Six Rules That Will Always Be Important
When times are lean, gigs are scarce, and your seventeen-piece band is busking in the metro just to get by, how do you make sure your spot in the band is secure? How do you know you’re not about to lose your seat to some keyboardist/saxophonist/washboard player when the band cuts corners?
Being a steadfast band mate is an art unto itself. Here are six things you can do to make yourself indispensable.
Rehearse on your own time.
Believe me, you don’t want to be the guy holding everyone else back during shared rehearsal time. This is even more true of studio recording sessions: if you eat up studio time that costs $100 per hour because you “didn’t get around to” learning your parts, you’ve obviously put yourself in poor standing. Don’t waste your own time and money—or that of your band mates.
Put the song first.
Do what’s right for the song. Always. Sure, sometimes the right thing to do for the song is to play a nostril-flaring, earth splitting solo. But that’s relatively rare in most genres. 90% of the time we’ll be laying down chord grooves, trying to make the lead vocalist or another band member sound as awesome as possible. Nonetheless, stay sharp and listen for sonic holes in the band arrangement—slack moments you can fill. Stay alert also for those moments where you can quiet down for dramatic purposes. It’s all about rhythm and dynamics. Besides, there’s no way to make a dramatic entrance without first exiting, right? Do what’s right for the song.
Be on time.
This is good advice no matter what you do for work: show up when you said you’d show up, having done what you said you would do. Whenever possible, show up fifteen minutes early and deliver more than promised. Showing band mates that you’re committed will boost morale within the band and make you a linchpin. Be on time.
Not only should you be listening to your band mates onstage, but offstage as well. Steve Vai has said that he doesn’t take musicians on tour with him that he can’t get along with—life’s too short to be miserable for six months trapped on the road with some insufferable cynic, insecure narcissist, or passive-aggressive buzz kill, right? Play well with others.
Avoid any chemical that makes you feel like you’re being a genius when you aren’t.
And I’m not talking about rehearsal here (do that too). When I say “practice,” I mean pushing the boundaries of your skills until you’re better, faster, stronger, and more fluent with your instrument. Learn new strumming rhythms, train your ears, learn theory. Go study whatever styles catch your interest and bring their influence back into the band. Do I really have to give you permission? Become the quickest-thinking, most bad ass guitarist that your heart desires. If you consistently practice and push your limits every day, not only will you rock in every sense of the word, your band mates will notice—and they’ll be inspired.
Good luck out there.