It doesn’t feel like it’s a good time to be in a band right now, does it? It’s not safe to get together for auditions or rehearsals, and it’s not even possible to rehearse online (curse you, internet latency!) as I discussed in a spring 2020 post here . But that doesn’t mean this lockdown time should be wasted. There’s still a lot of positive band-work to do.
Forming a band and keeping it together is a challenge no matter what level you’re at. A band is way more than just a few people getting together to play music. There’s emotion and passion involved. There’s time and commitment, and a whole lot of people management. No matter what age you are or what type of music is involved, a band is an organic thing. I wrote about this in a previous post here, but here’s the gist in graphic form:
A band lives or dies by the health of this three-part dynamic of talent (being able to play an instrument), chemistry (being able to get along), and schedule (being able to rehearse regularly). Prior to the pandemic lockdowns, these three things kind of worked themselves out together. People jammed together and decided if they wanted to continue. The chemistry would continue to grow – or not.
But just because we can’t get together right now doesn’t put an end to this process. I strongly recommend bands keep the momentum going by getting together on Skype or Zoom at the same frequency that they used to rehearse, maybe even on the same evening. There’s still a great deal to talk about: set lists, song endings, harmony parts, solo breaks, onstage banter, equipment, and other elements of a live show. You can discuss places to play, people to approach, or just talk music, sports, or anything else. The point is, even though you can’t work on the music, you can still work on the chemistry and continue to gel the band.
This is also a great time to work on the tunes themselves. Even though we can’t rehearse together, there are karaoke versions of tunes out there that can be downloaded with specific instruments removed, so that each band member can work on what’s important. These tunes provide consistency and can act as the base tune. You can use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to edit fadeouts into the hard endings or transitions that you plan to use when you play this tune. If there are solos to be learned, the time is now to practice the hell out of them. Same goes for your originals.
If you have harmonies, either vocal or instrumental to work on, or transposition of tunes into different keys, that’s something you can use Jamulus or JamKazam for. Sure, the latency is too much for real-time jamming, but how many times have you done the Spinal Tap thing, all searching for those harmony parts, wasting valuable and expensive rehearsal time? Jamulus and JamKazam at least give you the opportunity to practice segments of tunes, and that’s something you would do in person anyway.
This is also a great time to build up your brand, by participating in social media – Instagram, maybe Twitter, maybe Facebook or Tik Tok, as well as setting up relationships with event planners, bar owners, gig booking sites – all those people who will want you to play for them one day.
If you are looking for a new member to join, or if you are someone looking to join a band, the weekly video chat call is a great place to spend some time and see if you like each other, and what you have in common. You can all audition each other personality-wise.
The idea here is to not let the pandemic lockdown put dust on your instruments or dry out your desire to play. Every band member has the opportunity to do their part in getting the band’s various components individually so you can hit the ground running when the time comes. We all want to get back to playing live music, but it’s easy to forget that even in pre-pandemic days, there was more to forming a successful band than just the rehearsal.
It’s the best way to make up for this train wreck of a year.