He is a member of your band too. He makes you sound good or bad. Make sure he has a good ear. He needs to study the mixing board just like you study your instruments. And if he is your soundman and you are playing paying gigs, he needs to be paid too. He may not make as much as the band but he has your sound in his hands, you had better take care of him.

10. Girlfriends. Here’s a tough one. Everyone is different, but for the most part your girlfriend will dig that you are in a band until another girl hits on you or starts to pay attention to you. Musicians like to have their ego stroked, it’s part of the game, but an upset girlfriend ramping at a show because some girl screamed your name is bad news. And if they fight at a club you are playing at, well you won’t get booked there again and that club owner will tell the next club owner. Girlfriends are probably the number one reason why bands break up. Don’t take my word for it, look at “The Beatles”. Yoko Ono tore that band apart systematically by herself. So if you got a steady girlfriend, you are probably at some time or another gonna have to deal with her being upset with you because of another chick. Your girlfriend will get tired of hearing your music after a few shows and then will grow tired of your always being with the band. I’ve seen this over and over and have experienced it myself.

11. Concerning Managers: If your band has got the right stuff. Find a manger. Make sure they are an honest one. Have them with you or do it yourself, draw up a contract for your band. It spells out how much you get paid, what he gets paid and how the money is handled. But do not legally bind yourself to him forever. Make the contract expire in six months and after six months you have the option to renew it or go your separate ways. Too many bands have made deals with managers and the managers bled the band dry. Pay attention to every detail or it could cost you your ass in the future. Open up a band account for the monies and make sure at least two of you have to sign to withdraw funds from it.

12. Parents… Parents’ giving their kids support to be in a band is cool. My mom used to let us practice full stage volume in the living room of our house and never once complained even when we used stage lights and smoke machines even when we blew fuses and the house would go dark while she was eating supper. Now that’s cool. However, I did a show last year with a young band that was kicking with the crowd and right in the middle of the show the lead singer asked his mom to bring him some water. And she did!! Now that is so uncool. We supplied the sound system and had them sounding great but I had to get on to Dad too cause he wouldn’t let me do my job. I told him if he touched my mixing board again I would break his fingers. Parents need to support the guys but stay in the back ground. Any chance of these guys being a killer rock band that day went into the dirt with the “Mom, get me some water please” statement…so kids, love your parents, parents love your kids but on stage ..It’s your gig, your fight, don’t call on Mom or Dad to bring you anything…Have roadie or someone else do it…that’s ok…

13. Make a set list. Nothing marks a band as being more unprofessional than lulls between songs and arguing what they’re going to play next. Give everyone a couple of it too. Make sure you can read it. Print it out and use large fonts..

14. Technical difficulties WILL happen. Don’t let them affect your performance. I’ve seen a lot of bands get shook up because something goes technically wrong and they ain’t worth crap afterwards. You can lessen the pain by having extra speaker cables, extra instrument & mic cables, extra strings (they tend to break at the most inopportune moments) and anything else extra you can afford. Drum heads, sticks, batteries, even a power amp if possible. Have a tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, duct tape, soldering iron, and anything else you can think of.

15. Make a promo kit. It should contain killer photos of your band, a demo cd of a couple of your best songs. A band bio, website address and contact numbers, . Don’t go to a department store to have band photos taken. Call a photographer in the phone book and ask if they have an eye for taking band photos…You can get a decent photo for around a 100.00…Look up other online promos from other bands and get ideas on how to set up your online promo kit…It’s old school I know but have some business cards printed up with your band name, contact person, website address on them. People still ask for business cards…If you print them out at home, make sure they look professional and not like you did them at home…

 

16. Eye contact. While playing on stage do not stare at your feet. Make eye contact with the people in the crowd. You are trying to connect with them on some special level… Music moves people. Share a moment. Look people in the audience in their eyes and smile. There’s the moment. Have a great time on stage. If you hate playing live, go do something else..If you live for the stage, watch other bands and see how the act and react on stage..Learn from the bands you live for…

 

And last but not least…

Playing music is a gift. Use it wisely. I have run into countless numbers of people that only wished they could play an instrument. So cherish your gift but don’t be arrogant of it either. What you create can bring someone up or down in the course of their day. Every time I hear music that I grew up on it takes me away to that special place, as Axle Rose would later say..You have been handed a gift, so now what are going to do with it???

If you found this helpful, I would like to hear from you. My contact info is located below.

Chuck Gee

copyright 09/2006

chuckgee1965@yahoo.com

www.myspace.com/chuckgee

 

http://www.facebook.com/thechuckgee

 

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