|By Sean David Fitzpatrick
First of all, do not settle when it comes to band members!
Too many bands just find the next guy who can play the instrument they need and sign them up as the new, permanent band member. I cannot stress this enough, but take the time to find members that you really click with. And I'm talking relationally. If you guys can jam together without a hitch and create great sounding music, that's cool, but if you can't hang out together for twenty minutes without getting sick of each other, (even if it's only a little) it's best if you part ways. One day you'll be in the studio twelve hours a day for three months straight with that person, and then it'll really hit the fan.
As for the music itself, it might suck to join up with someone who's not as musically skilled as another candidate, and you may think it will hinder your ability to create and perform quality sets. However, there is a lot more to music than the simple melody and instrumentation being put out. Music is a phenomenon that triggers inner emotions and thoughts, so having the right chemistry behind the music is of the highest priority. Choose passion and relationship over skill and instrumentation. The latter can be taught.
Now I understand that setting your standards so high (and expecting other bandmates to do the same of you) may cause it to take longer to actually find people who fit this mould. I'm not saying that you should stencil out the kind of person that you want, but you want someone who you can understand and be understood by. You need to be able to solve differences (and there will be differences) in a mature and non-detrimental manner. Waiting to form the right group may be a longer process, but it will be well worth it in the end.
Secondly, don't wait for gigs, or even a band, to start creating your own music...
A mindset that I ran into in the past was that, while I was a lone musician, without a band around me, I should simply practice my instrument, but not actually write the music that wants to come out of me. (note; there is always music wanting to come out of you) I mean, what's the point? Right? I won't be performing it any time soon, and I'll eventually come up with new stuff anyways, so I'll just get around to that when I'm in a band. Wrong!
Creating new music, however simple and basic the first draft may seem to you (because we are all our own worst critics) encourages and inspires you to do more. Practicing can get very monotonous after a while, especially when you don't have anything in particular to practice for. (i.e a show or a jam session) But when you come up with something that you know is completely original, there is something very satisfying and encouraging about the whole thing. You could have been playing for four hours straight, but when you create something that tickles your fancy, it's as if you just picked up the instrument for the first time and don't want to put it down.
I would highly suggest getting some sort of recording device. If you have a computer and access to some decent music recording software, that would be ideal. But for the rest of us!...(yes, I'm here too) we can grab a simple handheld recording device. You don't necessarily need a high-quality device right now; the point is to have an audio version of what you came up with so you don't forget it. I find this is especially important with the melodies of lyrics. If it's an instrument and you prefer writing the tabs or notation, that's cool too, but if you're not accomplished with music theory then it might be difficult to remember the exact timing and phrasing of each note. Don't fall into the trap of, "That sounded so good! I'll definitely remember how to play that." Trust me, ten minutes later you'll hate yourself because you have the notes, but you just can't remember how it goes!
Another note on creating music (no pun intended) and writing lyrics is this: Your music and lyrics describe the place you are in your life at this very moment. It could be something that you're going through or something you saw happen to someone else that stirs some deep emotion inside - whatever it is, you will never be at this exact point in your life again. To think that you'll just remember it and come back to it when you're looking for inspiration is a pipe dream. Do it now! You'll thank yourself later, because you'll show up for the first session with the band and have all this material to sift through instead of having to start from scratch. Ideally, you'll have years of different phases of your life all in one pile of songs. (Even more piles if your bandmates have read this too)
Lastly, I want to talk about musical inspiration and exploration...
Start by closing this article when you're done reading and go listen to a band you wouldn't normally listen to from a genre you wouldn't normally listen to. Granted, you have your preferences, but I guarantee there is still something out there that you haven't heard yet, but that you would like. Even if you don't like the music as a whole, listen to your specific instrument or find particular sections that you like. Learn how to play them, play along with them, study their lyrics, make music fun! A great musician MUST have musical influences; and the broader your influences are, the more unique your overall sound will be.
The music industry is plagued with "look-a-like" bands. In most cases you wouldn't be able to tell one band from the other except by the singer's voice! Even worse is when you have a band whose songs all sound the same! That is a result of narrow musical influence. I'm not saying that each country band should have a death metal song thrown in the mix somewhere, but what I AM saying is that just because you're classified as a genre, that doesn't mean that all your songs must follow a particular set of rules. Genres are not guidelines; they are merely a way to classify the different styles or "feels" of music. Just play what you play and let the industry classify you how they want.
I want to simply say this...be yourself. As a band, as a musician, as a person. When you create music, don't do it for anyone else. Make what you think sounds good, be as scrutinizing as you want, but only to the point where you are truly happy with it. There's always someone who will listen to what you have created, as long as it's from the true you.
There! I hope that didn't sound to corny, but that's how it is.
Thank you for joining me in some of my thoughts.
- Sean Fitzpatrick
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