All-in-one guide on how to play with a band – What makes a great band?

All of us, musicians, have desires to stand on stage. Playing with other people and expressing our own music. And when we found ourselves with one, we do not know how to play with a band.

Lots of people in the concert of a band

It is easier to play alone because you there is no player, but you, to listen to. But when other musicians play altogether, there is a big difference on how you will play. You can’t just do everything you want in order to sound well together.

Consider this Analogy

Playing with a band is like a Cake. Imagine you are the only musician, you get the share of the whole cake. But when you are in a band, you share it to everyone equally. You can’t just take the whole cake. What I’m trying to say here is this: every instrument has its part. Not every guitarist should do the lead part and leave the rhythm part, it will sound crazy.

You all have a fair share of cake, and that share should be according to what part you should do. If you are a drummer, then most of the rhythm is in your hands (and feet LOL!) and you should not do every chops and rolling you know as you will take the share of the “Lead Part” which is essentially for either the guitarist or keyboardist.

Sliced cake shows analogy of parts of every band member

This is different when you are the only musician. You should be able to do the rhythm parts and lead parts simultaneously, but doing that in a band will hurt the band. Just like in the cake, taking a share that is more than what is given to you will not be good for everyone.

This Guide will be broken down into 2 Parts:

  1. Attitude
  2. Technical Skills

Attitude first must be worked out because the skills can be learned later on, but having a good attitude is really hard to find today. One thing you can see with the LEGENDS of music is they are so humble and they won’t just show their skills right out of the start. They know their parts and when to show their greatness.

Technical skills will be on the page 2. We will take a look at the roles of the common instruments today in a band, EVEN FOR VOCALS. Hopefully, this guide will teach you how to properly play with a band.

Let’s get right in to it!!!!

How to play with a band – Have a Good Attitude First

Good musicianship is always equal to good attitude. I’ve seen many young musicians out there when they play with a band, they just don’t care what their bandmates do and just do their so-called “amazing chops/licks/riffs”. It’s like they are not playing as a band but rather a group of soloist playing together. They wonder why with such “skills” they have, they can’t produce good sound.

The problem is in the attitude. You should not be a SOLOIST when in a band. You should work together. I’ve been in a band before and right now, I’m leading a worship band in our church. I have observed that when you are just starting out, you are a default SOLOIST. That’s why you need to work on your attitude first before going all out in your skills.

Orchestra musicians play with the band with no soloist mindset

Group of musicians in an orchestra is a good example: no soloist mindset

This list is what you need to work out:

  1. Listening to others is important
  2. Overplaying is a no-no
  3. Knowing your part
  4. Less is more (Very important principle)
  5. Have Fun!

1. Listening to others is important

When in a band, you should listen to everyone. You should, at least, know what they are doing. If you are not the lead instrument, you should support the lead instrument rather than overpowering them.

Some problems I’ve encountered in a band:

  1. Drummers filling the songs with all their chops, taking the lead parts for the lead guitarist
  2. Rhythm Guitarist overpowering the lead by having a louder volume
  3. Keyboardist using too much low end notes, taking the part of the bassist
  4. Bassist who doesn’t locked in with the Kick Drum
  5. Lead Guitarist in which his adlibs are all over the song
  6. Acoustic Guitarist in which his strumming pattern are out-of-beat
  7. Vocalist who is not singing on time.

As a musician, you have to know what other instruments do. You are not required to know how to play it, just a basic knowledge. I don’t really play drums, but I know the terms like 16 beats, ghost notes, etc. so when I hear it, I know what I should do to complement it.

The overall energy of the band should be the same. When the drums decrease the level, you should decrease too. This is really an important skill especially when you are starting out. It takes time before you master this, but making an effort to understand each other will help you to play better.

2. Overplaying is a no-no!

This is common in every band and I believe that all bands including the professional have experienced this before. Somebody in your band, if not you or not everyone, is overplaying and taking all the spotlight that should be for all and thinking that it is his time to shine. It’s like saying “I am here” wherein he should be focusing on “we are here”.

Before starting playing, you should answer this question:

Who’s the lead instrument?

When you agreed that a song will be guitar-driven, then do that. Complement the guitar who’s taking the lead. Make sure his adlibs are supported with good background music. Without good rhythm, the lead will sound lacking and soulless even if the musician itself is good.

Here is an example of good rhythm with a really good adlibs!

The lead lines is really good, but focus on the rhythms or the background music. It is really good. Without that nice bass sound and good accompaniment by the piano and drums, it will not have a good impact.

Also, I am 100% SURE THAT EVERY MUSICIANS IN THE VIDEO has some amazing chops/licks but as you can see, they are not doing it. Why? Because the guitar is the lead instrument and they are just supporting it. The drums is doing fantastic chops at some parts but most of the time, he is sticking to a pattern.

There’s nothing wrong in practicing some chops, licks or any other amazing flashy skills. I have this principle that your skills should be 120% above what is required in a song when playing with a band, but you should show these skills at the proper time and tell your bandmates that you want to incorporate your licks or chops so that they can support you.

3. Know your part

Who doesn’t love a bandmate who knows all his stuffs when practicing. There are musicians that show up in a practice that doesn’t even know the chords or the beat. Much worse, they don’t know what song you’ll play

Before coming to practice, it is a good attitude to be ready. Not being ready will not help the band and waste all your time. In order to have a good output, you all need to be doing your part well, and if you show up unprepared, they are going to wait for you which is a waste of time.

Practice in your house. Listen to the songs and look for some covers as it gives you an idea of what you should be doing. Prepare your patches, your effects and everything. Just make sure that when you are rehearsing, everything is ready. The only problem you should be dealing with during rehearsal is how to PLAY WELL TOGETHER.

4. Less is More

This is one of the most important principle you need to understand. When we say “Less is More” it is saying that the simple, the better. There’s nothing wrong in adding some cool fills, but you need to make sure that it will help the song.

You should think about this: Doing more than what you are required to will usually add damage to your music. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to NOT PLAY ANYTHING. Seriously! If you will listen to great songs, not everyone is playing in some parts because doing that will add more to their songs, hence, Less is more.

If you find yourself so busy playing and you have no time to listen to your bandmates, it is a good sign that you are doing more than what is required. I suggest that you lie low, if you are strumming the whole song, why not on verse, just strum once every chord change and feel the song.

This kind of attitude is present to all great musicians you know. They know that simple is better. Having one highlight in a song is greater than showing off the whole time.

5. Have Fun

I love musicians who know how to have fun. Whatever level you are, don’t let lack of skills destroy the music. Take that frustration in a direction where you strive to be better rather than destroy your music because you are not good. Everyone has their own time but you should not forget to have fun.

Having a good atmosphere in a band will actually help you play better. So always feel the song. I strongly believe that whatever music you are playing, you are expressing yourself. So when you are having fun when playing, I’m sure that your music will sound good. So again, Have Fun.

That’s it for the Attitude

This is just the attitude part and I believe that it is very important. Make sure that you don’t skip mastering this part as this will help you not just in your music life, but also in real life. Good attitude is hard to find today so work it out.

And now, let’s get to the technical skills!

8 comments on “All-in-one guide on how to play with a band – What makes a great band?

  1. Destiny

    Oh yes nice post, I play the trumpet I can tell, the problems you listed is exactly what hapens, sometimes I don’t blame anyone during progressions because music is all about love, we can’t proceed without a mutual understanding. I strongly agree with this post. It will enlighten those who doesn’t know what makes a band is.

    1. Vincent Post author

      Thank you. Modern bands today should learn the discipline of the Brass bands or String ensemble. hahaha

  2. Topazdude

    Hello Vincent. I really appreciate your opinion on this topic. This is actually a all inclusive articles on how to how to play with and make a great band. I know how it feel to be part of a great band, during my college I had on my way to becoming a pro in playing guitar and I can sing also, so I joined a unique in the college. I really support this fact that playing with a band is like a Cake, and the one cake is usually meant to be shared equal. My experience with my band really made me and instill in the sense of team work and how the benefits is being shared equally.Yes, Good musicianship is always equal to good attitude. Because the sense of oneness really matters. I want to ask a question, that does not engaging in overplaying in a band mean not expressing ones full ability and skills?

    1. Vincent Post author

      Overplaying and expressing one’s ability is a little different. Sure, during jam session or just playing for fun, it’s not bad. However, when playing for the sake of a song, what you express should be to add value with the song

  3. Olanike

    It does matter a lot if you are falling out of key or chord. A band has to be in unison and concord. I know this because I play the bass guitar for my church choir. Every point in this post is true and without learning how to play like a band , one will always be a spoiler. 

    Thanks for the educative post. This will definitely help someone who has learnt a little about being a band member.

    1. Vincent Post author

      Thank you. Being a bass player is really crucial in the band. Perfecting it requires practice but it really is worth it all

  4. Henry

    Hi! This is such a useful post. It has helped me concerning the correct attitude. There were things that I had thought in. But there were points such as “more is less” that can completely change the music a group produces.

    I really appreciate your experience. And I can see you have seen these mistakes you state here in many musical groups that are starting. The members of a group can be skilful but if these points are not observed, it would lead to a complete mess.

    1. Vincent Post author

      That’s right. It requires discipline to not show off your skills and be one with your bandmates


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