Garage Band Advice
So you are in a garage band that isn't going anywhere. Maybe with a little structure and work you can get pointed in the right direction.
You wanna be a rock star? First, you have to have some sort of musical talent. This alone weeds out most people, although it can be argued that a lot of no-talents make it big. But talent will only get you so far. You also have to be lucky. This is probably the biggest factor involved. While you may not make it to rock star status, it is possible to do very well for yourself in the music biz. Most bands never even make it to their first gig. A lot of this can be attributed to bad practice habits. Let's take a look at a typical practice.
The singer is late. One of the guitar players broke a string last week and has neglected to restring his axe. The drummer is showing off his new 20" china cymbal every chance he gets, much to everyone’s dismay. The bass player brought his girlfriend and their baby, and the baby is crying so loud you can't hear the vocals. Does any of this sound familiar? While all of these things may not be happening on the same day, just one of them is enough to destroy a band practice. These little things are disruptive to any sort of creativity that could take place. First thing every band member must do is leave everything else in their life outside of band practice. If a member cannot or is not willing to do this, perhaps you should look for someone who is. Everyone must be on the same page. Only one member who is not committed to this can bring the whole band down. I don't care how fantastic your guitar player is.
Everyone you are going to work with should be a professional. I don't mean they need to be professional musicians, but they should have a professional attitude. The entire band should agree on what the goals of the band are, whether it's to make it big or to play at Big Bill's Saloon once a month. This way everyone knows what they are working toward. If one member doesn't see eye to eye, it's probably not going to work out. The hardest part of putting a band together is getting a group of like-minded individuals, and then keeping them together.
Band practice should be a structured activity. If there is no order to it, nothing will get done. Work on 1 or 2 songs new per practice. Everyone should have a copy of the song to be learned, and should have spent the past week learning much of their parts on their own. This saves time when everyone gets together. Band practice should be spent putting all the pieces of the song together, not with the singer learning lyrics or the bassist learning the intro. This is not to say everyone should have all parts of the song down, but they should be able to play along well enough to allow the band to start to put the parts together. One or two songs per practice should fill most of your time. I like to end a practice, like maybe the last half hour, just running over songs in your set list that everyone is comfortable with. This allows everyone to leave practice on a high note by playing songs they know, and it also keeps these songs fresh in their minds.
One of the most important tools to use during a practice is a tape recorder. This seems kind of obvious I know, but I have always been surprised at the number of people who don't tape their practices. I find it to be a great learning tool throughout the following week to go back and listen to the past practice. This allows you to work on the songs mentally while driving your car, at work, mowing the lawn, etc.
Some people will disagree with this, but in my opinion, the band as a whole should only practice together once or twice per week. This is for a part time band. If you are doing this for a living, you would want to step it up a bit. Practicing more often can actually be counter productive. You don't want to be around each other so much that nerves start to fray. Each member should look forward to practice and be excited about it. This atmosphere from all members will get the most work out of the scheduled practice. If everyone has done their homework that week and worked on their own parts, the songs should only need a little ironing out when the band plays together.
On a final note, this is something that comes up quite often, but which slows most people down. Your best friend may be a musician and you may want him in the band, but is he good enough? This is a tough question you have to ask yourself. Is he on your level? The band's level? If not, he will slow the band's progression and drag it down. It's a bad position to be put in, but it will likely come up at some point. Just be honest with yourself, and your friend. With a little work and encouragement from you, in 6 months, he may just be what the band needs!
I hope this helps you get your band off the ground. Nothing I have discussed here is by any means the only way to go about things. It is only what I have found to work well in my own bands through the years. Bottom line: Have a good time, or it's not worth it!