One’s growth as a musician can be very broad. There are many areas of a musician’s life that can be developed. Of course, musical ability is the most obvious. However, to work well in a group or as a solo artist, the room for growth is wide, deep, and many times overwhelming.
I often consider what my role is as a bandleader in assisting other musicians in developing these areas that I find important. The situation may be that I am the only person who has an opinion on the matter. Sometimes, my bandmates have opinions on subjects that I had forgotten or did not consider.
Let’s look at some of these that are requirements for good music such as:
- Musical skill – the person is either able to play the music at hand, or there needs to be more practice. Practice is alone, rehearsal is together; never confuse the two.
- Sense of tempo – Start at one speed, end at the same; or at least really close.
- Distinct lines – This is the one I am working on all the time. I think this is the most difficult for every musician. However, if no attention is paid here, that does not mean that the musician cannot sound good. Distinct lines, especially from the bassist, set a groove that ‘in-key-noodling’ will never accomplish. This is why guitarists are often the absolute worst substitute bass players.
In regard to some of the above points that are important to the life of the group:
- Prompt arrival at gig or rehearsal
- Being ready to play at official start time of gig or rehearsal – These first two go together. A prompt arrival really means: Early enough to set up and tune all of your equipment and have nothing else to do at ‘hit’ time except start playing. Entirely too many players miss this one.
- Smiling – How could one not smile when playing music?
- Knowing one’s part before rehearsal begins – Do NOT ask at a rehearsal to hear a song on the CD I gave you weeks ago. You will be replaced.
- Being open to suggestions of change in one’s part or playing approach – Rehearsal can also be a time of group experimentation. This is done after the form of the tune is reasonably comfortable for all involved or there is a problem getting everyone together while playing. As a bandleader, this is a big responsibility on my part. I have the responsibility of choosing songs to fit the instrumentation and skill of my surrounding players.
- Telling one’s own fans of upcoming gigs – Everyone has fans. Even if it is just your immediate family; someone, somewhere wants to see you perform. If a band member is not inviting their fans to our gigs, maybe he/she does not really want to be involved. I have been in groups where I would not invite people to come out and see us perform.
I have grown to use this last point as the first criteria for joining or forming a group: If I don’t like the group or the songs, how could anyone enjoy our performances to the fullest?