Band Leading 101

 While there are many bands that share credit equally among their members, there is usually a person who stands out as a leader. This is a good thing since it helps get things done. Often the singer, lead soloist, or the person who writes or arranges the songs takes charge. Whether playing with seasoned professionals, or in a garage band, it’s good to know how to lead a band.

Running Rehearsals

Have charts if you are playing with cats who can sight read (if they need them). Always ask a new member of the group what they prefer.
  • Drummers tend to only need a recording and the sections (including number of measures) and any special rhythms written out.
  • Violinists or more classically trained players will want sheet music written out in their preferred clef(s).
  • Many horns and woodwinds transpose so make sure their key is correct.
  • Most guitarists and pianists will want chord charts, preferably with the melody (lead sheet).
There are a number of services and individuals (including yours truly) who can help you with this for a fee if you’re too busy or a just little rusty on your notation.

If you don’t have parts worked out yet and you are relying on the ears of your bandmates, be sure you can execute your ideas through singing, playing, or mouth percussion. This is why it helps to have some theory terms under your belt.

Talk the band through the form of the song, making sure everyone is (literally) on the same page, then play it through. Once you make it to the end, pick out problem spots. One mistake I see a lot of bands make it simply running through the song from beginning to end every time. That’s fine if you’ve already rehearsed it 300 times, but it’s more helpful in the beginning to do small sections at a time.

Tip: start with the ending and work backwards (last chorus, then last verse and chorus, etc.); it also helps with memorization. Get transitions smooth. Clean up tricky spots, especially if you have stop time (or tutti, where all members play the same rhythm together; it’s very dramatic if done right). If the band keeps snagging at a particularly difficult spot, try it slower than usual (be sure to count off), then once that bit is mastered, try it again a tempo (at normal speed).

Don’t be afraid to point out if a musician is sharp/flat/rushing/dragging or if their dynamic is off. (Hint: Some drummers tend to rush, some singers tend to be flat, everyone tends to be too loud!) Be constructive. Leaders exist to guide and produce results, not have a power trip. And be open to others’ critiques about you.

Of course, not all bands are structured the same. Sometimes leadership is temporary and changes to whomever booked the next gig. But if you are calling the tunes and the band members are looking to you, be sure you’re ready to step up and get it done.

P.S. If there were any terms in this article that you did not understand, banish your ignorance and google it! It’s not hard.

See the published article here.

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