Reagan Browne Column issue #2 My 5 tips with playing in a band

Making music is a fun, and rewarding experience, and have found out thru the years that it’s even better when you’re playing with guys, or girls that are all working towards the same goal.
If you go see some of your favorite bands, and they’re great live it’s probably because they’re all on the same page, and not working against each other. These are my top 5 tips on how to achieve that. Hope it helps you in your endeavors.

1. The singer is the main instrument.
Meaning they’re usually the one that people are there to see the most. As a guitarist, bassist you have to try to accommodate them as best you can so they sound the best they can. That usually means not playing too loud, not playing too busy, and playing things under them that make them shine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played with guitarist that are on 10 because they think they should be, and you can’t hear a thing the singer is singing.
Could you imagine going to see a Judas Priest concert and having Rob Halford’s voice so buried in the mix that you didn’t even know it was him? I see it all the time when I go to live shows. You can still play loud, but if the singer is having to fight against you to where they’re over singing to try and hear themselves that’s not good for anybody. Especially the people that are watching you.

2. Know your limitations.
Not everybody can be Steve Vai or Yngwie on the guitar and that’s ok. It may surprise you, but your limitations may turn out to be to your advantage in the long run. Who knows maybe your true calling is songwriting, or coming up with riffs over playing sweep picking arpeggios all over the neck at warp speeds.
Regarding myself, for years I tried to play Eric Johnson stuff on the guitar, and for the life of
me could never really get there. I started focusing on songwriting, and singing, and couldn’t be happier with my decision. I found out that those things were easier for me, and worked with my strengths, instead of my weaknesses.
In my opinion the song is the king anyway. As great as someone like Eddie Van Halen is, the thing that makes him greater are the amazing songs that he’s been able to write thru his career. His virtuosity are just a added bonus.

3. Be a well oiled machine.
I mean that regarding all of the musicians gelling in the studio, and on stage. During rehearsals work out your guitar tones to were they compliment the other instruments sonically.
I have two guitarist in my band, and before we play a gig I make sure that both of them are sounding as best as possible together to were it’s almost 3 Dimensional. Same goes for the bassist, and the drummer.
Learn the songs! Know how they end live, work on your background vocals etc,, Trust me singers appreciate that.

4. Everyone in the band should be networking
Let’s face it, we all want to have successful gigs, and play in front of as many people as we can. Sell as many C.D’s as we can to get our music out to the masses, and in order to do that everyone should
contribute in some way to make those goals happen.
It shouldn’t just be up to the singer, or guitarist to get the word out. If there’s anyone just sitting around that’s not going to cut it. You don’t all necessarily have to be doing the same thing either. Sending out invites on Facebook thru 4-5 different people can backfire on you. Maybe one or two guys can do that. One person can pass around flyers before hand at other gigs, maybe one guy could do the art work if they have talent in that department etc,,,
There’s many, many different options out there so get busy. If you do everything you can that’s all you can ask for. It usually pays off though with a full house.

5. Have fun, and forget about your troubles.
Isn’t that why we got into music in a lot of ways? Work really hard at your craft. Practice that difficult solo, work thru that one section in the song were you play in 5/4 time, get thru the whole set during rehearsals with no mistakes etc,,
And once you hit the stage for the big moment just forget about all that and have fun. I’m sure a lot of people can relate, but if I’m up on stage thinking about messing something up, 9 times out of 10 I will. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself I bet you’ll be great. Hope to see your band one day, so you can inspire me into being the best I can be.

Reagan Browne

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