Being a good band member is one thing that comes a lot more naturally to some. No matter how good of a guitarist (or keyboardist, singer etc.) you are, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be a great band member. It does, however mean that your potential as a band member is great.
So then what separates a great band member from a good one, or a band.
Here I’ve highlighted 7 of the essentials of what it means to be a great band member:
1. Knowing when to sit back or take the limelight.
There’s no “i” in band. A band is not there for your personal glory as a guitarist. It’s important to know when you need to be sitting back in support of what other band members are doing. This may even mean not playing (gasp), or not doing some insane licks just because it looks cool. If you’ve heard the expression “less is more”, this is the practical application of that.
In saying that, you also need to know when to take the limelight. If you’re in an 80s rock-esque band and its guitar solo time, be prepared to tear it up. Or an indie band and its time to send the audience into a trance with every guitar effect ever created, be prepared for that.
If you’re unsure if you need to pull back or step up, always ask yourself, “What is going to make the band sound the best in what it’s going for in this moment?”
2. Punctuality and professionalism
It doesn’t matter how good you are at your instrument if you aren’t there to play it. In this day in age, everyone’s busy, you aren’t the only one! Especially if you’re playing with good musos. Most musos are involved in several projects and have limited time, so actually you don’t have all the time in the world to go through songs at a rehearsal.
Punctuality is also extremely important for shows… Obviously.
Professionalism is shown a lot in rehearsals. Should be a no brainer but don’t waste time playing things you aren’t there to practice. Everyone else in the rehearsal room has some ownership of your time there so you need to be 100% in that room. When I am in a rehearsal, I’ll always leave my phone on silent behind the amp. No way of seeing, hearing or feeling it.
3. Learning/knowing your part:
I have experienced countless times people saying they love working with me because I actually know what I’m supposed to play when, because I know what’s going on.
Learning your part is the minimum base requirement. but it’s somewhat uncommon. You’ll be surprised that by just doing this you’ll quickly become everyone’s go to guitarist. I will say however, this is an area I find that guitarists are better at than many other instrumentalists and singers.
Knowing what the drums do, or where the vocal melody goes is also invaluable. So often in a rehearsal another band member is unsure of exactly what their part is doing and needs some direction. A confident band member who knows what each player needs to be doing to make it sound awesome is invaluable. It’s what music directors are made of.
When I need to learn a set of songs, on top of sitting down and learning the parts I’ll make sure those songs are on rotation in my car or on my iPhone so that I can not
This obviously applies to any originals outfit but also to every covers outfit. When a band wants you to play with them, they aren’t looking for a technician, they’re looking for a musician – a collaborator (at least they should be). Whatever the project, you need to be ADDING to it, making the music better and offering your unique voice and style which nobody else has.
There is a very high demand for guitarists that are creative and know how to add to the song in an interesting way.
5. Technical competence
While creativity is essential, technical competence is also a must. It’s pretty simple, but the more technically competent you are, the more free you are to unleash your creative ideas. As much as possible you don’t want to be dealing with limitations when you’re making music.
But at a more core level, you make the guitar sound better when you’re technically competent. Even in simple songs, it’s always much nicer to hear the tone, expression, rhythmic competence, dynamic variation etc. etc. of a skilled player.
Is your tone complementary to the sound your band is going for? Are you playing with the gain turned up to 11 for a folk duo (extreme example, I know). Your tone needs to sounds good and it needs sound good in the context of the band.
Before we were talking about sitting back or taking the limelight, your tone also needs to follow this rule.
Tone can be quite hard, it needs to sound amazing, not adequate. What’s more, you need to know how to pull many different tones. If you want to be an asset to your band, learn the full limits of your guitar, amps and pedals and how to make them sound how you want them to.
This really doesn’t have anything to do with your musical ability but it’s important. In ANY job you want to be working with people that you enjoy working with. Much more so for a band that you are creating music with, touring with etc. Have a personality, be someone people enjoy being around and feel comfortable around. Most people are much more likely to call a musician who is slightly less qualified but has a great personality and makes people feel comfortable than a musical genius who doesn’t know how to laugh and/or creates tension.
Being a great band member is both easier and harder than you think, where the simple traits are rarely nailed by the few who have conquered the harder traits.
It’s also important to remind yourself, you’re not aiming to be a sufficient or acceptable band member, you’re aiming to be exceptional. So don’t follow others’ cue of being late or sloppy. Be exceptional where people rave about working with you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from this week’s Teach Me The Guitar blog. Remember to subscribe, comment, share and contact me if you have any questions, want some lessons or just want to say hi.