A Musicians Guide to Starting a Band

You’re a you’re a guitarist, keyboardist, bassist or drummer and you wish to start a band and get gigs. Here’s some suggestions that may help you along in your quest.

First of all, there’s equipment. You may have a decent instrument with your own amplification and effects. What about a PA (public audio) system and lights? You know. A mixer, a set of speakers and an amplifier to power those speakers and a lighting system. Now unless you have a bottomless budget, don’t get all pumped up and think you need a decent monitor speaker system, a twenty four channel sound board, a rack full 5000 watts of power amps, a crossover unit, an equalizer, and effects processor, along with a $5,000 lighting system with lasers and fog machines. Trust me, you don’t want to have to lug all that stuff around. You can still be loud enough to shake the drinks off the table with a modest PA and Lighting system.

Speakers and Lighting:

Sure you can get a pair of bass bins with a suspended 18 inch speaker that handles 800 watts continuous and 1000 watts peak. While you’re at it, grab a pair of cabinets to put on top of the bass bins that have a 15″ speaker and a horn (or tweeter) that handle 600 watts continuous and 800 watts peak. Not only will that cost you a mint just for the speakers, you’ll have to spend big bucks on amps to power those speakers AND put out your back lugging them around.

I’ve seen bands perform and shake the walls with a set of monitor speakers to hear themselves and a pair of cabinets with 15″ speakers and a horn for their mains. Don’t break the bank at first. A 400 watt, powered 12 channel mixer is more than enough to rock the house. You can buy a new system like that with 4 monitor speakers for less than $1500 and if that’s too much, you can get by with just the mains and no monitors for a bout $700 to $1000.

As far as lighting, you can get by with a system that costs about $500 that will enable you to put 4 colored spots on each side of the band.

You don’t have to put microphones in front of your guitar amp in most cases and you don’t need a 200 watt Marshall stack for a guitar amp. A combo amp with a single 12″ speaker rated at about 40 TUBE watts or 100 SOLID STATE watts that is elevated to waist level behind you will do just fine. If you have a vocal microphone for yourself, your amp will be picked up very well with that Mic. Bass players and go direct into the mixer and hear themselves through the monitors or a 300 watt combo bass amp with a single 15″ speaker will do fine. Keyboardists can do fine with an equivalent setup. As far as drums. Mic the bass (or kick) drum and place two condenser mics ABOVE the drum set. That will pick up the tom toms, the snare and the cymbals just fine.

If money is tight, you can usually rent a PA and or Lighting system from a decent sized music store.

Members:

So let’s say you’re the guitarist and you have a PA. Can you sing? If so, are you able to sing lead and play your guitar? How many members do you want in the band? The idea is to keep the number of band members as low as possible. You can make more money and there’s not as much gear to set up and tear down. You can get by with as little as 3 members. One on guitar, one on bass and one on drums. To do this however, as a guitarist, or bassist, you have to be very good or at least able to put leads in on a dime in between chords and the bassists has to be able to fill the gaps during a guitar solo. 4 members (who play instruments) is optimal.

Singers:

A lead singer is someone who takes all or the majority of the lead vocal duties during the performance. That can be one of the guitarists, the keyboardist, the bass player or even the drummer or it can be an additional member who JUST sings and does nothing else. In my opinion a member who is strictly a vocalist is a waist of money. It’s another member to split the money with. Now if you know a vocalist that has an absolutely incredible voice and stage presence that’s one thing but remember, “You can always find a decent vocalist who can ALSO play an instrument other than the tambourine” So if you have 2 guitarists, a bass player, and a drummer but need a lead singer, look hard for a keyboardist who also can sing lead. Or if you choose to hire a member who JUST sings, be sure that he or she is singing lead on 100% of the vocals that night.

Most club owners don’t give a rat’s behind how good or bad your sound. It’s a matter of how many people you bring in the club. Advertise and get posters printed up. Tell your friends to stop by. How good the club does that night will determine weather or not you get asked back to play again and that will determine how much money you can ask for in the future. Don’t expect to get paid a lot when you first start out. You may have to play for $150 or for the door.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun. Don’t expect to get rich or to even make a living as an adult playing in a band. Sure we all want to be the next Nickleback or Blink 182 but most of those famous bands got into it for the fun and the love of music. Getting record deals and becoming stars was the icing on the cake they already have.

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