JOIN A BAND
Maybe you’re set on being a solo musician, which is great; go ahead and own it, but hear me out.
Playing with other people is the second greatest joy you will know as a musician (we’ll get to the greatest elsewhere).
When people come together to make music and it goes well (or ‘clicks’), everyone in the group can experience such primal joy it’s hard to explain with words, which is generally why we do it with music! It’s shared expression, a shared experience among only those involved at that exact moment, and it can be truly special.
A private jam session with a group, or even with just one other person, allows you a safe space to immerse yourself in sound and express everything you can’t quite say in any other way. You will never sound as good as you do in the rehearsal room.
Another advantage of playing with others is that you become a much better musician. You have to learn how to adapt, improvise, collaborate, sacrifice and everything else that comes with sharing. Playing with others forces you to improve.
When I joined my first ‘serious’ band I had been drumming for three years and thought I could play pretty well. I could impress my friends and that was all that mattered at the time. Over the course of 2 ½ years and more than 75 gigs with this band I actually became a drummer. Once the band had broken up and we’d all moved on, I realised that previous to this band I was just a kid who was playing drums. The progress I had made on my instrument was immense.
Keep your horizons expanding, keep learning, growing and putting yourself in new experiences
So we know joining a group (a duo or bigger) is great fun and can make you a better musician. I’m not sure I need to convince you any further; most musicians want to join a group, or jam with other musicians at some point.
Well, you need to find other musicians and ask. The most obvious way to start is by finding like-minded people. If you’re a jazz singer then you need to find where other jazz musicians congregate. Whether it’s online in jazz forums or in real life at jazz clubs, you need to seek them out. Here are a few ideas:
Go to local gigs and see who’s playing, talk to them after the show and ask if they want to jam. If they don’t, or can’t then ask if they might know anyone who would, or can.
Hand out flyers at the door while people leave, I guarantee there are a tonne of like-minded musicians in the crowd. When I was looking for a band to join in a new city I used to go to shows and hand out CD demos I’d made to the band-members playing that night. It’s how I met the bassist of my next band!
Forums & social media.
This is probably the best method at the moment of finding people to play with. You’re a rock musician? Go to message boards where people are discussing your favourite rock band and ask around. Try posting on Reddit in the /r/rock or /r/findaband/ subreddits and ask for musicians in your area. Put the word out on facebook, twitter and instagram that you’re looking for people. Use area hashtags so you don’t get replies from other countries!
Places like Craigslist, Gumtree, joinaband, Trademe; all these sites connect musicians. Place an ad on one that applies to your area; outline your vision, name some influences and say what you are looking for. I found three band members through Gumtree when I was in the UK.
Make up an ad with the tearable phone numbers at the bottom or a simple flyer, print a few out and distribute them to local musician hotspots like record stores, music shops and rehearsal rooms. Most places will have a wall dedicated to this sort of thing. While you’re there, check out some of the other ad’s that have been posted.
Ask around. Everyone knows someone who plays music and will be happy to put you in touch. You might end up jamming with your grandma’s mate Bill, but you know what? Old Bill has been playing for 50 years, I bet he could teach you a thing or two.
Use all of these mediums to search for people who already have advertisements up, you might fit the bill in someone else’s band! Start replying and talking to people to see if it might work.
Once you’ve found people you’ll need to find a place to make music.
This can be a practice room, rehearsal space, mum’s garage, the local mechanics, grandmas living room; basically anywhere you can make a lot of noise without offending anyone. I get into this more, including what gear you need, in the 'How to Rehearse' article available to Musician's Map members. Enter your email at the bottom of the page to gain free access to members articles.
Once you’re jamming with other people, keep it up. If you find yourself connecting really well with a person or group then jam more, pursue the relationship and enjoy yourself. Maybe give your group a name and start taking it more seriously. If it’s not working after a few attempts, just politely say so and move on.
The most important lesson here is to always be honest with yourself and the people around you. If Bill can’t hold a beat, doesn’t show up for rehearsal or you just don’t get along: tell Bill straight and discuss whether it’s something you can work through together, or whether you need to go your separate ways.
Lying to people or staying in bad situations when you don’t want to be there, will only prolong the agony and cause more trouble in the end when the tensions do surface. Face it with confidence and positivity, be open and honest.
If you are able to and if you have the time, continue to jam with people and seek out new opportunities even if you are in a serious group. Always keep your horizons expanding, keep learning, growing and putting yourself in new experiences. You’ll find it keeps you fresh and fulfilled as a musician.