There is nothing quite like playing music with others.
Creating and performing music is an amazing feeling in itself, proven to be beneficial to our brains.
Here’s our step by step guide to starting a band in London.
Playing in a band allows you to form very close relationships with like-minded people.
If you’ve listened to our podcast, you’ll know how we started our band (if you haven’t, you’ll find every episode here.)
1. Find Some Band mates
Your first step (aside from being able to play your instrument!) is to find some people to join your band.
Have a think about what kind of sound you’re going for, how many people are you going to recruit? Do you want the stripped-back, raw sound of a two-piece? The classic simplicity of a three-piece? Or the orchestral majesty of an ensemble?
Whatever you decide, it’s important to choose people based on how well you get on rather than just their musical chops. A potential band mate can learn how to play better, they can’t learn to be less of a dick! That’s why we have the ‘2 beers’ portion of auditions, we’re looking for people we connect with on a few levels, not just music.
There are hundreds of free sites on which you can advertise (we’ve had success with joinmyband.co.uk). Put ads up in a few places to increase your odds, such as Gumtree, Bandmix or even just your local classifieds.
2. Find a Rehearsal Space
For the urban dwelling band it can be tough to get a space in which you can make a lot of noise. Most towns or cities have rehearsal rooms that you can rent for an afternoon, a night or even block out for a whole day.
There are loads of great places in London. Most, if not all, supply a drum kit (you’ll just need to rent cymbals or bring your own) and amps. Be warned, quality of this equipment varies hugely from place to place. Some of the better ones are places like Brixton Hill studios, or Storm studios next to Holloway station.
These places are popular, so you’ll need to book a week or two in advance.
Nothing says rock and roll like a carefully planned schedule! This sounds a little lame but in fact agreeing on a practice time and sticking to it is important. We practice every two weeks, with lots of solo practice in between.
Deciding on the frequency of rehearsal and timing is down to you, but keep in mind the fastest way to learn is by playing with other musicians as often as possible.
4. Learn Some Covers
When you first start a band, you’re not going to have a very extensive repertoire.
A lot of musicians are snobby about playing covers but the only way you’re going to learn to play with your band mates is by playing your shared favourites from other artists.
Pick some songs outside of your bands’ chosen genre too, most musicians will tell you doing so can really spark some original creativity when applying it to your sound.
Writing can come later. Jamming over well-known hits is what gives you experience to write.
Unless you and all your band mates are musical virtuosos with a proficiency in telepathy, your band is going to suck initially. Embrace the suck. It’s during this period that you can really get to know your bandmates’ strengths and weaknesses.
Don’t get too hung up on getting every little detail perfect and instead strive to create a good vibe and connection with the others.
Being able to look around and laugh when you make a mistake can really help style out when something goes wrong in a live situation.
6. Decide on a Name
Some bands hit the nail on the head first time with a name that both describes their musical leanings and their attitude. Others go through several iterations before eventually settling on a name that fits.
Your band name is the first thing people will see before they take a chance on listening to your songs or going to one of your gigs so it is important to choose one which is memorable and suits the band’s style.
Don’t choose something offensive or racist/sexist because that makes you look like a dick.
7. Record a Demo
To get a gig you’re going to need an example of your playing most people call a ‘demo’.
Some of the rehearsal studios we mentioned above actually offer recording services as well.
It doesn’t have to be an amazing high fidelity recording, it just has to be an accurate representation of your music. Two to three songs is usually enough.
8. Get a gig
Most bars and pubs that hold live music licenses are happy for the steady stream of bands coming to offer to play.
You’ll need a demo recording of your playing (they obviously need some proof you don’t suck) but if you get the gig, you can expect to be offered anything from £250 (the research we did into gig pay suggested this was the average) to free drinks at the bar in the form of tokens, to food. It varies widely, I would not quit your day job when you first join a band.
If you can’t find a venue who will let you play, create your own venue! Sometimes, your rehearsal space could be open to having a small crowd come to watch you play. You could also find a friend with a medium-sized flat whose lease is coming to an end and play a “house show”.
Fame and glory await you!…just kidding, the chances your band will get famous is infinitesimally small, especially if that’s your only goal.
A better strategy is to keep it simple and have fun. If your band is relaxed and plays music for the love of it, you’ll get better, more creative and enjoy it more which will be obvious to any audience. If you’re dedicated and put the work in, the opportunities are endless.