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

Playing in a band requires good attitude and also good TECHNICAL SKILLS. If you haven’t read the first part, I suggest that you read it first here, as it more important to learn first rather than what I’m going to share in this part.

We have technical skills before we play with a band. We know the basics and can play songs alone and that is a good sign that we can play with other people too. But playing in a band has something you can’t learn when you are playing alone.

Here’s another Analogy:

Consider a house. Without good foundation, the house won’t stand. But having a column as foundation is not enough, you need walls for additional protection and strength for the house. But a house without anything inside is not a good house, so we put furniture and design in it.

A house shows that there are different roles of each band members. There are foundation, design, and people

So in a house, we need three parts:

  1. Column or Foundation
  2. Walls
  3. Furniture and Designs

In music, you need three elements also:

  1. Rhythm
  2. Harmony
  3. Melody

Of course there are other elements, but let’s focus on these three.

Rhythm is equal to the Column and Foundation. It is the most important part for me as it dictates the beat or where the song is going. Having a bad foundation is a sure way to kill your music.

Rhythm parts in a band are usually the percussive instruments:

a. Drums
b. Bass Guitar
c. Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic Guitar is a percussive instrument, so it must be locked in also with the drums. The bass guitar should be locked in with the kick drum and Drums should be in time always. These three instruments which are common in a band is very important not to lose midway because once they lost the rhythm, everything will fall apart, just like in the house.

Harmony, in my opinion, is the Walls. A harmony is a combination of notes that sound good together. Having a good harmony dictates the feel of the song. It also supports the melody. Without it, the melody might not sound good. Just like in the house, without the walls, your furniture is exposed to danger and it will be destroyed.

Harmony should be every instrument in the band as they all need to sound good together. But the most common who makes good harmony is:

a. Rhythm Guitar
b. Keyboard

Rhythm Guitar and Keyboard players are the ones who do chords making sure that it is supporting the melody well.

A piano player using a keyboard onstage

Lastly is the melody. It is the message of the song. Without it, nothing can be understood. Just like in the house, without the people, design and furniture, you can’t call it a house as they are the one who gives meaning to it.

The melody parts is usually done by:

a. Lead Guitar
b. Vocals

The adlibs of lead guitar in a song is usually embellishment and should not be done always. Filling too much will not help at all. The vocal part is the one conveying the message of the song. When the rhythm and harmony is good, there’s no excuse for the melody to sound bad unless the melody itself is not good.

Other Elements of Music

Dynamics

Dynamics is the change in volume or energy of the song. The start of music should be the build up and chorus part is the high energy part. A good song always changes its energy. After bringing it to a high point, commonly it is brought down then build up once again. Most common pattern is this:

Intro – Appetizing part
Verse 1 – Low energy
Pre-Chorus – Build-up
Chorus – High energy
Verse 2 – Low energy
Pre-Chorus – Build up
Chorus – High Energy (Climax when there is no Bridge)
Bridge – Climax
Chorus – High Energy but reducing gradually
Outro – End

Observe it in this song

You’ll feel that there is a change in energy and that should be present in your band also.

Tempo

This is the time signature of the song or BPM (Beats per minute). If dynamics should be changing always, the TEMPO SHOULD NEVER CHANGE. The only way to practice this is playing with metronome.

Everyone should have perfect timing but the drummer should be the best in keeping time.

Groove

Groove is the feel of the song. You should know what emotions you will be conveying. It should be the same with the lyrics. If it is a happy lyrics, then the groove should be happy. Drums and Bass play the most part in establishing the groove.

The Rule of Thumb for every instrument

Drums

  1. Don’t change the groove of the song
    – You can add some fills but don’t change its pattern
  2. More power doesn’t mean faster
  3. You are the Time Keeper
  4. Work out all your limbs
    – Make sure you have the same energy with both hands and feet
  5. Don’t be a Template Drummer
    – template drummer means same pattern to every song you will play
  6. Use ghost notes
  7. Don’t add too much fills
    – Adding too much fills will kill the groove and people will get distracted while listening

>>Read more of the drummer’s role here

Bass Guitar

  1. Play with the Kick
    – Not always but most of the time
  2. You are a Solidifier
    – Meaning you give emphasis to the beat and groove. Without you, it feels no energy
  3. Do not slap inappropriately
    – If you learned it yesterday, don’t do it in every song
  4. Hold the Groove
  5. Don’t put too much pressure on fingers on right hand

>>Read more of the bass player’s role here

Acoustic Guitar

  1. Cling to Hats
    – Your strumming pattern is usually locked in with the hats
  2. You are a percussive instrument
    – Adding flashy chords will not always help
  3. Use a Capo
    – Study using a capo to avoid barre chords as it doesn’t sound good in acoustic
  4. Have one strumming pattern in a song

>>Read more of the acoustic guitar player’s role

Rhythm Guitar

  1. Use proper effects
  2. Study different chord voicings
    – Power chords are good but apply some other voicings
  3. Make sure you are not in the same frequency of the Keyboard and Acoustic
    – If the Keys or Acoustic is in the high end, do your chords near the 1st fret

>>Read more of the Rhythm guitar’s role here

Lead Guitar

  1. Never put an adlib in every part of the song
  2. Most of the time you will not be doing anything so be creative
  3. Use proper effects especially during adlibs
  4. Always tune your strings especially after bending the strings
  5. Shredding is not always the best adlib for me
    – Most of the time, melodic solos is much better

>>More to Lead guitar’s role

Keyboard

  1. Avoid spending too much in low end part
    – Sometimes I don’t even use my left hand
  2. Make patches
  3. Do not use too much arpeggiator
  4. Use other patches, not only Piano sounds
  5. More often, you will be using atmospheric effects
    – Pads, Strings, Organ
  6. Study other chord voicings

>>Click for more details

Vocals

  1. Sing on time
  2. If more than one singer, use second voice
    – Blending should be present when there is more than one singer
  3. There is a time of rest and leaving it to the lead instrument
    – Don’t sing the whole time
  4. Changing the key of the song is possible
    – Don’t push yourself too much as it can destroy your voice

Conclusion

These rules are just some guides to help you be a better player in your band. I’ve observed these rules and done it in my own band and we got better results. Compared to before, with no dynamics and full of soloist mindset, our music is a disaster.

Applying these techniques will help your band soar higher and create good music. Be creative in playing and make sure that you are having fun. Seek training and seminar out there because learning never stops

If you have a question, please leave a comment. I would be very happy to answer all your question.

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.

    Reply
    1. Vincent Post author

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

      Reply
  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?

    Reply
    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

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    1. Vincent Post author

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

      Reply

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