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By Alexandria Vargas

Forming a band – advice from experience

You have been taking guitar lessons for a while and you love it, so now you want to take it to the next level. You want to form a band. Great! But now you are a bit lost. Where do you start? Well, hold on to that enthusiasm, because you are going to need it. First, though, you need to break out that old, dusty notebook and come up with some ideas.

The first thing you need to figure out is whether this is just a passing fancy or not. If you want your band to end up successful, you need to stay focused on your short-term and long-term goals. And for that, you need to map out at least a few realistic achievements to reach. Now, I'm not talking about setting a goal of getting signed with a record label within a week. If that's your aim, then go for it, but you need to at least have the basics covered first. Here are just a few of the short-term goals you will need to meet before your band starts.

– How much time and effort are you willing and capable of putting into this?

I wouldn't quit your day job just yet. Instead, take a day or two to figure out what your availability is while the band is in the beginning stages of forming. Which days work best for you? How flexible is your schedule? Do you have any future commitments that might clash with the band's interests?

– What type of music will your band perform? How many people are you going to need?

You will need to make note of what kind of band you want to form. What genre of music are you wanting to focus on? Is it just a cover band? Will there be original lyrics and music? The way you answer these questions will determine how many people you may need to recruit. How many guitarists and vocalists are you going to need? Do you need a drummer or, perhaps, someone on keyboards or synthesizers? While you're thinking on the topic of people, do you want — or are you going to need — someone to manage the band you form? I would also suggest finding someone to do bookkeeping to take note of what your revenues and expenses are. In fact, a bookkeeper or accountant is virtually required if you intend to make the band your permanent form of income.

– Where will your rehearsals, meetings, and practices be held?

This one can get pretty tricky. Sure, you can start out in your apartment or your garage, but you will still need to soundproof the area and find a way to maintain your personal space. If you are in a city, you might actually be able to find a relatively inexpensive studio space for rent or lease. Churches, also, will often offer up their sanctuary as a rehearsal and practice area on certain days of the week, if available — though you usually have to be a member of the congregation for this option. Whichever option you decide upon, chances are you are going to need to soundproof. The last thing you want is the neighbors calling the cops for a noise violation. Soundproofing will also help with any echo or feedback that might occur, and it can be done cheaply if you are on a budget. Simply use a lot of carpet, including tacking it to the walls and the ceiling if possible. It might not look pretty or appealing to the eye, but it works.

– Finding your band members

Once you know what type of music you want to do, how many people you need, and where you are meeting for practice, it's time to start gathering your band members. This could be just you and one other person or it could be an entire group of people — there really is no set number of how many people are required, just that you make sure you have the people you need. Now, you can do this the traditional way by going to local venues in search of band members, or you can use the internet and place local ads listing who you are searching for. Either way you go about recruiting, it is going to take time and effort and you are going to potentially come across some unsavory characters looking for ways to further their own personal gain. Trust your instincts on this. Don't recruit someone just because he or she has a pretty face and says they can sing or play an instrument. Actually take the time to talk to each individual and don't be afraid to ask questions. You want to make sure that the person you are talking to is going to mesh well with you and any other members that join. You also want to make sure that their musical interests align with what you want for the band. If income is going to be generated, you will also need to verify who will get paid what percentage of each booking and that they are okay with that fee.

Once you have your band officially formed, it's time to start practicing and solidifying your music. Keep communication open to every member about the wants, interests, and needs of the band itself. There are going to be times where the road gets rocky. There are going to be arguments and, occasionally, members might leave and have to be replaced. Be ready for those turbulent moments and don't let it shake your enthusiasm and your determination. The rewards of a successful band are well worth the ups and downs of forming and starting out; and, once every member of the band is comfortable, then you can take the step toward jumping out into the music world with local venues, events, and live performances.

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